MCM Chills and Thrills

This was meant to be a Halloween entry... a little late but I'll keep the title because it fits. A morning spent viewing everything for sale in Ridgewood revealed many horrors and made it clear that finding a home in it's original condition, or at least close to the original design by Ralph Fournier is getting more and more difficult. I'll share a few of the things that sent chills up our spines. (As I sorted through the photos I realized the best examples are the various augmentations to the fireplaces, so we have a theme here.)

In many cases, if someone had the time and patience to strip the whitewash these could be returned to something close to what they once were.

New kitchen cabinets are almost always called for too.

But after seeing all of that we ended up at this house on the corner of Big Bend and S. Berry. A displaced Fournier/Duenke in near pristine condition just on the outskirts of Ridgewood.

Every inch of redwood remains untouched.

I'm not sure that these are the original kitchen cabinets but if they are they've been well cared for. If not, they are certainly appropriate replacements.

The stone fireplace has been painted, but that's the only "mistake" I could find. (Some might argue that certain paint colors were a mistake... but that's an easy fix.)

At some point a portion of the carport was taken over to add additional living space, but ample covered parking remains.

The lot is generous and more private than you might expect in its location.

Priced slightly above the average home in Ridgewood at $189000, the house is in Webster schools as opposed to Lindbergh which raises the comps a bit.

What a thrill to see this after the many disappointments in Ridgewood.


MCM Under Threat

Thank you so much to all of you who have contacted me about this blog. As evidenced by the fact that I haven't posted in several weeks, there are many of you, and I am so thrilled to know that you're all out there and interested in these homes.

Here's a tragedy waiting to happen. This home in Ladue is currently listed at $549,900. But it's in rough shape and needs a total overhaul.

I'm still not sure who the architect was, but there are some wonderful details here. Two oculus' in the hallway let light into what would otherwise be a cave-like path to the bedrooms.

Every inch of wood in the place appears to be in pristine condition. The transom windows in the living room are just spectacular.

But with broken windows and exposure to the elements, it seems it's only going to get worse. I think about this house every time it rains.

The house has changed hands several times over the past few years, and without going into the sordid history, the current owners don't seem to be budging on their list price.

It's on 3/4 of an acre in Ladue so the land counts for a good deal of the cost, but the money that would have to be put into the house is probably frightening off potential buyers. Home prices in the vicinity are all over the map, from $400,000 to over $1m, but I fear this one is going to take someone with very deep pockets to save.


Isadore Shank Experience

Back in September, I toured the Isadore Shank house that was mentioned in the Post series on modern homes. It was listed at the time for $749,000 and it sounds like it's still for sale, although it's not in the MLS.

I find describing the experience of this house difficult, but I can tell you that I did not want to leave it. (My apologies to those of you with a better grasp of the architectural vernacular than I.) The living room was by far the most wonderful space. Walls of windows, exposed brick, beamed ceilings and fireplace with a galley kitchen just off to one side. The space felt like it was designed for entertaining and that the kitchen was located there because you have to keep the ice trays and olives somewhere.

The lot is heavily wooded so the interior was quite dark when we were there at just about noon. But since the photos show light pouring into the living room and the pool getting sun, my assumption is that the house was placed on the lot to allow light in (and keep it out) at optimal times of day.

Still, while the space was almost alarmingly comfortable, it was dark and I could understand why many potential buyers would not be able to see or feel the magnificence of the space. And maybe that's why I didn't want to leave. I had questions about how the space would change throughout the day. Why was it so dark? (Maybe it goes back to the ice trays and olives. Maybe the original owner didn't rise until the afternoon sun hit the pool anyway.)

The clients I took through the house were considering returning to St. Louis from California and were equally enthusiastic about the house. As we were leaving, one of them turned to me and said, "You know what's going to happen if we don't buy this one, don't you? They're just going to tear it down." Those clients decided to stay in California, but let's hope they were wrong.


MCM on a Budget

I can't get enough of these houses. Located in Crestwood, the Ridgewood subdivision is home to dozens of mid-century modern gems. All simple, understated and a joy to be in. And with an average sale price of $140k to $150k, they're incredibly affordable.

This one is listed at $149,900.

And this one at $139,500.

Downsides: Tax records show that only 7 of them have basements, space that none of us seem to miss when we're renting an apartment, but most of us insist on having when we buy. (The carports typically provide as much or more storage as that 6x6 locker in the shared basement does.)

Also, while the homes feel very well-designed (apparently by Omer L. Mithun & Harold J. Nesland and available by mailorder from Better Homes & Gardens at the time) the execution by builder Burton Duenke and his crew of carpenters can only be described as lazy. I have yet to see a mitred door or window frame in any of these houses! (Perhaps a nitpicky detail but my previous life working for a design-builder left me permanently incapable of looking past them.)
Nonetheless, the space in each room is open and airy and inspiring enough that I'm willing to ignore the flaws.

One detail I've found humorous is that is none of the light switches ever seem to be the same from room to room, making me think that Mr. Duenke was prone to buy whatever switches were on sale that week and throw them all into a box for a mix & match thrill. (I'd never thought about it before but if the technique for turning on a light is different in each room of your house, how many times would you have to pause at the door to remember if you push, flip or turn for this room? And how many times would you trip over something in the dark because you pushed when you were supposed to turn but kept on going?)

Many of the homes have some unfortunate updates, although nothing a road trip to IKEA wouldn't cure.

But some appear to have kept the original cabinetry.

Others clearly had owners who knew what they were updating. (Those are bamboo floors.)


Rue de Harris Armstrong

What a fitting way to start things off with this Harris Armstrong designed home that just came on the market. The home is identical in to the one up the street that I toured close to 2 years ago with Toby.

With 3 bedrooms and 2 baths, it's listed at $230,000. View the listing here.

Vacant, the house feels more spacious than furnished and this one has the addition of a step-down room off the living room and kitchen that opens up the main floor.

If you've not been through this cul de sac in Kirkwood, it's worth a Sunday afternoon driveby. Take Manchester to Woodlawn and head south. Woodleaf Ct is the first left you can make off of Woodlawn. The 10 homes in total are all Armstrong's design. His specs for the neighborhood and correspondence with the builder are apparently on file at Wash U.