Interest in Mid-Century Modern design continues to rise in an era of Modernism revival.
There were many architects that contributed to the MCM design movement. Key architects include Cliff May, Joseph Eichler, George and William Keck, E. Stewart Williams, Donald Wexler and more.
Below you can find a short list of Mid-Century Modern videos collected from YouTube documenting MCM’s history, style attributes, progression and popularity.
This video features an interview between a young designer and an experienced modern architect sitting in a larger, newly renovated Cliff May ranch house.
Cliff May built modern ranch style homes throughout California. May used building techniques and complimentary materials to create a feeling of openness that brought in views of nature and lots of light. His houses feel airy but comfortable. In a Cliff May home, one can often see through the entire house from either end of the building. The architect’s use of glass and natural elements is the inspiration for modern style today. Cliff May’s tract houses were average sized but made to feel comfortable and light. The architect sought to bring in the garden from outside using large windows. Cliff May’s style is exemplary of modern architecture’s honest in design using building techniques that allowed for an exposed structure so inhabitants could see the building’s bones from inside.
In a decades-old broadcast Historian Steve Staiger of The Palo Alto Historical Association describes Joseph Eichler’s building style and community vision.
Joseph Eichler was not a licensed architect but rather a builder who had a love of architecture and a grand vision of a united community. Eichler built tract homes throughout Northern and Southern California. He established 27 hundred homes in Palo Alto alone. Eichler hired the best architects he could find to design homes in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright. The famous builder had a unique community vision for the time, in that he made homes available to any qualified buyer, regardless of ethnicity. Eichler also sought to bring neighborhoods together and create a tight-knit community through incorporating communal centers, pools and parks.
This longer video is a true gem of a documentary, featuring interviews with original Eichler homeowners and the history behind the beloved developer. It documents the MCM building style and the communities that thrived in the developments.
Eichler’s homes are described as the epitome of the indoor, outdoor lifestyle that is California living. The documentary showcases the community-as-family lifestyle that is so well known with Eichler’s developments. The builder went against developers’ and realtors’ tendencies to not sell or show homes to minorities, a common though unwritten policy of the time.
Palm Springs’ ease of living is based on the lifestyle its modern homes provide. Many of the modern homes in the area are steel frame houses. Architect Don Wexler’s steel house system revolutionized the MCM push in the desert. His designs allowed for a quick building process with consideration for the extreme temperatures during the summer and winter. Wexler’s homes are now iconic of the Palm Springs way of life.
Speaking of Palm Springs Modernism the Frank Sinatra house “Twin Palms” Estate must be mentioned. This extravagant example of Mid-Century Modern design still features all of the essential modern characteristics including large windows that bring in views of the outdoors, an open floor plan, an exposed roof and visible structural elements such as steel supporting posts.
The building was commissioned in 1947 by Frank Sinatra himself and designed by E. Stewart Williams. It was built in just 3 months at the rushed demands of Frank Sinatra, who intended to host a Christmas party in the house before the New Year. The building set the standard for postwar movie star glamour.
Eames Era (Mid Century Modern Design Today)
This slideshow video explains the background and key characteristics of Eames Era style. Modern architecture is only one, albeit important component of modernism. The interior furnishings and décor of a modern home are equally as essential. Charles and Ray Eames were designers whose popular and much-loved style was the embodiment of the MCM era. The Eames studio specialized in home furnishings and accent pieces. Modern design focused on new materials including molded plywood, fiberglass and plastic. The innovative free forms of modern pieces, the Eames’ products in particular, are exemplary of MCM style.
Charles Eames is usually credited with the design work behind Eames products but his wife, Ray, played a part in the design business as well. This clip from NBC’s “Home” show in 1956 introduces Charles and Ray to America. The design duo typically avoided television appearances. Charles discusses design and some ongoing projects including their family home. Mr. Eames showcases the Eames chair line and debuts the iconic Herman Miller Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman.
The video montage above, originally shown in the 1950s at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), shows clips of Charles and Ray Eames’ coastal family home, called Case Study House #8, juxtaposed against natural scenes. The delightful video is set to original music and features shots of the structural elements, accent pieces, personal effects, flowers, trees, leaves and views. The Eameses let the public in on how a world-famous modern designer couple constructs, decorates and lives in their personal space.
Of course, if you aim to buy or sell a Mid-Century Modern home in Southern California your best bet is to go with a trusted realtor in the niche: