MCM or just outdated?

July 24, 2016

As I posted in [another design dilemma [( we are buying a house that needs a little love. Will only be here for a year or two and can't put too much $$ into the project. The house was built in 1950. The living room has an interesting wall detail. Curious whether it is considered a MCM touch and if you can see how we can work with it or if it just going to scream to future home buyers that this house is dated. (For the record, I kind of like it, but I am a bit weird) The furniture in the picture is from the listing. We don't close for about a month. Currently there is a grass cloth or other textured wall covering on the non-paneled walls.

The detail in question is the angled divider wall. Would love thoughts on the ceiling and possibly adding overhead lighting, as well.

Comments (95)

  • beazfour

    I also just had the thought of doing a drawer style dishwasher which could kill 2 birds. But, we will explore all options.

  • beazfour

    E Dant- Maybe I am wrong but I don't think we could plumb in a portable in our kitchen (without the same countertop height issues) The current location of the portable (non-functioning) dishwasher is next to the oven, across the kitchen from the sink. There isn't any space on the side of the kitchen where the plumbing is to place the portable.

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  • PRO
    Loribeth Clark

    This is definitely a MCM design feature. I would not advise touching it or painting the ceiling. Natural/stained wood is a hallmark in a MCM home. Get rid of the seagrass wallpaper, and paint all the walls. I don't know what furnishing you're bringing in, so I can't suggest a color to paint. Although, I tend to specify greens for MCM homes, because greens blend naturally with the wood, and, depending on shade, can be very neutral. I would replace the carpet, because as someone else said, it looks tired. Since you're only going to be in the home for a couple of years, I wouldn't suggest replacing it with hardwood or tile, because it's too expensive, and laminate is just wrong for MCM.

  • PRO
    Loribeth Clark

    Okay... I looked at some more of your pictures. My friend, who has a beautiful MCM home would give her right arm for the lamp! LOL! The paneling in that room needs to go. That is not original and was probably added in the 1970s.

    Based on the sink, the kitchen looks like it might be original. However, the doors look a little dated even for MCM. Kitchen updates give you the best return on investment. The easiest update would be to change the doors. You can easily make very sleek flat panel doors using A grade plywood. Of course, there is always the paint option, but I would not suggest white. I'd suggest a charcoal gray for the bottom cabinets and a lighter gray for the upper cabinets, only because your kitchen looks dark.

    Hubby might be more on board with the MCM look once the all the previous owners stuff is out and all the curtains are replace. You do not have to go with MCM accessories and furniture. You're not living in a museum! Just a nod towards the history of the house will be enough to be respectful to the design and yet still be indicative of your personal style.

  • Paula Lewis

    In the room with the wood ceiling a honey color on those too white walls would unify things. I really like the ceiling.

    Are you sure that it is wallpaper on those white walls?

    There was paneling that made to look like textured paint and it looked kind of like what I think I am seeing.

    It also looks like you have some nice wood paneling and some that is possibly a bit less charming.

    You are going to have fun with this.

    I hope more photos are coming.

  • PRO
    Ourso Designs

    We are currently working on a blog article on modern wood walls as a current trend in the design market today... this is the idea book we just made You should check it out. I agree with many, when they say you should not mess up the integrity of the original wood paneling and trim. It is beautiful! And, as you can see from the trend we have been following, is a look that many are going for in their homes today! Though it does seem like some the paneling is different and might have been installed at a later date... and that paneling is not so pretty. Also, the angled partition walls, though may not be architecturally necessary, are a beautiful feature from the MCM era! I believe addressing the simpler things like the funky carpet and wallpaper will begin to make a great impact on the home for the better. Kitchen and baths are definitely the best places to put your money, when it comes to the larger projects. BUT, you have a beautiful new home with lots of potential! We are very excited for you and your new home purchase!

  • Rina

    After all this time, I must say that the angled partition removal I initially recommended had nothing to do with its style, which I like, it's just I'm a function nut. I still don't know how one could functionally use the closet behind it. So it drives me crazy. I'd be looking at removing it and putting it elsewhere, where it makes more sense. On the other hand, as a pre-MCM baby, I do remember that we weren't entirely sane at the time.

