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September 3, 2010

MCM Home Improvement: What NOT To Do To A MCM Home!

By Sablemable aka Jan

How can anyone take a lovely, beautiful MCM home as this………..

and this…………..

turning them into something un-MCMrecognizable?   Like, altering the original architecture.

Changing the doors, inside, outside and overhead.




Doing God knows what to the limestone and brick fireplaces.



Ripping out all the marvelous wood and metal kitchen cabinets for something more 21st century.


 Not to mention the new flooring and, God forbide, G-R-A-N-I-T-E countertops!

But the worst crime to be done to a MCM home is the destruction of the pink, blue, yellow and green bathrooms!



Tell me, dear friends; what “upgrades” make you want to scream and claw your face?

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24 Responses to MCM Home Improvement: What NOT To Do To A MCM Home!

  1. Kelly Reply

    September 3, 2010 at 11:16 am

    Make it stop! Make it stop! That was worse than the scary boat tour that Mr. Wonka took his prize winners on!

    All of those make me sad. I think that exterior remuddlings and the gutting of original bathrooms make me the saddest. When anything original goes stock Home Depot beige – pfft.

    That tile in the kitchen of the house above is the exact same one that was put in our house. After learning that it was put down on concrete and would literally have to be jackhammered up, I wanted to curl up and cry.

  2. Felicity Reply

    September 3, 2010 at 11:21 am

    I look at these and I think again about the day we found our house and the excitement (and probably for others why it may not have sold right away) that almost nothing had been done to change much of the original inside. Original cabinets, stove, doors, etc…

  3. Fiona - Notorious Kitsch Reply

    September 3, 2010 at 11:41 am


  4. jan Reply

    September 3, 2010 at 11:46 am

    I can halfway understanding updating (no brains) but the color and design choices–YUCK!!!

  5. Mary-Frances Main Reply

    September 3, 2010 at 11:54 am

    OH MY! How horrible. Do people not know that those kitchens and baths are NOT updating. Bad, bad people – no, no bad dog! (ok, I just couldn’t think of anything more direct).

  6. Pingback: » What NOT to do to a mid-century home Mid Century Style

  7. Anonymous Reply

    September 3, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    Big X X X. Just disgusting to deface our beloved classics in such a way. These MCM homes are being humiliated by (1) those with more money than sense/taste; (2) those who never lost money underestimating the taste of the general public.

    In our area, the most wonderful Mid Modders are leveled and McMansions spout like viruses in their places. Gawd awful.

  8. Andrea Reply

    September 3, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    The neighborhood I last lived in when I lived in the big city is horrid for this – once upon a time it was filled with cute little mid century homes, however during the housing boom developers started buying up nearly the whole neighborhood and building on to houses to create colossal monstrosities.

    However, my current next door neighbors (who have already renovated most of the charm out of their house) mentioned to my hubby one day that they want to build a freaking TURRET on to the side of their house! They haven’t started yet, and we’re hoping they don’t.

  9. sablemable Reply

    September 3, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    Forgive me for making all of you sad/angry/frustrated, etc., but sometimes I have to remind myself to stand up to the nudniks who mock my MCM style.

    Andreaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!! OMG, is all I can say!

    Mary-Frances!!!!! LOL@bad dog!!!!!!

    Hi, jan!!!! (Good name, BTW) Yes, the no-brainer, duh-gimme-a-beige bathroom morons!

    Fionaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!! I’ll sing along with you; nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!

    Kellyyyyyyyyyy!!!!! I promise I will never, ever show stuff like this again (crossing my heart and swearing on a Bible). Unfortunately, I too have a kitchen floor of ceramic tile in blah beige and I hate it. If I could…..

  10. Shannon Stanbro Reply

    September 3, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    I did a similar post a few years ago about what not to do to a mid-century modern home:


  11. Meghan @ Thrift Addict Vintage Reply

    September 3, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    Oh dear Lord, I see this all the time and I can’t STAND it. My three biggest pet peeves: replacing really cool original front doors with those half-circle-window doors, ripping out gorgeous original bathroom tile and replacing it with big beige tiles and plastic tub surrounds, and tossing original light fixtures to the curb in favor of the dreaded nipple lamps!

    You know what? At least in my area, there are about a million dime-a-dozen 90s houses that are big beige and white boxes and all look the same. Buy one of those!

  12. Leslie Reply

    September 3, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    I was looking at a real estate website for MCM homes the other day, and saw the same thing being done. I just don’t understand it! Why do people take a unique, special, and beautiful piece of modern history, and then “upgrade” it to make it generic and unspecial?! It just makes no sense!

  13. Meg Reply

    September 3, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    I’m going to out myself as someone who tore out parts of a MCM bathroom (ducks and protects head). When we bought our house the bathroom was pink tile with gray fixtures. Someone had added oak woodwork and hideous floral glass shower doors in the 80s trying for some sort of country look. Additionally, the grout was crumbling and old and there was some damage to the tiles. We had to do a replumb to address water flow issues. We ended up salvaging the grey sink, tub, and toilet, and the pink mosaic tile floor, and replacing the pink counter and tub tile with cultured marble, which I was told originated in the 50s, so not totally non-period. I guess my question for the folks here would be – is there room for compromise? If a MCM bathroom is truly in need of some work, can you celebrate elements of the style but modernize just a little? I hated cleaning that old grout. In my defense, I have no plans to build a turret and kept the room-to-room intercom intact!

