Your Modern Home

In the years following World War II, Americans embraced modern architecture. The style’s clean lines and open spaces reflected the hope and optimism of the era, and it was the style of choice for many of the new homes being built in Southern California during this period. Today, these homes are back in fashion and well worth preserving.

Modern Residences in a Nutshell

Modern home

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The rise of modern architecture can be traced to the International Style in Europe, which developed in the late 1920s. During this period, most European urban residential modern architecture was constructed as multi-unit buildings.

After World War II, improved communication and transportation in Southern California encouraged residents to live a more suburban life than their pre-war European counterparts. The American version of modern homes, typically a single-family residence, offered homeowners flexible living space along with the latest in home appliances.

An increased accessibility to new building materials (plastic, fiberglass, foam rubber, aluminum, steel, Lucite™, fluorescent lighting, vinyl, rayon, Formica™ and reinforced concrete) also propelled modern design into the mainstream.

Modern in the Mainstream

Modern Home

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Often people focus on the big-name modernists working in our area, but many lesser-known architects were also creating excellent examples of this style. By the mid-’60s, modernism had decreased in popularity, and architects had begun to experiment with new styles. But during the last few decades its timeless quality and clean lines have begun to appeal to homeowners once again.

Today mid-century modern design principles are recognized as elegant, innovative and versatile. This style’s clutter0free approach can make your home environment a refuge from stress in these days of Internet superhighways, congested freeways and high-pressure jobs.

Is Your Home Modern?


Flat stucco and exposed brick, stone and wood were all used as exterior finishes in modern homes. Color contrasts were subtle, often incorporating many neutral colors found in nature (don’t be discouraged if you don’t see these colors – repainting happens often!). Often the landscape plan flows with the exterior of the home, and sometimes planters located underneath breezeways and inside walls also reduce the division between indoor and outdoor spaces. Expansive glass panels and sliding glass doors were used throughout to bring the beauty of the California landscape into the home. A pronounced roof overhang often provides cooling shade to the modern home. Most modern homes were built with a flat or slightly sloped roof with no shingles. The exterior of a modern home lacks ornamentation, such as shutters, ironwork or fancy carpentry. Overall, the modern style offers a clean, simple exterior balanced with a bold geometric building shape.


The interior of a modern home usually has a unified central area. This includes a living room, dining room and kitchen sometimes separated by fold-away walls, which allow the homeowner to divide or join rooms as desired. Exposed wooden or steel posts and beams often trick the eye into believing a modern home is more spacious than it actually is.

Modern Home Interior

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Hygiene and convenience were important to contemporary modern homeowners. Many of the new building materials encouraged the practice of good hygiene, such as easy-to-clean slick surfaces in the bathroom and kitchen. And don’t forget the self-cleaning oven! In a modern home, the kitchen’s dirty dishes were isolated from the eyesight of guests through serving islands. Some homes even featured a Shoji sliding screen covered with synthetic plastic rice-like paper cabinets that slid open from both sides to return and take dishes and flatware. Beneath the screen, drop-down banquet tabletops allowed the hostess to serve a dinner party without having to make multiple trips through the kitchen,

Instead of a traditional dark hallway, many modern homes offered a luminous sky-lighted ceiling of corrugated plastic panels that brought in natural sunlight from above.

Look under your carpeting! It was rarely found in modern homes because easy maintenance was a high priority for the modern homemaker. Natural materials such as hardwood, cork and linoleum were used as flooring material as well as newer synthetic vinyl tile flooring.

Today’s Valuable Modern Home

Why maintain the originality of a Modern home?

Modern architecture’s popularity has been increasing. This style has been recently featured in popular home magazines such as Architectural Digest, Sunset, Garden Design, Wallpaper and House & Garden.
It is truly a sound investment. Prospective homebuyers will pay a premium for homes that have intact, authentic modern features.

Some municipal governments in California offer the benefits of the Mills Act. In cities that have cooperated with the state to recognize the value of historical property restoration, this provision has reduced property tax by up to 60 percent for homeowners that agree to preserve their architecturally significant home for a contractual period. Movie scouts are constantly locating modern homes that match the vision of current film scripts for studios, which pay to film or photograph on location.

Restoring Your Modern Home

When considering a restoration of your modern home, celebrate the unique design elements of its architecture rather than permanently erasing its character with a renovation that is insensitive to its true value.

We understand that many of the “new” materials used in modern homes have not withstood the tests of time. However, many similar and compatible building materials have been designed since then that withstand relentless exposure to sun, wind, temperature extremes, rain and pollution. These latest building materials may enhance life in the modern home without destroying its overall property value.

Before beginning any restoration to a modern home, try to locate the home’s original building specifications and determine when the home was constructed and whether any renovations followed. Then you should contact a consultant who can advise you on any planned restoration of original elements. Upon request, the Los Angeles Conservancy will provide a list of qualified designers and guide you in finding local resources to maintain your modern home.

The best features of modern-era homes are originality, sophistication and relevance to contemporary living. Once you have made a commitment to maintain your modern home, you will own a unique architectural showpiece like no other in the world.