RE­DIS­COV­ER­ING MOD­ERN

Smit­ten by ter­razzo floors and ex­panses of glass, an­cient Cal­i­for­nia live oaks and a sub­lime sim­plic­ity, a fam­ily re­stores a 1957 Mod­ern house to its orig­i­nal in­tegrity.

Old House Journal - - Ohj - BY BRIAN D. COLE­MAN / PHO­TO­GRAPHS BY WIL­LIAM WRIGHT

A stun­ning 1957 Cal­i­for­nia home. STYLE: MID-CEN­TURY MOD­ERN

The story be­gins when an heir to the Singer sewing­ma­chine for­tune gave her son some land in 1957. Pyrns Hop­kins had grown up here in Santa Bar­bara, in the large, early-20th­cen­tury house next door to the gifted land. He wanted some­thing more mod­ern for his own home. He con­tacted the well-known ar­chi­tects Thorn­ton Ladd and John Kelsey, who’d de­signed the Norton Si­mon Mu­seum in Pasadena, and asked them to de­sign some­thing con­tem­po­rary—stylish and up-to-date, but with a re­laxed Cal­i­for­nia sen­si­bil­ity.

He got a house nes­tled amidst the lot’s cen­tury-old coastal live oaks. It had the best of Mod­ern Move­ment fea­tures: floor-to­ceil­ing glass walls warmed with rose­wood pan­el­ing and built-in book­cases; a stone wall to an­chor the liv­ing room; ter­razzo floors to keep the house cool. Broad slid­ing doors open to ter­raced gar­dens, blur­ring the dis­tinc­tion be­tween in­doors and out­side.

The decades and a suc­ces­sion of own­ers were not kind to the gra­cious house. By the time the cur­rent own­ers—empty nesters look­ing to sim­plify—found it, the house needed sig­nif­i­cant restora­tion. Metal-framed win­dows and slid­ing doors had rusted and warped. Walls had been cov­ered with a shiny vinyl in the 1970s. The mas­ter bed­room on the east end was dark and un­invit­ing. The orig­i­nal gal­ley kitchen was small and cramped. The on­ce­gleam­ing ter­razzo floors had chipped and bro­ken; one former owner had laid jar­ringly gaudy Mex­i­can tiles over the ter­razzo in the front and back en­tries. The new own­ers would come to re­al­ize that these prob­lems were the tip of an ice­berg.

They fell in love with the prop­erty, nev­er­the­less. Its Mod­ern bones were in­tact . . . and how the dap­pled light, fil­tered by the Cal­i­for­nia live oaks out­side, lit the glass-walled in­te­rior! The Mod­ern-aes­thetic re­straint had an Asian el­e­gance and serenity

in a wa­ter­proof, state-of-the-art MBR sys­tem.

It didn’t go well. Their gen­eral con­trac­tor had to be dis­missed mid-project, and the own­ers found them­selves with a house that had no roof, walls stripped to the studs, and no con­trac­tor.

Hap­pily, a good re­fer­ral from friends in­tro­duced the cou­ple to an­other project man­ager and a con­trac­tor who did pe­riod-sen­si­tive work. Both cost and time es­ti­mates were ex­ceeded, how­ever. A ma­jor chal­lenge was how to match the ex­ist­ing steel-framed win­dows and doors. Their very nar­row sil­hou­ettes were no longer avail­able, as most com­pa­nies to­day of­fer wide alu­minum frames. The team lo­cated a com­pany that had con­structed steel­framed win­dows for Richard Neu­tra-de­signed houses. They were able to ex­actly du­pli­cate the vin­tage steel frames.

The ex­ist­ing ter­razzo floors were re­stored, with pa­tient patch- ing and then pol­ish­ing with a di­a­mond-bit grinder. They shine now as they did when they were in­stalled.

Af­ter sev­eral years of restora­tion, the house was fi­nally in­tact. In the new kitchen, durable ipe ( ee-pay), also known as Brazil­ian wal­nut, was laid for the floors. A din­ing ta­ble de­signed by War­ren Plat­ner for Knoll in 1966, and still in pro­duc­tion, sits at one end of the kitchen for in­for­mal meals.

Work­ing with de­signer Randy Franks, the home­own­ers chose Mod­ern Move­ment fur­nish­ings for the liv­ing room, to com­ple­ment the orig­i­nal floor-to-ceil­ing book­cases and rose­wood pan­el­ing. The room was soft­ened with a neu­tral grey car­pet and low, sim­ple seat­ing—an L-shape sec­tional and sculp­tural pe­riod arm­chairs, which sur­round a mar­ble-top cof­fee ta­ble. The own­ers’ Asian col­lec­tions have be­come grace­ful ac­cents.

LEFT Fam­ily dog Ziggy takes a break in a vin­tage Scan­di­na­vian arm­chair. ABOVE The en­try-level foyer lead­ing to the back­yard is set with an an­tique tansu chest, vin­tage lounge chairs, and a cus­tom-de­sign car­pet. Wo­ven carp swim across the cus­tom car­pet from The Rug Com­pany (in­set).

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