How to double the size of a rundown Mid-century Modern home while retaining the original building’s distinctive structure and character

Moving bedrooms and bathrooms to a new structure, set back from the 1950s home means the only physical connection between the old and new is a glazed bridge sitting lightly on the original home’s roof

Over sixty years since they were first built, Mid-century Modern homes can still attract enthusiastic buyers. There’s something about the simple structure and layout, and lack of adornment that still says ‘modern’ all these years later.

Yet some things have changed – such as the type and size of spaces required for modern family living and the development of the surrounding neighbourhood in which these houses were originally built.

When the owners of the home shown here first visited the property, it was an original 1950s Mid-century Modern still occupied by one of the couple it was built for – and with all its original features.

However, lack of maintenance meant it was in a dilapidated condition, making it ripe for teardown and replacement with a large traditional-style home, such as others in the neighbourhood.

But that’s not the track the prospective owners wanted to take, says architect James Choate.

“They had contemporary taste and wanted to keep it,” he says. “But it was only half the size they wanted for their new family home, and they couldn’t imagine how to add to it without ruining it.”

Choate says this set the goal for his plan for the house – doubling the  size, while resurrecting the original 1950s box and minimising the impact on it.

​​​​​​​Following renovation, the original 1950s home building is brown
​​​​​​​Following renovation, the original 1950s home building is still very apparent from the street view of the home. However, a carport that originally blocked much of this view was demolished and replaced by a garage to the right of the house. Sitting lightly above the home is the top of the stairwell and passage to a new bedroom/bathroom addition.

His solution was to build a separate addition away from the existing building, so new and old could be distinctly read.

“By moving all the family bedrooms to the addition, we were then able to go in and edit the original little box – to clean it up and make its lines more pure,” he says.

This involved taking out cabinets and a laundry that was inexplicably placed in the centre of the living space, as well as removing walls for the kitchen to extend into the bigger, more open area it needed.

The result is a large rectangle of uninterrupted space from one end to the other, which accommodates all the family living functions.

​​​​​​​Apart from the insertion of the fireplace, the gray, black
​​​​​​​Apart from the insertion of the fireplace, the back wall of the existing structure is much the same as in the original Mid-century Modern design – a wall of glass. The beams also remain in their original positions, though some needed repairs or to be fully replaced.

The original great bones of the house still feature, with yellow brick walls on the front and side elevations, and the exposed wood post and beam structure having been extensively restored.

All original window openings were retained – including the full length wall of glass opening the home to the back of the property – but with the existing single pane glass replaced by double glazing.

The front elevation of the house was restored and opened up to the street with the removal of a carport that had sat in front of it. It has been replaced with a more discreet, detached garage to the side.

​​​​​​​Where at the back of the existing house black
​​​​​​​Where at the back of the existing house there was a small concrete patio and a rambling, overgrown backyard, there now sits a substantial pool and courtyard between the original building on the right and the addition on the left.

While the addition is also a box-like structure, the use of stucco and cypress on the exterior contrasts with the original.

And where once there was a small concrete patio and overgrown backyard, there is now a large outdoor living area and pool sitting between the two buildings.

Choate’s final part of the design challenge was how to connect the new structure to the old.

“Our goal was for the connection to touch the original building as lightly as possible."

His solution was to raise the addition on a podium, allowing the circulation link to sit above the existing house, with a glass bridge passing over the pool and across to the addition.

“There’s just a small slot in the roof, and the stair extends down from this. So it’s literally just one little finger reaching over and touching the roof, and then dropping down into the room.

“Suspended with steel rods, the open-riser stair is transparent enough not to impede the openness of the main living area and its unbroken expanse of windows.”

Credit list

James Choate, Surber Barber Choate + Hertlein Architects
Classic Renovations & Contracting
Kitchen design
Michael Morrow, MDM Designs
New slate tiles in main home; oak Flooring in addition
Paramount Pools
Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe Barcelona Couch; Room and Board Hess Sofa; Herman Miller Crosshatch Chairs; Herman Miller Eames Lounge Chair; Custom dining table by MDM Designs; IKEA outdoor chairs
Alabama Stone Works
Blanco stainless steel Culina Semi-Pro
Sub-Zero integrated
Waste disposal
Vanity countertop
White Quartz
ADM Bathroom Design
Structural engineer
Bennett & Pless
Interior designer
Jenny Clingan,Alchemy Design
Clear stained cypress
Western Window System in the addition: insulated glass added to windows of existing house
Sherwin Williams Pure White and Caviar
Lutron Custom Shades
Kitchen cabinetry
Walnut by MDM
Clear Solid Glass
Bathroom cabinetry
Solid walnut and solid Oak
Delta Trinsic; Brizo Litze; Phylrich

Story by: Paul Taylor

Photography by: Phillip Spears

29 Mar, 2020

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