Learning from the defining American style of the 20th century
Making Midcentury Modern by Christopher Kennedy, foreword by Barclay Butera (Gibbs Smith 2017) $35; 198 pp.
You’ll never forget the feeling of key in hand. Imagine — you. A homeowner, finally, after saving, planning and a ceiling-high pile of paperwork. Starting today, you can go home (home!), shut the door, and know that it’s all yours. So how do you reflect your style in this home you love?
Begin with Making Midcentury Modern.
When he was a young lad, Kennedy’s parents taught him the proper ways to a well-mannered life: his mother made him write thank-you notes, and she taught him how to “make a good first impression,” while his father advised him to “live each day to the fullest.” Those lessons were learned in “simpler, more gracious times.”
Kennedy insists it’s not nostalgia that makes him love interior design from that period. Instead, he just likes the trend, and he doesn’t see it “slowing down any time soon.” In this book, he shows how you can include Midcentury Modern into your home, even if it was built last month.
You can start in the entrance. Those first impressions matter when it comes to a home, says Kennedy. Paint your front door in a Midcentury Modern color to welcome guests warmly.
On the topic of colors, Midcentury Modern isn’t shy. Orange is the “caffeine of the color wheel,” and it really pops. Think pink (Mamie Eisenhower’s favorite color), turquoise, white, red, or any shade of blue. Don’t just color walls, though; be bold with furniture, rugs, and accessories. Pillows in out-there colors are inexpensive ways to dip your toe into the design.
Know the “secret to a beautiful and easy-to-make bed” — and for guest rooms, consider twin beds. Go ahead and mix metals, bring childhood treasures out for display, and recall Mom’s kitchen or bathroom for ideas. Take your indoors, outdoors, weather permitting. Pare down; Midcentury Modern isn’t cluttered (so on that note, hide your TV). And finally, have fun. “Above all,” Kennedy says, “never take your home too seriously.”
Sometimes, it’s easy to feel indecision or paralysis, when it comes to décor. What if you make a mistake? What if you have Making Midcentury Modern? With 100 easy-to-use (and surprisingly budget-friendly) tips, Kennedy gives readers the inspirational boost they need to make a home dazzle. You’ll see how simple color will transform a house’s entire look, and where cherished possessions can become unusual displays. He fully admits that many of his favorite pieces were discovered online or at thrift stores, an idea that’s somehow very delicious. And pillows? Pile ‘em on!
The one criticism I have with this book isn’t with the information — it’s with getting that information: the font color against color can be very difficult to read. White print on a yellow background, for example, is nearly hidden.
It’s a design flaw in a design book. Go figure.
That’s not insurmountable, though: there are photos enough to make this coffee-table book a can’t-miss full of fun. If you need your house to feel groovier no matter when it was constructed, Making Midcentury Modern may be key.
— Terri Schlichenmeyer