On the Market: The Super Stylish Vollendorf House
by Lynne Rostochil. Vintage photos from issue #57 of the New Homes Guide and the Norman Transcript, current photos by Lynne Rostochil.
Recently, the Mod Squad was invited to tour the home that Dean Bryant Vollendorf designed for himself while he was a professor of architecture at the University of Oklahoma. Tucked away in a Norman neighborhood filled with more traditional ranches, Vollendorf’s low slung red brick and shingled abode with its chimney jutting to the stars is quite the show stopper.
Vollendorf lovingly dubbed his creation “Mustang” and according a Friends of Kebyar journal article devoted to Vollendorf’s career, the architect had two purposes in mind while designing his home: “house my needs, and see if I could get an FHA mortgage. Both turned out possible and (a spin off) was the publication of the home in New Homes Guide.” Here’s Vollendorf’s drawing of the home that appeared in the guide:
And here it is soon after it was constructed in 1965 with his own personal Mustang in the carport:
Originally, the front door opened to an interior courtyard living space with access to the living room and bedroom, as you can see from Vollendorf’s floorplan:
Here’s what the interior courtyard looked like when he lived in the home — love that built-in seating and fountain next to the door:
The subsequent owner (and the head of the School of Architecture at OU during Vollendorf’s time at the university), John York, enclosed the courtyard and that’s the way it remains today:
Vollendorf was not one bit happy about the changes York made to his lovely home — maybe he thought that it was disrespectful for one architect to mess with another’s work or maybe he just found John York’s taste level questionable. Certainly, York’s work in Texas and his other buildings in Oklahoma are lovely, as you can see here and here, but I do agree that he probably should have been more thoughtful about the changes he made to Vollendorf’s creation. For example, one thing York did was to enclose the carport and turn it into a laundry room. It’s a great and very spacious laundry room, too; however, he used the living room’s interior doors to enclose the garage, which doesn’t look bad but is a little odd:
Okay, so that’s a little funky, but I like funky. Besides, York didn’t touch the best parts of Vollendorf’s creation and that’s a great thing. When I say best parts, this is what I mean — the incredible living area where exterior light dances around the room throughout the day and the open space makes the room seem much larger than it actually is:
Oh and how about the red brick floor-to-ceiling fireplace, built-in sofa, and low diffused lighting that gives the room its huge wow factor. What an impact this space has!
Interestingly — or infuriatingly more like — when the current owner first began talking with realtors about listing the home, one of them told her to rip out this divine divan, cover the original concrete floors with wood, and install granite countertops in the kitchen. Luckily for the future owners and for MCM enthusiasts everywhere, she was too smart for such an inappropriate HGTV-style fix and quickly said no to the dummy who suggested such blasphemy. So these stunning original elements remain just as they were when Vollendorf lived there from 1965-1971.
Vollendorf’s protege and great friend, Gary McCowan, who is an inspired organic architect in his own right, joined us at the Mod Squad house tour to talk about Vollendorf and share some of the memorabilia he’s collected of his mentor’s work.
It was such a treat having him join us and share his stories and laughter with everyone:
One of the most interesting pieces he brought is a Norman Transcript article about the house from 1966 that I’d like to share with you (I’ll insert photos within the article to illustrate its points):
A home designed for night living. That’s what Dean Bryant Vollendorf, OU associate professor of architecture, wanted when he designed his home at 1424 Westbrook(e) Terrace.
The home incorporates such features as skylights and indirect lighting to provide a relaxed atmosphere, particularly for a man who spends many hours under the bright lights at the OU School of Architecture.
Privacy Basic Concern
Vollendorf said that the house is primarily a prototype for a typical speculator house for builders throughout the nation. “Privacy is the basic concern in the over-all design,” the OU architect explained.
Indirect lighting is found throughout the house. In the kitchen, for instance, lights are in the overhead cabinets and serve the twofold purpose of illuminating the shelves as well as providing light for the area beneath.
A skylight is inconspicuously placed above the fireplace. “During the evenings when the moon is passing overhead, its shadow follows a path across the floor,” Vollendorf said. “It is a very interesting sight to see.”
The floors throughout the house are a single slab of painted concrete. “With only one coat of wax applied every six weeks, they hold up pretty well,” Vollendorf said. “Of course, when a few of my students come over to the house quite frequently, the floor takes a bit of a beating.” Although the floor is cement, Vollendorf has no problem with heating. “The Central heating is located around the perimeter of the house. So there isn’t any problem with having a cold floor,” he said.
The house is versatile, with two bedrooms and a study that may be used for other purposes.
The design calls for a master bedroom on one side and a guest room on the other side of a study and bathroom. The bathroom features a shower that can be enclosed for taking a steam bath and a detachable shower head for mobility. The bathroom itself is a mixture of mellow brown tones in ceramic tile with mahogany paneling on the walls.
The study opens out into the living room to allow for more space when needed for entertaining. “With the extra space from the study, I have been able to comfortably seat 27 people for dinner and handle 40 for a party,” he said.
Vollendorf refers to the atrium directly off from the living room as his “Oklahoma Room.” Used as the main entryway into the home, this room provides year-round living space. A skylight overhead, protected by a screen, provides sunlight for a tree growing beneath. “When it rains, the moisture just drains through the red paving brick placed over a sand base,” the designer said.
The kitchen is designed with added spaciousness in mind, Vollendorf explains. “The overhead cabinets are situated so as not to be in the way. The wall length cabinets at the end of the room are built into the wall, thus providing more space. All of the cabinets open with a push, thus eliminating the need for handles.”
Over-all, the house has 1,400 square feet of space, providing for about 2,000 feet of rude living space, Vollendorf said. “There are two patios that may be used for entertaining and as a play area for children,” he explained.
In addition, there is 28 lineal feet of hanging storage throughout the house. A linen closet in the corridor opens up as a closet and a medicine cabinet when opened from the bathroom.”
“All of the furniture is of an early American modern design of the 1900 era,” Vollendorf said. “The china is of modern Danish design.”
Outside, the landscaping is designed for self-maintenance because of Vollendorf’s busy schedule. The low roof is made of hand-split cedar shakes that extend close to the ground. It is supported by a red brick foundation that is exposed on the interior of the house.
A carport serves almost as a garage, as it is sheltered on three sides and has an entrance from the atrium.
Vollendorf feels that his home is less costly than a conventional home. “The house is designed to take maximum advantage of solar heat in the winter, and to make full use of the southwesterly breezes in the summer,” he said. “The only maintenance is limited to the doors and windows.”
In essence the house incorporates a formality of design with a casual air of privacy. The home is featured in the winter-spring issue of “New Homes Guide,” which will be released this week.
I couldn’t have described this wonderful abode any better myself! And, FYI, we will be posting the complete New Homes Guide article about the Vollendorf House on the Mod Blog soon.
Vollendorf loved this graceful creation of his so much that he visited it many times throughout the years until his death in 2008. He’d pop in and chat with the current owner about all of the happy gatherings he hosted in the home during his highly creative OU years, the peace this space gave him, and even his disappointment with York’s remodels. His affection for the home was transferred to the current owner, who is putting the Vollendorf House on the market after 25 years of ownership with more than a tinge of sadness. She’s hoping to find a thoughtful owner who will treasure and preserve this delightful MCM masterpiece for many years to come.
If you think you’re the right person to be the next owner of this remarkable home, contact Mark McCurdy w/Don Cies Realty. His cell is 405.410-7771 or you can email him at McCurdy@doncies.com. The asking price is $175,000.