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The Mid-Century Modern

Posted on March 02, 2016 by Kelli Slattery | 0 comments

On the beauty of becoming a Mid Century Modern

These days I’m raising a toast to author/historian Cara Greenberg for coining a phrase that’s come to symbolize my utterly optimistic take on life at 50-something. A linguistic rebel since my youth; (an only child early on, I told folks I was a “first edition”) it won’t surprise my friends that I’ve decided to eschew the boorish moniker “middle aged” in favor of Cara’s lovely, downright lyrical descriptor. From real estate flyers, to furniture ads, to my hometown arts district display, “mid century modern” branding is the new catchphrase meant to capture the understated cool factor of a newly rediscovered kind of beauty.

Curiosity about the origin of the term led me to Greenberg and others who had set out to describe what made a certain period of design history significant both in its inception and in the decades that followed. Having been nostalgically cajoled into a couple of mid-century purchases, I spent one afternoon doing a little research, and that’s when it hit me. The more I read, the more I realized that the language those authors used to describe all that was to be treasured about those pieces… pretty perfectly described the loveliest qualities of mid-century life as well.

See for yourself, here’s some of what they said… 

  • Mid century modern architecture reflects a striking emphasis on the opening up of interior spaces
  • In comparison to earlier styles mid century moderns strive for an enhanced balance between privacy and transparency…
  • Support systems of an earlier period gave way to new ones, so that even walls were seemingly made of glass”
  • The objective of bringing the outdoors in filled the interior with natural light so as to highlight, not hide the changing seasons
  • Mid century designers sought for practicality, typically valuing function over form; yet retained the goal of creating simple and sophisticated aesthetic appeal

How fabulous is that…

And how fitting?

Midcentury Modern at Sunset

On the Beauty of Glass Walls

By 50 we’ve developed a prevailing strength borne out of knowing we’re all much more the same than we’d ever imagined when we were just 22. There’s something wildly joyful in the realization that we don’t have to perfect our interior spaces before inviting others to “come in and sit a spell” as our grandmothers (at least the southern ones) might have said. A modicum of privacy is classy, but pretense is crude. A MCM girl has long since learned the difference. Social media is just the newest design in the long-standing charade of perfectionism. By now, we’ve learned that transparency coupled with a really, really good sense of humor is the best way to shatter the “Grand Illusion”, (preach, Dennis DeYoung) and relish the strength of true community.


On the Beauty of Light in Every Season

Who and what gives us the emotional support we need may be less obvious than it was a few decades ago but we all know by now that we wait, we work and we even wish best when we don’t try to go it alone. A Mid Century Modern girl has learned that the art of leadership involves a fair amount of cheerleading too…which is to say; she’s discovered that the joy of shining the spotlight on someone else’s accomplishment might just trump the thrill of stealing it.

Somebody said we should store up all the good poured into our lives for the first half, then aim to portion it all back out in the second. I like that. At our best MCM’s are the grand “grace givers”. By this season in life, we’ve screwed up enough to be humbled and been (mercifully) dealt enough divine intervention or serendipitous luck to know despair was never meant to hold the last word over our lives. And as far as I can tell, when hope gets planted deep in humility, grace blooms like a garden of wildflowers. “Hand out grace like candy!” I tell myself these days. Who knows what darkness the light of a little more unearned patience, compassion and forgiveness could dispel?


On the Beauty of Form and Function…

I hail from the land of “nip and tuck” and I’m as disappointed in the half-life of collagen as anybody else, but I’ve come to believe that “teachability” is the real fountain of youth. My friends who are just the teeniest bit older than me are living proof that the pursuit of learning something new beats the Sephora solution every single time. Nothing smoothens laugh lines better than wide-eyed wonder. Chin up sweet friends, did you forget? Charm is timeless!


The Beauty Buster…the biggest enemy of a mid century modern house according to architectural historian, Sian Winship is deferred maintenance! So go girlfriends! Go get that walk or yoga class in today, and go get your physical and dinner with your “besties” on the calendar!


In her effort to provide readers with an historical and artful context for 50’s and 60’s architecture, Ms. Greenberg both venerated and made fashionable again what had long been undervalued and overlooked. Similarly for too many generations and in too many cultures and careers, youth has been revered in a way that obscured our view of beauty that is soul deep. So, at the risk of sounding downright giddy, I am inviting you all to join me in this little cyber-celebration. Let’s make a toast to one another,

“Here’s to the timeless beauty inherent in every grace offered up, no matter how many candles are on the proverbial cake!”

And, “Cheers to you Cara!”

Thank you for reminding us in your own beautiful way, birthdays only increase the value of all the truly sweet things in life.

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