The 2018 Oklahoma Modernism Weekend Mod Home Tour

text and photos by Lynne Rostochil unless otherwise stated.

Without question, my favorite part of the Oklahoma Modernism Weekend is the Mod Home Tour because all of the chaos of the weekend is over and we can just sit back and relax in our cozy bus seats while our friendly driver (we had Richard this year) takes us to some of the metro’s most outstanding abodes.  This year, we decided to surprise tour goers and not tell them a thing about the places we’d be visiting, and even with that, tickets sold out in a mere 30 hours!  Thanks to everyone who had faith that we’d show them some beautiful homes, and as you can see from the photos in this post, we did not disappoint.

Our first stop was a new mod owned by Dr. Brett and Jessica Nelson, and I can honestly say that my jaw dropped the second I walked in the door and it did not close again until we left.  Wow, wow, wow!!

When we arrived, Jessica happily greeted us (Terri got this snap of her):

Inspired by several iconic mid-century modern homes in Southern California, the Nelson House was constructed in 2016 and is an ‘L’ shaped, two-story home in the SoSA (South of St. Anthony) district that blurs the boundaries between indoors and outdoors.

Building materials include extensive glass, cedar and Douglas fir beams, steel, elongated brick, and hardy board. The open and spacious central living space regularly hosts live music events and can comfortably sit 50+ people.  Is this space a mod paradise or what?

Off of the main living area is the coolest in-home office space I’ve ever seen:

I could get a lot of work done in this inviting space, for sure.  On the other side of the living room is a giant kitchen/dining room that opens to a private courtyard on one side and the beautiful backyard on the other:

The courtyard:

The backyard overlooking downtown OKC:

This house even has two garages, one of which houses a few of the Nelson’s incredible collection of Porsches:

Back outside and looking toward the house, a large exterior deck and spiral staircase off the master bedroom provide an elevated view that interacts with the downtown skyline.

Speaking of the master bedroom, here she is:

And the inspiring view you’d get to wake up to every morning if you were lucky enough to live here:

Not too shabby!  Off of the master bedroom is a large bathroom and the sexiest closet I’ve ever seen.  It’s the size of a huge bedroom and contains a washer/dryer and folding table so the Nelsons don’t have to run laundry up and down stairs all of the time.  Genius!  Only a woman would think of that, so it’s not surprising that one of OKC’s premier architects, who also happens to be a woman, designed this home — Randy Floyd.

This neighborhood was originally comprised of homes built in the early 1900s.  It was a sad, derelict area when, in 2005, Randy and her partner, Michael Smith, renovated two territorial homes.  Mod didn’t arrive until Brian Fitzsimmons designed his personal residence on a hilltop overlooking downtown in 2010.  A few more modern homes sprouted up in the next few years and then the building boom began in earnest; now, there are over 51 completed projects with many more on the books, and the neighborhood has quickly become a modern architecture mecca in the city.  Randy Floyd’s firm is responsible for several of these projects.

There are two more bedrooms on the second floor – here’s one:

Back down the elegant staircase and you’re back in the large but comfy living room:

Let’s get a close-up view of that to-die-for tri-planter, shall we?

Oh … my … gosh!!  Is it Architectural Pottery?  I don’t know, but it’s certainly one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.  And speaking of cool, one thing I like best about this home is Brett and Jessica’s quirky collection of art.  It’s literally everywhere and adds so much fun and whimsy to the space:

There’s even an original Matt Goad to gawk over:

Terri got a photo of this outdoor sculpture in front:

I love everything about the Nelson House, from the design to the excellent use of color that makes what could be an imposing space both friendly and comfortable.  Love it!

