Mid-Century Incorporated into Contemporary Architecture

Design is almost always reflective of the time the building was built in. To use a popular example, the flying buttress was incorporated into 12th-century European buildings to emphasize the opulence of the gothic era. In relation to mid-century modern, which predates our contemporary architecture style, this type of design reflects the forward-looking mindset of the time. Identifiable by the distinctive large windows, flat planes, sharp angles and open spaces, you’ll see these homes were built around 1945 to the 1970s. Like contemporary, they incorporate nature alongside simplicity. It was such a departure from the ornate architecture still in use in the 1930s, mainly seen in the U.S. in the form of Tudor homes and in places like older theaters with distinctive crown molding, this mid-century modern twist must’ve been abrupt and almost unsettling when it first surfaced. At this point in time, you can still find mid-century style homes, mostly used, but if you’re looking for a new home, contemporary architecture encompasses the best portions of the average mid-century modern design. Mainly, because it’s the parent to the contemporary line of thought.

Mid-Century Architecture Roots

After WWII, the baby boom happened, and thousands of couples needed new homes to start families in. Because of the war industry fueling the imagination for years, manufacturers cleverly created composite materials such as steel and plywood that had no practical uses after the war except for building. Inspired by these strange and harder materials, John Entenza founded The Case Study House Program which created models for the post-world-war buildings that would become iconic in the understanding or mid-century modern design. Many houses from the very center of the mid-century modern era are now eligible to be put on the historic register in order to preserve this beautiful, open floor planned origin to contemporary homes now.

Distinctive Qualities of Mid-Century Modern Design:

Angular, Flat planes: This was the first design to include geometric lines that were clean and incorporated harsh angles as a design element. Unlike the gentle swirling of its predecessors, it pioneered lines on buildings that were rigorous and harsh like the progressive views of the time. Expansive windows: Another thing contemporary design based off of mid-century modern was the huge windows to used to incorporate pieces of nature into a house without disrupting those modern, cut lines that differentiated the housing type of the day.

Varied Levels: A huge landmark of this design that didn’t quite carry through to the contemporary architecture is the stairs leading to slightly dropped levels. “Split-level spaces” allowed for compartmentalization and different decorating techniques without sacrificing the open floor plan of the house.

Outdoor Integration: The main influence mid-century modern passed onto contemporary was the inclusion of nature often via the above mentioned large windows, or through multiple outdoor access points to encourage the residents to go and spend time outside.

Real world

Though ALT-254’s designs remain categorized as contemporary architecture, the legendary mid-century modern influence can be seen noticeably in a few of our projects. Such as the Lo House, which was built on three levels over the top of ancient Japanese rice paddies. It incorporates a similar multi-level design, picked from the mid-century book, as well as a sloped roof and boxey front face. Characteristic broad vertical lines cross the entire face of the building, lines with large shimmering windows so that you can see the mountains of the Niseko region easily throughout the entire home. Another example is the slightly unusual Vader House, a multilevel chateau that, at first, looks like the traditional arrowhead shaped cabin. Around the other side of the downward slope, however, it drops off sharply for a flattened, distinctive side. With wall-to-ceiling windows on the front face of the house all the way to the top level, it incorporates the feeling of the mountain nature into the home with ease while maintaining its beautiful hardened, modern veneer.

The mid-century modern style gave way to the current day contemporary for several reasons. It’s hard to maintain because of the precautions they didn’t take in the 60s and 70s. As the 80s gave way to the 90s, the environment became of greater concern so the style’s adapted and the open floor plans and large windows carried over to bigger, better models that used materials better and less than the previous models.


When you invest in a luxury home, you’re investing in a lifestyle and a frame of mind. You’re accepting the compilation of ideas that brought this creation to fruition. When you purchase a contemporary designed architectural creation, you’re making a historical statement in the same vein as anyone who bought a mid-century modern home as the style grew in popularity. Choose ALT-254 where we believe that simplicity is paramount, that greener is better. Believe with us. Schedule your free consultation today.