  • Rina

    However, I have been thinking that you definitely need to restrain expenditure as you're not going to be there for long. Much of the profit made from improvements comes from time -- you spend X on the bathroom, in five years' time it's worth a lot more than X. In a year, not so much.

    Concentrate on resale deal-breakers.

  • PRO
    Kitchen Studio: Kansas City

    If you like it, why would you take it out? Leave it and see if it works with your furniture and design. If you come to dislike it while you live there, then remove it. I think it's a bit odd, but interesting, and certainly unique. Future buyers will remember it after seeing the house :)

  • Blanca Boulden
    I like the wall and ceiling. It's that horrible carpet that's killing me. Am I crazy or is the kitchen carpeted as well? Like others have said concentrate on the flooring first. Then go from there.
  • er612

    I didn't read all of the comments but I wouldn't touch the wall in question. I love it. I would simplify everything else to draw attention to it. Also, your bathroom tub/shower will look amazing if you replace the wall surround with tile that extends to the ceiling.

  • beazfour

    Blanca3b you aren't crazy ;) That's carpet. I didn't mention it in the initial post because that part was a no brainer to me. Our fingers are crosses that the wood floors underneath it are in as good of shape as the bedroom flooring! Regardless, carpet in the dining and kitchen are coming out ASAP. Flooring will get replaced in the living room, just not sure with what yet.

  • kjbjw

    Could the step down living room be a garage conversion?

  • pbs2k2

    Kjbjw, that's exactly what I'm thinking. Especially with the door directly into the kitchen. The one thing I'd be concerned about is whether or not the post and the angled wall have some load-bearing going on. I can't imagine why they would, if it's a former garage, but I'd check it out.

  • kaak

    please keep it - to paint it would be a shame, almost better to remove it than to try to hide it. i love some dynamic features mcm or not.

  • dgalism

    Why not bring the door to that closet forward? It would give you a bit more storage, add a purpose to that angled wall and still keep the quirkiness of it all.

    beazfour thanked dgalism
  • sheilamacd

    Yes - Please keep it. It's beautiful and especially if you are only staying for awhile then don't paint it or anything that you may regret. These are the kinds of details that are so hard to find!

  • beazfour

    I have gone back and forth with wondering if the living room is a converted garage and/or addition. Right now I am back to thinking it is original (maybe). Only because I can not see anywhere else any kind of living room would have been. In the pictures looking through to the kitchen you can see the dining area, other than that on the above ground level there is a bathroom and 2 bedrooms. Both bedrooms are down a hall, aren't huge, and wouldn't have made sense floor plan wise to be living room. There is another family room on the main, through those sliding glass doors but that is, for sure, a conversion of a later added sun room.

  • beazfour

    dgalism- That is an idea to consider. Once we are in the house in a couple of weeks I will look at it and see if that is a viable option.

  • PhotoNinja

    We purchased a 1960, very dated split level; we thought we'd have everything done in a year or two...we're nearing year 4, and will likely sell in another 2, and still have a bit to go on our "update" list. If you don't have a lot of extra funds and are only there a short time, I wouldn't do anything too extensive... projects can take longer and be more expensive than you think, DIY or hired. We found it useful to list the "must be done" and "if we have the time and money" projects, as well as considered approximate costs and ROI for what we wanted to do, which really helped us to prioritize by importance and available funds.

    I'm sure some of these may have been touched on as I skimmed through the comments, but here would be my suggestions:

    1) Paint-- fresh coat of paint will give you a blank canvas, and if done well, can be done to wood paneling without it looking too horrible. You can then pull in pops of color to add through accent paint/updates, or through your decor. I lighter or neutral color would open up the living spaces, I think, and neutral colors for the re-sale may not be a bad idea. It looks like the LR may be wall paper? If in good shape, you may be able to just paint over it, but if removing it, it can be an annoying task!

    2) New carpet or flooring- remove whats there (which I think you stated already). Hardwood under carpet can be tricky because if there's been spills or other things that weren't cleaned or dried properly, you may have some damaged flooring. We refinished our entire house, and although saved us a bit of money... it was quite a bit of work. Unfortunately you never really know until you tear out all of the carpet... if refinishing it, try to get it done prior to moving. I've seen floating floors used as cover ups, as an option, as well. These can be installed yourself if your comfortable enough doing it. Luxury vinyl may be another option if looking for a cover, especially in the kitchen area.

