100 Ways to Screw Up Your MCM Home

15 Nov

From Lotta Living, a wonderful thread on ‘How to Screw Up Your Mid-Century Home’ shared by our friend Jerry Gropp.  Though I wish I could take credit for this list, it’s great and hilarious list and the house we own has been violated more than once. Yikes! Italicized parenthetical comments expose our shame. Gotta love people with obsession passion.

1) Adding a steeper roof on top of your flat or shallow pitched roof. (Ooops! This was done on our house!)

2) Ornate front door. (Etched glass windows)

3) Adding a second story.

4) Putting in a country kitchen.

5) Installing a white metal colonial style garage door in place of the original redwood sided door

6) Adding vinyl double hung replacement windows

7) Heading to Home Depot/Lowes with home equity loan money in hand

8 ) Adding inappropriate window  i.e., paned windows, decorative shutters, fancy storybook scrollwork/moldings. (Ugh! Again.)

9) Replacing your tar & gravel roof with Spanish tile.

10) Covering your tongue & groove ceiling and wood beams with sheet rock

11) Roof over the atrium and add desirable square footage

12) Putting a white picket OR Wrought Iron fence in the front yard (or ANYWHERE for that matter)

13) One word: Stucco

14) Two words: crown molding!

15) Three words: 70s wall paneling.

16) Carriage lights (Guilty again.  Three strikes for us. But we didn’t do it. I swear!)

17) Slathering one color of paint over everything – double points if it’s Peach, Pink or Yellow.

18 ) Painting over stone

19) Replacing single pane glass in the glass end gables with double paned glass or plywood

20) Vinyl siding

21) Installing gaudy brass light fixtures.

22) Covering up glass or painting over it. Exterior siding over what used to be glass under the two sets of windows in the J&J rooms. Inside paneling was installed over the glass.

23) Replacing in slab ductwork with overhead ductwork

24) Enclosing the car port / Converting the garage into living space (Oh god, we’re screwed.)

25) Granite!!!!!!!!

26) Install over-sized “professional grade” appliances (Viking, SubZero) in small galley kitchen.

27) Covering poured terrazzo with Home-Depot ceramic tile

28 ) ANYTHING made out of bright, shiny brass

29) Tear it down to build a McMansion

30) Wall to wall carpet over hardwoods… so wrong!

31) Replacing original wood framed windows with aluminum framed sliding glass doors

32) Basin sinks / oversize tubs / Anything described as turning your bathroom into a “personal spa” or “retreat”

33) Installing inappropriately decorative house numbers.

34) selling off all the one of a kind, original architect designed furniture and light fixtures because it “doesn’t fit in”

35) Putting in grid windows

36) Installing a ceiling fan in a vaulted, exposed beam and tongue and groove ceiling

37) Using a pick axe or jack hammer to remove original 8×8 linoleum tiles so one can install Home Depot terra cotta pavers and pimpin’ purple carpet.

38 ) Installing hardwood floors over a radiant heated concrete slab

39) Cutting down the fascia, removing original down spouts to install gutters.

40) Whitewash the interior with white paint to make it feel larger

41) Marble!!!

42) Stupid Door Handles

43) Visual overload

44) Big Greek / Italian /Mediterranean columns added to the front (or inside). Also, gaudy statues and fountains containing cherubs, angels, naked people, The Virgin Mary etc.

45) Painting over unpainted exterior wood instead of staining. (Feel like I am about to face the firing squad.)

46) Collecting and displaying too many knick knacks in a 1200 sq ft MCM house

47) Removing all signs of nature outside by putting concrete everywhere, thereby defeating the harmony between house and nature attitude of many modernists.

48 ) Sticking a mantle on a stone fireplace that isn’t supposed to have one.

49) Putting a white lattice archway in the front yard walkway with flowers and vines growing all over it.

50) Plain ole’ neglect…having a cool MCM home, and letting it go…chipping paint, rotted fascia, overgrown foliage etc…

51) Paint a redwood tongue and groove ceiling

52) Covering beautiful terrazzo floors with nylon fiber wall to wall carpet to “update the place”

53) Installing an aluminum awning

54) Popcorn ceilings

55) Installing the cable box right outside the front door

56) Putting in one of those one-piece molded plastic mailboxes on a post.

57) Fake brick exterior siding

58 ) Compromising your principles.

59) Misunderstanding/confusing “Ranch House”with “Ranch Style” house thus recreating the Little House on the Prairie

60) A sweet barn style shed.

61) Lace curtains

62) Placing ANYTHING in or around the house from Hobby Lobby, Kirkland, or credited to either Thomas Kinkade or Mary Englebreit.