The architecture changed from SoCal mod to perfect vintage Streamline Moderne with our next stop at Dr. Leonardo and Margaretta Baez’s gorgeous Gatewood dream, which was constructed in 1940:

Gatewood was created on land originally intended for Epworth University, which opened its doors in 1904 and was the first institution of higher learning in Oklahoma City. The University offered instruction in law, medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, commerce, liberal arts, and fine arts.  Unfortunately, the school closed due to financial woes in 1911 (it was the predecessor to Oklahoma City University and the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center) and that opened up the land for residential development.  The Gatewood Addition was platted in 1922 and homes soon started being constructed.  This home was built by L.M. Rauch, who was the manager of the Victoria Theater on Classen:

Rauch must have been interested in architecture because he opted to design his new place of residence himself with guidance from Chicago architects Glennon and Kern.  Ken Kern would later go on to author The Owner-Built Home, a guide to help others like Rauch design and construct their own houses without the assistance of an architect:

As for Rauch, he designed a steel-framed Streamline Moderne abode that was a real stand out in a neighborhood of much more traditional designs.  The Rauch family lived in the home until the late 1950s, and then Opal Staley purchased it and lived here for over 30 years.  In 2017 after the third owner moved out, the home underwent extensive renovations, which were completed by Leonardo and Margaretta in 2017.  And, in case you don’t know, they are the owners of Midtown Vets and are responsible for livening up the little mod concrete block structure that sat vacant for many years until they moved in — here it is before they bought it:

And here’s the side of the building with two Joe Slack sculptures adding some fun to the courtyard:

Anyway, Leonardo and Margaretta have lovingly named their stunning abode Casa Opal in honor of the home’s longest occupant, Ms. Staley.  Terri took this photo of the couple as they welcomed us inside:

No wonder they look so happy — they get to live in this remarkable, light-filled space:

Every inch of the mostly monochromatic house exudes calm and quiet joy, including the upstairs sunroom:

That daybed!  I could spend hours reading and napping there:

I loved the kid’s room upstairs, too — such an inviting space:

The master bedroom/bathroom isn’t too shabby, either:

The kitchen is, of course, the best hang out in the home:

… and it even has the perfect nook, where you can sit and look out the casement window and sip on your morning coffee — love it!

I love the dining room off of the kitchen, too — those perfectly rounded glass block windows kill me:

Such a zen space, isn’t it?

Outside the zen continues with the most perfect backyard oasis ever:

So far, everything about this house is relaxing and peaceful.  Well, all of that changes in the crazy colorful casita in the backyard:

Woo hoo, it’s a celebration of pattern and color everywhere!  That tile — so quirky and unexpected and beloved by all who traipsed inside to have a look.

Oh wow, check out those uber mod light fixtures that look like they’ve come directly from Woody Allen’s “Sleeper”!

The Baez’s even served Okie Mod Squad cookies — how great is that?!

Terri got this shot of all of the different styles that they had on hand for us:

They tasted just as great as they looked, too.  YUM!

As for the casita, how incredibly fun is this one bed/one bath space that pays beautiful homage to Frida Kahlo’s unabashed love of color?

Yeah, I know, I think we all want to bang down Leonardo and Margaretta’s door and beg to move into this wondrous bungalow.

Back outside, tour goers Vera and Lissa took a break from all of the eye candy to enjoy a relaxing moment by the pool:

And then it was back on the bus, where we headed to the woods of NE Oklahoma City and the home of Cam and Joli Sanders:

Yeah yeah, I know this one isn’t obviously mod, but wait until we get inside.

As a child growing up in Texas, Joli and her father often explored abandoned farmhouses that dotted the barren rural landscape near their home.  On one such outing, they meandered through a crumbling clapboard house that featured a long breezeway dividing the common areas from the sleeping quarters and allowed for easy indoor-outdoor living in the days before air conditioning.  Joli remembered this home years later when she took on the challenge of designing her own version of a farmhouse on a densely wooded lot in Northeast Oklahoma City.  The home, which is an amalgamation of Austin contemporary and modern, features a similar breezeway running from front to back that is the true heart of the expansive house.

Here’s a great detail shot by Terri of the beautifully crafted stairs:

I love this breezeway so much!  You can open the front and back doors and suddenly you’re both inside and out at the same time.

