Sunday, February 14, 2010

Atomic Dreams

My pre-teen development happened during the 1950’s. It was a strange time; the Cold War, Communists and “The Bomb”. We had Duck-and-Cover drills at school and some used car lots in town were converted to bomb shelter sales.

Still it was a wonderful time to grow up; and other than the looming threat of global annihilation I had a pretty fun childhood. My parents were middle class and so we had a house in the suburbs. The first one was a simple two bedroom ranch house built for the returning WWII vets. We moved into it soon after my birth. But we were upwardly mobile back in those days and soon outgrew our little cottage and moved into a bigger home.

By the mid 1950’s we were living in what is now called a Mid-Century Modern home. This house was totally cool. The MCMs were often designed by famous architects and influenced by designers such as Wright and Eichler. The house we lived in had a flat roof, lots of large windows, flagstone floors, wood paneled walls and open beam ceilings.

But soon this design became to be associated with the 50’s and was considered “dated” or passé’. My mother felt we needed to move to a more contemporary house. The desired style then was Avocado green appliances and two tone Harvest Gold exterior. Such heralded in the late 60’s and early 70’s.

Fast forward now to the 21st century. The Mid-Century Modern houses are making a comeback in a big way. These styles were common in southern California, Arizona; in places like Palm Springs and Orange County. Some of these styles made it all the way up to the Pacific Northwest where I live. Now Eichlers and Rummers command a hefty price tag and their rarity makes them highly sought after.

Every two months Nancy and I buy a copy of Atomic Ranch magazine which we peruse looking at “retro” houses from the Mid-Century Modern era. Vast expanses of decorative brick, huge pane windows enclosing an atrium and kitchens that George Jetson would envy. We page through the magazine and dream.

Recently we decided to try to put our dreams into action. We began in earnest looking for that Atomic Ranch in which we could live out our retirement years like we did our formative years – In a MCM “Atomic Ranch” home. We sold one of our rental properties and started working with the realtor. But the MCM is a rare bird now, and the few that exist are way out of our price range.

There are plenty of blah ranch houses. The Realtors call them “deja-vu” houses because you already know where the bedrooms and kitchens are without going in. These are rectangular boxes where the most prominent feature is the garage door. Boring.

We are still looking but we may need to settle for a “Faux Craftsman” style which is the popular rage. These newer houses have garages that are so small, if you parked both cars inside; there isn’t enough room to open the car door to get out. They have no yards because people work so many hours they don’t have time to enjoy a yard.

We have been looking at 1950 house plans now. We wonder that if we want a Mid-Century Modern home of our dreams, we may need to build one – new.


Modernesia said...

Great post! It's funny how the MCM housing market is off the wall in terms of price and availability. I have considered MCM plans as well. This may be the best course of action provided that you find a suitable area to build.

kara said...

oh dad - i loves ya, but you really need an asterisk after "it was a wonderful time to grow up" with a footnote at the bottom that adds "for a middle class american white boy".

you'll get your atomic house yet!

Mary Witzl said...

We were always in awe of those MCM houses!

I grew up in a tacky tract house that was trying to be a ranch-style house. It was God-awful, but it breaks my heart to remember it now with its faded bougainvillea in the back and overgrown cactus garden.