    3) I would agree with others and just leave the divider and paint it. If the divider is removed, and there's not paneling behind where it connects to the other wall, you'll have to rig something to cover it or finish it (which may not look good or it may look awkward). Although quarky, I also think it's kid of neat, and would leave it for the next owner to decide. If this were my house, the divider would be lower on the list if removing-- focus on the flooring, kitchen, etc. first.

    4) The K cabinets are tricky. I can't tell if they're solid wood or if they are a composite or MDF board. If they are in good shape, you could leave them-- just give them a good cleaning. If they are wood and not in the best shape, you can paint them, or possibly refinish and/or stain them. Refinishing and painting is quite a task, (remove doors and hardware, scrub, TSP, sand, tack, prime, sand, tack,
    coat), but can add an update at a fraction of the cost of new cabinets as well as hide any of the wear and
    tear. I haven't painted particle board furniture or cabinets, so I can't comment on painting if they are made of that material.

    5) New lighting for dining, kitchen-- replace the out dated staff. As far as the LR area... that may be more tricky to do if you're looking for lighting there since it doesn't look like there was any existing fixture in the ceiling. If you have an attic space over that area, you may want to see what boxes and wiring already exists to determine where you could tap in or run. If the area above isn't accessible, or there's not much to run from, the wood ceiling may pose more challenges than anticipated. Alternatively, you could run conduit on the wall from a power source to something on the ceiling, but that may detract from the ceiling... It looks like there was a wall light on the one wall, so you may want to have an electrician come in to see what they could wire up, or what your options would be.

    Good luck!

  • PRO
    Change of Art®

    Looks like a very cool house – lucky you!!! Hoping you'll try to live with it ALL for a while – just to see how it feels for you. You just never know...

    I grew up with a vaulted wood ceiling in the house my father built. It's the showpiece of the home, and I think it looks as current today as it did in the early 60s. Finally got to 'replicate' that in my current home's studio addition. I've spent thousands of days (and a whole lot of nights) under that ceiling, and it's been pretty wonderful.

    [ For me: Even if it's painted – once you've lived with a wood ceiling, it's a little hard to go back to drywall. Sadly, I'm moving this month. But, I'm going to have another wood ceiling – one way or another – in my new home. ]

  • Beth

    Maybe I'm weird too, but I like the angled wall. Not the little lamp in the middle of the plain wall but I do like that cut. But then, I'm Mid Century myself.

  • P. Allen
    The wood looks beautiful and I would give it a little time before making a decision but, what was your first thought when you saw the wall? Try to remember if you thought it to be nice, interesting or an eyesore, etc. Then make a decision on what you should do. The wood is beautiful so, I would not do anything to compromise the integrity of that. I see cleaning it up and taking the textured wallpaper and painting the walls navy blue or a darker tone to play off the color of the wood. With the wood ceiling and paneled walls, trying to do something other than paint it could be quite costly. Since you indicate you will be there for short time, let someone else make the decision some time in the future to make the change. Some times when we look at something and not sure what to do with it, it is best to work around it until we can see how things will come out so, paint your walls first and then see what the feel of the room is before making that move. I just recently purchased a MCM about 8 months ago and currently gutting the kitchen and putting new hardwood flooring thought the kitchen/dining/living room area, the wood is a dark wood but I, too have one wood paneled wall in the LR, so my plans are to not touch it until I paint the rooms then decide to keep the original wood (clean it up) or paint it white to match the wood moulding and new kitchen cabinets or make it an accent color as a feature wall or blend the same color as the main wall color. Given it is in its natural state I don't want any regrets before I make that change. Also, there are apps and computer programs where you can take the photograph and play with it to get a feel for how things will turn out and perhaps you can make a decision that way. Good luck.
  • Alice Gilberd

    I agree with pmmoves. If there is plenty of natural light in the room then consider painting the walls or a wall navy to draw out the warmth of the wood. Otherwise I would consider a warm pale grey with olive greens or pale pinks. The house is stunning! I would be thrilled to find such a character filled house! Unless you are planning to strip all the wood from the room (a crime IMO) then I suspect you won't be able to remove a thing without damaging the surround.

