Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The Mid-Century Marvel

Mid Century Modern?  Yes Please!!
If you've been following us for awhile, you know that we've been dying to do a mid-century modern renovation.  And just when we thought we'd never find one, the perfect home came on the market. (why mid-century?  See this post).  And in a major departure from our usual approach, this home will be for us to live in!

Why would we want to move?  We have a fantastic home with spectacular water views and every SoPo Cottage detail we could think of.  And like lots of people, when we became empty nesters we downsized to a smaller house.  There were so many pluses - less maintenance, purging decades of stuff, and a lovely space just for us!  But we've found that running a business out of our home takes a LOT of space (not to mention that we've longed for a garage during our snowy winters).  And as our family expands (we now have 3 grandchildren with promises of more to come), we find we need more room.  So we've been quietly looking for awhile.  And from the moment we saw this house, we fell in love with it.  It's an amazing place!

Since this will be our own home, I've thought long and hard about whether to share via social media.  There are pros and cons to sharing.  But it's such an interesting home, I thought people would want to hear more about it.  And I know it's not our usual cottage style, but it's pretty exciting!

So here it is.  Built in 1972, by a famous Maine architect, John Leasure, this home was the perfect mix of modern and contemporary when it was built.  And since it was Leasure's own home (they lived here with his family for almost 50 years) it has a lot of features that were ahead of its time.  What do The Brady Bunch and this house have in common?  Well, they are both from the 70's and families with six kids!  Not to mention lots of 'modern' architectural design features.

For those of you who are local, you've probably seen Leasure's other works, including the tallest building in Maine (Franklin Towers, on Marginal Way in Portland), the South Portland Library (which thanks to some recent updates, is looking more like Leasure's original design), the Fire Station at Cash Corner, Southern Maine Community College buildings and St. Bartholomew church in Cape Elizabeth.
Photo:  Leasure & Associates
This house shares some of his trademark style, including long, sleek facades, and 'modern' touches of the period including soaring ceilings, lots of natural wood and an open floor plan.  He also made extensive use of concrete in all of these buildings.

And while we love everything about this house, one of our favorite features is the way it's situated on the site.  The house perches on the top of 'ledge' - granite outcroppings that are characteristic of the Maine coast.  Originally, the house had panoramic views of Casco Bay and a lighthouse, but today the views are filtered, as the trees have matured.  And all that greenery, well, it makes you feel like you're in a treehouse!

Let's take a tour!

The first wow moment happens as you step inside the front door.  A large koi pond sits inside, flooded with sunlight from the giant 8x10' skylight.  There is a lot of greenery around the pond, including a giant rubber tree that is so big, it has to be tied up to the wall to keep from toppling over!
The wood burning fireplace is the centerpiece of the house.  We love its sleek lines and how it anchors the large living room.  

The architect did a masterful job planning this site.  The large outcropping of rock (aka ledge) at the top of the hill provided the foundation for the house.  He situated the house on the site, taking advantage of the different levels formed by the ledge - pouring the concrete slab directly on the ledge.  That created the dramatic elevations in the living space.  What do you think of the sunken living room?

A key element of mid-century homes is the use of concrete.  An incredibly cool feature of this house is the massive cantilevered walkway that hangs over the living room.   That's something you don't see everyday!

The dining room is a large room with the original buffet designed and built by the architect.

Next to the dining room is a large den, with a giant cork wall.

But the other feature that grabs your attention is the deck that runs the entire length of the house.  The living room, dining room and den all have floor to ceiling glass doors that open out to the deck.  It really captures the whole indoor-outdoor style that is so typical of mid-century modern homes.  And do you see how the outcroppings of ledge/rock are incorporated?  The entire deck is perched above the ledge and the steep grade below it.

Look at the tree growing through the deck off of the dining room!  How cool is that?

The deck is built around the outcroppings of ledge rock
This house has a large kitchen with lots of cabinetry and work space.  And with this open floor plan, it overlooks the living room and koi pond.
 This large countertop runs the width of the kitchen.  Note the blue shag goes up the wall!

But what 70's house would be complete without a bar?  And this one is fantastic!!  Look at that wallpaper.  That's on my list of 'must keep' items!  I'm also keeping that original bar sink with the built in bottle holders (which also works perfectly as a red solo cup dispenser - oh, we are going to have so much fun with this place!!)
Vintage cocktail wallpaper!!
And since Maine has such cold snowy winters, it's important to have a mudroom to come indoors and shed your boots, gloves and snowy jackets so they can dry.  As a bonus, this mudroom also has a lot of pantry space.

And what about bedrooms?  Well, there are four - all leading off of this long, dark hallway.  I LOVE the lights at knee level, but want a bit more lighting to see where I'm going :-)  
The most notable bedroom - this one with its vintage wallpaper. Bonus points if you can read what it says!
Can you read what the wallpaper says???  
Oh and the wallpaper is inside the closets too!

The master bedroom has a big skylight that floods the room with sunshine.  There is a nice walk in closet, in addition to these closets with their amazing handles!

And check out this bathroom!!!  The fixtures steal the show, but note the narrow tile work.  Fantastic!
These American Standard fixtures were introduced in 1968 - and were the absolute height of modern style.  (but by today's standard, they use an absurd amount of water and you have to squat so low to get to that toilet seat!!!)  The matching blue bidet and sunken bathtub complete the set.

