Even though couple Karen and Jon Whippich began admiring Midcentury Modern style before they purchased their 1956 ranch (part 1), once the renovation was underway, they had lots of choices and furnishings that no longer suited their space (part 2). Addressing this was a design overhaul process they embraced with resourcefulness and flexibility—and one that still continues.

MCM bedroom with a design overhaul
The bed and dresser are a Heywood-Wakefield set that Karen’s parents bought for themselves as a wedding present in 1952. The bedspread is vintage chenille. “The walls were covered with striped wallpaper with a grandma flower pattern,” says Jon Whippich, “but we painted them blue and brown, which got rid of the busyness but kept the embossed striping.”

Lots of choices were involved in Karen’s selection of paint colors for the house. In their Cape Cod, they’d done the ’90s thing of painting each room a different color, and at the ranch they were inheriting a my-realtor-told-me-to-paint-everything-white scheme.

“Here, it’s so open that I wanted it to be the same color pretty much throughout,” she says. “Sitting in the living room, you can see all the way into the kitchen. I think of it as the flow, moving from one room to the next—that’s how I approach it. I did the colors off of ’50s lamps and artwork, the glasses we collect and barkcloth, which I love.”

The bedrooms each had one storage wall faced in wood veneer that got Karen started on a one-brown-wall theme, a part of the design overhaul that she carried over even into the laundry room. Being a professional designer doesn’t mean she’s immune to missteps, though. Take the living room with its greenish hue and dark accent wall.

“We painted when we first moved in, but the couch hadn’t been reupholstered and a lot of the furniture wasn’t here, so I played off the bricks and chose a reddish brown. When the couch came in, [the wall] wasn’t working for me, so I kept changing it. I wanted a neutral brown—not a blue- or green- or red-brown. A color that kind of went away, that you didn’t notice.”

MCM neutral living room
Other than the reupholstered late-’40s couch that they’ve owned for 15 years, a contemporary bentwood armchair and an inherited Heywood-Wakefield bedroom set, they’ve bought almost everything else for $75 or less.

The Whippiches’ taste used to run to dark ’30s and ’40s furniture; since moving they’ve fully embraced vintage of a more recent era. Other than the reupholstered late-’40s couch that they’ve owned for 15 years, a contemporary bentwood armchair and an inherited Heywood-Wakefield bedroom set, they’ve bought almost everything else for $75 or less. The Bernhardt dining set off Craigslist was more, but a $17 ribbed-vinyl slipper chair from Portland vintage store Shag, and a $50 Heywood-Wakefield table now in the corner of the living room are typical finds.

As a designer anticipating trends, “My taste constantly evolves,” Karen explains. “If I had a $500 lamp, I couldn’t just get rid of it. But with a $25 one I can say, ‘Now I’m going to start buying chalkware or ’70s lamps and sell it on Craigslist.’”

“We love color, living in a designed space and just the interesting design of so many things,” Jon, a disciplined collector, adds. “We approach interiors from a graphic design point of view.”

As we went to press, he emailed us that Karen, who’d made the barkcloth drapes, had exchanged the boomerang-pattern master bedroom ones with the green floral sets in the living and dining room. “That made her want to paint one of the walls and then rearrange furniture, rugs and wall decor from room to room until things looked right to her,” he typed. The neutral “Milano” rug by the couch was now too light, so she swapped to a deep green one. And the pale wall that needed to be the same brown as the accent one to set off the lighter drapes—she did that with a leftover gallon.

Who knows what’s next?