    Another option if you had the energy would be to strip back all the wood to its natural state and reseal it with a more modern, paler finish. It certainly has a quality looking grain to it. I would only paint wood panelling in a house on walls or ceilings if it were knotty pine.

    On closer inspection I think it is the basement door which is causing the disharmony here. The grain is completely different to the surrounding wood and is hugely discordant. I would replace that completey and resolve the partial framing of that doorway properly.

    What an adventure in renovation! Best of luck

  • Alice Gilberd

    A final thought. I just looked again at the lounge wall. What it needs is balance. It looks out of place beside that panelled wall with the tiny, wrong era plaque on it. If you hung a large pop art print or geometric canvas in bright colours where that plaque is then it would drag the whole space into today in seconds flat.

  • lc29

    I grew up in a mcm, back in the day. I love the divider wall and it made me wonder if the room was once a carport and that was an entrance to the house. I think I've seen entries to mcm's with an identical wall. Our mcm didn't have a formal dining room, so maybe the dining room was once the living room? I don't know what country you're in, but those kitchen cabinets do not look like original 50's/60's cabinets, too much detail, a mcm house would have had plain wood facades with no trim, yours look 80's to me. If they are serviceable I'm not sure I would do too much to them if you want to get your money out of the house when you sell. If you can afford to do the kitchen over, keep the cabinets simple and beware of too many wood tones competing for attention. And on that note, the dining room paneling would be following the carpet out the door if it was me!

  • beazfour

    Lc29- I've gone through the same wonderings. I just don't see how with that small of a kitchen and dining area there could have been room for even a small dinette set and a couch.

  • mi2ct

    Old School Comment: Try washing any old woodwork with Murphy's Oil Soap or TSP; dry & polish or very lightly sand & coat with correct color/formula of polyurethane. Resist urge to paint or demo anything original. Look at a lot of MCM books. Changes to lighting sources, window treatments, and then carpeting can greatly affect how the existing woods appear. Add pops of color with textiles. If you stay longer than expected, perhaps just painting, or staining a darker wood tone, actual window glass frames and/or doors (if they're not "special") will give enough relief from wood-everywhere overload.

    I was once in a large (yet still "modest") MCM home designed by a noted Mid-Western architect; 40 years later he had a fit when the 2nd owners painted the sliding Masonite® kitchen cabinet doors a different shade of the original color because it upset the balance he'd created throughout the house. At first hearing, that reaction sounds extreme; after pondering, it sounds respectful. The original owners selected that architect because they wanted what HE could design for them and to a great extent, they knew they'd be accommodating their lives to his vision. (Unlike other architects of any era who bend their talents to suit the needs/vision of their clients who don't have the necessary professional skills to build it without help.) If each generation sweeps away all "dated" elements, especially from the best examples of an era (not every subdivision house qualifies), then how would anyone know what the past looked like or how life functioned then??? Fitting ourselves into "different" clothes, rooms, & cities, eating different foods, & listening to different music or following the pacing of conversations is a great way to appreciate other peoples, other times. The best residential updates seem to keep as many fixed elements of the original as possible, tucking in modern technology or needs unobtrusively (or separating & highlighting them to avoid any confusion about what's original and what's newer). Just what I'm thinking; happy to hear from others.

    beazfour thanked mi2ct
  • susanasparker

    I would leave the ceiling "as is" and work with the walls. I rather like a wood ceiling.

