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Marrying Form and Function: Working With A Mid-Century Modern Architect in Kansas City

by Hoke Ley

There are some very distinct aspects that signal a mid-century style in a home. Floor-to-ceiling windows, large open spaces, and an emphasis on natural elements are just some of the key components.

At the end of the day, mid-century modern architecture isn’t just about maintaining a particular style but a design philosophy that can be incorporated into renovation projects and new builds alike! 

At Hoke Ley Architecture & Design, we love working with clients who have an eye for mid-century styles but are looking for a more modernized, refined approach. Our goal is to enhance the daily lives of our clients by designing innovative and meaningful spaces. We know that a well-designed space, whether residential or commercial, has the power to transform lives. 

One of the reasons we love mid-century modern architecture is how the concepts lend themselves to creating both beautiful and functional spaces. We’re passionate about how our designs work with the environment to improve the function of the building and the experience of the users, which is a big part of mid-century modern style.

The origins of mid-century architecture

There is a definite era of design and building that people tend to associate with mid-century architecture. Post World War II in the 50s and 60s is when we really see the height of the movement as a response to the post-war building boom; families downsize into more modern homes and, new materials like steel and glass are more readily available. This allows architects to incorporate new types of design elements. 

The mid-century style draws inspiration from the Bauhaus and American high-prairie styles, blending clean lines and simplicity with an emphasis on nature and craftsmanship. People tend to readily think of architects like Frank Lloyd Wright when discussing mid-century modern architects. Wright is especially known for his very artistic buildings that almost completely blend into their environment.

A lot of the elements of the style have seen a major resurgence in recent years, and as a mid-century modern architect team, our designers love incorporating those stylistic choices into projects here in Kansas City and beyond.

What makes a house mid-century?

There are 3 distinct styles that come together to create what we think of as “mid-century.” There was the international school, that’s where you’ll see the clean lines and simple shapes from Bauhaus influence. 

Then there were the more contemporary architects, who focused on floor-to-ceiling windows and organic materials like wood and brick. The organic style was a smaller subset that really focused on blending the home into the natural surroundings àla Frank Lloyd Wright’s work. 

Within mid-century homes, you often see a connection to nature and a visual celebration of the materials used in building the house. That’s why you see uncovered wood ceilings, large windows, and more open living spaces. They often celebrate aspects of all 3 styles.

Hoke Ley is a mid-century modern architect in Kansas City. Listen to principal architect Jared Hoke discuss how we incorporate elements of all these styles into our projects

Our process as a mid-century modern architect in Kansas City

Whether you’re looking to remodel an actual mid-century house or to infuse your new build with some of its stylistic hallmarks, you’ll want an architect with the necessary skills and expertise. Our design team works with our clients to infuse the mid-century feel into their space by incorporating the key components of the style.

With renovations, we strive to stay true to the structure. One of the biggest threats to mid-century architecture is deferred maintenance. In new builds, we aren’t usually seeking just to mimic mid-century styles. After all, there are aspects of mid-century architecture that we can’t replicate due to new codes and standards. 

The role of the architect

Working with an architect is beneficial because we are master liaisons between all the parties involved in a construction project. Architecture is both an art and a service. We assemble the best team to bring your project to life and handle all the necessary communication throughout the build.

At Hoke Ley, we have an efficient, 5-phase method of project management. Each phase has a unique goal to move your project forward. We believe in and foster an environment of trust and transparency and so we actively listen to your needs, concerns, and offer solutions that we know we can achieve.

Phase 1: Ideation and concept

During this phase we’ll sit down with you to gather your ideas and dreams for the design of your project. We’ll go through examples from our portfolio and online to create a mood board for your project. This stage helps us get to know your aesthetic taste and how we can best incorporate it into your project.

Phase 2:  Schematic Design

This is the phase where we get into the schematics and build prototypes to help you visualize your project. Especially important for new builds, but also for visualizing any major renovations you’d be making to a pre-existing structure. We make edits and changes as necessary before we move on to finalizing the design. 

Phase 3: Design Development

After we’ve finalized the schematic options, we get to delve into drawing up floor plans and picking interior finishes. For a mid-century modern project, this can include an open floor plan and incorporating natural wood and brick finishes into the final design.

Phase 4: Construction Permit

Before we can transfer designs into blueprints, we compile the necessary information to acquire a building permit. Once we’ve received the permit to build, we collaborate with the design team to create the finalized drawings that will guide the contractor and bring your project to life!

Phase 5: Building

The most exciting phase: the one where your project is built! There will be many site visits during this phase, and lots of communication from us to keep you up-to-date every step of the way.

Mid-century modern home renovation

One of our favorite projects we’ve worked on is a mid-century home renovation we completed. Constructed in 1957, the 1,260 SF single-owner home had not been updated in its 60-year lifespan and was in serious disrepair. Remember what we mentioned about deferred maintenance? With exposed natural materials it’s important to keep up with proper maintenance to ensure the life expectancy of the structure.

The owner purchased this home sight unseen and the extensive restoration included total replacement of the roofs, carport, and HVAC system. As well as partial replacement and repair of the siding, and tuckpointing the brick fireplace and exterior wall. 

Our goal with this project was to modernize the surfaces and systems while preserving the charm and essence of the original structure.

Mid-century stylistic influences on a new build

We really enjoy mid-century influences even in new builds. Sometimes clients are worried that mid-century means their house is going to look like it was built in the 50s but they want a more modernized design.

When we worked with our clients for the Lakeshore residence we incorporated many of the elements of a mid-century style in up-to-date methods. The influence is most notable in the large windows and the way the home sits naturally into its landscape.

Mid-century modern architecture works seamlessly with its environment, which is why a home in a wooded area of Kansas City is going to look different than a coastal home in Seattle. 

Looking for a mid-century modern architect in Kansas City? 

Restoring, renovating, building from scratch? The Hoke Ley Architecture and Design team has seen and done it all. If you’re looking for modernized mid-century flair, our portfolio speaks for itself. 

As a design studio based in Kansas City and Lawrence, we offer architecture, interior design, and graphic design services. Hoke Ley has experience in several areas:

  • Residential
  • Commercial
  • Multi-family
  • Equestrian

Regardless of the nature of your project, we’ve got the expertise to bring your dream to life. The architects at Hoke Ley are dedicated to not only designing beautiful, highly custom buildings; we’re dedicated to your vision; your lifestyle; your processes.

Our award-winning architecture is truly an outgrowth of wanting to serve our clients to the best of our ability. We create beautiful spaces for individuals to enjoy, design enriching environments to enhance communities, and transform the dreams of our clients into built realities.  

We consider it a privilege to guide you through the process of creating a functional and beautiful space for clients from all over the Kansas City region. Reach out to us about starting on your project, and get excited! We can’t wait to work with you.