A “down to the studs” remodel of this 1950s Fairfax, California home results in a stylish, open and bright oasis. The home now features clean, modern lines and warm and stylish midcentury modern touches by Craig O’Connell Architecture.
The home now features clean, modern lines and warm and stylish midcentury modern touches. The new open floor plan dramatically improves the flow, brings in more light and creates more spacious and functional living areas for a young family of four. Craig designed a new open plan kitchen and dining area featuring a large glass door opening up to the nation and yard providing true indoor/outdoor California living. We were keen to find out more.
Do you have any details on the client brief?
The clients are Rosemary and Paul Smith and their two children. They met just after high school in Barcelona and have been sweethearts ever since. The Smiths love to entertain and have already hosted multiple holiday gatherings and kid birthday parties in the new house.
What do you think was so special about the midcentury period in American design?
Craig says: “Midcentury is one of my favorite home styles. I like the indoor-outdoor connection and its pared-down, streamlined interiors. I’ve worked on numerous midcentury modern-inspired design projects over the past decade, and I think it’s easier to design and build than some other styles because there is a lot of exposed structure, with visible beams and posts. You can see how the house is held up.”
What do you know about the original architect who designed the house?
We don’t know who originally designed the house. It was built in 1956.
What were your challenges for this project?
We wanted an open, airy, light-filled floor plan, so removing walls was a structural challenge, especially the load-bearing wall between the kitchen and dining room to make a larger opening. We installed a 20-foot-long support beam over the island to make up for removing the load-bearing wall.
What was the house like previously?
There were a series of chopped-up and very dark space spaces with no good function and flow and dark wood paneling. Also, three different types of flooring that did not match. The key design goal was creating a new spacious, light-filled and more holistic floor plan that flowed and functioned well for a young family.
What in your opinion are the best features of the home?
In the main living areas of the home the choppy rooms were unified to make a huge kitchen and dining area, one room flowing into the next. When you come in through the front door and into the living room it all opens up — you can see all the way across the room into the open kitchen/dining to the huge sliding glass door that goes out to the backyard and patio, offering true indoor-outdoor California living.
The style of the kitchen is clean-lined and minimalist. All of the cabinetry is custom (beautifully made by Hope Built) and the wood is walnut. And there is a large island with seating for the whole family.
Last but not least, do you have any tips for people interested in buying a midcentury house or building a new home with midcentury design elements? What should they pay attention to and why?
In the ‘50s, ‘energy saving’ wasn’t in the zeitgeist but now codes are put in place to make everything more efficient. So, architects like myself are updating this style to make it relevant to modern times.
In California, we have energy codes that continue to evolve and require homes to be more energy efficient. And of course, we should designs that are as energy efficient as possible.
With expansive glass and exposed roof framing details, mid-century-esque design needs to have high-performance glazing, foam insulation, and be aware of solar gain in all seasons,” says Craig. “Lastly, using solar panels and other means to generate energy from the site can and should be utilized.”
Photos by David Duncan Livingston