DC Mid-Century Modern
Long before Mad Men conga’d into our lives, architects like Charles Goodman were changing the face of the American landscape by creating synergy between living space, nature and design. Even here in the uber-traditional DC Metro area, the ‘California Contemporary’ trend caught on and stayed. Washington DC mid-century modern homes can be found today in the list of DC Mid-Century Modern communities below.
DC Mid-Century Modern Communities
SW Waterfront/Near SE
River Park SW DC
1962 Charles Goodman designed Condo and co-op community near waterfront. Famous for its ‘barrel top’ townhomes. A fine example of Washington DC mid-century modern apartment homes in DC.
Tiber Island SW DC
Tiber Island Cooperative was built in 1966. Four 8-story towers, 21 townhouses built around a large central plaza with fountain. 389 living units and 296 parking spaces. The historic Thomas Law House, an attached two-story club house, and a swimming pool complete the main structures.
Harbour Square SW DC
Over 440 units ranging from comfortable efficiencies to three-bedrooms and town homes, some of which date back to the 1790’s and are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Carrollsburg Square SW DC Condominiums
Located in the Southwest Waterfront in Washington DC
Capitol Park II SW DC
Part of Capitol Park designed by Chloethiel Woodard Smith, an important local architect for Washington DC and NVA mid-century modern homes.
Crestwood Rock Creek Parkway Washington DC mid-century modern subdivision.
Forest Hills NW DC
Diplomats, ambassadors and mid-century modern architecture make an exciting (and one of Washington DC’s more expensive) neighborhood
More Washington DC Mid-century Modern Homes
Barnarby Woods/Chevy Chase adjacent neighborhood with mid-century modern subdivisions
Tiffey Townhomes NW DC Designed by Julian Berla and Joseph Abel
Northern Virginia Mid-Century Modern Communities
Coleson Cluster Reston, Virginia
The third of Reston’s architecturally distinct neighborhoods to be built, Coleson was designed jointly by Reston founder Robert E. Simon Jr. and nationally recognized modernist architect Chloethiel Woodard Smith in the mid-1960s.
About Chloethiel Woodard Smith
Smith served on a number of committees which heavily influenced post-war architecture, design and city planning in Washington DC. She was the designer of such Washington DC and Northern Virginia mid-century modern residential communities as Harbour Square, Waterview Townhouses, as well as commercial efforts such as the National Airport Metro station and a number of NW DC office buildings. In fact, the intersection of Connecticut and L NW is referred to as “Chloethiel’s Corner.”
She also had a hand in proposing a national museum and is credited with the proposal for renovation of the Pension Building as a new home to the National Building Museum.
By the late 1960s, Smith ran the largest female-run architectural firm in the United States.
Hickory Cluster Reston, Virginia
Charles Goodman-designed “cluster” of cubist mid-century modern townhouses in the woods above Lake Anne.
Waterview Cluster Reston, Virginia
Chloethiel Woodard-Smith designed lakefront mid-century modern townhouses c.1965.
Lake Ann Village Reston, Virginia
James Rossant and William Conklin designed Lake Anne to emulate the Italian coastal town of Portofino in the early 1960’s.
Hollin Hills Alexandria, Virginia
Charles Goodman-designed mid-century modern enclave in wooded Hollin Hills. Famous for its annual garden tour.
Here’s information on Hollin Hills from the Hollin Hills Homeowner’s association:
Holmes Run Acres Falls Church, Virginia
Luria Brothers tract project modeled after the California Ranch in 1951.
Lake Barcroft Falls Church, Virginia
Boston Development partners built in 1950, dividing 750 acres into 1,020 lots.
Pine Spring Falls Church, Virginia
Luria Brothers 1952 tract of 121 mid-century modern homes on 55 acres.
Raymondale Falls Church Virginia
142 homes built by Westwood Properties and designed by A.B. Lowstuter in the mid-1950’s.
Mantua Mantua, Virginia
1,500-plus home neighborhood mostly built during the late 1950s through the mid-1980s. Homes range from mid-century modern contemporaries to traditionals.
Mount Vernon/ Fort Hunt
Stratford Landing Mount Vernon, Virginia
Wessynton Mount Vernon-Adjacent
156 contemporary homes designed by Nicholas Pappas.
Tauxemont Fort Hunt, Virginia One hundred original post-war homes built in the mid to late 1940’s.
Truro Annandale, Virginia
A community o f11 mid-century modern floorplans and 5 colonials.
Washington DC Metro Area Mid-Century Modern Home Architects
About Modernist and Mid-Century Modern Design
Mid-Century modern (MCM) is a term invented by author Cara Greenberg to describe interior furnishings from the mid-20th century (1932 to 1970). It is also applied to architectural and product design.