To the left of the breezeway is the giant living/dining room and kitchen:

Here’s a shot Joli took before the tour.  How inviting:

The polished and honed stone fireplace running the length of the living room is one of the most dramatic features of the house.  Here’s a closer view so you can see how interestingly it was constructed.  I love the 3D effect:

The fireplace is definitely the best spot in the house to snap a prom photo or, in this case, photograph the lovely owner, Joli, as Terri did here:

And, if you’re looking for a quiet backyard haven with a charming, woodsy feel, this has to be one of the best lounging spots in the city (Joli took the first two photos below):

Honestly, being so perfectly tucked into the woods, this place feels like it’s a million miles away from the noise and congestion of the bustling city that is, in actuality, just a few convenient highway stops away.  It’s definitely the perfect spot to spend a lazy afternoon reading a book while listening to all variety of birds serenade you to contended slumber.  No wonder Joli looks so happy — she gets to live here!

Back inside, the master suite is a creative mixture of ethnic and mod that gives the room a vibrant and relaxing vibe all at the same time.  Like the rest of the home, it offers a perfect escape from the chaos of everyday life:

There’s another bathroom and an office downstairs and a perfect retreat just for the kiddos upstairs:

All of the kids’ bedrooms are off of this central living space, which makes me love the upstairs almost as much as the breezeway downstairs.  Let’s get another look at that, my very favorite part of the house, shall we?

Maybe one reason I like this space so much because that’s where Cam and Joli keep the wine:

Although I would have enjoyed hanging out and having a drink or two at the Sanders House, it was time to move on.  Our next stop was the Brand-Cook House, a little-known mid-century modern gem tucked away in the Cleveland neighborhood.

Built for shopping center developer, R.A. Brand, this is one of just a few mid-century modern homes in the Cleveland neighborhood and was featured in American Home magazine soon after it was constructed.  C.B. Warr, the local developer responsible for creating his self-named Warr Acres, began platting and building homes in Cleveland in the late 1930s.  These include the beloved Streamline Moderne homes designed by Dallas architect Charles Dilbeck:

The neighborhood was filling in nicely when World War II broke out and halted all building for the duration. After the war, veterans wanted nothing more than to settle with their wives in suburban homes and get back to normal life, so the building frenzy began and the neighborhood was completed around the time this home was constructed in 1947.  Today, with few exceptions, the home is in pretty amazing original condition, starting with the sweet kitchen:

The open dining and living rooms are pretty fantastic, too:

While everyone was touring the place, Ginger, Terri, and homeowner, Marla posed for the camera:

How great are those Oklahoma Modernism Weekend t-shirts, guys?!

Back on the tour, down the hall is a delightful jade green bathroom…

… and three bedrooms.  Here’s a kid’s room and the master bedroom (the third bedroom is being used as an office):

So, you might be wondering to yourself, “This is a very sweet house, but I don’t really get why it’s on the tour.”  Well, here’s why, folks — the living room opens up to this:

TA-DA!!  Now you get it!

Musician Manuel Cruz purchased the home for his family in the late 1960s and soon installed a recording studio for himself and his sons, Edgar and Mark, both of whom are well known classical guitarists.  I believe that the family also added this over-the-top and oh-so-fabulous modern den and living area at the same time.  Did you notice those crazy saucer hanging lamps?  Yep, all original and in perfect condition.

The current owners, Marla and Damon Cook use the old recording studio downstairs as a playroom for their child:

I’m sure that all of those handy closets once housed hundreds of records at one time.

Back up the stairs is a friendly lounge area with an exit to the backyard:

But the big money shot is up a few more stairs to the giant, A-frame den that is also incredibly inviting and comfy at the same time:

Yes, that’s a built-in entertainment center that runs the length of the interior wall, and it is BEAU-TI-FUL.  How much do you love the huge round wooden pulls — so much!

And how great is the perfectly atomic fireplace with the dramatically angled ledge?

