The Cool House: mid-century modern
Showing posts with label mid-century modern. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mid-century modern. Show all posts

Saturday, April 24, 2021

The Cool House–Final Chapter

The Cool House has been our home for seventeen years now, that’s hard to believe as we’d lived in many houses in various countries on two continents before I spotted it on the MLSLI website back in 2003. I fell instantly, head over heels in love from that moment. I swear the hairs on the back of my neck stood up and tingles ran down my spine. My love for it has only deepened over the years, for its unique architecture and the warm, inviting design of the original Andrew Geller plans, through all the renovations–really gentle updates–we did over the years to bring it up to today’s codes. 
We always said that when we felt we were rattling around in it, though, it would be time to leave and pass it on to someone who would appreciate as much as we have. This past year of lockdown and quarantine has made us realize the time has come. In normal times visitors, friends and family, would come and go, filling the house with life and laughter. But for the past twelve months it's been just us, and even using both offices full-time and enjoying that luxury, we realized that we don't need all this space; it’s time to look for something smaller. 
I know we’ll never find anything as special as the Cool House but we have so many memories from our time as caretakers of the house. The one that stands out in the forefront is when Andrew Geller came with his wife Shirley and family for his first visit in over forty years, stood on the balcony over the great room, looked around and said “I did good work”! He truly did, not good work but great work, unique–a work of art.
For information on the listing contact Maria & Donna at Compass Real Estate

Friday, June 15, 2012

Odd angles

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Through the windows

Integrating the outdoors into the interior design is a fundamental part of mid-century architecture; strategically placed windows enhance the views, banks of clerestory windows allow light to flood rooms, low ceilings draw the eye outside, sliding doors open to patios and gardens. This house was designed around an enormous Mountain Pine that dominates the west-facing side and the landscape enhanced by judicious planting. Every window captures a specimen tree, shrub or planting, an aspect that serves to bring the outside in. It's especially appreciated at this time of year when the deciduous trees have opened up and the azaleas are in full bloom but the chilly wind makes it too cold to sit outside. Outside April 25
Looking East

  Inside out April 25
Facing North

  Outside April 25
South-West aspect

  Outside April 25
Facing South

  Outside April 25
Kitchen-facing West

  Outside April 25
Den-due East

  Inside out April 25 
Living room to the East

Monday, February 27, 2012

Modern Love

We were in Palm Springs last week for Palm Springs Modernism Week, and particularly thrilled to attend the world premiere screening of Modern Tide: Mid-century Architecture on Long Island.

From the Frank Lloyd Wright Rebhuhn House in Great Neck Estates designed in the late thirties, via the whimsical beach houses along the south shore designed by Andrew Geller in the 50s and 60s to the Herbert Beckhard House built by the architect for his family in Glen Cove in 1964, Long Island is dotted with modernist treasures. This film showcases the unique architecture across the island, a testament to beach cottages that still stand fifty years later despite hurricanes and rising property values, and a remembrance of others that have succumbed to the developer's wrecking ball or been remodeled out of all recognition. Academics, historians and family members reveal fascinating details about the architects' vision, the influence of artists from Fernand Léger to Jackson Pollack and the effect the proximity to New York City had on their work.

Of course if you love architecture, especially modern architecture you will want to go see this movie but if you have any interest in Long Island, in its unique geography, urban planning and building codes, you should make a point of seeking out Jake Gorst's documentary. It raises important questions about how design and architecture fit into our surroundings and the lives we choose to live.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Modern Tide: The Movie

Just two short months ago historian and film maker Jake Gorst was here taking shots for his documentary on mid-century modern architecture on Long Island. Now the movie is finished and Modern Tide:Midcentury Architecture on Long Island will have its world premiere at Palm Springs Modernism Week 2012. From the clip above and the stills I've seen the movie will be powerful, an homage to the great architects who worked on Long Island, amongst others Frank Lloyd Wright, Albert Frey, Horace Gifford and Andrew Geller, celebrating structures still standing and mourning those that have been lost. And with the beautiful Long Island scenery as its backdrop how can it be anything other than a must-see ticket?
We will be in Palm Springs for the premiere, soaking up some desert sun and touring a few modernist homes including the Twin Palms Estate E. Stewart Williams designed for Frank Sinatra, the Albert Frey designed Raymond Loewy house and the Wexler and Harrison El Rancho Vista Estates. More later...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

