What’s to like about Mid-Century Modern Homes in these Foreclosure days?

Jerry Gropp
These homes are called “Mid-Century Modern” because then was the heyday of architect-designed homes that were carefully fitted to the needs of the owners and the properties involved. Often located on
choice lots in established neighborhoods, most of these have mature gardens not needing to be planted. Many of these homes have had a number of owners- some better than others at maintenance.

Perhaps the main thing that sets these homes apart is the construction – many are “post and Beam” and are laid out showing the structure per the plan for this custom home in Fauntleroy, West Seattle overlooking the Ferry to Vashon Island.

138 thoughts on “What’s to like about Mid-Century Modern Homes in these Foreclosure days?

  1. Hi Jerry,

    What years comprise “mid century”?

    I love open floor plans like the one pictured, though I call the “lanai” an “atrium”. A “lanai” to me is that covered space between the house and the pool in Florida and on shows like The Golden Girls 🙂 I especially like them when they have floor to ceiling windows in the living areas.

    When I think of “mid-century” as in 1951, I think of “levittowners”. 3 bedroom 1 bath boxy houses built for soldiers coming home from the war, and they were not known for quality construction.


    Would it be appropriate, as example, to call a new house with floor to ceiling windows “mid-century modern”? Can one build a new house of “mid century modern” design? Or does it have to be built between certain years to qualify?

      • Thanks Jerry. I have one I’m working on now that appears very “mid century modern” to me on the main floor, and likely could use some architectural changes to the 2nd floor. Not built in mid-century at all, but as you say the windows and the room flow feels very “mid-century modern” to me.

        Often, and I’m not sure why, it seems the main floor of a mid-century modern is much larger than any old home built “mid-century”. While that may not be a clear defining factor, it just seems that even on a two story mid-century modern home, the main floor foot print including none of the bedrooms is at least 1,400 sf vs smaller. Could just be a coincidence that this “rule” applies to the homes I have seen.

  2. I love this style, too – so many of the brand new greener eco homes are moving towards this style – luckily they are more energy efficient than the originals, though – LOL. Lake Forest Park is pretty famous for having jaw dropping gorgeous houses in this style – that combined with the sheer volume of trees in LFP makes many of them seem like tree houses:)

  3. There are two current listings, within a block of each other, that this reminded me of:



    It may just be the brilliance of Windermere’s photographer, but these do seem to show a distinctive set of ideas about shape and light and volume and how house meets the site.

    OTOH 90% of what’s called “mid-century modern” in real estate listings are landscape-blighting boxes with low ceilings and tiny windows. Maybe part of it is that for the style to work, you need a halfway interesting landscape for the bldg to be built around.

  4. 360 Modern is dedicated to modern and mid-century modern homes. The company filters through every listing on the MLS and aggregates them to one single website, http://www.360modern.com.

    If you are looking for that Mid-Century Modern, or the super modern home, you are more than likely going to find it on 360’s website. Also, they host events from time to time celebrating a particular architect, project, or just modern furniture, so sign up to recieve such information!


  5. Hey Jon (or others)

    For those of us that aren’t quite as enamored with the mid-century modern, do you know of any similar websites to 360modern which follow Victorian homes?

  6. With regard to the 5 Comments before, as usual they have suggested a future JG RCG Post covering the questions raised. As to defining what exactly is”Mid-Century”, I’m afraid Ardell’s putting Levittown forward shows her East Coast beginnings. “Mid-Century Modern” is another kind of thing entirely and has strong roots in California. Port Townsend, WA is the resource place for Everett_Tom. Jerry

  7. And furthermore- There are a lot of indifferent, poorly designed so-called Mid-Century Moderns out there as well as indifferent “Craftsmans” and indifferent “Victorians”. Any of these can be entirely valid if well done. Jerry

  8. The best thing about older homes is that they tend to be located on the best lots in the best locations. Its a simple fact that better pieces of real estate are developed first. You can see this pretty much anywhere. New construction homes are built on the cheapest real estate carved up into as many lots as possible. Kind of makes you reminiscent for the good ol’ days doesn’t it.

