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Journal

November 26th

Modernizing a Modern

This living space shows how a Mid-Century modern can be updated but still have that same funky 60s flavor.

If you have a period home—such as a Spanish or a Craftsman, both prevalent in Southern California—it can be a challenge to remodel and retain the house’s character. At Style on a Shoestring, we’ve found it really takes a creative approach to establish the right balance between honoring the home’s original detail and upgrading it to current standards with a new interior design strategy.

For example, I’ve been working recently on a 1960s Mid-Century modern ranch-style home. This is the new owners’ dream house, so we wanted to maintain the integrity of the design while bringing it into 2011. Fortunately these clients work in the arts, so they are willing to take imaginative design leaps with me.

One of the home’s centerpieces is an original atomic-look light fixture, somewhat common for that time but still a bold feature. So we kept that in the living room (we managed to keep all of the house’s original light fixtures!), and we also retained the vaulted wood ceilings. Launching from a green and white color palette—fresh and simple—we chose a low-pile green carpeting that is almost like felt. We also removed the original rock around the fireplace and used white modern tile instead. And I can’t overlook telling you about the fireplace hearth, which is magenta solid-surface quartz. It’s quite a statement!

All of those changes kept within the house’s style but brought it up to speed.

White glossy cabinets and globe lights give this kitchen a modern look without sacrificing utility.

Then we gutted the original kitchen because it just wasn’t functional any longer. To keep it modern, we installed IKEA cabinets in a high-gloss white finish with low-profile chrome hardware. We paired those with sleek white quartz countertops. To warm up the space, we used dark, large-plank cork flooring. For a pop of color, we added hand-fired turquoise and white tile in an elongated diamond shape—a classic 60s pattern with a modern take.

Are you starting to see how our strategy played out in this remodel? So while we kept the living room’s wood ceiling, we painted it white. We allowed the fireplace to continue its footprint around two walls but we improved the materials. And we kept the kitchen’s clean lines but we made it more practical for today’s cooks. The result of our “modernizing a modern” is a home that clearly reflects its original design but with current sensibilities. And it’s just a really fun space too!

If we can help you design your period home—or help with any decorating or remodel ideas—please contact our San Diego design firm.