written by: Brad Mee Photos by: Scot Zimmerman
Built in 1956, the modern home discreetly nestles into the lushly landscaped Federal Heights property.
In Salt Lake City, a creative couple treats a classic home to mid-century cool with here-and-now livability.
A home can be many things: a passion, a project, a process—and for a lucky few, paradise. For Michael Peterson and his husband Darrin Jensen-Peterson, their recently acquired mid-century modern home located in Salt Lake’s Federal Heights neighborhood is all of these.
“We have always loved this house,” says Michael. He had seen its interior before and, countless times, he and Darrin admired the house which they passed en route to their home. One day, the duo realized the dwelling was being renovated, and they inquired whether the current owners would consider selling it. To the men’s delight, the response was yes. The duo walked through the home and purchased it the very same day.
“I love that it is so inconspicuous,” says Darrin of the one story, 1956-built dwelling. Unlike the majority of the tony neighborhood’s showier homes, this house—with its period-perfect low-angle roof and stacked-stone and brick façade—sits discreetly behind a hedged-in circle drive and a lush landscape, shaded by enviably large trees. Inside, the house satisfied the couple’s wish-list from the get-go. The modest 3,700-square-foot interior guarantees no idle spaces. “In the past, we’ve had large homes with unused rooms behind closed doors, and we didn’t want that anymore,” Michael explains. Broad walls provide abundant space for the couple’s art, while large expanses of glass and skylights flood the interior with bright light. Living areas flow seamlessly into one another, yet still afford a sense of intimacy, creating the perfect floor plan for this couple’s love of entertaining. The same is true of the home’s strong connection between indoors and out—a key element of midcentury modern design. Large windows and doors link the striking interior with a deep, covered patio and a surprisingly large yard, expanding the home’s livability and sense of space. “We started with a really nice canvas for us to make the home our own,” Darrin says.
The couple acknowledges the admirable job the previous owners had done on their moderate renovation, marked by quality finishes and workmanship including a new roof and windows. Fortunately, the limited remodel allowed Darrin and Michael to instill their own aesthetic direction easily. “We didn’t want to buy someone else’s design,” Michael says. Equally important, the re-do relieved the pair of taking on another major remodel. “We had done many extensive renovations and we didn’t want to tackle another one.”
The couple’s style-savvy makeover of the home—inside and out—required three months before they moved in. Interior projects ranged from fine-tuning the walnut floors and adding fireplaces in the kitchen and master bedroom to transforming a bedroom into a handsomely paneled office and installing a large pass-through window between the kitchen and pool area.
The landscape required more extensive efforts. Redesigning the large yard themselves, they completely transformed it, craning in large trees, changing elevations and carving out gardens and intimate gathering spaces. The couple also added a swimming pool, which proved arduous. “It had to be hand-dug because the backyard isn’t accessible for large equipment,” Darrin explains. The pair dramatically expanded the beauty and usability of the backyard by replacing a seasonal, thirsty lawn with evergreen artificial grass, installing overhead heaters to the large covered patio and placing hip, comfortable furnishings at every turn. Their goal was to make the outdoors as inviting and livable as the inside of the home year-round—or as much as the weather permits. “We love to create different outdoor spaces and then relax and entertain in them as much as possible,” says Darrin, explaining that it isn’t uncommon for them to spend time on the heated patio even during the winter.
Indoors, a keenly curated mix of modern furnishings captures the sexy sophistication of mid-century design without making the décor a prisoner to the period. “We love mid-century, but we’re not purists,” Darrin explains. In the living room, for example, clerestory windows and a sloped ceiling create an iconic mid-century stage for a low-sitting sofa by Cassina, paired with sculptural Maxalto chairs atop a shaggy wool rug and walnut floors. Room to room, the interplay of period architecture, bright open space, collected art and comfortable, swank furnishings caters to the couple’s love of design, entertaining and relaxed living—indoors and out. “I love the mid-century period,” says Darrin, “It suggests a lifestyle.”
In the end, Darrin explains simply, this is the end. They’re here to stay. Michael agrees. “The longest I’ve lived in a house is ten years, but we don’t want to leave this one,” he says. “For us, this is home.”