Mid-Century Remodel Horror Stories

We’ve all heard them – horror stories of gorgeous mid-century designs being spoiled by trendy, tasteless updates. Here’s a few examples of mid-century remodels gone terribly, terribly wrong.

Case Study House 17A

One of the most famous examples of a heart-breakingly indiscriminate remodel is the story of Case Study House 17A. The home was designed as part of Arts & Architecture‘s Case Study House program by Rodney Walker in 1947 and was a beautiful example of forward-thinking mid-century architecture. Since then, the home has been rendered completely unrecognizable by “21st-century updates.”


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That Time Gregory Ains Got Stuccoed

This would-be lovely residence in Altadena’s Park Planned Homes tract was designed by the one-and-only Gregory Ains in 1948. Since then, the only parts of the house that stood the test of time were the walls of glass and clerestory windows. The rest is so completely smothered in layers of textured stucco, it’s hard to see its original mid-century simplicity.

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The Henbest-Birkett Residence

While nothing by Pierre Koenig could ever be rendered ugly, one would think that a bonafied architect would be a little more sensitive when updating one of his masterpieces. The Henbest-Birkett Residence – designed by Koenig in 1966 – had been surprisingly well-preserved until 2011, when a contemporary architect decided to strip away all the original finishes and interiors. Still a pretty house, but a shame all the same.


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1957 Waterfront Atrocity

This waterfront residence in Washington was probably a breathtaking example of mid-century architecture, if its barely-visible bones are any indication. Now however, it’s like a mahogany-bedecked nightmare.

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July 31st, 2015|0 Comments

Inspire Me Monday: Ricky and Lucy’s Palm Springs Paradise

Almost every tourist (and more than a few residents) of the Los Angeles area have driven by the house that Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball owned in Beverly Hills. Somewhat less accessible is the gorgeous home that Paul R. Williams designed for the couple in Palm Springs in 1954.


Although the expansive 4,400 sq ft home has been changed extensively over the years, we love to see it as it was when Lucy and Desi lived there.

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Photos by Julius Shulman.


July 27th, 2015|0 Comments

The House that Put Frank Gehry on the Map

Artist Ronald Davis took a chance when he hired a start-up architect to build his studio/home in Malibu. Frank Gehry was six years into his first architectural practice with only a few projects under his belt when he took the project on. Little did he know, the Ronald Davis House would be the first project to define his signature design vocabulary and unusual style.


Davis was looking for an open space that would serve as a studio, a home, and a living gallery of his work. The result was a trapezoidal structure with a long, slanted roof. The corrugated steel walls and large, barn-like shape served as the perfect container for Davis’s work, studio, and living spaces. A 20′ x 20′ central skylight and carefully positioned windows frame views of the sky, ocean, and surrounding hillsides.

As you now know, Frank Gehry went on to become one of the most famous architects in the modern world; but it all started with one unlikely steel house on a Malibu hillside.


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Photos courtesy of Architectural Digest and Wikiarquitectura.

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July 21st, 2015|0 Comments

Inspire Me Monday: 1965 General Motors

The office building that once housed the General Motors Technical Center has recently been declared a National Historic Landmark, and we can see why. A project that began in 1945 in Warren MI, it took over 10 years to design and build the complex to completion. Eero Saarinen led the project start to finish, and the technical center was officially dedicated in 1965.

Although the current building is but a shadow of its former self, these vintage images are a testament to its mid-century glory.

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All photos courtesy of Curbed.

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July 20th, 2015|0 Comments

Cool Tiny Houses

Although the so-called “American dream” often suggests that bigger is better, here are some tiny houses that will change everything you ever thought about square footage.


This colorful tiny house on wheels is only 147 sq ft but comes equipped with energy-efficient thermoplastic roofing, storage cubes that can transform into different seating configurations, a floating cabinet for housing common cooking ingredients, and a loft big enough for a king-size bed. Designed by Frank Henderson and Paul Schultz in 2014.


The Zimmerman Guest House by Ninebark serves as an office, sleeping area, and playroom, with a full bathroom and a kitchenette. All within 240 sq ft.


This 516-square-foot flat in Bratislava, Slovakia was built in 1930 and renovated by Lukáš Kordík.


The Pond House by Hammerschmid Pachl Seebacher Architekten boasts 538 sq ft consisting of a combined living/dining/kitchen, a spacious bathroom and the bedroom arranged in a line.


A young couple in New York city make their 650-square-foot space work using multipurpose furniture on wheels, a hydraulic stow-away bed, and secret compartments galore. Designed by the owners, Studio Garneau.


This backyard retreat by sustainable building advisor by Megan Lea is constructed completely of reclaimed materials.


House 12.20 by Brazilian architect Alex Nogueira has a 484 sq ft studio floor plan arranged in a U-shape around the bathroom, the only enclosed room. Having the sleeping area open to the living room works fine for the bachelor pad design.


This shipping-container guest house in San Antonio was designed by architect Jim Poteet to serve as a living area, playhouse, and garden shed. The all-in-one design only takes up 320 sq ft.


The Unfolding Apartment by Michael K Chen Architecture squeezes a sleeping space, dining/lounge area, along with a full kitchen and bathroom, into 400 square feet.

Photos courtesy of Dwell and Small House Bliss.

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July 17th, 2015|0 Comments