Yeah, I think I could put on a little Miles Davis, start a fire, and hang out for a long time in this perfectly preserved mod space.  Oh and check out the all-original perforated lights upstairs:

Now you get why we were so excited to have this stunning home on the tour!  It is a true mid-century modern dream and best of all, it is on the market.  If you’re interested in living in this perfectly preserved mod oasis, let me know and I can put you in touch with the owner.  I just hope that the next owner will love this place exactly as it is and continue to preserve all of its mid-century modern goodness.  So long, beautiful Brand-Cook House that even boasts original tile in the entryway:

With everyone settled in their comfy seats back on the bus, I asked our tour goers which house in all of OKC they’d like to see most.  Without exception, they all said this one:

Well, duh, who wouldn’t want to check out what is perhaps OKC’s most well known and unique mid-century modern home?  No, scratch that.  … what is DEFINITELY OKC’s most well known and unique mid-century modern home.  I don’t know what I would have done if they had picked a different house because this one was, indeed, our destination!

Bruce Goff’s only built Oklahoma City design is one of the most distinctive and beloved examples of mid-century modern architecture in the area, that’s for sure.  It is known as the Pollock-Warriner House and is comprised of nine overlapping squares set on an angle, with the apex of each square capped by a diamond-shaped skylight.  Outside, this angular motif is repeated everywhere, from the wood shingled pyramidal roof to the two reflecting pools to, most dramatically, the green corrugated covered terrace above the office. Here are a couple of images of the front of the home and the first pool:

As much of a piece of sculpture as it is a home, artist Laura Warriner and her late husband, Joe, have lovingly maintained this exceptional space since they purchased it in 1966.  The home was added to the National Register in 2001.

It’s such a special space and is a photographer’s dream — literally everywhere you look, a dramatic angle or provocative piece of art beckons and entices you to snap, snap, snap away and that’s exactly what I did:

How can you be anything but effusive about such a standout piece of architecture?

Inside, the home is just as unique and impressive.  Although modest in size (nearly 1,800 sf), the home feels spacious because each room opens to the next, not one square inch of space is wasted, and the light magically dances on every surface:

In fact, Laura said the the light is her favorite thing about the house.  For me, I’d have to say it’s the giant conversation pit anchored by a fireplace on one side and surrounded by light everywhere else.  It can easily seat you and a dozen or more of your best pals:

Also, Laura shared many stories about the house with us, and we were truly an enrapt audience:

Here, she regales us with the tale of her first meeting with the legendary Bruce Goff:

You want to know the story, don’t you?!  Well, I won’t keep you in suspense….

Laura and Joe hadn’t lived in the house for long and they were used to people stopping and taking photos of the home — sometimes, people even crept through the bushes nestled against the house to get better views of it.  One day, two young men arrived and began chatting with Laura about the home and asked to come inside and tour the place.  She obliged and they spent the next two hours chatting about the architectural marvel.  At one point, Laura mentioned that she didn’t know anything about the architect or that the home was significant; she and Joe bought it simply because they liked it and not for its pedigree.  One of the men piped up and said that it was designed by Bruce Goff and he was in the car if she’d like to meet him.  That genius of a man patiently waited in the car for TWO HOURS until he was invited inside!  After that, the Warriners and “Mr. Goff” (as Laura still calls him) became friends and were soon discussing plans to expand the house.

At the time, the home was much choppier and the Warriners wanted to open it up and add a master suite and an art studio for Laura, who was a burgeoning artist.  Goff told Laura that he wanted to get to know them better so he’d know exactly what they’d need in their addition.  Over the next several years, he invited the couple for weekend visits to his home in Tyler, Texas, where Joe and Goff’s mom would enjoy watching baseball together (both were huge fans) while Laura and Goff would discuss art, design, and just about everything else.  Goff even became an artistic mentor to Laura when he heartily encouraged her to pursue her art at a time when she was still insecure and unsure of her talent.

During one such discussion, Goff showed Laura a piece of magnificent green tile that he had picked up in his travels and asked if she liked it.  She replied in the affirmative, and they both agreed that it would make a great floor in her remodeled home.

