Original Midcentury-Modern Design Elements Shine in This Timeless 1963 Home
Not every time capsule can go the distance. But this 1963 home is both a perfectly preserved snapshot of its era and looks like it could have been born yesterday.
Architect Robert Morrison and his wife bought the lot when they were in their early 20s and built much of the house themselves, using fir and Western red cedar they shipped over from Oregon in a boxcar. "We wanted to make a house that became a part of nature," says Morrison, now 85. "So I designed it to float in the woods and just hang in the big trees." Morrison spent $3,750 on the 3/4-acre parcel and another $27,000 on building the three-bedroom house in the Philadelphia suburbs.
Compared to the fanciful and flowery types of architecture that came before it, midcentury modern is all about what it's not. First popular circa 1933 through 1965 and still going strong, the style champions simplicity, clean lines, and natural elements.
Brandi and Dave Adoff, the third-ever owners of the home, are committed to preserving its timeless beauty by leaning into original details. Walls of windows put the focus on gardens beyond the glass, and serene, minimalist lines abound (you won't spot any ornate crown moldings or distracting curvy spindles here). The couple are especially fond of the cozy woodsy tones, which many people might paint over to suit today's proclivity for white trim.
"We love the red cedar ceilings throughout the house—even in the carport and the outside porches. They're so warm," Brandi says. A color enthusiast and fervent DIYer behind Brand*Eye Home who finds comfort in quilting, she dotted each space with vibrant hues like teal and burnt orange. "It's a happy color combination I use over and over."
Ever faithful to the home's roots, they also chose as much midcentury furniture as they could. "I like to find vintage," says Brandi, who advises biding time until you find pieces with a personal draw. When Brandi inherited her great-aunt's sectional, it was orange velvet with a white vinyl base. With care and skill, she and Dave are preserving this midcentury gem for their present-day enjoyment and beyond.
In an open-plan living space, Brandi suggests keeping seating profiles low and loungy so they maximize views around the room and enhance sight lines out the windows. Arranging furnishings so they face each other helps create coziness. Brandi also suggests separating a sectional, placing pieces "so you can converse."
Most of the walls are painted Sherwin-Williams Marshmallow, an easy-to-love (and live with) creamy white hue.
The previous owners opened up the galley kitchen to the living room. "That's one of my favorite things they did, making it one giant entertaining space. We certainly would've done that if they hadn't," Brandi says. She added the statement range hood and matching stainless-steel counter stools. An orange KitchenAid mixer and a collection of vintage and reproduction jadeite bowls and glass cake plates amplify the original 1960s style. The original inset trim in the living room floor subtly defines the open space.
Morrison designed small, 7-foot-high alcoves off the 10-foot-tall living room to create homey hideaways—a feature typical in midcentury architecture. Brandi painted beams in Sherwin-Williams Urbane Bronze to add to the snug feel.
The couple were careful to preserve built-in bookshelves that the architect designed and built himself. If you want shelving that looks like this, Brandi says Elfa's Décor system strikes a similar note.
An antique rug found at a flea market hangs as art in the guest bedroom. It kicked off the blocky design of quilts Brandi makes from thrifted vintage fabric. Also thrifted is a wall sconce topped with a shade Brandi wrapped in leftover upholstery fabric.
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In the guest bath, Brandi opted for finishes that felt era- and location-appropriate, including Woods wallpaper, first designed in 1959 by Cole & Son. It's "a nod to the trees outside," she says. Brandi and Dave's contractor built a new vanity, with hidden hardware that makes it look as if it's a single piece of wood. "I wanted it to look like it had always been here," Brandi says. A black faucet and pendant lights give the space a modern edge.
When Brandi remodeled the guest bath, she waited on buying a mirror, finally spotting one for $40 at a church sale that was "handmade and has the guy's initials on the side," she says.
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Built-ins area hallmark of midcentury homes. Morrison created this nook for his wife, who loved to sew; Brandi carries on the crafting torch, using this space for her quilting projects. She furnished the room with a vintage tulip chair and stool in keeping with the '60s aesthetic. Hankering for a similar office style? Try the search term "midcentury rosewood desk."