History of Modernism
It began with artists of the late 1900’s. Painters, sculptors and writers such as Picasso, Matisse and T.S. Elliott were influenced by a movement called “modernism” emphasizing clean lines, contrast, elevation and innovative style and form. This carried forward into interior design, product design and architecture.
Modernism encouraged the re-examination of every aspect of existence, from commerce to philosophy, with the goal of replacing elements ‘holding back’ progress with new ways of reaching the same end.
Post War Design
The design movement following WWII was a dramatic departure from the heavy, dark, detailed design aesthetic preceding Moderism. Innovative materials like steel and molded plywood were used by Charles and Ray Eames, and plastics were very popular. Blending the disciplines of technology and art became the working philosophy of the Deutscher Werkbund, a government sponsored organization to promote German art and design around the world. Many of those involved with it including Mies van Der Rohe, Lilly Reich and others, were later involved in the Bauhaus School, which also adopted this philosophy. In using these new materials which could be mass produced, they made good design more accessible to the general public.
Scandinavian design was a major influence in mid-century modern design. Its style was simple, democratic and incorporated natural shapes. “Danish Modern” was a ‘thing’ and products designed by Danish stars like George Jensen and Poul Henningsen endure and are still in high demand today.
Edith Heath (1911–2005) was an industrial designer, potter, and founder of Heath Ceramics in 1948. The company, well known for its Mid-Century modern ceramic dish-ware (Heathware) and architectural tiles, is still operating out of Sausalito, in Marin County of the San Francisco Bay Area, California. Edith Heath’s “Coupe” line remains in demand and has been in constant production since 1948, with only periodic changes to the texture and color of the glazes.
Incorporated in mid-century modern design was Asian and African influence. Growing access to African and Asian design, especially Japanese design, spawned a design fetish in the last years of the 19th Century (the Edo Period in Japan) as Japanese isolationist policy began to soften, and trade with the west began in ernest. Designers went mad for Japanese and it blended well with the lines and proportions of MCM interiors and furnishings.
Examples of Mid-Century Modern Furniture
Marcel Breuer’s Wassily Chair
This modernist creation is perhaps one of the most iconic furniture designs of all times. The Wassily Chair, also known as the Model B3 chair, was designed by Marcel Breuer in 1925-26 while he was the head of the cabinet-making workshop at the Bauhaus, in Dessau, Germany. The design of the chair is most interesting in that it is a symmetrical abstraction of wafer thin, geometric planes that appears to be suspended in space. The magic of this is sublime design is to be primarily attributed to Breuer’s ingenious use of lightweight tubular steel and minimalist leather straps.
The Barcelona Chair has come to represent the Bauhaus design movement. Many consider it to be functional art, rather than just furniture. Designed by Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich in 1929 for an international design fair in Barcelona, it is said to have been inspired by both the folding chairs of the Pharaohs, and the ‘X’ shaped footstools of the Romans, and dedicated to the Spanish royal family.
Noguchi coffee table
Isamu Noguchi 1904 – 1988 was a sculptor, architect, furniture and landscape designer. Half American, half Japanese, he is famous for his organic modern forms. The Noguchi Table – has become famous for its unique and unmistakable simplicity. Refined and at the same time natural, it is one of the most sought after pieces associated with the modern classic furniture movement.
Best MCM and Vintage Home Design Shopping
V&M Vintage and Modern “A must place to shop.” – Vogue (and who am I to argue with Vogue?)
Modernist architecture sprung from post-war optimism; a desire to build a better future. The pre-eminent style for post-war schools, institutional and commercial buildings, modernist structures were typically constructed of steel, glass and concrete. Glass was commonly used for facades, with steel for exterior support and concrete for foundations and interior support.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s principles of organic architecture combined with many elements reflected in the International and Bauhaus movements, including the work of Gropius, Le Corbusier, and Mies van der Rohe, was the basis for mid-century modern architecture, which took the premise further by implementing more organic forms and casual style. Like many of Wright’s designs, MCM architecture was frequently employed to add modernism to America’s post-war suburbs. Residential structures featured oversized windows and open floor-plans to bring the outdoors in. Many Mid-century modern houses utilized then-groundbreaking post and beam architectural design that eliminated bulky support walls in favor of walls that appeared to be made of glass.
Function was as important as form in Mid-Century Modern home designs, with an emphasis placed specifically on targeting the needs of the average American family. Examples of residential Mid-Century Modern architecture are frequently referred to as the California Modern style, a term used even in Washington DC.
Updating Mid-Century Modern Homes
Once you own a mid-century modern home, the question becomes “How to update a mid-century modern home?”
Read about renovation, rehabbing and updating in general.
Sources: Wikipedia, buildllc.com, Flickr
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