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A Modernist Jewel Uncovered

by - Thursday, November 05, 2009

I really shouldn't be writing this post. Not that it isn't post-worthy - it is - but if anyone should be talking about this house:

...its HandyMan. This is the house that started it all. This is the house in which HandyMan grew up. Its the house his parents bought in 1969 and which Mama HandyLuster lived in until we sold it this past June. Its a house filled with memories and experiences, good and bad, as all well-loved homes are. See that iron gate, the large dial sculpture, the fence? HandyMan built them. And he painted the exterior and laid the walkway too.

Here's the interior courtyard and the backyard pool. HandyMan laid the all the stones, built the lattice fencing, and even put in the koi pond to the right of the front door. Mama HandyLuster has a green thumb and planted beautiful magnolia trees, mulberry trees, rosebushes and an awesome corkscrew hazel on the property.

The interior of the house was last renovated in the 1980's so some of the finishes are, um, 'vintage' ;) But I hope you can appreciate the mid-century modern style layout with the ranch style design, long sightlines, and open spaces.
HandyMan and his Papa touched every surface in this place. They installed the clear cedar on the ceiling, cut out the wall for the sunroom, built the wood slat wall of doors, laid all the marble tile and hardwood, and even sawed real bricks in half to create the feature wall.

Some views of the other eclectically decorated rooms. There's definitely some style choices we won't be replicating... like walls covered in cork, a dark teal painted room, and terra cotta tiles in the bedroom. We all have some design skeletons in our closet, don't we? ;o)

The kitchen was unique with striped tile floors, and 70's mirrored backsplash. And then there was the catch-all room in the back. Converted from part of the garage, this room housed Mama's office, storage closets, and laundry machine.

So this is the house as it looked when HandyMan learned to tear down walls, lay tile, install plumbing, paint walls, and in essence, become HandyMan.

And this is how the house looks now:

We were lucky to find a buyer of the house who loved it just as much as Mama and HandyMan did. One who could see beyond the dated finishes and realize the beauty of the space. A person, a family, who could do a sympathetic renovation and bring out the Modernist glory that was always just below the surface.

Throughout the years, HandyMan would have grand ideas for the space - blowing out walls, clean consistent flooring, more minimalist design - but soon enough he was out in the world, working on his own homes, and those ideas were never realized. Until now. The new owners hired talented Reigo & Bauer to do the renovation. They created a very contemporary design that allows this house to shine, don't you think? I love the sharp colours - black ceiling, electric orange kitchen, white walls. Everything looks so alive. So right.

We hope the lovely family that now lives in this home enjoys it and fills it to the brim with memories. Thank you for allowing us to share these photos! Selling the house was difficult (is it ever easy?) so to be able to see that the right owners got the place helps bring closure and puts a welcome salve on fresh memories. Moving on now. Good bye, old house.

(Note: all the photos on Reigo & Bauer's site were taken by uber-talented Tom Arban, who also did the photos for the book HandyMan and I wrote together. So it is very likely that our good friend Tom will be taking photos of HandyMan's childhood home for the designers' portfolio. What a small world, indeed).

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  1. What a sweet post. I love everything about the "befores" as much as the afters. This place is special.

  2. Stunning, both the befores and afters...wonderful post! Thanks for sharing, Janell

  3. What a great post. I really enjoy the before and afters photos.

  4. what a great house! and i agree, the befores are just as beautiful.

  5. Gorgeous befores and afters! It's always a great feeling to know that the new owners of a beloved home appreciate and respect the spirit of it.

  6. I love this house. This is the type of house we would love to move into - so much character! Love it!

  7. My god, what a great house to grow up in. I kind of prefer the befores! :)

  8. OMG I know this house. I used to live in that neighbourhood and would walk by wondering what it looked like inside ... it is so well protected you could never get a glimpse!

    Thanks for the look inside.

  9. This is beautiful! Even the before photos looked awesome. Is this in Canada?!

  10. Anonymous12:17 PM

    Thanks everyone for the kind words – even though Wanderluster is right, I probably should have written this post. I think she did it justice though. It was certainly a great home to grow up in and also as an incubator for design ideas and creativity. We always joked that it was a permanent construction experiment. It is funny to look back now and realize how these things influence our lives and decisions in later life. Of course wanting to be an architect was inspired, in part, by the creativity of my entire extended family and living in this house, but also to this day I still have a problem with stairs and don’t feel too comfortable in basements (we just didn’t have either in that house). In the end, I was saddened to let it go, being the only house I have ever lived in, but we also knew that it was time to move on and let someone else’s creative energy shine through.

    Well done new owners / architects, I am sure my late father is smiling from above (he always wanted all white walls) and I finally got to see one consistent floor throughout. Nice job…


  11. looks like Heaven to me !
    and I love this large piece of water... I could spend hours unwinding there.
    what an achievement :)

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