For Sale: Iconic Beach House

Featured in July 29, 1963 issue of Sports Illustrated, this iconic cottage designed by Andrew Geller for Betty Reese has just come on the market. Listed at $995,00 the three bedroom, 1.5 bath beach house sits on 5+ acres in the Hamptons and is almost untouched. Hopefully someone will jump in and enjoy it as a summer retreat, preserving it for another fifty years.
Contact Cee Scott Brown or Jack Pearson at Corcoran for more details

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Preserving the Uniquely Modern

A few years ago The Guy and I headed out to DWR in East Hampton for a fundraiser to save The Pearlroth House. After a lot of hard work by the Geller family, especially Jake Gorst the architect's grandson, and many others that iconic house has been preserved and will be fully restored by next summer.

One successful preservation has led to a much bigger endeavour: cataloging all of Andrew Geller's portfolio - his sketches, blueprints, designs and art - in an archive that will become a resource for students and fans of mid-century architecture and design. Last night dwr East Hampton hosted the Andrew Geller Archive Preservation Fundraiser to raise money for this project.

Friends, family and followers of mid-century modern architecture turned out to enjoy a slideshow on Geller's life and work and bid in a Silent Auction for works including paintings by Andrew Geller and his wife Shirley (who sadly passed away last month), silks by Jamie Geller Dutra and jewelry by Nancy Schindler. More on that auction in a future post... All proceeds from the evening will go to support the Archive. You can support the fund by becoming a sponsor or making a tax-deductible donation and look out for a future fundraiser to be held in New York City - they're lots of fun.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Andrew Geller News

Renovating the kitchen (and the den) has brought it home to us once again what a great and underrated architect Andrew Geller is. The built-ins in the den that were not part of the original blueprints boxed in the room, making it feel darker and smaller, and the platform cut the flow on the ground (first) floor. Removing them not only makes the space feel much lighter but now we can truly appreciate the architecture. You see immediately that the kitchen is the same shape and size as the great room - a trapezoid - and the den is a rectangle. It all feels much simpler now... and right.

It's a fortuitous coincidence that just as we are finishing updating this uniquely modern Andrew Geller designed house, we hear that the iconic Pearlroth House has been approved for the National Register of Historic Homes. This is great news for all lovers of mid-century architecture - I can't wait to see the restored beach house.

Then we got word that Jake Gorst, grandson of the architect, has embarked on an enormous project: founding the Andrew Geller Architectural Archive Preservation Project to identify, catalogue and preserve Geller's documents, drawings, photographs and memos - and he will film the whole process, including site visits to the architect's commercial and residential buildings, releasing a documentary in the coming year. To support this project visit the Project: Preservation of the Andrew Geller Architectural Archive - it's tax-deductible!

By the way, for those in the Long Island area, Jake Gorst's 2005 documentary, Leisurama the story of Montauk's "swanky" mid-century modular home community, will be played on PBS WLIW21 at 2 AM and 9 PM Saturday June 26. This is not to be missed!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Mid-century British Design

Design Onscreen, the architecture and design programme makers will be premiering their latest documentary on British design duo Robin and Lucienne Day at the National Geographic Museum’s Grosvenor Auditorium in Washington, DC on May 15th. Director Murray Grigor and Cinematographer Hamid Shams will take part in a Q&A session after the screening.

Lucienne, who died earlier this year, designed textiles, wall papers and ceramics that embody the optimism and vitality of the mid-century era. Calyx, the fabric that launched Lucienne Day's career, was exhibited at the Festival of Britain in 1951 where it won the International Design Award of the American Institute of Decorators.

While Lucienne designed fabrics, Robin's mass-market furniture can be found in homes and offices across Britain. Millions of examples of the Eames-influenced stackable Polyprop Chair have been sold since its inception in the early sixties. I sat on bright orange ones at school, magenta in Village Halls and grey in waiting rooms all over the UK.

The showing is scheduled to coincide with the opening of Art by the Yard: Women Design Mid-century Britain, featuring Lucienne Day’s work, at Washington DC’s Textile Museum.
Tickets to the movie premiere on May 15th must be purchased in advance from Design Onscreen.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Racquet Club Estate Tour 2010

Palm Springs: Racquet club Estates Tour, part of Modernism Week 2010. Seven mid-century modern homes, five Palmer & Krisel designed Alexander homes - some with butterfly roofs, another with a flat roof; a Donald Wexler Steel House and a Meiselman post and beam. They have been restored, some keeping as faithful to the original as possible, others updated and expanded but all retaining the desert's mid-century tenets of clear lines, walls of glass, clerestory windows, airy rooflines and indoor/outdoor living.

