Mid-century modern is an umbrella term for the furniture, design, and architecture from the middle of the 20th century. It invokes names like Frank Lloyd Wright, Herman Miller, and the Eames brothers. With equal parts form and function, it has a timeless quality which has no doubt helped maintain its enduring popularity with homeowners.
Distinguished by clean simple lines, geometric shapes, and contrasting colors, mid-century modern embraces materials such as wood, glass, fiberglass, metal, stone, concrete, plastic, and plexiglass. Often at the same time. Picture the set of Mad Men but with more natural light.
If you want to add a mid-century modern curb appeal to your home without draining your bank account, try one of these simple techniques:
Update house numbers
House numbers have come a long way from the reflective stickers they started out as. Neutra typeface is the most popular mid-century modern font but Eichler also makes a bold statement.
Modernizing your home’s exterior can be as simple (and cost effective) as adding a new style of numbers in say, brushed aluminum, or wood, or a combination of both. And if you’re feeling crafty, make the numbers yourself. With no shortage of how-to sites and videos on this subject, it’s worth a try.
Change the mailbox (or maybe just the base)
Mailboxes can be pricey, so if yours still has a few years under its flag, give it a fresh coat of paint and focus on the base. It could be something as easy as:
- Attaching the box to a new structure.
- Building a stand from the extra cinder blocks or stones collecting behind the garage.
- Creating a base from an old pallet that has been sanded and stained a dark walnut. Add silver aluminum Neutra numbers and turn your average mailbox into a mid-century modern masterpiece.
Of course, if you do have the extra cash and want to spend it on a mailbox that would make Frank Lloyd Wright want to deliver the mail himself, there are plenty of options out there.
Add wood elements
If there is existing wood trim around the exterior windows, sand and refinish it. Paint it a contrasting color. If the color of the house is dark, a light natural wood stain would create the desired effect. If the house is a light color, the wood or shutters around the window should be darker or at least stronger in hue.
A wood divider wall (easily made from recycled pallet wood) near the front entrance or the addition of wood planters or window boxes can quickly and effortlessly make your house more mid-century modern.
Want to make a stronger impact? Try a wood-faced garage door. The great thing about this is that you don’t actually have to purchase a new custom door. You can get the same look by using vinyl wraps made to look like wood, which are a fraction of the cost. Need something even less costly? Pick up a faux wood paint kit and transform an ordinary garage door into the polished look of real wood, complete with a grain texture that lends to the authentic appearance.
Alter the exterior of the house
It’s amazing what a little paint can do. A new color can dramatically change the appearance of a house even if it’s brick. Charcoal gray all but screams mid-century modern on brick, wood, and even aluminum-sided homes. It’s all about the blending of cool and warm colors to create contrast. Don’t have time to paint your house? Leave it white and attach dark-stained wood shutters to get the same effect.
Let’s talk texture. If you have a gray concrete slab house, try attaching a lower faux brick façade across the front and painting it black. Orange square planters containing small palm varietals could finish the look.
Change the front door
The main entrance is the focal point of your home. One of the easiest ways to make it appear more mid-century modern is to switch out the front door.
If a new door isn’t in your budget, revamp the one you have. Warm up a plain white door by using faux wood paint. Don’t want this look on your front door? Instead, try:
- Painting it a color that pops like orange or red.
- Replacing the doorknob (wood, metal, aluminum, or plastic—so many options).
- Changing the doorbell. Something star-shaped and spatial. Think The Jetsons.
Maybe you already have a wood door and just need to punch out some funky geometric shapes for window inserts. Further enhance this by constructing a rustic stone archway over the threshold by using faux stone panels that mimic the look of real stone.
Believe it or not, these small changes can make a big difference when adding a mid-century modern curb appeal to your home.
Tal Hassid, founder of ETO Doors, is a door and wood expert in the industry for 15 years. ETO Doors, one of the largest online marketplaces for doors, carries solid wood and fiberglass doors including Interior, Exterior, and French doors.