Homes from 1945 - 1969 are of particular interest but what people are doing to them in the name of upgrades is downright astounding (and I don't mean in a good way). One need only look at some MLS listings (or home reno TV shows if you must) to see my point.
Mid-century modern homes don't need to be remodeled, they need to be restored. I heard a real estate investor the other day say that the copper colored knobs on the hall cabinet should be sprayed black because they “dated the house.” They'd already painted the cabinets white as it was (would have originally been wood finish). The awesome copper knobs against the white not only warmed it up but gave the only spark of character to the whole place, the only remaining nod to the era and aesthetic meant for a mid-mod.
Looking at the middle-class houses of the era may seem underwhelming. They can be very plain, have those weird partitions just inside the front door, may seem tired and not very inspiring. If you look at the high-end mid-mods you will see their intended glory so be inspired by them, not discouraged.
However, before you grab the sledge hammer (these scenes in so many of the home reno TV shows make me cringe) take a moment to consider: any brickwork
was done by a skilled craftsman who would be dumbstruck at the thought of their work being painted over or worse, ripped out. Do honor to the legacy they left by considering carefully what you will do with their work. There was a point and a purpose to what they did. Removing or defacing it will likely make the space even duller.
The cabinet maker may likely have put in custom, solid wood cabinets, simple and sleek in keeping with the era. To have solid wood cabinets installed now would cost a fortune and “cheaper” ones are made with particle board or pressboard (imagine swelling with moisture in a kitchen or bath). If the cabinets are still sturdy it's nothing some elbow grease, light sanding and a fresh clear coat won't fix. If the interiors are nasty but solid, give them some paint but keep the cabinet exterior natural. Wood tones were “a thing” those days doing homage to the outdoors and warming up what might be an otherwise stark interior. If they still have the original knobs & pulls, rejoice – bonus! New retro-look knobs are your second choice. If you need to change the counter, cool retro options are available and will make those mid-mod cabinets the bomb. That funky divider is classic for the era and to be celebrated.
Ex.: OK so you're not thrilled with the copper-toned tile backsplash but you have choices: Run with it. Stand back and look at the whole kitchen picture:
Are the tiles in good shape, do they or can they well with the cabinet and counter colors?
Is there (or can you put in) a cool retro copper light fixture to compliment them?
Can you put up a shade or curtain or lay down a rug that picks up the copper but also contains other colors you love?
You could even then:
Use the curtain or rug colors as inspiration for wall color(s)*;
Paint over it, taking care to prep properly, in another color that compliments the counter (not matches but coordinates with it and *other kitchen colors – be careful and think through all your kitchen paint colors together);
Pull it out only if you must, carefully, and donate the tiles to your area Habitat for Humanity or other building materials recycler if at all possible;
Be advised if they're really stuck you may end up with drywall damage;
Repair & paint the drywall the same color as that wall. If you're feeling creative you could paint a backsplash on that makes the kitchen fun.
Do you have a mid-mod that you think needs help? Have a question? Let me know ...
Cover image credit: Houzz.com