63) Smothering the interior with cheesy wallpaper.

64) Removing perfect mahogany paneling so that it can be replaced with drywall (this also includes just covering it with drywall).

65) Saltillo Tiles

66) Adding onto the back, after all, all that glass makes a great room divider!

67) Never throwing anything away.

68 ) Adding exposed conduit, wire mold, or worse, exposed wiring to beams and columns of you post and beam home.

69) Buying a mid-century modern home and then normalizing it to make it look like any other home.

70) Round top windows!

71) Raising up your slab on grade MCM home and adding a basement under it.

72) Replacing your vintage globe lights with too much cheesy low-voltage lighting.

73) Adding a shingle roof in place of a tar and gravel roof on a pitch that is too low for shingles. IT WILL LEAK!

74) Three or four masonry materials where one or two will do.

75) Invite 100 scooterist over to your house, with a live punk band, and 5 kegs of PBR (no, I haven’t done this… yet)

76) Adding an addition not in the style and design of the home

77) Allowing termites to gobble it all up

78 ) Anything faux

79) Hire an architect who doesn’t understand Modernism

80) Not participating on the Lotta Living board

81) Stained glass or beveled glass windows

82) Tiling over original magnasite deck… extra points for bad colorful folk art tile

83) Placing a Pink Flamingo in your Garden/Yard

84) Describing MCM houses as “retro”

85) Placing an A/C unit on the top of your roof

86) Refacing an original fireplace, let alone with a thin flagstone laminate

87) Installing arches or rounded corners in a room opening or between rooms

88 ) Turning the master bedroom into a den

89) Replace your garage door with a brick fireplace

90) Inappropriate furnishings?? (see flowery couch with detailed, routed wood)

91) Adding brick driveway columns topped by gold stone lions

92) Building a circular turret on the front of the house

93) Adding lattice to the front to “improve the look and privacy”

94) Covering the metal columns with wood to make them look like more like classical columns.

95) Hanging seasonal flags (i.e. santa, the easter bunny) outside your entryway

96) French doors to patio

97) Sawing off the overhanging roof and beams

98 ) Covering up exposed beams so the house look like other conventional framed homes

99) Adding turned pickets to all railing for that “country French” look!

100) Looking over an untouched, near-pristine home and then declaring , “It has such potential!”


19 Responses to “100 Ways to Screw Up Your MCM Home”

  1. hazeldazel April 22, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

    Our fixer-upper MCM is a modern ranch – none of the big floor-to-ceiling windows, but I can tick off soooooo many things done to it by previous owners from your list.

    #101. Do NOT Put in Bay Windows! Yeah, they actually did this. The two big square front windows are now bay windows. 😦 The cats love them though.

  2. Terri December 27, 2012 at 12:38 pm #

    This list is the funniest thing I have ever read. I just made an offer on an itty-bitty MCM ranch that has a slatted wood divider that is to-die-for. There has been a few of these atrocities committed over the years that I hope to smooth and cool with color. They painted the cheap paneling and installed carpet and vinyl over the hardwoods (I know!). But this little old lady built in 1950 has nice bones, nice wood, great roof line, and fantastic energy. Here’s hoping all the pieces fall into place. If so, I see a pink and white bathroom in my future. Love your site!

  3. Erica September 5, 2012 at 8:55 am #

    I LOVE this list and your site overall. I am in the process of purchasing a MCM home in the DC metro area and am trying to do more thinking and planning before jumping into 203K money that will need to be spent quickly. Great ideas and caveats here.

  4. portraits2paint August 11, 2012 at 8:35 am #

    I too just stumbled on this site. We just bought a MCM in January and it had had one owner who, I believe, hasn’t done any major work (and now we HAVE to). We just had to replace the water heater and furnace for example – they were over 40 years old. Anyway, our living room/kitchen needs help. Let me describe. As you walk into the front of the house, you are greeted with a set of stairs that go downstairs and to your left is an open galley kitchen with a wall oven, counter top stove and hardly any counter to amount to anything. At the far end (the wall) they (the previous and original owners) had built in a pantry and attached it to the wall (this WILL be going). The island in the kitchen has cupboard above it (which are also going) but this makes the kitchen area very dark. On the otherside, the dining area meets to living room where we combine kitchen tile and wall-to-wall carpet. (parkay flooring underneath).We believe the carpet was laid down to add warmth to the feet. by the dining area table, there is a half way (so you don’t fall down the stairs) that has been converted into a cabinet. Usefull actually.

