20th Century Design

Midcentury Modern Homes Keep Their Cool Factor

By Iyna Bort Caruso

M idcentury modern may be to architecture what rock and roll – according to singer-songwriter Neil Young – is to popular music: it can never die. Begun in the late 1930s, the modernist style took hold after World War II as new materials and building techniques allowed architects to break with the forms and methods of the past. Decades on, midcentury modern’s clean lines, open floor plans and expansive windows continue to appeal.

Architect Carib Daniel Martin renovated the midcentury modern house in Kensington, Maryland, that now serves as both his residence and office. He says he’s attracted to its simplicity and airiness and to the way homes of this era effectively “straddle two worlds: they have a modernist feel but are still connected to the more traditional idea of what a home is.” This, he believes, “is why people feel comfortable in them.” On the other side of the country, midcentury modern architects and builders left legacies in California, particularly in Palm Springs and the San Francisco Bay Area. “We are fortunate to have an inventory of homes built in the 1950s by developer Joseph Eichler, the pioneer who brought midcentury modern to the masses,” says Michael Dreyfus of Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty in Palo Alto. “The homes were able to deliver so much in less space. You can get three and four bedrooms in a very small footprint,” he continues, noting that buyers still like the efficiency.

More recently, Dreyfus has noticed midcentury modern elements in new construction. “Younger buyers in Silicon Valley are more design-oriented, and there’s something about the style that’s captured people’s imaginations,” he says. Museum exhibitions trumpet the style’s culture-shaping impact, architectural walking tours sell out, and events such as Modernism Week, a biannual festival in Palm Springs, draw thousands of fans to buildings by William Krisel, Richard Neutra and Donald Wexler. Yes, fans – just like rock and roll.

Denver, Colorado

This exquisite residence stands out from other properties by combining a clean and modern aesthetic with
a warm atmosphere. Completely renovated, the redesigned interior features hardwood floors, open spaces and floor-to-ceiling windows that illuminate the entirety of the main living area.

$5,450,000 Property ID: T2R6GG
LIV Sotheby’s International Realty
Josh Behr +1 303 903 9525
Linda Behr +1 720 275 7726

New Canaan, Connecticut

Sculptural elements, natural light and clear views of the surrounding landscape combine to make this exceptional midcentury modern house an unprecedented experience in living. Staying true to architect Eliot Noyes’s original vision, the renovations by architect Joeb Moore and builder David Prutting preserved his sophisticated approach while making the home conform to today’s standards. Natural materials such as wood and stone add warmth, and the house’s remarkable proportions are enhanced by the expansive use of glass.

$6,950,000 Property ID: XXQC6F
William Pitt Sotheby’s International Realty
Fatou Niang +1 212 961 7428
Inger Stringfellow +1 203 321 9361

Portland, Oregon

This original midcentury Van Evera Bailey estate is located on top of the city’s Hessler Hills. Entirely remodelled to make the most of the property’s light, organic warmth and extensive outdoor spaces, this residence continues to honour the modern lines of the era in which it was created.

$2,495,000 Property ID: 56CXQQ
Cascade Sotheby’s International Realty
Kristen Kohnstamm +1 503 709 4518

Amagansett, New York

A modernist gem, this iconic retreatis a fully restored original from noted architect Richard Bender’s early 1960s Amenity project, a cluster of linear, light-infused beach cottages occupying a twenty-acre private enclave. Deftly curated by its owner, this sublime two-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath home is a study in simplicity.

$2,100,000 Property ID: 0047542
Sotheby’s International Realty –
East Hampton Brokerage
Rylan Jacka +1 516 702 5707
Bayard Fenwick +1 646 373 1479

Marin County, California

The pure lines and modern appeal of midcentury design are on full display throughout this stunning masterpiece. Designed by renowned architect Edward Hageman and owned by the same family for more than 50 years, this one-of-a-kind gated estate offers complete privacy, awe-inspiring bay views and California living at its very finest.

Price Upon Request
Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty
Thomas Henthorne +1 415 847 5584


New York-based writer Iyna Bort Caruso has contributed to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsday and others.

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