One my my favorite magazines, Atomic Ranch, just came out with their second book called Atomic Ranch: Midcentury Interiors. AR editor Michelle Gringeri-Brown and photographer and AR publisher Jim Brown make such a great team and their publisher Gibbs Smith did an excellent job with the book. It takes a look at eight postwar homes including a suburban split-level, some modernist marvels and even an aluminum kit home all of which demonstrate that modern can be comfortable, warm and inviting. If you have a modern or midcentury home, this book is just page after page of eyecandy. I feel like renovating my entire home after flipping through it!
Since we don’t really do book reviews here on Design Milk, I thought it would be a better idea to take a tour of one of the eight homes featured in the book: a 1958 Eichler from San Mateo that underwent a big facelift.
Architect Mark Marcinik of M110 Architecture had worked with the previous owner on a whole-house renovation of this 1958 Eichler home in San Mateo, beginning in 2000. During the first phase, a new roof with an insulation barrier was put on, asbestos floor tile was replaced with slate, the interior beams were stripped, and most other surfaces painted. A few years later, a modern kitchen and fresh finishes in the dining room were tackled. By the time Erica Smulever and Javier Szwarcberg toured the home in 2008, a master bedroom wing had been added, a feature the architect dubs a “plug-in hybrid.”
“The idea was we wouldn’t mess with the house too much, we’d just basically plug in a steel module at the back,” Mark says. “The house then became a hybrid of steel and wood.”
The vibe is more industrial modernist than the home’s original living room, bedrooms, and baths, with its stripped-down hard surfaces, but wood and textiles help warm it up. Mark wanted the bedroom and bath to be one integrated space. A tub for two is on the other side of the headboard wall, while the shower, toilet room, and closets line an exterior wall.
The original living room was the most vexing space, and it’s still a work in progress. “We were going to move the strangely situated fireplace over by one window bay,” Mark says, “but things like that are not high-value when it comes to an appraisal.
The living room shows the constraints to furniture arrangement. The location of the fireplace argues for a couch, a chair, and a small coffee table, yet the family needs access to storage units installed behind the Le Corbusier LC2 sofa.
“The shape and the position of the fireplace make it hard,” Erica adds. “We put the couch on the green wall, but that didn’t work.” “You have to get away from the notion of symmetry,” Javier comments.
“And you can’t put furniture in front of the glass walls,” Erica continues. “The house is about bringing the outside in.”
The stainless steel wall clad with inexpensive IKEA panels continues the metal theme of the addition and the kitchen. Behind the midcentury wall unit is a den, while on the left is the entry to the master bedroom addition, and on the right, the hall to the kids’ wing.
Although completely contemporary, the kitchen (pictured in the second photo above) shares traits with the original Eichler design that preceded it — the suspended “flying coffin” cabinet, the modest galley footprint, and the sliding cupboard doors. The Douglas fir beams and wall paneling, the wenge wood cabinetry and credenza, and the slate counter and floor show the power of repeating elements within a room.
In the addition, one long wall-hung cabinet functions as both a vanity in the bath and a dresser in the bedroom. On the window wall, the material changes from insulated glass, which helps with condensation issues, to mirrored glass over the sinks. A Duravit tub is behind the concrete headboard wall.
Photographs by Jim Brown from Atomic Ranch Midcentury Interiors by Michelle Gringeri-Brown. Excerpt and photos reprinted with permission by Gibbs Smith.