  • barbra123

    Why is there a closet behind that angled wall that can't be used? It appears there is no way to open the door which is ridiculous. If so, that could be removed and sheet rocked over to just be a continuous wall... if you keep the angled wall. BUT, it appears to have the same angle as the wall, so that is kind of cool. Maybe keep it and figure out some way to disguise the useless door. (Or does it function? If so, keep it and the wall.) Like shelving???... or any matching wood that is removed from the walls could be use to put a front piece between the 2 walls so it looks like one big thick angled wall??? Also, keep the MCM doors. Get rid of other wood on the walls... because it appears to be ugly paneling fom the early 70's and not nice birch or mahogany MCM... and sheetrock it that so it is one continuous wall. MCM is all about clean lines and simplicity. DEFINITELY keep the ceiling as is. That is MCM. The next owner can lighten it if wanted, but DON'T ruin a great original and sought after MCM part of this home. Except for not understanding why the angled wall is there, I might keep it??? It has enough design value to maybe stay??? It is unusual and people may like it. If you decide to remove it, it may not be that hard. If the closet door is blocked, the wall may be a later addition so that means there is an intact ceiling under the top of the wall. You could very carefully, take off the trim to see if you can tell. Then maybe a bit of very skilled patching could repair the damage. But it could be more than you bargained for... with is usually the case with any reno! So, because you and i and so many others like it... just keep it. And why is that post there? if it has no function, as it appears, take it out.

  • oliviag55

    I like the kitchen, especially the copper knobs and handles. What room backs up to the wall with the stove and portable dishwaher? If it's a bathroom, you may be able to build a dishwasher in inexpensively on that side. You need the countertop there, anyway, for workspace beside the range.

  • labincurlers

    I am kind of with your husband. I personally do not like much of anything MCM probably because it was all the stuff I grew up with. The first house I remember as a child was all, every inch, that shiny blonde wood, the ceilings, the walls, the doors, the cabinets. I do agree however there are lots of people who love it and they are going to be the ones who you will sell it to and they don't want it all painted. Especially those ceilings, which I do tend to like. Why not concentrate on the bones of the house making sure all the plumbing and electrical and heating is top notch. If you were staying there I'd say go for it, make it yours, but since you aren't I'd be careful what you paint and or rip out. Good luck.

  • denisegunn20

    The wall is MCM. Don't remove it. MCM appeals to many homebuyers, myself included. Instead remove the closet door behind it. Put up a shelf or two and put a rolled up yoga mat and a couple weights there. That will give the wall purpose. The carpet and the puffy early 90's couches are making the house outdated. The ceiling is gorgeous and MCM.

    beazfour thanked denisegunn20
  • beazfour

    oliviag55- That is a thought. Directly behind the dishwasher is a built in closet/shelves and then the bathroom. Not sure what other mechanics are held in that wall, obviously.

    I am not sure about the functionality of the closet behind the angled wall. We have been on a couple of walk throughs of the house but I never really checked it out. I am going to be up in the area later this week and our realtor is going to get us access so I can take a couple of measurements, etc. I will take a peek at it then, as well as maybe trying to look above the drop ceiling the basement where the bathroom and kitchen are to see if I can figure out where the plumbing runs (with my very limited knowledge of the subject)

  • vintagelove61
    I wouldn't change any of the woodwork, so many people are just loving it and it could be a plus when you sell.
  • oliviag55

    Try to take as many photos as possible on the walkthru.

    Is there anyone in friends and family circle with construction background who could go with you? Building in the dishwasher and adding to the kitchen could be a huge plus in resale, if it can be done at minimal cost.

  • Mary Nigro
    Well the wall phone with the deluxe extra long cord must stay,LOL! We had one in our house when I was a teenager and I used to stretch that baby down the hall and in to the powder room if I wanted any privacy from the sibs. It was big excitement when we got the touch tone!
  • beazfour

    Darn it, jjnman12! I had this phone in high school and I had my heart set on getting the same one. But, if it messes with the design flow I guess I will have to keep the original.

  • denisegunn20

    Paula Lewis :) Hey, I agree with the thank you idea. Lesson learned on my part, just keep my mouth shut unless someone is paying me for advice. Cause it's just not worth the bad vibes of feeling like a tool!

  • denisegunn20

    beazfour, no problem. There are a ton of comments:) No hard feelings. I think it's in my best interest to use my online time differently. I hope you enjoy your wonderful new home. Lucky lady! Best wishes.