  9. I live in a house like this in a great neigborhood. The walls on two sides are glass and all the ceilings are open and some almost 2 stories high. There are two problems:
    1. Even with all the glass it is kind of dark the way the roof extends.
    2. Due to the glass and large total volume, even with the heater set to 65 it never shuts off cold days.

    I put on a metal roof with several inches of foam, but heating is still an issue. I would have to redo all the windows, which would cost a fortune, and it may not make economic sense.

    Any suggestions?

  10. re: Comment 10.- Terry- How pleased I am to have RE people from Boston reading my posts- especially when they help me make my points. Thanks. J-

    re: Comment 11.- Harry- We architects used lotsa glass back then when oil
    and other kinds of fuel were cheap. One of the first things to be done as it was on our own house https://knol.google.com/k/jerry-gropp-architect-aia/our-own-mid-century-modern-home/246qxuxd260sm/102# is to replace the single-pane glass with insulating double-pane units. As you can see by
    the photos, the old glass was broken out, new 3/4″x3/4″ wood strips hold
    the new glass in place. In the Seattle area, SeaView Glass does this for me
    at a reasonable price. http://jgropp2.googlepages.com/alterationsanadditions

  11. Hey Jerry,

    Thank, we’ve actually got a small collection of photos of places we like.. I was really interested in something like the 360 web site, where someone else does the work 🙂

    I do like Port Townsend, WA 🙂

  12. socal is a more active seismic zone than the northwest, and the best examples of mid-century modern (post and beam with lots of brick/stonework/glass) are strung between san diego and oakland. the los angeles region is ridiculously famous for this. building codes are obviously very different now, and there are many requirements for seismic retrofitting.

  13. im in the market for a mcm home and have been tracking many over the past couple years. the first one in shoreline linked above by colin is a sad example of the typical flipper butcher job found on the market today, complete with crown molding, horrid track lighting and home depot kitchen and bathrooms. the good news is, there are many original mostly intact examples still existing in the seattle metro area, especially bellevue. if youre into this sort of thing, youd be better off buying something untouched for $100k less and restovating it properly yourself.

  14. Mid century modern homes are extremely popular these days, especially with an many split level homes out there. A number of my clients have told me to focus on MCM’s exclusively, because of the friendly floor plan and potential resale value.

  15. re: Comment 14.- Ardell- As you say- PNW doesn’t use as much brick (as Baltimore for instance) because wood is plentiful. Our own home as you can see (link below) has lots of glass and has withstood many vigorous earthquakes in its 54 years. Our good Uniform Building Codes assure strong construction in any case. https://knol.google.com/k/jerry-gropp-architect-aia/our-own-mid-century-modern-home/246qxuxd260sm/102#view

    re Comment 15.- Everett_Tom- We used to have a summer place on Marrowstone Island, right across from Port Townsend- full of Victorians.

    re Comment 16.- Fillmore- SoCal and the whole State have even stricter Earthquake Codes than we do. They’ve learned the hard way as we will when the Seattle Waterfront Viaduct tumbles in the next big one.

    re Comment 17.- Fillmore- your “typical flipper butcher job found on the market today, complete with crown molding, horrid track lighting and home depot kitchen and bathrooms” says it all. “you’d be better off buying something untouched for $100k less and restovating it properly yourself.” is the way to go.

    re: Comment 18.- Tor- Your “Mid century modern homes are extremely popular these days” makes my point once again. It’s back to basics in both housing, banking and government.

  16. I’m very gratified at the above Comments. The Fauntleroy Custom Home I showed is really a pretty far out example of a “Mid-Centure Modern” home designed by this architect for his classmate/graduate architect client.

    Once again, it shows how important it is to have well-educated clients and
    home sellers, home buyers, salespeople. Rain City Guide is leading the way-I’m glad to be part of the RCG Writer Team. Jerry

  17. what happened to jerry? i hope he didnt get cut due to correct criticism of hack jobs perpetrated by todays version of real estate “professionals”….

