Wednesday, August 24, 2011

This (our) old modern house

I'm ready (or at least as ready as I'll ever be) to show you pictures of our new mid century modern home.  It is going to be a labor of love and I plan to record any renovation, projects, and general maintenance that we do on this beloved beast (named as such with much love).  I already began showing you what we've done to what we call the courtyard.

Chris and I have always wanted a house we called "architectural significant."  That's a pretty general term that certainly could encompass traditional historic homes.  But our dream was to own a modern home with an open floor plan, clean lines, and unique features.  When we saw this house, there was no question, it was ours.  (click on images for larger view & to see notes)

 I know I misspelled the word "stone" but wasn't about to re-edit the photo.  Sorry.


Built in 1968, by architect Peter Wilday, this mid to late century home sits on 2.5 acres of land and includes a barn (eventually guest house) that matches the house.  It boasts unique features such as a massive two sided stone fireplace that separates living room from family room/kitchen and custom (a.k.a. dated and expensive windows to replace) glass walls/windows.  Part of the house has finished concrete floors while other parts of the house have original stone tile.  Although the house is sprawling, at just under 5,000 sq. ft., it has only 3 bedrooms. 


The bedrooms were designed to get the least amount of Reno sun (for optimal sleeping and cool temperatures).  The back of the house, as well as the bedrooms, are subterranean to provide temperature control throughout the year.  When you look out the back windows, you are standing beneath ground level (just chest height). 

With all of it's defining features, it does have one universal aspect that is shared with most older homes.  It needs work.  Lots and lots of work.  Work that will have to be done in many phases over many years. 

I'm both excited and overwhelmed.  Chris and I are disagreeing on how to proceed with the house.  He is at the stage where he is finished with DIY renovation.  Our first home was a bungalow built in the 1920's.  He did a lot of work on that house himself.  He wants to wait and hire as we can afford.  I, on the other hand, am eager to get started and do it myself.  I like the idea of learning how to do some of the major projects on my own.  Of course, I'm thinking it will save us money.  We all know that can go horribly wrong and end up costing even more.  But, I'm willing to give it a go for the benefit of having done it on my own, sooner rather than later.

We both agree that we don't know where to begin.  However, the first project has actually landed in our laps unexpectedly.  We had a large stone fall off the facade of the backside of the fireplace, crashing through a skylight.  Luckily no one was hurt, but now we have a gaping 2'  hole in a 1968 skylight on our roof.  Luckily, it doesn't rain much here.  Chris was able to easily get on top the roof (benefit to low, flat roofs) and temporarily secure the hole.  But now comes the estimates on repairs of an uber custom glass skylight.  Ka-ching!  Let the expenses begin.

Anyway, I'm going to start a new feature/category here on my blog called This Old Modern House.  I'll share with you the good, bad, beautiful, ugly, easy, and difficult projects as we go along.  Some will be successes and others epic fails.  I'd love your feedback, experienced suggestions, and general encouragement.  Please keep the "that was a stupid idea" and "I told you so's" to yourself. 


  1. It looks wonderful! Lots of ROOM! A big DIY project. Well, the house did provide you with your first priority. I suggest making a list of things that NEED to be done and then the the things you WANT. Prioritize and start saving. I vote with your husband on hiring experts to do the work. Save the "little" things for yourself (some painting, caulking, minor plumbing). Good luck! I'll be watching and cheering!

  2. Dear One, Of course you should do the diy as much as you can. You would regret it if you didn't. DIY-ing is as much art as it is craft so of course you feel drawn to it!

    In terms of the general landscape, look around for a year or so and see what plants do well in the local community. Ask your friends what plants/flowers do well there. Take piccies of plants you see & like into your local plant shop, where you can purchase them yourself.

    One thing: avoid wood chippings and small stones as fillers in flower beds. Yes, they provide nice texture for a while, but in the long run, they are hard to maintain. Wood chippings also make the soil acidic over time, and you will eventually have to replace them (cuz they rot!) so try to find some plants that do the same thing.

    Plants also multiply easy...after a season you can divide them so you don't need to buy many to be on your way to have a lot....

    Plants really add a lot to the landscape. don't be shy in cutting new beds. Of course a bee hive here and there also helps but that's probably asking too much! :)


  3. @Denny1600

    Thanks for the support and advice. I was thinking dry walling was something I could do, but I better not, LOL.

  4. @Anonymous

    Sue, you are so right about the landscaping. So overwhelming, but I'm waiting a bit. I do have some great ideas peculating. I've got to learn what grows best in this dry climate!

  5. Oh so exciting! A beautiful place this very minute, and it will be even more awesome down the road! I know how you can want to jump right in and do everything now now now, but as it's not possible, remember there's something to be said for living with a space for awhile to get a feel for what works, what needs updating and what has to GO!

    Are the boys happy in their spaces? I always try to get them happy first, to help ease the transition. Oh man, I wish I were close enough to drop by for a visit - I love plotting and planning and scheming

    Can't wait to see what you do first, second, third, fourth... LOL

    But FYI - drywall is frikking HEAVY and would kill your back, plus it's one of those jobs where pros have special tools and skills, I'd leave that to them!

  6. g.o.r.g.e.o.u.s. !!!!! It seems a dream-come-true house in many ways, and I'm sure you'll have many happy memories there! Thanks for sharing!!!

  7. wow, that's really all I can! the house is gorgeous, I can't wait to see you put your stamp on it! congrats!

  8. @Candied Fabrics

    The boys are happy with their rooms. The "game" room needs better circulation. Peak daytime hours it's hotter than Hades. I did get them settled first. Our room still has boxes to unpack.

    My DIY spirit often gets me into trouble. I know dry walling is a *itch. I just think I can do everything. It's a long bar that I want to re-do (will post about the crazy '70s cedar shingles). Thanks for the reminder to stop and think about what I'm doing.

  9. @Jan

    Thanks, Jan! It is a dream sprinkled with a little dose of reality. I look forward to seeing what becomes of this old/modern house.

  10. @Julie

    Thanks, Julie! We are pretty excited, too.

  11. I am dying..... what a fabulous house!!!! I am SO living vicariously through your new house. We can't even find anything remotely that cool where we live.

  12. congratulations! it is amazing. what a fantastic and admirable endeavor!

  13. Hello Linda, Great new photos! The architecture...the's simply spectacular! What a great decision. Your game plan for making it you own will come, meanwhile, enjoy the moment(s)...Sarah


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