  • penuche1
    This is similar to what my in-laws did to their 1910-ish four square farm house, mid-century. Their paneling was cherry, along with the drop ceilings, but they didn't have the amount of natural light you have. I couldn't stand it because it was too dark, like a cave. Check to see how far that paneling goes up beyond the drop ceiling, as it can all be removed if the paneling doesn't create an issue. Their paneling did not go all the way up to the ten foot ceilings underneath the drop ceiling. Paint the paneling a shade of white paint to mimic the shiplap that's being shown now, especially if it's not expensive wood. Painting those wood walls will provide you more decorating options and be better for resale in a competitive market.
  • debrakadabra

    The angled walls REALLY date the house, so does the antique light on the wall, and the zebra textured door. They need to all go!

    If you remove the 2 angled walls, then the wood on the ceiling will be of a different color, and you will never be able to match it to the rest of the ceiling. I agree with penuche1 to paint the panelling a warm white color. I would also paint the ceiling the same color.

    Then you can paint the walls a darker color to offset the nice lighter ceiling. Are you keeping the rug?!! If yes, you can pull a color off of it for the walls. There is probably a gorgeous wooden floor underneath.

  • blds
    Leave it. There are of course people with different tastes, but the difference is that the MCM lover will really appreciate the authentic details while the person who prefers an updated look will probably want to change whatever work you do towards their own preferences. If you do choose to remodel, they'll likely remodel over your remodel because the color isn't right, or they want stainless steal, or they think stainless steal is overdone! So unless YOU want to change it for yourself....just leave it and have a little fun with MCM.
  • beckysimpson1

    The angled wall, along with the post on the other side, are probably load bearing, and would be expensive to remove and add support. I would enclose the angled wall with drywall, and enlarge the closet that is behind it.

    I've found the best thing to wash varnished wood, is Dawn dish soap, very dilute solution.

  • Lisadoll

    Congrats on your new & temporary mid century home!

    i live in a little mid century house, and I've gotta laugh at the mid century purists! Obviously, these people have never lived in a house that was actually built in 1950. There were a ton of tacky and inconvenient design flaws built into houses in 1950. They were just trying to figure out how to build tract homes, and honestly, I don't think most of the builders ever hired an architect.

    i understand that MCM "DESIGN" is trendy now, but really , one does need to have a home that is convenient, and these homes just are not. No matter how you try . Which is exactly why people tear them down and start over. 1950 was a long time ago. "Original" is cutesey for a vacation home perhaps, but not for every day living.

    The best thing is that, hopefully ,it's a transition to something else! Keep what you like.. Trash the rest, and make it comfy and convenient for YOU.

    I thought this house of mine would be temporary , too.

    Not so much. Inflation.

    The only good thing is that in my neighborhood , they're buying these 1400sq ft homes for 1.3 million , and tearing them down.Turns out this inconvenient tiny house is partially funding my retirement . Go figure .

    Congrats to you! Have fun fixing up!

  • windswept_studio

    Mid-Century is SO popular today. I would carefully consider doing anything at all that would ruin the feel. Go with it. For a small amount of money you can get get new or used furniture which will complement the house (check out Emily Henderson blog about sofas--most are mid-century) and if you carefully RESTORE some features instead of change them, you could advertise and sell your mid-century home easily and for a nice profit. Research, research, research about these things before you do something stupid such as paint something which should not be painted and remember your average friend may not know so much about this restoration.

  • beazfour

    Thank you, all, very much. We are in the house and some of the features look a little different than they did in the pictures (and I didn't pay attention to all of it when I was first looking here) As soon as I am done tackling the bathroom (priority one since the toilet was non usable) I will move on to some of the more "fun" cosmetic changes and/or sprucings. Thanks again. Getting ready to post a question about a material that is in our bathroom.

  • jecpin

    Sorry to be a buzz-kill here, but just because a home was built in the 50s, doesn't mean it is mid-century MODERN. Cute as your house is, there don't appear to be any MCM design details that you should be concerned about preserving.

    That said, I entirely agree with other posters who suggest limiting the scope of your remodel to simple, quick and cheap (aka: paint). Unless you're located in a market where housing prices are rising quickly, when you consider the costs to close on a house, you'll be lucky to even recuperate your initial investment - let alone any additional funds you put into improvements - if you plan to re-sell so quickly. You would be wise to study your market carefully before making any significant upgrades...

  • shirlpp

    Interesting point, jecpin...we still have not seen the house from the outside - so you have a good point.

  • emmarene9

    This is the house, I think the room is the addition in the back.

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