  18. Having stopped contributing to Rain City Guide back in April feeling unable to properly convey my architectural design concepts, I now feel the completely updated RCG is something to which I can add my long-time residential architect’s viewpoint. This in complete harmony with the other parts of the Real Estate Sales industry which RCG now covers so well and thoroughly. Jerry

  19. NorthWest Contemporary is probably a better term.
    The magazine “Arts & Architecture” was the bible of all of
    us residential architects back then- and it still is. I’m
    reading the King County Library’s new bound set as
    described in this “Finding the Grail” Post.

  20. Many of these Mid-Century Modern homes are coming on the market after many years of one-owner ownership. Most of these were custome-designed for the original owners who have lovingly held on to them all this time. I recently consulted on possible alterations/ additions to update a West Seattle family home I had designed in 1953. Here’s a picture: Jerry


  21. Many of these Mid-Century Modern homes are coming on the market after many years of one-owner ownership. Most of these were custom-designed for the original owners who have lovingly held on to them all this time which makes them by a “Heritage Home”.. I recently consulted on possible alterations/ additions to update a West Seattle family home I had designed in 1953. Here’s a recent picture as it is today: Jerry


    Here’s a page of the original blueprints (they were really blue then. I now use Xerox prints).


  22. Many of these Mid-Century Modern homes are coming on the market after many years of one-owner ownership. Most of these were custom-designed for the original owners who have lovingly held on to them all this time which makes them a “Heritage Home

  23. Whatever “normal” is, I’m hoping home designing, building, buying and selling will sooner or later get back to what used to be a rewarding, satifying activity for all involved. More positive Rain City Guide Posts would help restore the balance. JG

  24. Those fortunate and savvy enough to buy MCM homes at today’s more realistic prices are using their savings to update same with the help of good builders guided by experienced Mid-Century Modern architects such as myself. Expert help in doing this is very important. All too often the results of bad remodeling are a loss of market value and liveabilty. I’ve often been called in to undo unfortunate, inept inauthentic design.

    Here’s a link to one of my current projects:


    • Nice Jerry! I LOVE it! When was that built? Love, love, love that guest suite with view deck. I’m packing now for a visit 🙂 It will be a great weekend for it.

      • Ardell- Thanks for the kind words. I did this waterfront home probably ten years ago for repeat clients who decided to upsize when the children had all left home. As you well know, it usually works exactly the opposite but these clients wanted to experience living on Lake Washington for a while before downsizing which they’ve now happily done. Seems I have a lot of repeat clients*– one doctor had me do six projects in all- the last one for him to live with his by-now grown-up daughter.

        *these are absolutely the best kind
        as any Real Estate Broker knows. J-

  25. I keep hoping I’ll see more about Home DESIGN in Rain City Guide. This so readers will see other than Real Estate Trade tidbits and tirades. The only way my architectural essays get shown is by me sending these in as comments on my own previous RCG posts. Here’s a link to some of the ones I’ve written- using my own creations of necessity as examples of what can be done in the way of more creative home design- as I visualize it..


  26. Not sure about those particular homes, Jerry. They do remind me a bit of something I’ve seen in Issaquah.

    Kirkland was very positive about trying out these Cottage Homes. The only problem is all of the fronts of the houses face inward, so that the street view is the garage.

    Are you familiar with these Cottage Homes?


    Do you think they are better than attached townhomes for “affordable” housing? In areas where new houses all cost over a million dollars, it’s hard to find a satisfactory affordable “new home” option.

  27. Hey Jerry!

    I’m watching the remake of The Mechanic with Jason Statham and he’s living in a cool Mid-Century Modern in the film. Thought of you! He also plays his music on real vinyl. Appreciation for things of yesteryear apparently goes with the love of Mid-Century Modern homes.

  28. I can’t find anything about the house they used for the film. It was the one I love with the glass coming up to the peak of the roof line showing sky and trees. They didn’t show much of the interior as most of the film was not shot “in the house”. No neighbors to speak of…out in the woods.

  29. They only show the Mid Century Modern house a split second before they blow it up. 🙂

    I bet you liked this description:

    “I designed Bishop’s house to be modestly sophisticated,

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