Mid-century style is all the rage these days, its uncluttered vibe turning up in decorating magazines, its lean aesthetic suddenly everywhere you look. The term mid-century architecture generally refers to mid-20th century design from about 1933 – 1965. To give you a general idea, the mid-century interior look is anything currently in the furnishings section of Crate and Barrel, the exterior is any split-level home currently being torn down in Wellesley. Also think boxy regional bank branches, rather dull municipal offices, and utilitarian community college buildings, with A-frame churches and synagogues thrown in for good measure. Its structures have the type of style that on one hand is having a moment from a trend perspective, but on the other hand is generally waved good-bye to as the wrecking ball swings, no hand wringing over its significance, few moans of “oh, but I used to have my dentist appointments there” or “that’s where I did all my banking in the 80s.”
Apparently, Wellesley College’s Clapp library counts as mid-century modern, too, as featured in Mid-Century Mundane, an artsy blog I stumbled across which focuses on “the most exciting of mundane mid-century architecture.” The bloggers travel the country to document the genre, all the while conceding mid-century’s style issues with liberal use of the descriptors “bland,” “lack of elegance,” “rather plain,” and “a staid affair” in describing their subjects. Indeed, the bloggers say that the Clapp library “lack(s) elegance but continues to serve students’ needs ably.”
Fans of the period shouldn’t take such faint praise personally. Mid-Century Mundane bloggers say that they are devoted to exploring all this mid-century blandness exactly because it’s been largely ignored. Go to the site and click on a city that’s part of your very soul to remember some of the buildings you used to overlook on a daily basis, now the subject of photo shoots and artistic analyses. I have ties to New Haven (no, that’s not humblebrag code for “I went to Yale”) and enjoyed the virtual tour of places I well recall. Oh, look, there’s the Firestone Complete Auto Care down on Chapel St., and, wow, First Presbyterian Church on Whitney Ave., and yup, there’s the good old Crown St. parking garage. It made me downright misty. Those old buildings aren’t looking half bad now that some blogger has devoted actual time and effort into writing about them.
Here are a couple other examples of mid-century mod in town that the bloggers missed while they were here:
If you want to trick out your house in mid-century style, here are a few places to check out a bit beyond Wellesley: