Mid Century Modern Fences | Part 1

Inspirations in MCM Fence Design

To the average homeowner, a fence is just a fence. But we MCM-ers are not average homeowners. We choose to see a fence as an artful architectural detail, designed to suit a functional purpose, while looking dead sexy. Anything less, is indeed, just a fence.

Inspirational examples of killer Mid Century Modern fences can be illusive. Like your first crush. So let's turn to my growing collection of vintage landscaping resources, and break a few copyright laws along the way.* 

*All images posted without permission. 

I've been fielding plenty of MCM fence questions since spring sprang. One such question inquired if I knew of a fence builder who could create an MCM-style fence. The simple answer is; any qualified contractor can build you a fence. But can they actually design you one? In my experience, contractors don't have a keen design eye (yes, there are exceptions). They tend to go with the "norm" because it's what they know. It's what everyone else wants. And they're comfortable with it.

I mean, you wouldn't hire an automotive body repair guy to design you a car. Right?

If you're not comfortable designing your own fence, hire a designer to concept it and draw a plan you can hand to your contractor. The cost to the overall project should be nominal, and the reward great. Or, if you're Big-Bank-Hank, hire a landscape architect to take you all the way to awesome. Regardless, going through a proper design process is paramount. It will save you a lot of time, money and heartache.

Understanding the purpose of your fence will influence its visual aesthetic. Does it need to keep the Fido in bounds? Does it need to prevent the creepy neighbor from peering over? Does it need a locking gate? Will you have to get your giant riding mower in and out of it? Will a screen-type-fence work better for you, or do you need total privacy? Maybe different parts of the fence need to function differently. Consider alternating [complimenting] materials, patterns and details as seen in several of the photos.


Consider the lines, colors and finishes of your home. So many fences look like afterthought bolt-ons. As with any structure added to your Mid Century Modern home, make sure it compliments the initial intended design of the main structure. It should feel like it was born there - not forced there. Challenge yourself to think; "what would the architect have originally done?" And then do it to the best of your ability (and bank account). 

Answering the above questions will set you on a path worth following. 

I've been MCM-fence-planning for two summers. I've measured, drawn, erased, measured (again) and re-drawn. I'm ready. So ready in fact, I purchased all the lumber last week. DIY installation is imminent. Part 2 of "Mid Century Modern Fences" will show the results of my own fence project (fingers, and post-hole-diggers, crossed).

In the meantime, post some pics of your own sweet MCM fence (or pics of cool fences you've found) to the Atomic Indy Facebook Page. I'm sure everyone will enjoy it.




John and Diane said...

I also have been pondering fences. You obviously have different vintage landscape books than we do - thanks for the new ideas! Good luck with the fence!

Kersten said...

Like you, we've been wondering how to best tackle the fence decision. Unlike you, we do NOT have lumber at the ready. We need privacy- BAD. I'll post a couple pics I've taken along the way. This could not be better timed for us. Thanks!!

Kersten said...

Oh, and quick ??
What do you guess the material is in the last colored photo? It looks to be semi-see through? Any guesses?

Dana@Mid2Mod said...

Fantastic fence ideas! We may be building one soon, and this gives us some options we hadn't considered.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for all of the sexy goodness!

Baz Mcm said...

@ Kersten:

It looks like some form of fiberglass, but given the time period, it could very well be an asbestos-based product. 3 Form makes some sweet translucent panels, but they're pricey:


A cheap alternative that would also add some texture would be to use translucent corrugated roof panels turned vertically:


The owner of the first Atomic Crash Party house did something like this:


Good luck. Can't wait to see how it turns out.



Kersten said...

Thanks for the info, Baz. We have the corrugated fiberglass on an overhang on the front of our house, and we are currently in the process of replacing it. We couldn't find the origninal fiber looking panels anymore, so the new stuff is more clear, which isn't awful, but I like the original better. We lost a few pieces in a recent storm, and it was looking pretty tough, so it was time. I can shoot over a couple pics if you are curious. ANYWAY- we've thought about turning it vertically and using it for fencing, but don't know if it will hold up to wind. We made it to Modernism Week in Palm Springs this past February and took tons of pics of the screen block fences there. I wish we could still get that type of cement block... I'll dig into the photos and see if anything is worthy of a post on your f.b. page. Thanks for this subject-- it's been one I've been hoping for for years! Looking forward to seeing what you chose!

Anonymous said...

There is so many designs running through my head right now. Be careful with that corrugated stuff. There is an MCM home in Wynndale that used it and well it looks like a CHEAP double wide.

Anonymous said...

I'm intrigued by the first fence with the colored panels. What do you suppose those are made of?