    Anyway, without sending pictures, I am trying to figure out the best we to make this living space blend together because right now it screams ” I’m a cottage”. Which I don’t want.

    Any suggestions?


    • August 14, 2012 at 4:31 pm #

      Hi Dawn,

      Glad you stumbled onto our site! As my family will tell you, I have a very hard time wtih spatial concepts if I don’t have visuals. That being said, I would happily take a look at photos and maybe put together a mood board of suggestions for you if you like. There is an envelope button on the front page of the blog that you can use to email them to me.

      Look forawrd to seeing them!

  5. Tracy July 13, 2012 at 9:19 am #

    I just purchased a MCM and am in the process of removing wallpaper and carpet. As for the floor, I have been told to get cork or stain the cement floors which I have not seen the condition of yet. I am trying to do everything right but my biggest issue is lighting. The ceiling is slanted wood and beam and is gorgeous but there is no lighting and there is only the roof above so any suggestions how to add lighting above the dining table and in the kitchen? I don’t want wires on the ceiling but I’m also not wanting a hanging chain coming from the side of the wall.

    • July 15, 2012 at 12:46 pm #

      Wallpaper. Ugh. Bain of my existence. As far as the lighting goes, our ceilings are the same way but are wired between the wood planks and the roof. I believe there is just enough space there to do it, at least in our house. You should check out this post from A Goode House explaining their clever way of tucking it into the beams. Good luck and please share your progress!

  6. Matt Taylor May 29, 2012 at 11:47 am #

    What would you then recommend for a house that is 2 bed/2 bath, and is on the market for long time, how would you add a 3rd bedroom to make more marketable?

    • Brandy May 29, 2012 at 3:16 pm #

      Hi Matt,

      A lot depends on the house and why it’s been on the market so long. Is it an MCM? Is it in good condition? Is it priced right? Feel free to email me some details and I am happy to share my thoughts.


  7. Rebecca May 26, 2012 at 5:49 pm #

    I just bumped into this article. Sadly, we have done #8 (awful) and #41 (not much), but the house came with #12 and #13 as it is Southern California. We did do #23, but no choice… the slab duct work totally failed and blew dirt all over the house. Our clever fix didn’t cause any design problems. And I did #32 recently (just finished), honestly with no regrets. Looks very modern and clean.

    • Brandy May 26, 2012 at 6:37 pm #

      I totally understand! I think people didn’t always know what they had. And for me personally, I would kill for a luxury bathroom with a huge soaking tub. I understand!

      Thanks for reading.

  8. Marie Trelstad April 19, 2012 at 11:51 am #

    This list made me “el oh el!” SO true. I especially agree with this one: 22) Covering up glass or painting over it. Exterior siding over what used to be glass under the two sets of windows in the J&J rooms. Inside paneling was installed over the glass.

    • Brandy April 19, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

      I know! Can you imagine covering up the windows in these gorgeous houses? Thanks for reading and commenting, Marie!


  9. Jill March 27, 2012 at 8:49 am #

    I enjoy reading your blog. My husband and I have spent the last 2 years remodelling our MCM house in Tacoma. Gladly to say, we have only done one of the no no’s. We replaced the lead inset gutters with a plan to add surface mount gutters and downspouts. Small compromise for the good of the cause. I also think appropriately stopping in new double pane insulated glass to replace the single glazing is a smart move.

    • Brandy March 27, 2012 at 10:09 am #

      Totally understand compromising. My in-laws are always encouraging us to put in double pane windows. My only issue with that is the building codes have changed and you can no longer have floor to ceiling windows because of earthquake damage and would have to put in smaller sheets with sashes, which would bum me out. I am still investigating this, as I agree it’s a very energy efficient thing to do.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  10. Melody D. December 2, 2011 at 9:03 am #

    We just bought our MCM in the spring…..there is a long list of things the prior owner’s did to it that make your list. Now we get to play damage control and make the best of it. I still love it, even with all the screw ups. Some of the pics from when we bought it:

    • Brandy December 2, 2011 at 10:46 am #

      Hi Melody,

      Just checked out your site and your home has some awesome potential! I am so jealous you have acreage to farm. I have secret farmer Brandy fantasies. Thanks for sharing and keep us updated on the work. Go girl!



  1. 100 Ways to Improve Your MCM Home (Almost) | mid-century MODERN LOVE - November 17, 2011

    […] 2. Replacing large single pane glass with double pane units in colder climates by setting new insulated units into the existing wood window wall and adding new wood stops of the same profile. (Umm, wasn’t this a no-no in the 100 Ways to Screw Up your MCM Home?) […]

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