The surrounding landscape is always part of the home - here mountains form a dramatic backdrop to the pool

Each of the homes is unique in its own fashion - here the breezeway wasn't part of the original Meiselman house but was added along with a master bath and guest suite during a year-long renovation. While other homeowners had updated with an eye to budget this home had it all- Bulthaup kitchen, LED color-changing lighting and infinite jacuzzi tub.

We signed up for the tour not only to get a closer look at Krisel's and Wexler's designs but to see if there were any renovations we could use in our own house. We brought back a couple. One was the ingenious hole cut through the frameless shower doors that enables you to turn the water on without hopping in and out of freezing spray. The other? To clear The Cool House of all clutter and tabletop "fluff"! We also confirmed how well-suited ikea is to mid-century kitchens and bathrooms - especially when paired with quartz counters. Catch the local news video of the tour here and spot The Guy chatting with designer Anne Breux about, what else, beds...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bathroom inspiration

From the Albert Fry House II, Palm Springs

Friday, February 12, 2010


As nothing much is happening on the reno front - a 23" x 17" tile short of a finished floor snafu followed by snow days, sick tiler, and a wrong cabinet door setback - I'm tucking my head under my wing, embracing oblivion and swapping


for this

and this*

for Palm Springs Modernism Week

Last year we stayed here for a conference; pretty pink flamingos, great sushi and Starbucks vouchers offered in exchange for hard sell to buy a timeshare - classy! Apparently these people had splashier time...

1. tree down!
2. floor tile, one piece short of perfection

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Justifying Eames

It's a tale of love - let me justify it for you - I'm sure you'll get it...

I saw this original Eames Lounge and Ottoman in an antique store on my last trip to Brussels in November, a trip that coincided with the dollar's slide to an all-time low against the euro. The piece was in perfect condition, the chocolate brown leather worn-in just gently enough to be as soft as butter. I was smitten but the euro/dollar exchange rate was so bad it would have cost at least $3000 to have it delivered to me, with no guarantee it wouldn't be damaged in transit. Reluctantly, after briefly considering dreaming about buying a pied-à-terre in the city and placing this iconic furniture in it, I let go and walked away.

Then, in the bon chic bon genre Sablon district, we saw a brand new genuine Herman Miller licensed version in cherry and black leather for ::gulp:: 4900 euros, approximately $7000. Now, the same basic 670 and 671 models in the US were selling for $3899. If you subtract the price of the chair in the USA from one sold in Europe you save over $3000 or almost the price of the American Lounge Chair and Ottoman. It would be like BOGO - nearly free! Right? ...No?

Well, that's the justification I made when I gave in and ordered the limited edition Santos Palisander ( a sustainable alternative to the original rosewood veneer) Chair and Ottoman with black Dream Cow leather. It's an upgrade but I took advantage of free shipping and an extra 20% off promotion in December. It was a huge splurge, I know, and if I hadn't compared the prices in euros and dollars I would almost certainly never have taken the leap but if you remember I said back in 2004 I wanted one fine mid-century chair to complete the house; it's just that turned out not to be a Pierre Paulin Ribbon Chair but an American classic.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Saturday Morning

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Krisel and more

My Krisel crush is well-known, and it's been happily fed recently, first by the sneak preview of Jake Gorst's upcoming documentary "William Krisel, Architect". I cannot wait to see the full version. A short time ago Krisel Keeper left a comment here. I followed the links and found her blog detailing the ongoing rehab of a Krisel ranch in Woodland Hills, California. Then there was the trip to Palm Springs, which is dotted with Krisel houses. It was like eating a box of chocolates all in one sitting, albeit really, really good Belgian chocolates while lounging in an Eames chair. I toured three Palm Springs neighborhoods, Las Palmas Estates tucked under the mountains, Racquet Club Estates and Twin Palms in search of the Alexander Construction Company homes designed by William Krisel of Palmer & Krisel. And as I don't have any Belgian chocs to give you, I'll share my real estate finds: three gorgeous examples recently on the market with links to more photos and to the realtors. Enjoy!

