Comment of the Day: Midcentury Styling Was the Pseudo Tuscan of Its Day

COMMENT OF THE DAY: MIDCENTURY STYLING WAS THE PSEUDO TUSCAN OF ITS DAY “. . . But let’s be honest with ourselves, if we can step out of our trendy mid-century loving selves for a moment . . . just because something was original doesn’t mean it was good, or desirable. Let’s not fall into that elitist trap. Honestly, I’m not crying over replacing that gawdawful carpet with anythingbutthatgawdafulcarpet. Yes, a lot of the updates are generic “what’s popular/mainstream right now” sort of stuff. But what they’re replacing is the exact same sort of mainstream styling, just with a healthy dose of nostalgia wrapped around it. Let’s not kid ourselves . . . as much as I personally like midcentury style, most of these houses were just as generic as the pseudo Tuscan places going up all over the area. They simply have the benefit of being fewer in number these days. There is nothing inherently better about one era’s overused style elements than another. Novelty is not the same thing as absolute superiority.” [JB, commenting on Fixed That for You: A Memorial Hollowed Modern, Corrected]

15 Comment

  • Yeah, you’re right. Still, I’m glad to be reading your wisdom while curled up in my Saarinen womb chair, by the light of my Nelson cigar lamp. No other style was so shagadelic, baby!

  • Overused style elements they may have been, but let’s not forget that they were most often imbued with the kind of long-lasting craftsmanship that deserves nostalgia. None of this generic, throw-down, big-box beige Chinese crap is going to be around long enough to be nostalgic. (Thank God.)

  • Not all designs/styles/trends are created equal just because they are the design/style/trend of their day. Is “jersey shore” the same as “hamlet”? They were both wildly successful in their prime. The broader statement being made is about the vapid nature of flipping houses…it may make money-and there is nothing wrong with that-similarly there is nothing wrong with calling a “turd” a “turd”-even if that turd makes a profit-some people are motivated by a quick buck, others-ascetics

  • DebDeluxe and Taylor seem to be deluding themselves.

    Don’t let the craftsmanship canard fool you. Many homes of the mid-century modern are no way near the energy efficiency and quality of today. Are there crappy homes built today? Yes. But there are lots of good homes built today also.

    Also, Hamlet and many of Shakespeare’s works were the soap opera’s of their day and a form a cheesy entertainment. Modern Shakespearean productions that last for 2+ hours are a joke and a do a disservice to original work. Real Shakespearean productions were usually just over an hour at their longest. Shakespeare was a talented writer, but his plays were just a day job to make money no different than crappy reality TV as a high profit production. His true emotion comes out in his sonnets which were not a money maker.

    JB’s comments have a point. Forty to fifty years from now when styles have changed, the Tuscan style of today will be seen as from a bygone error and there will be groups trying to save them from being destroyed. People will post long screeds at how we are destroying our past by bulldozing these old Tuscan homes and building (insert whatever the new trend will be) homes.

  • I don’t think the updates made to this house are what is popular today. They were done becuase they are cheap. Mid-century is what is popular now. Mid-century style is all over popular culture right now. It’s on TV shows, in commericals, movies, etc… It would have cost a lot more money to restore this house and keep it’s original style.

    Many of the houses in Memorial Bend are not typical of the time period. They are better. I grew up in a cheap, mainstream ranch house from the early 60s. It didn’t look like the ones in Memorial Bend.

  • There were a lot of crappy houses built in the 1950s and 1960s. Bland, generic boxes with some colors slapped on to the walls to dress them up for buyers. Little boxes made of ticky tacky, as the song said in the era. Nobody’s calling those stylish or worth saving. (My neighborhood is full of them… they’re rentals and “starter homes” now.)

    Now it’s just different slap-on-the-wall colors and Chinese ticky tacky. Don’t expect it to be praised as high design.

  • jgriff,

    I agree wholeheartedly. There were alot of cheap ranches with mid-century nods that very few people are mourning the loss of, but so many of the mods getting the axe that swamplot highlights were quality builds designed specifically for clients by known architects rather than builder specials. They were featured in books with historical value. The materials used were high end.

    Now, the Memorial Hollow house was more generic ranch and not architect designed, but certain elements that even people today like were removed because replacing them with modern equivalents was too expensive for the flipper. They thought they could maximize their money by throwing in builder grade products. Now I understand that mentality on a depreciated house on a worthless tract, but to do that to a 600k premium home is ridiculous and eye-rollingly foolish. They’ll make money because of where that house sits, but I reserve the right to called them idiots for the money they threw away because of their lack of vision.

  • There’s something about design, though, that can grab you (or push you away). You know it when you pass by something and you have to stop in your tracks and take another look. I think that’s the way a lot of us MCM-loving folks feel – you just *know* it when you see it (and you really know it when you don’t).

  • By its nature, architecture for middle class single family homes always has an element of generic repetition within a certain period. That does not necessarily doom that stylistic period to the trash heap when it comes time to update/renovate. Periods that merit preservation are those that were original and married form and function well. MCM was original. It was not a copy of anything that came before it. It reimagined the space for the single family home with inventive entryways, spacious living rooms with vaulted ceilings, full length and eyelevel windows and many other inovative design elements. By contrast, the current Tuscan thing is nothing more than a borrowing of certain established Mediteranean design elements with no attempt to do anything original or creative. Age will do nothing for these unoriginal designs.

  • While I do prefer the “before” pictures. This really was nothing more than a ranch with a kinda-mid century elevation.

  • I’m pretty sure that the arrangement of the original windows in the living room made a more successful, if inadvertent, stab at the Vitruvian virtues than the new ones do; but whether or no, there is still the issue of natural light. Some of us need lots of it, plus a bright lamp, to function.
    That was definitely no improvement.

  • There’s nothing wrong with being an intellectual who appreciates design. To begin to compare MCM with faux Tuscan shows a total lack of architectural comprehension. Old School gets it right. His/Her post should be the post of the day.

  • There was much more light; the re-do rooms are cave-like.

  • I love the way older homes look. I may not want to live in an older house due to energy efficiency differences but I still appreciate mid-century styles. Like the Tuscany villa rental that I stayed at a few years ago, it was very old and drafty but it was an incredible experience.