Photo:  Old House Journal
The bedroom at the end of the hall sports the 'bubble window'.  It's actually a round plastic dome, installed vertically, to allow the owner to look out the window and see if anyone was coming up the driveway.  It's such a cool feature!  And this room continues the mid-century shag carpet color scheme - this one is Harvest Gold.

The hall bath is like a time warp.  Floating vanities are suddenly popular, but this one from 1972 is actually a long board, to hide the plumbing.  The metallic wallpaper is so totally vintage!!!  And don't you love the skylight with the wooden louvers?

And note the reading light for the 'throne'!!
The architect told me he wouldn't recommend a sunken bathtub again.  I tend to agree - am I getting old or do other people think this looks like a broken hip waiting to happen???  Not to mention, how do you clean it???  Lay on your stomach to reach the bottom??

And what about the laundry room??  The family raised 6 children in this house, so there was a lot of laundry!!  This room is a dream!  And don't you love that floor?  Again, what was once popular is new again!
I'm really excited about the finished basement.  Originally the architect's office, it has a lot of space for me to set up a SoPo Cottage workspace.  I'll no longer take over the dining room table as my head of operations!  And the sewing machine can be a permanent fixture, I won't be lugging it back and forth from the basement all the time.

The boiler room is pretty interesting.  Again, you can see how the house was created on the ledge.  The large rock outcroppings are built right into the space.

Our whole family came out to check out the new place.  As you can see, it's grand daughter approved!

What are our plans?  Well, we want to maintain all the amazing mid-century aspects of the house.  But we need to update it to meet modern building code requirements - as well as energy efficiency needs (built before the oil embargo of the mid 70's, it has very little insulation).  And since it's our own home, we want to customize it a bit to meet our needs (aka - a bunk room for the grandkids when they come to visit!).  So stay tuned as we share the journey!  This one will be soooooo interesting!

NOTE:  This is still a work in progress!!!  We have passed the one year mark and are still hard at work.  But we hope to share all the 'Afters' when it's done!    In the meantime, you can see lots of updates by scrolling back through the blog.  Also on Instagram or Facebook!

Birds Eye View

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  1. Can't wait to see what you do - this will be so fun to watch! Thanks for taking us along on the ride.

  2. Oh, this is going to be fun! As I get older I am growing more attracted to midcentury modern homes. Maybe it's the need to shed unnecessary "stuff" and focus on form and function? Thank you for sharing this adventure with us.

  3. This is awesome! Thanks for sharing your new home with us. Can't wait to see what you do with it!

  4. Replies
    1. This is a house that got away from us a few years back, I'm still not over it...https://www.zillow.com/savedhomes/for_sale/2403927_zpid/1_pnd/42.035014,-91.142579,38.524532,-97.04773_rect/7_zm/1_rs/1_fr/

  5. Mushrooms? I doubt the wallpaper is staying...

    1. Mushroom it is!!!! I'd like to keep some of the paper, but need to see if it can get cleaned up!

  6. Ooof. You are brave people.

  7. I’d love to come over and help you rip out that Cookie Monster shag carpeting! What a project, but I have total confidence in you!

  8. What a beautiful way of incorporating the existing site topology into the home plan. Wish all homes could be built that way! I will be keeping a close eye on your roofing posts, as I'm currently on a mission to understand mine better.

  9. Oh Laurel! My first reaction was OMG that blue carpeting EVERYWHERE! Can't wait to see where you go with this one! Congratulations!

  10. Oh, that house is lovely! I can't wait to see the before and afters!

  11. so excited to see what you do with the place. My husband and I also thought we had bought our empty nest-or house and then 2 years ago decided we were in love with the house we currently have and had to have. We went larger and more open because and it's all on one floor. It was 20 years old and was the dream home of the couple who built it and put the best in it at the time and not a thing had been updated. So we have updated it and made it our own and LOVE it as I am sure you and your family will when it's all done. Can't wait for the updates!

    1. So glad to hear you found the perfect house!!

  12. Fantastic! You are going to have so much fun with that house. And keep in mind that low blue toilets are perfect for little kids to use.

  13. Oh, yea, I thought the wall paper said "music room."

    1. Me too!!! But then my daughter pointed out that it says MUSHROOM!!! So Groovy!!

  14. CONGRATS Laurel! The house looks amazing - I can see why you're ecstatic!

  15. Nothing says 70's like "mushroom"! I'm not a big mid-century fan aesthetically, but I do recognize that these kinds of homes "live" really well...lots of light and openness are good for the human spirit. I will be watching the transformation, but I am betting it will be a work in progress for many years, as it will keep giving you new ideas. Your grandkids will really love it.

    1. Hopefully not too many years!!! Right now we're focused on getting it to a point where we can move in!

  16. This one will be fun won't it? I have a question, not being from Maine, how does that flat roof handle the snow load?

    1. It was designed with rafters strong enough to handle a snow load. Much like a commercial building with a flat roof. It's worked just fine for 46 years!

  17. I love it! Including the phone in the kitchen with a handy built in slot for the much needed phone book!

  18. I love it! Especially the phone in the kitchen with the handy built in slot for the phone book!

  19. Awesome! Living the dream! I still have some old 1960's decorated magazines with the shag carpet, and colored bathroom toilets, etc. So much to fun to revisit.


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