Friday Reflections: Design for Modern Living

by Landis Carey on March 11, 2011

In recent weeks I’ve heard several people say they’re ready to pare back, downsize and stop being all-consumed with consumption. What is this new consciousness we’re seeing? For me, it’s settling into adulthood during a time of unknown, a time of bests and worsts. Recent years have reminded us of the delicate balanced required for economic security and prosperity.

It was in the 1950s that industrial designer Russel Wright campaigned for Easier Living as a step away from the formality of Emily Post. I’m embracing many of his principles of multi-functionality, community and simplicity while adding thrift and conscious consumption for my own definition of Modern Living. The 50s were all about producing and consuming and rather than buying only what’s new and shiny today, I’d also like to consider those productions of Wright’s era.

Sure, the criticism can be made that we’ve purchased awfully expensive furniture in the name of thrift. I like to call it heirloom-quality design; these are decisions and purchases we make for the long-haul, rather than for the moment. Sometimes we wait because our budget doesn’t afford us to spend at that moment, so instead of purchasing the less-quality for the here-and-now, we wait. An added bonus, the practice teaches a little patience and resourcefulness.

Since I’ve been thinking about how I define Modern Living, I wanted to share the words that, to me, describe it best.

Are there any adjectives you would add?

(Image: Landis Carey)

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Diane March 11, 2011 at 9:18 am



Landis Carey March 11, 2011 at 9:28 am

Ohh, I like those words, especially sensible and worthwhile. Thanks DEL!


Jessica March 11, 2011 at 11:19 am

I think ‘individual’ could apply. In my definition, I see modern living as something very personal (maybe that’s another word!) – much more so than other generations, it bucks trends and fads. My personal style is that if I love it, I love it & b/c I love it, I’ll find somewhere for it to fit in my house. I think it’s great that in ‘modern living’ we can individually have eclectic, contemporary, traditional, etc. styles and all still be ‘modern’.


Landis Carey March 11, 2011 at 11:40 am

Jessica, you bring up a very great point! Modern living is about loving your design and decor so much that you always find room for it, no matter what your style and taste. Thanks!


Bridgette March 11, 2011 at 11:54 am

I really like the words conscious, resourceful, and endearing. I’d also like to add “efficient” to the list, which speaks towards resource efficiency, especially energy, as well as functionality, like multi-purpose furniture or clothing.


Landis Carey March 11, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Perfect word to add! I like how efficient covers functionality and it’s also conscious decision making. Thanks for checking-in, Bridgette!


Chris March 11, 2011 at 4:05 pm

I think modern living can be “honest” — skip fake Tuscan walls if you’re not under the Tuscan sun, no use for a dining room full of tureens and silver if you don’t entertain.

The more mid-century items I live with the more I love them, but I don’t want my place to be an homage to a time 25 years before I was born. I’m looking on your site to see how you deal with that . . .


Landis Carey March 11, 2011 at 4:23 pm

Honest, definitely honest. I like that! To me, modern living is how you use and live in your home and design it around your needs. It’s not about a certain style or preference of decor. Rather, it’s open to every style. It’s a sensibility.

All of the furniture pictured in our living room images definitely have mid-century roots. We have a few pieces that date before and after that time period, but we were overall challenged moving into this house because it was built in the 20s and has the dimensions of that decade. Our furniture needs to be petite to stay in scale with the home, so it’s definitely been tricky. We don’t want the house to be a homage to that era, either. We tried to soften it with handmade furniture from the 30s, which is totally interesting. More to come on this topic, for sure! Thanks for making me think about this topic, Chris!


Chris March 15, 2011 at 7:13 pm

I’d love to hear more about your 30′s furniture.


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