Ceiling Fans in Mid-Century Modern Homes?


There are some people who think mid-century modern homes should never include ceiling fans, because they aren’t “era appropriate” for the middle of the 20th century. I disagree with that sentiment. Modernist architects and designers typically took advantage of the technology and resources available to them at the time. Just because something wasn’t available then doesn’t mean that it would be shunned by architects and designers today. In fact, it’s likely they simply would’ve found the best solution available at the time. They’d find ways to work in flat panel TVs, computers, espresso makers and, yes, ceiling fans.

Roto fan by MinkaAire in Distressed Koa (4 other finishes available). This fan has a very clean look that will fit well in many modern homes. If you like this look but have a bigger space, there’s also the Roto XL, which is 62″ (the version shown is 52″).

Although we have much better options for HVAC today than were available in the ’40s – ’70s in particular, including variable speed blowers and thermostats that can take advantage of them, the airflow you get from a variable speed HVAC system still doesn’t move air the same way a ceiling fan can. Many people find it difficult to sleep without the air moving in noticeable ways, so if you own a modern home and like ceiling fans, the goal should be to find one that suits your space and works well with the aesthetic of your home.

When choosing a ceiling fan for your space, decide first if you want the fan to disappear as much as possible, or if you want it to contrast the ceiling so that it’s more noticeable. This will help you narrow down your choice from the many fans available, as you’ll want a certain range of colors and finishes depending on your goals regarding “visibility” of the fan.

Oslo fan by Oxygen Lighting in White (3 other finishes available). The light kit on this fan is optional and comes in 3000K, which is a touch on the cooler side.

Next, your ceiling height will help further narrow down your choice. Lower ceilings will usually require what’s called a flush mount or “hugger” fan – one that attaches directly to the ceiling without the use of a downrod. However, if you have a higher ceiling or if your ceiling has a pitch to it, you’ll want (or need) to use a ceiling fan with a downrod extending down from a canopy that attaches to the electrical box. The downrod will move the fan closer to the floor and will allow the fan to hang straight regardless of the pitch of your ceiling.

Aviator fan by Modern Forms in Graphite & Weathered Gray (1 additional finish available). The light kit on this fan is optional, and can be had in 2700K (my personal choice), 3000K or 3500K.

You’ll also want to decide if you’d like your ceiling fan to include a light. Many fans come with, or have as an optional component, a light kit that’s controlled with the fan’s wall switch or remote. I typically recommend a warm white light rather than a cool white light, but if your house has predominantly one type of light vs. the other, you should match to what you already have.

Patricia 3 Blade fan by Atlas Fan Company in Chrome with Walnut Blades (4 other finishes available). The light kit on this is a touch on the cooler side at 3075K.

Another factor you want to consider is the overall size of the space your ceiling fan will go into. Many fans come in different sizes for different spaces. For instance, a 6-foot diameter ceiling fan in a 10×10 bedroom would look seriously huge and out of place. On the other hand, a small fan in a very large space will look odd, and probably won’t move enough air in the space. Or maybe you have bunk beds in a kids room that approach the ceiling, and so you want a very small fan for that space so that it’s not near the bed. 

Sola fan by Kichler in Brushed Nickel (2 other finishes available). Note that while I don’t consider this an ideal look for a modern home, if you need a space-saving fan for a smaller room, this fan, at just 34″ diameter, is better than most of the alternatives.

But of course the most important thing is to choose a fan that fits your home’s aesthetic. Whether you’re updating, remodeling, redecorating, or getting ready to sell your home, you want to make sure that your details match the feel of the home. There are many ceiling fan options available at all different price ranges. A few good options are shown in this article to give you a start.

Clarity II fan by Monte Carlo in Brushed Steel & Wood blades (2 other finishes available). This fan measures 42″ in diameter, but Monte Carlo also has the Clarity (52″) and Clarity Max (56″) for larger spaces. 

One final tip: Most ceiling fans have a reversible motor so that you can change the direction of the fan’s rotation in winter vs. summer months. In the winter, you want the blades spinning clockwise (while looking up at the fan) to create an updraft to circulate warm air. In the summer, you want the fan spinning counter-clockwise to keep cooler air circulating through the space.

DID YOU KNOW? I’m available for consulting if you’re thinking of remodeling, either for yourself or to prepare your home to sell. If you’re not current a real estate client of mine, I charge a one-time, flat fee for consulting which is 100% refundable once you list your home for sale with me and the transaction closes. I can give you general advice and can even provide you with information on specific brands and products.


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