Highlights from the 2018 AIA Tour

text and photos by Lynne Rostochil.

One of my very favorite days of the year is the annual AIA tour, where architecture lovers from all over the city get to meander through inspiring interiors of local homes and businesses designed by some of the state’s best architects.  Before the tour, I always think that this year’s stops can’t live up to the previous year’s, and every single year I’m pleasantly surprised — 2018 was no different.  So, let’s start with one of the biggest hits of the tour, the Streamline Moderne Jones House in Nichols Hills:

This home in the heart of Nichols Hills was designed by Rue Berlowitz & Commander and constructed in 1948.  The modern design was such a standout in Oklahoma City that the home received a full page ad in the Oklahoman, which dubbed it “Tomorrow’s Home.”

The home was built for a member of the Harter family, who owned the Harter Concrete Company, so it’s no big surprise that it was constructed mostly of that material.  In the last few years, another owner painted this glorious Streamline home pink and teal:

I guess they were big “Miami Vice” fans.

A few years ago, the Jones family purchased the home, which was still structurally sound but needed a lot of love.  They hired Gardner Architects and Brent Swift to do a sensitive remodel of the house with incredible results.  Spaces were brightened when exposed concrete block was plastered a soft white, and formerly closed off rooms were opened up — the living room, kitchen, and den now flow much more organically and provide stunning vistas of the remodeled backyard by Brent Wall of LAUD:

The beautiful hallway with its long horizontal windows remains the same, which I was very happy to see:

The hall leads to a large playroom/guest suite with its own kitchen:

The office has such a great view of the backyard — I’m not sure how anyone can get any work done when that enticing pool quietly beckons:

The guest bath is pretty great, too:

On the other side of the house, there’s a kid’s room and the lovely master suite:

Yeah, this is truly a dream home!

The next stop was equally impressive for very different reasons.  Squirrel Park, located at 1226 NW 32nd, is a four-unit complex of shipping containers centered around a communal garden and fountain:

Architects Allford Hall Monaghan Morris did a fantastic job of modding up these containers and creating very open, livable spaces that feel much larger than each unit’s 1,400 sf would suggest.  On the main floor, an open-plan kitchen overlooks a large living room with sliding glass doors that open to one of two outdoor patios:

Can I just say how thrilled I was to see some COLOR in this place?!  It was so exciting to walk in and not see greige everywhere.  The upstairs shower between the two large bedrooms is also yellow:

Yeah, if I ever decide to give up on being a homeowner, I’m moving to Squirrel Park, for sure.

Another multi-unit community on the tour was the beautifully designed Classen 29 at 1419 NW 29th St.  Designed by Common Works Architects, the project was “developed by the Jefferson Park Neighbors Association seeking to provide an affordable for-sale housing product while improving vacant or dilapidated properties.  Two existing properties with distressed houses were cleared and combined into a single development parcel to allow for the construction of six new single-family houses,” according to the AIA tour brochure.

The development is still under construction, and the six homes — two one-story and four two-story examples — face a common sidewalk and feature large porches and small private yards.

Inside, the common areas are ample and open to each other to maximize space:

How cool is this unusual mid-century modern stereo cabinet in the living room:

This poster is pretty great, too:

Yep, good decor!

Two bedrooms, a laundry area, and a bathroom make up the top floor of the two-story home.  Here’s one of the bedrooms with nice light and a vaulted ceiling:

These two lovely people are Cate and Mike from Australia.  They were in OKC on vacation and stumbled upon the tour at the Jones House.  We chatted for a bit, and I became their chauffeur and tour guide for the day.  We had a great day together, and they were very impressed with all of the good design happening in OKC.

Anyway, the decor in this bedroom is great here, too, with architectural models on the wall and shelf:

And, I think I could spend all day in a rocking chair on this beautiful porch reading a book and chatting with my neighbors:

From Classen 29, Mike, Cate, and I took a little detour and visited a Midtown condo that realtor Monty Milburn was showing, and I have to say that it was as stunning as the rest of the goodies we looked at that day.

Check out this three-story living space:

The view from the stairs:

Pretty dramatic, aye?  If you get tired of climbing all of those stairs, you can always take a break on the landing and enjoy the view of the living room:

The bedrooms were very nice, too:

But the best part of the whole place was the jaw dropping rooftop deck:

What a great view of downtown:

Mike and Cate enjoying the view:

Okay, back on the tour, our next stop was 323 in Midtown, which was once part of the Swanson Tire complex and is now home to Gardner Architects:

At merely 2,000 sf, 323 isn’t a huge space, but the former four-bay garage has been designed very thoughtfully to take full advantage of every square inch of space.  The open design studio consists of a large workspace and library flanked by floor-to-ceiling doors that allow for a ton of natural light and make the space look much bigger than it is:

These work tables are on casters, so they can be rolled out of the away or together, depending on the need:

The conference room is a great space, too:

And check out the funky tile in the kitchen:

Fun stuff!

