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.
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).