Text by Koss Design and Build
This 1963 midcentury home near Piestewa Peak was originally designed by Architect Fredrick Fleener as a McCall’s Magazine ‘Certified’ home. The original architect worked with 21 women to design a home for the modern 1960’s family.
Over the years the home changed hands several times and the original materials and details had been obscured and altered. The renovation by Koss Design and Build consisted of stripping the house back to its original bones, a small addition to the primary suite, a complete makeover of the back yard and a room-by-room surgical renovation of the main house.
The clients were a younger couple looking for an architecturally significant home that fit their lifestyle and aesthetic values. Building new was too costly so finding an older home with good mid-century bones was a great path to achieve their goals.
The design team immediately recognized this home could be stripped back to its originally bones, restored where needed and then blended with modern amenities and design updates for a beautiful project that would satisfy all the client wishes.
The original home was built along with four other homes in the early 60’s. These four homes were all built near each other in a cul-de-sac and were to act as show homes where potential buyers could come to walk through all four options, select the home they wanted, and then pick one of the nearby lots to have their home built by the home builder, John F. Long. Each of the four homes were distinct in design ranging from traditional to modern.
This particular home was designed by a local phoenix architect Fredrick Fleenor and was the most modern of the 4 show homes. As part of the marketing campaign of the development this home was designed in conjunction with McCall’s magazine. The architect worked with a panel of women to design ‘the home of future’ for a modern day family.
Although the home’s form was the most modern of the four show homes, the material palette used reflected the local climate while leaning towards natural selections. The exposed block is a hybrid type adobe and the exposed wood beams and ceilings helped to warm the interiors of the home.
The original floor plan separated most of the spaces inside the home and out. The design build team created a plan to rework the exterior to create more of an indoor-outdoor connection, and solve some minor flooding issues while making several exterior spaces designed for outdoor living.
Every room in the house received some degree of renovation with the kitchen, living room and primary suite receiving the most attention. The goal was to create a clean modern interior that played off all the original mid century elements.
The first step in achieving this goal was to uncover the original materials of the home. At the time of purchase all of the interior was painted white. The owners sandblasted the entire interior of the house to uncover the block, wood beams, wood ceilings and wood board and batten interior walls.
The board and batten material was too soft to handle the sand blasting processes and was eventually replaced with drywall. With all of the exposed wood and block, adding white drywall to the interior of the home as a board and batten replacement helped increase the amount of light that was reflected throughout the home while also acting as a neutral background material to help accentuate the recently uncovered older materials.
The entry courtyard at the time of purchase was a dead space. A new water feature was installed, limited landscape was brought in and skylights were enlarged to bring more light into the area. The restoration of the double door at the front entry was one of the highlights for the homeowners as it truly captured the essence of the original home and was simply a beautiful piece of functional art to enjoy.
The back covered patio was restored and a new deck added to create a large entertaining space. The pool shape was kept but the concrete decking and patio around the pool was redone creating a series of circle patios that eventually connect to the side of the house where a large, palo verde tree shades the home from Western sun.
All the exterior metal was intentionally left to weather to blend in with the desert surroundings of home. Many of the original saguaro cactus and joshua trees that were originally planted in the early 60’s remain and are augmented with other low use plants. A desert tortoise enclosure was created as part of the side yard for a tortoise rescued through Arizona Game and Fish to reside. The tortoise feeds exclusively off the plants installed in the tortoise area.
The major mid-century elements of the house were kept. Keeping the flat and low sloped roofs with glass clerestories and large cantilevered overhangs was very important to the homeowners.
Exposing the original structure and original materials is at the heart of the project and what breathes life into the home while still keeping its midcentury design values.
The renovation project faced many challenges that are common to any mid-century renovation project. Throughout the design process there is a constant battle of trying to make spaces larger, more open and taller to accommodate a modern family’s lifestyle while balancing those wants with keeping the character and architecture of the home.
Restoring the original structure had its challenges. Once all the original materials were sandblasted it became obvious that the home was darker than hoped. Adding white drywall and lighting in a way to not detract from the original design elements greatly helped to lighten up the spaces, especially at night.
This particular project took over a decade to complete. Much of the work was either directly completed by the homeowners or done under their direct supervision all while they lived in the house. That large amount of sweat equity greatly helped to extend the budget.
Photos by Andrew Jarsen