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Focusing on exterior details can be key to an affordable remodel that allows the original design to shine through. Avoid the temptation to overhaul a mid century modern home’s entire facade when remodeling or adding on. Not only is doing this a daunting design challenge, but it can also be prohibitively expensive. Instead, remember what attracted you to the house in the first place, and let the original design shine through.
Look at the overall composition’s simplicity as an asset, and concentrate on focal points in the facade that will keep your eye interested. Home in on key aspects in the house design that can be updated to give the biggest bang for your buck. When concentrating on these “moments,” it’s OK that most of the house remains a neutral backdrop.
1. Prominent corner. A home’s front facing corner is a key opportunity for an upgrade. Adding an exaggerated overhang visually extends the horizontal nature of the house and helps connect it to the landscape. In the home renovation by Marcus Gleysteen Associates shown here, a column added to support the overhang dramatically calls attention to the corner. Recessed lighting and a high-gloss wood soffit add a luxury touch too. These design moves underline the indoor-outdoor continuity of the house, something all houses from this era achieve. In this remodel by Hart Wright Architects, the structural support for the roof is held back from the corner, and the corner is rendered entirely in glass with a large overhang. The architects of this remodeling project cleverly wrapped white lattice around the corner to create a focal point in the facade.
2. Front door. The front door can be a fun way to rock some midcentury bling. Painting the door a punchy color, like canary yellow in this project or celery green in the previous photo, provides a great contrast to the neutral tones of most homes. If the door needs to be replaced, there are a number of manufacturers that specialize in midcentury designs with glass panels. You can select clear or opaque glass panels for the door. The glass panels can be arranged in a vertical or horizontal pattern with small or large amounts of glass to harmonize with your home’s decor.
Another route is to have a solid slab door with translucent sidelights. This design offers clear contrast between solid and void. The sidelight is most dramatic when it matches the height of the door and extends all the way to the ground. The sidelight can be glass or even a lattice of wood, making for a beautiful pattern of light. Finally, for the most luxe effect, the door can be custom-made like this door by Finne Architects, where a beautiful pattern of translucent glass is set into a natural wood door, with floor-to-ceiling clear sidelights on either side of the door.
3. Entry canopy. A sleek and eye-catching entry canopy over the front door can focus attention on your home’s entry and can be a practical intermediary connecting inside to out. This is also a great space to welcome guests. Because there is only one front door to a house, this feature is unique to the house and does not have to match other parts, giving greater freedom for design. In New England, where sloped roofs are considered more practical because of the unpredictable winters, a dramatic roof pitch over your entry can actually add a modern flair.
4. Garage. In midcentury modern homes, the prominence of the garage was nothing to be ashamed of, and the garage door was often celebrated by making it front and center. Consider having fun with this key aspect of the home by replacing the garage door with one of the many innovative garage doors on the market. Translucent doors with metal frames glow at night but still keep the inevitable clutter inside the garage out of sight. This garage door makes a beautiful modern lantern at night.
5. More height. One of the key characteristics of the midcentury modern ranch is its horizontality. Sometimes this can become a bit relentless and boring. When adding on, it would seem like a no-brainer to continue in that direction. A new addition does not need play it safe and continue the strict horizontal lines of the original. Why not spice it up by going vertical? Here in New England, builders call it “popping the top.”
When thoughtfully done, a second-floor addition complements the original composition, rather than simply extending it. Foundations are expensive, so It’s often more affordable to build up rather than out and avoid the cost of more foundation work. It’s also more sustainable to add living space without consuming more of your property. In this addition, the second-floor master bedroom suite is located over the living room. Make sure to have the existing foundations checked by a structural engineer to be sure they are adequate to support the load of the second floor.
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