  14. Leslie Reply

    September 3, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    In reply to Meg, it isn’t making improvements because of problems that we hate. We understand the need to upgrade plumbing, electrical wiring, or mold issues, because these are potential health hazards and have to be fixed. What this article is talking about is people who have no appreciation for MCM are buying these homes and deliberately defacing them, either out of ignorance or for the sake of making a buck! We need to preserve beautiful historical architecture instead of destroying it!

  15. sablemable Reply

    September 3, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    To all, yes, sometimes we must compromise a bit, but re-doing a MCM bathroom with salvaged or C-List finds is A-Okay! One of the drawbacks of living in an “ancient” abode is that we sometimes have to get the plumbing and electrial up to snuff. Not a thing wrong with that!

    Shannon! I’ll take a look-see at your blog! Thanks for stopping by!

    Meghan, nice to see you again!

    Anonymous, Leslie and Meg, big MCM hellos to you! I love all of the comments, keep ’em coming!

  16. sablemable Reply

    September 3, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    Ooooooh, Felicity! Send me some photos of your home!

  17. Harpy Reply

    September 4, 2010 at 9:31 am

    This happens all the time in my town. Real estate agents even advertise all these perfectly good MCM houses and cottages as “renovate or demolish and build your ugly box of crap, er, I mean dream home!”

    Look what happened to this house. 🙁

    Though this one is “interesting” – advertised as fully renovated, but while the kitchen is a new one and the toilets and basins are new, they’ve actually left the bathroom floors and starburst fittings intact, and the overall floor plan has been left alone! It’s been decorated in frighteningly bad taste and is ridiculously overpriced so it’s been on the market for over a year.

  18. sablemable Reply

    September 4, 2010 at 11:02 am

    Yikes, Harpy! Don’t know what goes thru peoples’ minds when they do this.

    I’ve seen real estate listings of MCM homes where it’s stated one can buy the place, then demolish it and start over.

  19. IrvingS Reply

    September 4, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    I understand this completely. Our home, a 1962 tract ranch in a quiet neighborhood in a small town was victim to a similar “Sell this house” defacing, though one done on the cheap. We bought it for its location and layout but have been frustrated by what was done to it in the selling process. The original cute purple and blue tile bathroom was replaced with a crappy bath fitter shell over the tub (a 2 piece, how cheap!) and all the tile replaced with dry wall that is already looking moldy, and cheap fixtures. The original wood stained hollow doors and frames in the house have all been painted white (and they stick and the paint is pealing off) and the simple round trim pieces framing them replaced with an over fancy trim that not only looks gaudy but is sloppily cut. The Kitchen is a Frankenstein of it’s original wood cabinets (re-stained in a dark, ugly color), and mismatched appliances that were shoved in place (the trim around them was not cut but looks as though it was hewn with a ax). All the tile here is also gone. I have seen other ranches around here with their original bathes and kitchens and cannot fathom any reason to have removed the tile and fixtures save for extensive wear or damage. My neighbors inform me there was neither in our house, just a desire to sell the house for big bucks by making it looked gaudy. For cheap flippers, the rule is paint and plaster everything rather than clean and renew. Did I mention the overhead fans on the 8 foot ceilings that hung down to 6’5” feet! (I am 6’4′!) and the windows frames that had their sills removed and more gaudy and cheap trim pieces put around them? We have been little by little trying to undo the damage but it will take time and money. Ever try to strip paint off a door frame and hollow door?

  20. Leslie Reply

    September 5, 2010 at 12:08 am

    Hello to you, sablemable! I love to look at all the MCM time capsule photos! You guys are doing a great job finding them!

  21. Jen Reply

    October 28, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    People…Goodness. I’m nearly speechless! The sprawling ranch with the heinously updated front is REALLY awful, sickeningly so, but they’re all pretty bad. GAH!

  22. Jen Reply

    October 28, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    Oh, I have to say to Meghan…Our 1951 home had its original white metal cabinets replaced with boring, ugly oak KraftMaids (we can’t afford to replace, so we sanded the daylights out of them & painted them a bright, glossy white) and the doubtless charming original front door replaced with a hideous half-circle window one. Yup. So I painted the door a pretty green to match our garage just to ease the pain, since a new one that we liked proved impossible to find.

    Last summer the house 2 doors down was purchased & we befriended the owners. They were replacing THEIR original, charming front door & planning to pitch the old one. I nearly jumped out of my skin asking if we could have it! Sure enough, they said “Yes! Please take it!” It is waiting in the garage to be re-installed into our home. 🙂

  23. Megan Reply

    January 10, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    O.M.G. wow that it truly awful!!!

    It’s amazing to me how little people value our recent past (evidenced and made alive by our built environment). Though they may be far more numerous, our mid-century building stock is no less significant than our antebelllum or even Colonial survivals.

    The National Trust has some great info. on ‘Teardowns’ which seem to be happening in MCM neighborhoods all across the nation.

  24. Suzanne Reply

    February 22, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    I’m no expert, and those photos even made ME cringe. Ugh!! Where’d you get all of those? I can’t believe they’re real. I especially hated the first tiled fireplace photo. Ha!

    My husband & I are constantly working on making our home match it’s era (50’s) .. Long way to go of course!

    Thanks for the un-inspiration. 🙂

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