Wood Reigns in Modernist House by George Matsumoto

This delightful home sits in a small patch of woods two blocks away from the University of North Carolina Campus in Chapel Hill. Completed in 1955, it was designed for the Julian family by notable mid-century architect George Matsumoto.

The first thing you’re likely to admire about this original mid-century home is the abundance of wood panelling and other woodwork running throughout the house. This begins with the exterior, which features thinly-spaced vertical wood panels, stained in a rich red polish.

mid-century modern house in Chapel Hill - exteriormid-century modern house in Chapel Hill - entrance

As you enter the home, the thin panels make way for wider panelling, stained in a lighter brown polish. These panels run throughout the interior, and provide more than enough texture on their own, meaning that other decoration is allowed to be kept to a bare minimum.

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As such, this panelling is accompanied by some really nice, simple Danish modern cabinetry. The television in the living room sits atop a quintessentially Danish modern cabinet, polished to precisely match the wood panel wall which it sits in front of. There’s also a coffee table in the middle of the room, and a table beside the sofa, both beautiful in their straightforward simplicity.

mid-century modern house in Chapel Hill - living roommid-century modern house in Chapel Hill - living room

True to Matsumoto’s own heritage, there’s a clear Japanese quality to this mid-century modern house. You can see this in the fluid division of interior space, and the fact that the ornamentation follows rather than hides the structure.

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case study house book cover

But more obviously, several of the walls feature the same translucent paper, with polished wooden frame, which is such a mainstay of Japanese design. Generally, this combination of white-painted walls broken up by wooden structural elements—featured across both interior and exterior—is an unmistakeable signifier of Japanese influence.

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mid-century modern house in Chapel Hill - kitchenmid-century modern house in Chapel Hill - dining area

One last point, the choice of having the home situated on a hillside allows for a lower level which is concealed from initial view. This has the really pleasing effect of preserving the continuity of the upper level, giving it the sense of being a single, clean rectangular box. It’s something we noticed in another house covered recently, Philip Johnson’s Booth House.

In both cases, it’s a really brilliant means of achieving the twin aims or formal purity and spaciousness, aims which are always so crucial to the best mid-century design.

mid-century modern house in Chapel Hill - dining areamid-century modern house in Chapel Hill - bedroommid-century modern house in Chapel Hill - exterior

Photos via Facebook Page “For The Love Of Old Houses”