Architectural Photographer David Lauer on his Midcentury Home

Lauer Residence

Denver Architectural Photographer David Lauer has merged a love of visual arts with architecture. His photos bring the images he take to life – often in a cinematic fashion.

This is no surprise considering that David was the Co-Visual Effects Supervisor of the team that won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects in the film “Life of Pi”.

We chatted with David to find out more about his passion for photographing midcentury homes and his own purchase and subsequent restoration.

Lauer Residence

First of all, could you tell us a little bit about your background?

“I grew up in a small Wisconsin town and graduated from UW-Madison with a BS in Art.  I then moved to LA to pursue my dream job of doing feature film visual effects (VFX). It was in LA where I found my love for midcentury architecture. I often visited open houses designed by Neutra, Lautner, A. Quincy Jones and others. I kick myself I didn’t pursue purchasing one of those properties in the 90’s before prices got out of reach!”

Lauer Residence
Lauer Residence

How did you come to live in your house and what drew you to the midcentury style?

“After almost 20 years I felt I accomplished what I wanted in the VFX industry and wanted to pursue architectural photography.  I was also ready to experience another city and Denver came to the top of the list based on some family in Colorado. I actually found my current home online while I was still in LA.  We visited Denver during the holidays that year and drove by this house. We gave the realtor a call and decided to put an offer in as the house had been on the market for a while. The price also seemed insanely low compared to midcentury homes in LA!”

Lauer Residence

What do you think was so special about this period in American design?

“I love how modernist design stays true to minimal/ purposeful design that often embraces the site/landscape to connect the house to nature.” 

Lauer Residence
Lauer Residence

What do you know about the architect who designed your house?

“Very little.  From what I understand the architecture firm was called Gratts & Warner. The developer was H.B. Wolff. He first built a development of houses in Denver named Krisana Park in 1954. 

The houses sold out so he decided to do another development close by named Lynwood. (Rumor has it Krisana Park basically copied one of the Eichler designs.  All the houses in that development were variations on the same plan.)  

For Lynwood the same architecture firm was hired to develop more varied designs including 2 different ranch homes, a tri-level and the A-frame design of my home.  Note I am quite familiar with the Eichler homes of California (actually photographed quite a few!)  

While the original Krisana Park model is similar to an Eichler model,  my A-frame is quite different compared to the Eichler built A-frames.

Lauer Residence

What are the advantages/struggles of living in a midcentury house?

“Often bedrooms, bathrooms, closet space, etc. are minimal/small compared to modern day homes. The resulting square footage can be quite small. In fact if my house didn’t have a basement (most in the neighborhood don’t) I probably wouldn’t have purchased it as it added about 800 sq ft. of usable finished space. (This space is now a home theater, guest bedroom and full bath.)   On the flip side- the indoor/outdoor flow of most of these houses often make them feel bigger then they are – bringing the outside in.”

Lauer Residence

What’s your favourite part of the house and why?

“My favorite part of the original design is certainly the A-frame area of the house -which is the living/ dining/ kitchen with a glass wall flowing to the backyard (which I’ve done extensive landscaping). It is the classic indoor/outdoor flow that is such a key element of midcentury design.   

Lauer Residence

I have to say the major renovation I did to the master bedroom/bath comes in a close second!   That was the weak area of the original design. The bedrooms/bathrooms were very small and dark with little natural light.

I doubled the size of the master bedroom by taking out a wall between 2 of the 3 upstairs bedrooms.   This also gave room to have a master bath that was much more open. I vastly increased natural light by edge to edge glass wall with a clear story that mimics the design of the living room. My intent was to create a unified design for the whole house that would be perceived to be original rather than a renovation.”

Lauer Residence
Lauer Residence

Last but not least, do you have any tips for people interested in buying a midcentury house today? What should they pay attention to and why?

I think the challenge today is finding mid-century homes that haven’t been “screwed up” with various poorly done (or poorly designed) renovations/ additions that don’t stay true to the original design style.  Also obviously the age of these homes mean there may be many necessary updates to facilities, HVAC, electrical, windows, insulation, etc. that can be costly updates!”

Lauer Residence
Photos by David Lauer