The earliest of the Krisel modernist tract homes, like this 1600 sq' 3 bed, 2 bath Alexander Sunflap in Twin Palms Estates, were built in the mid-fifties.

In Racquet Club Estates a 3 bedroom Alexander home built in 1959 is for sale at $399,000

Complete with mountain views a Krisel designed home in Las Palmas Estates, just a stroll from downtown Palm Springs.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Alpine Desert

This is perhaps the most stunning of the fifteen so-called "Swiss Miss" houses on the Las Palmas Estates in Palm Springs. Designed by Charles Dubois, and built by Alexander Construction in 1959, these alpine chalet inspired homes are quite distinct from the standard Alexander-built tract houses, most of which were designed by William Krisel.

This one was completely renovated in 2005 and is currently for sale at $1,095,000. There is also an option to rent at $595 a night or $3,195 a week through Vacation Palm Springs .

More on the unique Swiss Miss homes at Jetsetmodern and Eichler Network

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Desert Realty

Driving around the Old Las Palmas neighborhood I was surprised at the number of For Sale signs, often four or more on one side of a block. I knew that California had been one of the areas most badly affected by the housing crisis but I hadn't realised how hard the state had been hit. Even in the more tony neighborhoods of Palm Springs, you could feel the pressure to sell - at any price. And the homes ranged in every condition from mint to almost abandoned; foreclosure signs placed despondently among the cactus and yuccas.
To be sure not all the homes had that aura of desperation, indeed a few retain that scent of celebrity and glamour:

Donald Wexler designed this house for Dinah Shore in 1963.

It's a glorious example of a Hollywood home in the desert that has been stunningly and sympathetically renovated. Listed at almost $6,000,000, double the price it sold for in 2003, it has been on the market since Spring.

A secret gem: One of Elvis' desert homes, owned by Liberace until 1971.

Already substantially reduced to $749,000 it's a 4 bed, 5 bath, 3000 sq' statue-bedecked MCM house full of flock and glitz

and the occasional piece of Liberace memorabilia.

Also on the market, for $1,295,000, is the former Tony Curtis/Janet Leigh home "Camp Curtis", a stunning 1960 Fey home that got smacked with a nasty granite kitchen in a recent remodel. Click here for more details/photos.
If you fancy experiencing the luxury lifestyle but don't want to relocate to the desert, you can always rent a vacation home for a night, week or longer. You could stay in Frank Sinatra's Twin Palms pad or hang out where Marilyn Monroe slept. On the other hand, given recent press, you might not want to spend time in this particular celebrity's Unusual Villa rental...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Desert Modern

So where was I? Oh, yes back in the desert...
I spent a couple of days doing the Modern Palm Springs Tour, a self-guided street-side peep around the exteriors of the best examples of mid-century modern architecture. I picked up a $5 map from the Visitors' Center, formerly the Albert Frey designed Tramway Gas Station - the first stop on the tour - and set off on a drive past residential and commercial buildings designed by Donald Wexler, William F. Cody, E. Stewart Williams and other designers who made the Coachella Valley the unique resort destination in the 50s and 60s.

The tour takes you past the Richard Neutra Kaufmann Desert House - newsflash they were doing some work on the air-conditioning system - via the Albert Frey designed Raymond Loewy House to the House of Tomorrow.
Although I've seen photographs of some of these homes, and in some cases written about them, it's always more interesting to see them in situ. You see how they fit into their environment, how they affect and are affected by the surrounding landscape.

The House of Tomorrow, for example sits on a cul-de-sac; other homes have been built around it and thickly planted trees and shrubs have grown to enclose it so that it now looks, at first glance, like any other suburban home. It's only when you look closer that you notice William Krisel's mid-century details: the huge projecting bay window, the angles, the cutaways in the roof.

The Raymond Loewy House is set back on the lot behind an elaborate fence structure, the more architecturally unique side of the house faces the mountains, hidden from passers-by.

While I had great fun driving round the neighborhoods of Palm Springs in the rented convertible (and getting a major case of neck burn from the desert sun) I was disappointed I couldn't get this trip to coincide with Palm Springs Modernism Week when I'd be able to view the interiors of some of the houses. So when I got back home I treated myself to Julius Shulman: Palm Springs, the late iconic photographer's tribute to the architecture of the city. If you can't get to Palm Springs I recommend you beg, borrow or buy a copy, you'll be instantly transported to the desert oasis where every building is a reminder of the shift in style that became known as mid-century modern design.