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Among the characteristics of mid-century modern homes are open floor plans. Postwar architects largely did away with closed-off, separate living rooms, dining rooms, and kitchens. Instead, they all became part of a large, unified space separated by half walls and counters, often with built-in features, including shelving and seating. Homes of the period became smaller, but the airy layouts and large expanses of wall space and glass created a sense of light and spaciousness.

Ashley Kendrick Real Estate - Mid Century living room.

Mid-Century homes are typically light and airy – but unfortunately many have limited storage space.

This “new” style and its resurgence of popularity show no signs of going away soon. Nor is another aspect of these homes: relatively little storage space. Mid-century homes typically do not have attics, and fortunately, most mid-moderns in the Kansas City area do have basements for storage (most East and West Coast homes of this era typically have neither a basement nor an attic!).

The design aesthetic of Mid-Mod is an approach to interior design, furniture, and even lifestyle that is based on utility and simplicity. Shelves are often open, and ideally, the items on them do double duty as decorative yet utilitarian objects, such as bowls, platters, clocks, and pitchers.

The furniture that works best in these homes tends to be streamlined, taking up little space in rooms not intended to accommodate items that are not functional. However, as we all know too well, modern life seems to require a lot of “stuff,” and so, in a mid-century modern home, what is one to do with it?

Striking Mid-Century Modern Storage Pieces

Carl Bissman Bed.

There are actually many options for storage, including unique furniture designed to serve two or even more functions. A mid-century wall unit might include a built-in desk, an entertainment center, and shelving – some with open shelving and some with doors. A credenza might serve as a sideboard and a bar, and some designs even include a hutch. Ottomans that open provide hidden storage space, as headboards and bed-frames with drawers – some that were configured to the owner’s exact specifications.

Many 1950s Danish modern beds also include attached nightstands.

A bed by Carl Bissman, an entrepreneur who founded a furniture company in Springfield, Missouri, includes storage in the headboard. When many woods became scarce during World War II, Bissman made furniture from native Ozark walnut. Bissman Furniture manufactured pieces from the 1940s-1950s but has a devoted following of collectors due to their impeccable craftsmanship and innovative designs that were a gateway into the official mid-century era.

Paul McCobb Hutch.

Another prominent furniture, textile, and industrial designer of the period was Paul McCobb. His sideboard includes a hutch and adjustable shelves that can be positioned on either side, centered, or removed.

George Nelson’s works include a modular dresser/storage cabinet with a detachable table. Calligaris, an Italian design firm, produced a glass, aluminum, and wood wall unit that is highly functional and all but transparent.

George Nelson Dresser.

In fact, the design and manufacturing firms that came to prominence in this period, including Herman Miller, Knoll, and Steelcase, still produce the works of these designers, as well as Edward Wormley, Eero Saarinen, Harry Bertoia, and Charles and Ray Eames. Even “new” furniture designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, considered by many to be the father of MCM design, is available.

Calligaris Wall Unit.

Though numerous designs from the 1940s through the 1970s are still in production, there is a flourishing market for originals. Here in Kansas City, Modern Love, Retro Inferno, and SimplyMidKC regularly stock vintage pieces. The downside of the availability of these enduring pieces is that they are often wildly expensive.

However, regular visits to estate sales and secondhand shops can easily result in spotting stylistically appropriate pieces. Original finishes and upholstery are highly valued, but if a piece needs to be restored or repaired there are numerous craftsmen in KC that are able to assist. Or, let it be as is – after all, you’re furnishing a home, not a museum!

Mid-Century Modern Hutch With Geometric Wood Detailing,

Fortunately, many of today’s furniture companies and retailers have embraced the mid-century design trend. These businesses offer furniture that readily fits into homes of the era and is available at most any price point. The watchword for shoppers is “simplicity.” Any decoration of a piece should be functional – such as drawer pulls sculpted out of the same wood. Again, look for multi-functionality and detachable components that can be configured to make the most efficient use of space.

Maybe the reason midcentury modern homes and furnishings have remained popular is that the thoughtful designs of the period can readily accommodate modern life. As a result, the style remains as refreshing and appealing now as it was in America’s postwar boom years. And, when looking to buy, sell, or furnish a mid-century home in the KC area, look to one of the region’s most trusted sources for properties, and how to live comfortably and stylishly in them, Ashley Kendrick!

Click here to schedule a consult with Ashley!