MCM Popular Mechanics Part 2: Bigger Remodeling Projects

We continue mining the homemade mid-century modern treasures of the 1961 “Home Handyman” series by Popular Mechanics.¬† Last week we covered how to build the sleekest chairs, sofas and boomerang tables (plus a space age dog house!). This week, we stick with indoor projects.

For loft dwellers, room dividers are a constant obsession. And who doesn’t have something in their house that needs to be screened off from view? But the prices of those things! All the tips you need to build your own are here, just double click to see full size.

“Instead of considering an old-fashioned brick fireplace a problem when remodeling and modernizing a home, make it an eye-catching center of attraction…”

But if done right, brick can coordinate with wood or cement to create a Swedish look:

Note that with the 2nd fireplace idea shown above, you can combine a fireplace and a room divider, which is a great time saver.

They show you how to create a basement rec room, while I dream of my living room looking like this!

We should note that the houses that sprung up because of the Baby Boom were much smaller than what has been built since the mid-1980s. Whereas contemporary homes consider a refinished basement a way to get an optional¬† level, back in the ’50s and ’60s, they had to finish the basements to make a place to stash the older kids.

Note the chairs that Marge and Olwen sit in for a game of Canasta in the basement. It’s interesting to note that today’s mid-century modern fascination is among the younger generations, while back in the day, all generations pretty much accepted modern design as a daily routine. Which is why those of us raised in an ugly post-modern world covet this time period – it was the last era when everything was supposed to be beautiful all the time.

MCM Popular Mechanics Part 1: Let’s Build Chairs!

We’re trapped inside on snowy, winter weekends with regular plans canceled. What to do with this sudden spare time? Why, let’s fire up our wood shops and build some chairs! Who of us hasn’t longed for a serpentine mid-century modern chaise lounge? But have you seen the prices for a good vintage one? Well, the 1961 series of Popular Mechanics’ Home Handyman will let you have a brand new authentic chaise lounge. Click to see all photos at full size to get the details you need to start creating fabulous!

Tim Wahlig, a carpenter friend of mine, bought the entire series at an estate sale. Because it was the height of post-war modernism, the series makes sure you can update your tired old homes with the most current looks, complete with all the instructions you need to be atomic-age for cheap, with a sense of accomplishment as a bonus. And their designs are amazing. Like this captain’s chair!

“…minus turned legs and bow back, the captain’s chair becomes a chair that can take its place among modern furnishings,” indeed!

Or take a stab at this dining room chair. Once you complete the first one, the other 3 will be a breeze!

Once you have the confidence that you can use the table saw without losing digits, it’s time to move onto a sofa. They even detail the upholstering, which gives you a new talent to master.

Your sofa needs a coffee table, and here’s the secret to having the classic boomerang table. Compared to the chair construction, this can most likely be completed in one quick afternoon.¬† And if you’re wondering about the proper finish for all this furniture you’ve built, Home handyman knows exactly the hip look:

Since it promises to be an endlessly snowy winter, there’s plenty of free time to take a stab at the coveted pole lamp:

And there’s even a nod to man’s best friend, who deserves a home to match your mid-century remodeling:

In the coming weeks, I’ll share more pages from this fascinating series. They were seriously trying to help homeowners banish the banality of pre-war design, and they had exquisite taste. Wait till you see the room dividers, backyard living and how to update the exterior of your embarrassing revival home!