The Coston House: A Farmhouse Grows — and Grows Younger

by Lynne Rostochil

Not too long ago, we profiled the wonderful Coston House in Edmond, which was beautifully photographed by Julius Shulman soon after it was built in 1954.  I thought I knew all of the publications the house appeared in until I stumbled across the Fall-Winter 1958 issue of the Home Modernizing Guide at a flea market and found an entire article dedicated to the remodeled farmhouse on the prairie — with even more Shulman photos of the house!  Of course, I quickly snapped up the magazine to share with you.  It’s a goodie!  Here’s the article with some really rare color photos of the home (captions are in italics):

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 Unusual features give character to living room where exposed girders provide a dramatically soaring architectural detail.  Off-floor fireplace is an integral part of the supporting ledge stone wall.  On three sides, glass and sky-high window open whole room to the countryside.

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Outside view of living room wing shows how plantings along glass wall give effect of combined greenhouse and living room, with the blooms constantly in sight. 


Born 1893, a farmhouse grows — and grows younger

coston house shulman home modernization guide original house

Before.  Old house, seen from rear, was outwardly dilapidated but still sound in basic structure.

On the surface, the old house you see here looks like a highly unpromising prospect for a major modernizing project.  Why not tear it down and start anew?  For one thing, its structure was — for an old-timer — surprisingly sound and promised many more years of use.  As it stood on an 80-acre farm not far from Oklahoma City, it caught the eye of architect Truett Coston who carries on his profession in the nearby city.  Here his family could escape some of the city’s hustle-bustle and begin to enjoy life and each other.  Too, the broad acreage would let him indulge in his hobby of raising fine cattle.

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After.  Pleasant restoration give rear (above) contemporary look suitable with bold, clean-cut lines that characterize additions (below).

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As a modernizing job, it is anything but run-of-the-mill — or run-of-the-farm, for that matter.  It adds up to the kind of expert redesigning and expansion that can transform a horse-and-buggy house into a home of jet-age livability.  Many of its novel treatments might well be adapted, in whole or part, to other older homes situated on extensive plots.

coston house shulman home modernization guide color dining room

 Large dining room (above and below) is used for family room as well.  Above, looking in from passage beside inner court, is the end with storage cabinets, one holding the television set.  Opposite end (below) features a cozy brick fireplace.  In the foreground, dining table is hospitably extended.  When not in use, the table folds away against the wall, leaving room for all kinds of family activities and for informal entertaining.

coston house shulman home modernization guide color den

coston house shulman home modernization guide rendering drawing

 Living room wing to left and carport to right are major additions to the old 1893 farmhouse, rear center.  Entry to house is extended into walk to carports.

The main architectural effort centered about the addition of living room, master bedroom and carport to the existing structure.  An outstanding feature of the new plan is the living room wing with its mammouth chimney and gable roof dramatically pitched to the ground.

A talented modernizer applies a bold hand with form and materials and the result is a worthwhile investment

Another notable characteristic of the modernized version is the wide-open effect, giving flowers and trees a delightful nodding acquaintance with much of the interior.  In fact, the melding of house with nature was one of Mr. Coston’s main objectives.  Plantings of bougainvillea and hibiscus along the glass-walled sides of the living room give it the appearance of being set down in the middle of a greenhouse.  (In a former home, Mr. Coston says, it always bothered him to have the growing things isolated in a separate greenhouse where they couldn’t be constantly enjoyed.)  In the present arrangement, the greenery becomes part of the living room even at night, when floodlights in the trees stream through the foliage to light the interior.

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The living room wing is constructed of ledge stone for the huge chimney wall and glass for side walls, with steep wood shingle roof.  Note the natural touch of a tree growing right up through the aluminum screen over planting beside the glass wall.  Although modern in line and detail, this new structure has the look of belonging to the rural setting — one of Mr. Coston’s  objectives in modernizing and expanding his 1893 farmhouse to make a home for his family in the quiet countryside.

The general plan of the house, which appears spread out and complex from a bird’s eye squint, reveals itself to be well organized on closer examination.  The dining room, at the physical center of the layout, is also the living center.  Like so many today, it doubles as family and television room as well, and has turned out to be one of the pleasantest spots in the house, with a full view of the inner court.

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Looking squarely down on the roof in the bird’s eye view (below) and then at the detailed floor plan here, you get a clear idea of just what an extensive undertaking this was.  The shadowed section represents the area of the original farmhouse structure and its rezoning by architect Coston to fit contemporary needs.  Typical example of his originality in design is the posititioning of living room and carport at an angle.

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The living room proper, set apart and at an interesting angle for good exposure, keeps entertaining well separated from routine family life.

Kitchen, breakfast and utility rooms, lined up at the rear, make a tidy, compact working area — out of the way, yet near enough for convenience.  Here too, large expanses of glass carry out the open feeling, bring natural light to this whole area.

coston house shulman home modernization guide courtyard farmhouse

Here the charming inner court is seen from one side of the glass-walled passage.  Sculpture of a bird-watcher adds a modern touch as it hangs against the vertical wood siding.

Bedrooms have the desired privacy — even the two in the heart of the house open from a separate hall.  While one is located where it has no direct outside exposure, ventilation is efficiently taken care of here as in all the rooms by a five-ton heating and cooling unit.

While the home looks as modern as a world’d fair structure, its building materials appear happily at home in their country setting.  The exterior comprises one entire wall of ledge stone, with brick and board siding for the others, and a wood shingle roof.  Inside, there is more use of ledge stone and brick, with wood paneling.

coston house shulman home modernization guide courtyard

Glass, masonry and plant life combine to make inner court a study in striking contrasts.  Living room can be glimpsed through narrow slit of window that rises from lily pool to roof top.  Note floor diffuser in hall — part of year-round heating-cooling system.

Sixty-five years old, but young as today — that’s what modernizing has meant for the Coston home on the “farm,” where the Hereford cattle probably watch the cars fly swiftly by and ruminate on what this world is coming to.

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Steel structure provides protection for carport-to-entry walk.  See-through living room wing has fixed canopy of aluminum jutting out on each side of gabled roof to make a shelter for plantings beneath.  Both trees pass through. 

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Metal framed panes of transparent glass carry the steep-slanting roof line to the ground, creating a conservatory for the plantings.  The aluminum canopy that acts as a screen from wind and hail is louvered to let light through.

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This simple wooden overhang outside the breakfast room and kitchen gives the rear of the house a needed shield from the western sun.  Plantings in the grass beneath and a sociable tree spreading limbs above create an attractive whole.

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The lofty living room roof is well insulated by a ceiling of refrigeration cork material that is two inches thick.  The rectangular shape and the texture of the slabs form a pleasing pattern over this great expanse.

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South end of the living room is separated from the entry hall by a brick partition which is an extension of the exterior wall.  The inner court can be seen through the floor-to-roof window in the end wall of ledge stone.

coston house shulman home modernization guide living room

Outstanding among the many novel and effective ideas in the Coston house is the method of lighting the living room for general purposes.  Floodlights placed in the trees throw their beams inside through the foliage and the glass walls.