Next up on the tour was Saxum at the Heritage.

The former Journal Record Building was constructed in 1923 as a Masonic lodge and then became an insurance company headquarters and theater before the newspaper moved in.  In 2016, Heritage Wealth Management purchased the east part of the building (the western wing is home to the Oklahoma National Memorial & Museum) and renovations began.  Saxum occupies the fifth and sixth floors — the sixth floor is the newly constructed penthouse level.  Check out the great view from the lobby area of Saxum:

And check out this great waiting room:

HSE Architects had a few challenges designing this space, namely what to do with the dimly lit fifth floor, which was originally the building’s giant mechanical area.  The solution is pure genius.  Five holes were cut into the penthouse floor and giant, 12-foot-long polycarbonate and glass lightboxes were installed over them to create a multi-use work space on that floor while letting in much-needed light into the fifth floor space.  Each lightbox boldly announces one of Saxum’s core values: Brave, Original, Lively, Driven, and Bold:

Here are the lightboxes upstairs:

We’ll check out how this affects the downstairs in a bit.  The penthouse level contains several offices and meeting rooms, a kitchen area, and a conference room with unparalleled views of Automobile Alley and Midtown:

The common spaces are relaxed and friendly:

Next to the work area is a leather-clad meeting/lounge/party room:

Back in the work area, a grand, award-laden staircase leads down to the fifth floor:

And here’s the effect of the giant lightboxes downstairs:

The fifth floor now has an abundance of natural light that makes this a happy and friendly work area:

Who would ever think that a warehouse could be sexy?  Well, Deatschwerks is all of that and even more!

Formerly the home of the National Biscuit Company (Nabisco), the expanded 36,000 sf warehouse now houses Deatschwerks, a manufacturer of aftermarket, high performance fuel systems for some of the fastest cars in the world, including “OKC’s Street Outlaws, Ford’s factory drag car, the Cobra Jet Mustang, and many of the top competitors in Formula Drift,” according to the AIA tour brochure.

The facility has its own media department:

And a wall of offices lead to the development/quality control/storage areas in the warehouse:

Here, co-owner Mike Deatsch talks about the development of Deatschwerks’ powerful products…

…while one of the company’s smaller 3D scanners is busy at work:

Some of the fuel injection systems ready for quality control:

What a fun space and such a fascinating look at one of the metro’s most interesting businesses.

Unfortunately, by this time in the tour we were running late and had to skip seeing the M. Dewayne Andrews Academic Tower at the OU College of Medicine, but I’ve heard that it’s a very impressive space and will check it out soon.  The last stop of the day was the Mediterranean style, 7,700 sf Sundial House, which was constructed in 1919:

The home was built by John Sinopolous, who, along with his brother, Peter, developed OKC’s first amusement park, Delmar Gardens in 1902.  He also owned several theaters around the metro and could well afford to build this lovely Italian villa in the heart of the prairie.

According to the National Register nomination form (the home was added in 1978), “John G. Sinopoulo was born in Greece, came to the United States in 1890 and arrived in Oklahoma in 1903. Not known specifically for his wealth, he was better known for his contributions to entertainment and culture in the Oklahoma City area. He built Delmar Gardens, a popular amusement park, with picnic facilities, train rides, refreshment stands, theater, Ferris wheel and other carnival rides which was enjoyed till it closed in 1910.”  (The Delmar Gardens site is now home to the Farmers Market complex):

“He built the Lyric Theater, and was part of the organization and management of many theaters and vaudeville houses in the area. Mrs. Sinopoulo was an artist, who painted throughout her entire life. She died in 1976, followed by her husband in 1977, at the age of 101. John Sinopoulo also built many buildings and cultural things in his hometown in Greece, and was knighted by King Paul of Greece. He was inducted posthumously into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1995.”

The AIA tour brochure states that, “Katherine Sinopolous was one of the first women to graduate from the Chicago Fine Arts Academy and was responsible for the construction of a cardboard model used by the architect, John Eberson, when designing the Sundial House.”  Here’s a photo of the home soon after it was constructed:

The same general view of the home today — that’s the pool pavilion on the right:

Architect Eberson was known primarily for designing grand movie palaces.  His only OKC theater design was for the Mayan-themed Midwest Theater, which was demolished at the height of Urban Renewal in 1975.  Here’s the theater in its heyday:

And here it is shortly before it was demolished:

Finally, here are the sad remains after it was taken down:

So heartbreaking.  While many of his theaters met the same fate as the Midwest Theater, there are a few of Eberson’s palaces still around, including the beautifully preserved Majestic Theater in Dallas…

…and the Lakewood Theater, also in Dallas:

This incredible home is a true time capsule from the days of Prohibition and partying flappers, as you can see from the second you walk in the front door and are greeted by the dramatic staircase:

With a house like this, you have to have a great room, right?  Well, this one has one of the greatest great rooms ever:

I mean, really!  What a space.  Every single thing in this room is original, including the lighting:

A second story landing overlooks the room:

And heavy wrought iron gates lead into the expansive dining room:

Yep, that’s another original light fixture over the table:

On the other side of the dining room is surely the most magical room in the entire house, the awe-inspiring sun room:

This room!  I just can’t stand it!  Everything about it exudes tranquility and complete perfection, from the tiled fireplace on the opposite wall:

To the gorgeously tiled floor…

…that borders a long-disused-but-still-spectacular fountain:

The fountain is framed by an atrium of paned windows:

What a truly glorious space — it makes me feel like I could easily time travel back to the halcyon days of The Great Gatsby.  I can so easily see this space nearly 100 years ago decked out with exotic palm trees surrounding the delicately streaming fountain and white wicker fan chairs perfectly placed around the room.  On matching wicker tables rests large tumblers beading with sweat and brimming with yellow lemonade mixed with unidentifiable bootlegged intoxicants.  There’s a card table in the corner with a man in a perfectly pressed white linen suit seemingly playing rummy with a beautifully coiffed femme fatal.  She’s wearing a thinner-than-air, flowy chiffon dress capped with a floppy summer hat that dips in front to create a mysterious and oh-so-seductive half-face.  Of course, she’s in soft focus and the late afternoon light expertly bounces off the brim of her hat to catch the twinkle in her only-exposed eye that leaves her ardent suitor unable to concentrate on anything but her.

You can see it, too, can’t you?

If not, here are a couple of images to inspire you:

Yes, I know I’m mixing my Great Gatsby’s, but hopefully this gets you into the spirit of the fantasy that the gorgeous sun room inspires.

I didn’t really want to shake off the magic of this enthralling space, but the upstairs beckoned so I had to leave Daisy and Jay behind.  I’m happy to say that I wasn’t at all disappointed to climb that lovely staircase…

…and stroll to the landing overlooking the great room:

The landing is actually a cozy reading room/den:

Off of the reading room is the all-original master suite with an orange tiled fireplace that will make you squeal with awe.  I think my not-so-quiet gasp of delight was heard throughout the house and likely even awoke the ghosts of Daisy and Jay in the sun room downstairs.  I mean, LOOK AT IT!!

I can barely contain my enthusiasm just looking at this photo.  This gorgeous thing is right here in Oklahoma City — can you believe it?!  Nope, I can’t, either.  With the sun room downstairs and this stunning artifact, I really didn’t think things could get better — and then I stepped into the bathroom, which begins with this sweet vanity area:

The vanity area leads into the bathroom:

Look, more great tile!

And dual Art Deco sinks:

Yeah, I know, it’s just, just — I really don’t have the words, it’s so good!

A flight of stairs off of the master bedroom leads to a private studio surrounded on all sides by windows.  This was Katherine’s studio and was added to the house in 1929:

I feel like a five year old because all I can come up with to say about this is a kid-like and very enthusiastic “Wow!” and “Golly gee!”

Okay, before I completely revert back to a drooling toddler, let’s get out of this grand palace via the beautiful stairway…

…and go outside where I can regain control of my brain and leave the lovely fantasy world inspired by the Sundial House.

Unfortunately, that’s not going to be so easy because there’s an unexpected and very crazy rock-framed pond out back that is pretty spectacular, too:

All of the rocks are porous coral in all shapes and sizes:

There used to be waterfalls cascading down rock ledges into the pond, which overlooks the house:

Can’t you just see Jay and Daisy standing on the arched bridge and looking longingly into each other’s eyes?  Of course, they are beautifully backlit so they are almost glowing, and even more frustrating for us mere mortals, they don’t even come close to breaking a sweat or getting wind blown in the unpredictable Oklahoma weather.

Darn them!  Well, at least I got the right Great Gatsby team this time….

Also, several of the walkways in the yard are composed of old tiles and materials from movie theaters that were torn down during Sinopolous’s lifetime.  He gathered them from work sites and placed them in his yard to remember them by:

The final treasure of the backyard is the covered pool next to the house:

Like the rest of the house, it needs a lot of love.

Sinopolous’s heirs lived in the home until 2001, when they sold it to the neighboring Mount Olive Baptist Church.  The home was on the market again in 2015 when OU architecture students used it as their yearly project and came up with several proposals that are very interesting — you can view them here.

In 2016, Keena Oden bought the Sundial House and is slowly renovating it.  The carpet was removed and various structural elements have been restored.  Also, the bad ’70s kitchen and drop ceiling have been removed.  I hope she’ll be able to make it a magnificent showplace once more and new generations will find it as magical and captivating as I did.

So, after all of that touring, Mike, Cate, and I were a bit parched and headed to R&J’s Lounge for a little pick-me-up and for more good conversation.  Here we are, sated and happy, after what is always one of the best days of the year:

Thanks to the Central Chapter of the AIA, all of the volunteers, and the home/business owners for another great tour.  Can’t wait til next year!