9 Reasons Why a Midcentury House is a Brilliant Buy
Light, space, affordability, contemporary cool... The benefits of bagging a midcentury house are plentiful
Midcentury properties also typically have their own style of characterful internal architecture (perhaps slim, Scandi-style floorboards, wall-to-wall windows, a feature staircase). They’re frequently quite a bit cheaper, too.
Here are nine reasons to get excited about owning one.
Midcentury houses often have low ceilings, especially when compared to their lofty Victorian counterparts. But who cares about a low ceiling when you get this much natural light?
There is, of course, a lot of variety in homes built between the 1950s and 1970s, but a great number from this era feature vast banks of windows. The classic 1960s and 1970s townhouse, for example, has windows from wall to wall in each room, as in this 1960s house, refurbished by Holt.
Of particular note is the much in-demand Span house, a classic midcentury home built on landscaped estates between the 1940s and 1980s, which was designed to maximise natural light and a sense of space.
See the incredible communal gardens at a Span estate.
This bold living room is in a 1970s house that was completely reconfigured by its owner, interior designer Jeanette Seabrook of SeaChange Interiors.
It doesn’t look as if it’s missing a focal point, does it? While an original period fireplace can be a desirable standout feature in an older house, there’s a lot to be said for a boxy room without alcoves. It gives you the freedom to arrange your living room and its furniture in any number of ways – more sociably, for example, as here – rather than gathering everything around a fireplace.
See the more of this house.
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Following on from that idea, with no chimney stack, you can put a wood-burning stove in all sorts of interesting positions, as demonstrated in this open-plan space in a 1950s house designed by Woodfield Brady Architects, with a cookspace by Sustainable Kitchens.
Not for these houses the well-trodden path of a side-return extension, bifold doors and a ‘difficult’, dark middle room to deal with. And this opens up the design possibilities in all sorts of interesting directions.
With a midcentury house, there’s no textbook way to extend, so scour Houzz for your favourite bold architects and cook up something as unusual as this wood and brick addition to a 1950s home, which was designed by nimtim Architects.
See more photos and read about this project.
Although not all midcentury properties will have this sort of staircase, it’s nevertheless quite the trademark of homes of the era, spanning many architectural styles. Not only do you get a wonderful wooden feature (which you can point out to anyone who says these homes lack architectural details), you get one that doesn’t block light.
These original 1960s open-riser stairs were “painstakingly refurbished” by R2 Studio Architects. The design is a classic midcentury style and works so well with open-plan spaces, as it doesn’t block light flow between the front and back of the house.
Read all about the renovation and remodelling of this 1960s home.
Many midcentury homes have built-in garages. Whether you use yours for storage or saving on parking permits, or convert it into a study, spare room or bathroom, the extra space is a huge bonus.
There’s not an awful lot you can do to change the exterior of a period home. You can paint it, render it, remove pebble-dashing, give it new windows – but, broadly, you’ll probably want to do your best to keep it relatively authentic.
Midcentury homes have different rules. There are so many things you can do to spruce up their outsides, things that can totally change their external appearance (a bonus if you’re faced with something unattractive). Think cladding, a new entrance, a glass addition and more.
For inspiration about how radically you can improve the outside of a midcentury house, look no further than the next photo – the same property before its facelift.
How to totally transform the structure of a 1960s or 1970s home.
Hugo Tugman of Tugman Studio, who redesigned this property, says, “This rather boxy house, built in 1965 at the end of a cul-de-sac, sat on the market for months, despite being in a fabulous location and having a deceptively large plot.
“The small uPVC windows, concrete roof tiles, flimsy gates, dark brick and painted pebbledash conspired to make it unattractive to buyers,” he says, “and it was eventually sold for about half the value of an equivalently sized Victorian house in the same location.”
In tandem with large windows, the high-level clerestory window was a trademark of the already-mentioned Span houses, and other houses of this era. Span houses made up a series of midcentury estates designed by Eric Lyons & Partners for developer Span Housing between the late 1940s and early 1980s. They’re now much in demand by fans of midcentury architecture.
Benefits of this style of window include the wall space that’s freed up below them, and the views out of them. As they’re high up, you gain privacy but also a strip of sky, rather than the view of someone else’s house or passers-by.
If you’re lucky, and especially if you’re in a genuine Span house like this one refurbished by Slightly Quirky – where the gardens were as important to the design as the architecture – you’re also at leaf level with the trees outside and get a wonderful slice of green topping off your rooms.
See more of this house.
You can get away with pretty much any quirky architectural ideas in many of these properties, as the houses are such a blank canvas of straight walls and boxy spaces.
The owners of this 1950s semi have two cats and wanted their home to be designed around the animals’ needs as well as their own. Their architect, Fanis Anastasiadis of Scenario Architecture, came up with an unusual solution.
High up on the wall to the right is a space to which the cats can retreat. It’s accessed via a hole by the staircase, and provides them with a spot from where they can sit, relax and watch guests.
The door furthest away on the far wall leads to the bathroom. In it there’s a separate space allocated to housing the litter tray. The cats can access this space via a clever square cut into the wall low to the ground.
Would you love to live in a midcentury house or are older properties always the ones you prefer? Share your thoughts in the Comments.