Finally, after 10 long years and many visits, Goff called the Warriners and told them he had the perfect design for them that consisted of a two-story master suite.  Here are a few photos of the original drawings by Nelson Brackin that Laura shared with me a few weeks ago.  They are remarkable pieces of art in themselves:

Here’s Goff’s idea for the remodeled original house with the green tile floor.  Interestingly, the home had never had a conversation pit — something Goff was well known for — so he decided to include one with the remodel.

Other than the pink trim, the Warriners loved the design.  They and Goff agreed that green would be a color better suited to the surrounding natural environment and Joe and Laura reached out to contractors for estimates.  Unfortunately, the budget they gave Goff in 1967 was less than a third of what they needed to actually get the addition constructed a decade later, so they scrapped that plan and opted instead to update the original house and add a modest studio and the back pool.  Sadly, Goff died at the age of 78 in 1982 as the home was being remodeled, and he never got to see the updated Pollock-Warriner House.

Someday, if any subsequent owner would ever like to add on a master suite, Goff’s approved drawings surely would be the way to go, don’t you think?

Back on the tour, the heart of the home is the open kitchen where, of course, everyone gathered to chat, snack, and have a laugh or two:

The thing I love about Laura’s home is the art, art, art everywhere, which is no big surprise considering she is the brains and heart behind my very favorite gallery in town, [Artspace] at Untitled (which we will discuss more in a bit).  Honestly, there’s something interesting to see everywhere you look, like these modern pottery pieces that are scattered throughout the kitchen…

… the original Bruce Goff painting off of the master bedroom…

… and the nude and her pals that greet visitors at the front door:

In addition to the museum quality art, there are so many interesting architectural details in this extraordinary modern cottage, like the fact that you can be outside and look through a window and have an unobstructed view all the way out the window on the opposite side of the house.  I also love the way each room boldly opens to the next.  As you can see in this photo of the bedroom, it’s not a large space, but because it opens so easily to the gallery beyond, it feels like one giant and yet very practical room.

Here’s the gallery space:

The openness of these areas makes the house feel like one giant room that wraps around the kitchen at the heart of the house.  It’s quite a stunning plan that appeals to those in need of large spaces as well as people, like me, who love to get lost in little nooks.

Laura was such a gracious host, and I know that I’m speaking for everyone on the tour when I say that it was very special, indeed, to get to hear her fascinating stories and spend the afternoon wandering around her marvel of a home.  Although this home isn’t open for tours, you can enjoy more of Laura’s generosity and hospitality at [Artspace] at Untitled.  If you’ve never been to the gallery, I highly encourage you to go by and visit.  The programming is unparalleled with all kinds of beautifully curated exhibitions, film presentations, panel discussions, music evenings, and one of my very favorite events of the year, the very fun Steamroller Festival.  If you like the pottery pieces I photographed in Laura’s home, you can find similar vessels, jewelry, handmade clothing, and all kinds of art in the gallery gift shop, Hive.  In addition to all of this, Artspace runs an incredible mentorship program in which students from under served schools spend time at the gallery working with local artists to learn about, create, and enjoy making pieces of their own.  The gallery is truly a magical space, and that’s all thanks to Laura and the incredibly positive energy she brings to the place.  And that’s my shameless plug for the day….

Okay, well, I think that wraps up the 2018 Mod Home Tour.  It was such a treat getting to tour this varied collection of homes, and we’d like to thank all of the owners — Brett and Jessica Nelson, Leonardo and Margaretta Baez, Cam and Joli Sanders, Marla Cook, and Laura Warriner — for generously opening your homes to all of us architecture geeks.  We really appreciate you.  I’d also like to thank everyone who had no idea where we were going but purchased tickets to the tour, anyway.  Thank you for trusting us!  In addition, the bus driver, Richard, was a great sport and expertly drove us around town.  Finally, a huge thanks to Terri Sadler for working so hard to help me line up the exceptional homes we toured this year.  You’re the best cohort ever!

Hope to see all of you next year!