Residential Design

VOL.5 2018

A business-to-business magazine focused on the collaborative process and talented work of residential architects and custom homebuilders.

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Page 7 of 83

Saving Graces As our existing housing stock ages, our definition of what constitutes a historic house expands. We haven't quite embraced the '70s and '80s eras yet, but the decades of '50s and '60s are solidly in their golden years. That's a blessing and a curse. The Mad Men swagger of these houses makes them both dashing and dangerous. They ignite our fantasies of brass cocktail caddies swinging Manhattans and martinis, but they are destined to disappoint us with the rot that lies at their core. Earlier houses were often built from old growth and handhewn materials, which yield generous returns when rehabilitated. They also withstand more readily the common problems of moisture and deferred maintenance, protected, as they were, by traditional detailing. Our '50s and '60s modern houses were not so fortunate in their construction materials and methods, and they were more ambitious in their design than building science of the day could support. Bringing them back to life is not a facelift, it's major surgery. The more layers you peel away, the more horrors you're apt to discover. None of the deep fixes these houses require will be considered "fun" money by your clients, such as proper moisture barriers and insulation. It almost doesn't seem worth renovating these houses, when you could build a better house for only a bit more money in some markets. Still, they win clients' hearts and over- take their minds, just like a handsome but flawed love interest. Everyone thinks they hold the magic formula to reform them. And maybe, at this point, we really do. In this issue, our Design Lab feature looks at renovations of notable houses from the '20s through the '60s. They are all dazzling in their own ways, but one house in particular stands as a testament to what today's materials and methods can do for a sexy, but troublesome, midcentury modern house by the ocean. The Hamptons house was designed by modernist Abraham Geller in the early 1960s, and remained in the hands of its original owner until she gave it up at age 96. It was placed on the market and left to the fates as a "tear down or remodel" property. The fates were kind in this case, and the house found sympathetic, angel buyers who wanted to renovate. With Stuart Disston, AIA, of Austin Disston Patterson, at the helm, new manmade cladding materials replaced rotting wood, new drainage systems better support the daring, double-diamond roof design, and advanced window systems optimized the ocean views. In all ways, the house is transformed and transfixing. Given its pedigree and poise, this house deserved its happy ending. So, too, did the more solidly built houses by Ulrich Franzen and Wallace Neff we feature in this issue. Apparently, there's no resisting the charms of dashing, dangerous, architect-designed houses. I think I'll call that a blessing. S. Claire Conroy Editor-in-Chief EDITOR'S NOTE

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