Midcentury meets Modern
Four Midcentury Homes Get Facelifts Of A Lifetime
Photos by Will Shilling, Tessa Berg and Eric Wagner
The highly rated television series “Mad Men,” set in the 1960s, led to a resurgence in popularity of midcentury modern trends, both cultural and architectural.
The homes built from the late ’40s to the early ’60s were considered revolutionary, sporting new ideas in materials, splashes of bright colors and the evolution of one-story living.
The design and appeal of those houses still remain popular today—despite the 60-plus years that have since passed. As such, these once-innovative abodes are getting some much-needed facelifts in order to fit in with the lifestyles of today’s homeowners.
Justin Collamore, president of Collamore Built Residential Design and Construction in Upper Arlington, embraces the challenge of taking the midcentury home and transporting it to today. He has tackled projects of all shapes and sizes, but admits that he has an affinity for working on this type of project.
“I’ve always been a big fan of the homes from that era, mainly because I love the horizontal lines that exist in the ranch-style houses,” Collamore says. “When you see those houses today, sometimes they haven’t been updated in many years—and when new homeowners move in, they want to make the home modern without changing the footprint of the home.
“When I am doing a project like that, I want to make sure that in the process of updating the home I don’t lose its sense of history,” he adds.
Four projects completed by Collamore fall under the category of merging midcentury homes with the modern era. His extensive handiwork and vision is evident in two Clintonville houses in which he transformed multiple rooms, a kitchen in Upper Arlington and the addition of an art studio in another home, also located in UA.
A CORNER LOT IN CLINTONVILLE
Brad Faust wanted to live in Clintonville. A house on the corner of Cooke and Colerain caught his eye.
“It had sat empty for a year or so, and it looked like it hadn’t been updated at all—it was in awful shape,” Faust says. There were too many walls and every room was divided up into small sections, robbing the home of the potential space within the framework of the property.
Nonetheless, Faust, who doesn’t subscribe to any specific design styles, says he knew right away that the house could be so much more.
“Some people just want the pure modern or contemporary look or a certain style, but I just wanted an open space, a lot of light coming in and a good floor plan that you could walk around in if you have people over,” he says. “And although I do like the amenities of new houses, I have a lot of respect for the history of the older homes.”
Except for an addition done in the ’70s, Faust’s home was almost entirely original, Collamore says. Throughout the home, the level of the floor and ceiling varied. The types of flooring varied as well, including portions that were terrazzo flooring, which is similar to a school gym, according to Faust.
The project touched on nearly every room. The kitchen was opened up and an island was added, but the actual space of the room was reduced. Walls that surrounded the dining room and sectioned off the living and family rooms were removed.
A shared wall between the master bedroom and dining room was moved to allow for a large, walk-in closet. Pillars were placed between the dining area and family room to separate the spaces without blocking views.
The door to a common bathroom was removed, and the space was reconfigured in the master bedroom to allow for a private bathroom.
A double-sided fireplace altered a space where a wall once stood dividing the living and dining rooms. Now, it’s a beautiful feature that can be seen and enjoyed from multiple areas.
“We made sure to keep some of the interior details, staying with the horizontal lines and maximizing the views of the large, plate-glass windows that were a staple of that era,” Collamore says.
Another example of a detail saved from the era is plaster fries (pronounced freeze) molding in a second bedroom and in the living room.
A Dash from the Past
Sharon and John Griffin moved to an Upper Arlington ranch-style home from Granville in 2008 and encountered the same issue as Faust: too many walls.
The kitchen was enclosed and the Griffins wanted to open things up.
“It was designed like a peninsula, there was a laminate floor and had the original cabinets,” Sharon says.
Collamore tore down the walls that separated the kitchen from the family room. He added an island, laid down a dark, Asian walnut wood floor and installed new granite countertops and a backsplash.
The space isn’t huge, but with the island seating and a table with cushioned benches, Collamore says 12 people can sit comfortably.
“It was a challenge to get that much seating, because we couldn’t add any space by stealing from another room,” Collamore says.
The most dramatic flair involved the island cabinet, where Collamore added a splash of orange.
“In the ’50s, you might have seen countertops with that color, so having a different part of the kitchen with that pop is a way of incorporating the past.”
At first Griffin resisted, but Collamore insisted—and backed up his words.
“I told her if she is sick of it in five years, I’ll send our painter in to change it—but I think she likes it,” Collamore says.
SCENIC DRIVE GEM
Monica Mahoney and husband Billy Brisk were enamored with a Clintonville home on Scenic Drive. The house is situated along the Olentangy River, and was once owned by former Ohio Gov. James A. Rhodes and his wife, Helen, according to the Franklin County Auditor’s Office.
“We fell in love with the location, and we knew the house needed some work,” says Mahoney. The couple and their two children moved from Portland, Oregon.
But this house, too, with its many walls had poor sight lines.
One of the most significant adjustments Collamore made was simple: he recessed the refrigerator into a wall, opening up a walkway in the updated kitchen, allowing for clear views from one end of the home to the other.
“That was key, because it made a significant difference without changing the footprint of the house,” Mahoney says.
Collamore also built a pantry into a wall and incorporated a colored glass-panel door that looks more like a piece of art.
While removing a mirrored wall and drywall from the dining room, Collamore found a doorway to a connecting sunroom.
“That’s one of the things I enjoy the most, seeing what’s behind the walls,” Collamore says. “You really don’t know what you’re going to find in these older homes.”
Underneath the dated carpeting, Mahoney discovered a beautiful oak floor that she loves.
An original gas fireplace was revealed in a closed-off room. Collamore opened the space to allow the feature to be accessed from both sides. In keeping with the look of the past, he found tiles that matched the original hearth.
“Being able to make the fireplace a seamless match between the two rooms keeps the original feel of the home,” Collamore says.
ART STUDIO CREATES OPTICAL ILLUSIONS
For years, Upper Arlington artist and sculptor Judy Hazen shared her art studio—with a spare bedroom from her home built in the 1940s.
That all changed when she hired Collamore to build a room addition. The dilemma? There wasn’t a great deal of space to add on the side of the home.
“We were only allowed to build out nine feet,” Hazen says.
Collamore thrived on the challenge, providing Hazen with a bright space that is more than 30 feet long. The space feels wider than the nine feet allowed, because Collamore slanted the ceiling in places to match the home’s rooflines.
“It worked out great because it allowed us to add that look of space while keeping with the theme of the existing roof lines,” Collamore says. “We went a step further and incorporated the window details—some triangular, odd shaped windows—to make the room feel like the rest of the house.”
The abundance of natural light is a significant change from the days when Hazen was relegated to a section of the spare bedroom.
“I can see my work much better now, and that’s very important,” Hazen says. “Some of my artist friends are a little envious.”