A respectful renovation and fearless décor move a mid-century modern home into the 21st century.
By Brad Mee, Photos by Scot Zimmerman
The home’s butterfly roof allows the cedar slatted ceiling to slope upward, drawing the eye up and out through floor-to-ceiling windows. New ceiling insulation, solar panels, bamboo floors and energy-efficient windows are among the renovation’s eco-friendly additions. Boldly furnished sitting areas animate the large, open great room. Photo by Scot Zimmerman.
Uttering the words “good bones” to describe a house is akin to using “sweet personality” to sell a blind date. The expressions sound warning bells. But when architect Ann Robinson used the former phrase to explain the original condition of a mid-century modern home that she, designers Belle Kurudzija and LaMar Lisman, and contractor Matt Russell recently remodeled, it was pure flattery.
“We knew this house was great from the beginning,” says Robinson of the dynamic Salt Lake dwelling that dates back to the 1960s. “Our goal from the start was to remodel it, while respecting its unique style every step of the way.”
The interior ceiling plane extends outside, expanding the sense of space and connection to the landscape. A colorful rug visually links the dining space to the adjoining living area. Photo by Scot Zimmerman.
Nestled in a quiet Cottonwood neighborhood, the 3,000-square-foot, single-level dwelling has what few homes can claim: authenticity. Its flat architectural planes, big windows, wide-open rooms and strong connection to the outdoors are archetypal of classic mid-century modern design.
Fortunately, the owners’ commitment to maintaining the original style remained steadfast throughout the renovation process. “Preserving the architectural integrity of the home was extremely important,” Lisman says.
The shimmering riveted brass fireplace treatment was added early in the home’s life. The designers added clear glass firebox doors. Photo by Scot Zimmerman.
For the sort who appreciate and live in homes of this kind, there is little waffling when it comes to remodeling decisions. They remove imprudent alterations made over the years and lovingly restore damaged and timeworn elements.
The home’s owners took this route, while also adding modern conveniences and sustainable features to their must-have list. Following their clients’ lead, the pros transformed the dwelling into an improved version of its original self, complete with a few surprising twists.
The fun begins at the step-down entry, where a new glass wall and modern glass-paned door draw light into a foyer completely clad in cedar planks. Its once-cherry wood floor is now ceramic tile, a modern solution that’s more functional, says senior project designer Kurudzija. The small foyer steps up into an impressively large great room walled by expanses of new energy-efficient windows linking indoors and out.
This split-level transition from a private entry into an open, light-filled interior is a hallmark of mid-century modern design and one the team resolutely retained. “We spent a lot of time choosing replacement windows with frames that don’t impose on the views or the architecture,” Russell says.
The designers’ daring use of color and shapely furnishings infuse the great room. Overhead beams and a solid white wall define a visual break in the space where Kurudzija and Lisman staged low-profile, high-style furniture that allows light and views to flow freely throughout the inviting sitting area. Photos by Scot Zimmerman.
Many additional features define the great room’s distinctive design. Overhead, a cedar-slat ceiling follows the lines of the unique V-shaped butterfly roof while unifying the open living, dining, kitchen and entry areas. “The ceilings make the whole space,” Kurudzija says. A brick wall extends from the great room out onto the patio, visually linking indoors with out.
Lisman and Kurudzija strategically painted this and other walls chalk white. “White creates a gallery look that allows the architecture to stand out,” Lisman says. It also provided the ideal backdrop for a bold mix of bright colors and shapely forms introduced by large-scale furnishings, eye-catching art and select accessories.
“We used color and function to divide the large living room,” says Lisman, who worked with Kurudzija methodically to form conversation and reading areas devoid of structural barriers. Beginning with intensely colored rugs placed atop new bamboo floors, the duo formed three high-style groupings.
For the first, they clustered four zebra-patterned wingchairs that break the room’s low horizontal lines and add a highly unexpected pop of pattern. A second grouping pairs a low-profile tufted orange sofa with an iconic Eames chair. For the third, they placed a navy womb chair and round nesting tables in front of the stunning riveted brass fireplace. While individually impressive, the room’s furnishings were teamed to fill the space with statement-making style. “This is all about the look, not the separate pieces,” Lisman says.
Completely gutted, the master bathroom boasts new clearstory windows and a glass-walled shower. Photo by Scot Zimmerman.
To transform the dark, outdated kitchen into a light-filled, functional space, the team enlarged an existing window, reconfigured the room and installed a new breakfast bar to replace a solid wall separating the kitchen from the adjacent dining area.
Kurudzija and Lisman swapped the kitchen’s laminate countertops with quartz, and installed beech wood cabinets distinctly designed with matching horizontal grain that runs continuously across the doors and drawers. Rod-like hardware dresses the cabinets, while “quirky” geometric patterned glass tile animates the backsplash.
A new breakfast bar replaced a wall that blocked the kitchen from the open great room. New quartz counter tops and beech wood cabinets perfectly suit the mid-century home’s style and pedigree. Photo by Scot Zimmerman.
“I had the most fun on this project,” Kurudzija says. The same holds true for all of the professionals. From the start, each had a special fondness for the 50-year-old house, good bones and all.