Even if you’re not a child of the ‘70s (as I am), you’re still likely familiar with the pop culture phenomenon known as “The Brady Bunch.”
And if you know the Bradys, you remember the house the patriarch, Mike, designed for the blended family. The modest brick ranch was nondescript from the outside. Inside, it was heavy on paneling and had the grooviest staircase I’d ever seen. Sliding glass doors led from the avocado-and-orange breakfast room to a patio and Astroturf lawn. Far out, man.
What many people used to derisively refer to as a “Brady Bunch” house is now lovingly referred to the same way. Nostalgia is in.
And people are nostalgic for mid-century modern.
The city’s only Mid-Century Modern Home Tour returns for the fifth year on Saturday, Sept. 10 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. The tour, originally produced by Historic Charlotte, was taken over by the Charlotte Museum of History when the two groups merged earlier this year.
The tour includes eight privately owned homes concentrated in the SouthPark area. All are designed and decorated in the mid-mod style. Look for living spaces that incorporate the outdoors (Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater is the most famous example of that), clean lines and open floor plans. Mid-mod homes were built on a more modest scale than the McMansions of today. A mid-mod home’s size is appropriate to its lot; it doesn’t overpower it.
The self-guided tour will be fun for history buffs. (What a surprise to learn there are pieces of history that haven’t been torn down.)
The history museum’s president and CEO, Kay Peninger, told me the first American woman to win an architectural patent (in 1869) was from Charlotte. Who knew? Harriet Morrison Irwin, a daughter of Davidson College’s first president, Dr. Robert Hall Morrison, designed a hexagonal house. All those windows and doors provided comfortable air flow before we were blessed with air conditioning.
But the tour isn’t just for lovers of the History Channel. “If you like HGTV,” you’ll love this tour,” Peninger said. “If you loved ‘Mad Men,’ you’ll love this tour. Although, unfortunately, Don Draper won’t be here.”
Peninger said people may be surprised to find just how relevant a house built 50 years ago is today. They generally featured the same things people prize in home design today: big windows, open floorplans, natural materials (lots of stone, for instance), an emphasis on outdoor living areas and a design aesthetic that’s decidedly uncluttered.
Yet the homes are generally smaller than those built more recently. “Even though there’s less space, there’s a better use of space,” Peninger said. “Nothing is wasted.”
Peninger said the tour homes are remarkably different from one another: “These aren’t cookie-cutter houses.”
It proves you can adhere to the mid-mod aesthetic and still express your creativity and style. Here’s a quick description of three of the featured homes:
The Bogues home
The Bogues home at 1238 Lynbrook Drive, built in 1952, is a textbook example of mid-mod architecture. Most classic period feature: the fireplace that separates the living room from the kitchen. A sunroom with three walls of oversized windows is surrounded by two decks, joining inside and outside and providing great entertaining space.
The Sellner home
The Sellner home, designed by architect Walter Bost, was built in 1957. The home features the original walnut cabinetry and (how’s this for historic preservation?) a dumbwaiter in the kitchen. The foyer still retains the original metalwork and slate flooring. A cantilevered deck overlooks the lake and still has the original metal railings. See it at 2535 Cloister Dr.
The Hodges home
The Hodges home, still with its original kitchen, has a feature most homes today lack: a bomb shelter. But that’s what families needed in 1959. Designed by its original (and only!) owner, an electrical engineer, the home at 930 Longbow Road features exposed beams that span the interior and exterior ceilings in the living room and sunroom.
Mike Brady would be impressed.
Buy tour tickets online by 5 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 8. Tickets are $20 for museum members and $25 for members of the general public. Buy day-of tickets ($30) at Hans Krug Fine European Cabinetry in The Village at SouthPark at 4310 Sharon Road. (That’s also where you can grab lunch from The Tin Kitchen food truck and take a restroom break.) Booties are provided at each home to slide over your shoes and protect the floors of these historic homes.
Questions? Contact The Charlotte Museum at 704.568.1774 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos: Dustin Peck