On the Market: So Many Reasons to Love George Seminoff’s First Creation
text and photos by Lynne Rostochil unless otherwise stated.
This seems to be the season for George Seminoff-designed homes going on the market, but this gem at 2532 Pembroke Terrace is, by far, one of my all-time favorite mods for a variety of reasons, which you’ll learn about in this blog. Firstly, the corner lot home in Penshurst was George’s very first commission after graduating from OSU and was completed in 1956. The unique design was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian architecture and is composed almost entirely of 60-degree equilateral triangles, which means there’s nary a right angle in the entire house. Check out the floorplan and you’ll see what I mean:
The home’s distinctive character is obvious from the second you arrive at the to-die-for double front door…
… and step inside the entryway. Here’s the entryway looking back toward the front door. Yes, those are cedar ceilings and yes, that’s all original terrazzo flooring!
Here’s a close up of that great floor:
Mmm, mmm good!
Just off of the entry is an all-purpose room — it could be a quiet library or an office or a music room as the current owners have it set up:
Have a look at the floor:
That is leather, folks!
Here’s the second reason why this house is a particular favorite of mine. The previous owners, Robert and Cara Barnes, purchased the home in 2005. By that time, the house was nearly 50 years old and in need of some real attention. The Barnes contacted George Seminoff, who was retired but still living in the area, and the three of them worked together to restore George’s inspirational first design. They remodeled the kitchen and master bath; polished the terrazzo; refinished the cedar ceilings; replaced the south-facing windows/doors in the common areas with efficient UV-coated, low-e glass; redesigned the landscaping; added sprinklers; replaced the HVAC; rewired the entire house; redid the leather floor; and repaved the front driveway. Whew! That’s a lot of work!
Once the renovation was completed in 2006, the home looked as gleaming and fresh as it did when the McConnells moved in five decades before. Robert and Cara sold the house to the current owners in 2011, and they have diligently maintained the home and it’s just as sparkling today.
With all of that information in mind, take a look at this true stunner of a house. Here’s a peek from the entry:
Yeah, you know this is going to be good! Two steps down and you’re in the spectacular living room:
I wasn’t kidding when I said spectacular! This is a massive room but the custom-made, low-profile furniture that Robert and Cara had built for the space make it feel warm, cozy, and very friendly. Have a look at the end tables that perfectly capture the angles of the home itself:
And that is #3 on my “why this is one of favorites” list — the exacting attention to detail that is everywhere in this house. Every single element, inside and out, is so well thought out and executed that, even after multiple visits over the years, I’ve always found new surprises to admire, such as this simple but expertly designed little end table. It’s all about the details … like the shoji screen dividing the living room and music room. Below the screen is a wall of cabinets that runs the length of the living room. Oh yeah, as if this house wasn’t already appealing enough, you’ll find tons of storage literally everywhere:
And how about a better view of that amazing fireplace?
I mean, what’s not to love about that? Wowza!
One interesting thing about this home is that George foresaw future trends and designed an open plan living, kitchen, dining room. Here’s the kitchen from the living room…
It’s not a giant kitchen, but it’s laid out so well and is wide enough to fit several people at once.
Here’s the not-too-shabby view from the stove:
The dining room is to the side of the kitchen and overlooks the backyard oasis:
This is such a casual, comfortable space to sit back and enjoy a fabulous meal with great friends, don’t you think? And, because the dining area is so angled, Robert and Cara had a giant triangular dining room table made to take full advantage of the space. And, yes, it can comfortably seat 12.
In case you’re wondering, much of the custom-built furniture was designed by the very talented Eddie Myers just for the house and is available for purchase with the home.
Off of the kitchen is a laundry/mud room that I would kill for:
There’s also a mother-in-law suite with original built-in shelves:
According to a 1959 article in the Oklahoman about the house, the attached bathroom was built with 10″ concrete walls so that it can act as a tornado shelter, too. Yes, ole George thought of this way back in 1956! That’s #4 of my reasons right there.
Back through the living room on the other side is an office/bedroom and hall bathroom:
Another giant wow of the house is the master suite … and boy, is it sweet!
If storage is your thing, then you’ll definitely drool over the abundance of it in this room. Shoji screens hide a large closet:
And an 18-foot bank of cabinets runs along the back wall and into the master bathroom. Yes, I said 18 frickin’ feet!!
I mean, I have a lot of stuff but there’s no way I could ever fill up that closet and those cabinets — I sure would like to try, though!
The master bath is such a lovely and unique space, with the sharply angled countertops and a massive shower:
Sliders in the master bedroom, living room, and dining room lead out to the impressive backyard and pool. Here’s the backyard from the living room:
The backyard is nice and large and is so quiet that you don’t even realize you’re in the middle of the city:
The patio off of the master:
Robert and Cara had the pool retiled and also replaced some of the equipment during their years in the home, and can’t you just imagine having a fruity concoction while lounging poolside on a hot summer day?
There are four other things that make this home very special. First, our all-time favorite architectural photographer, Julius Shulman, popped by in 1959 and snapped several shots of George’s work:
His images appeared in a 1959 edition of the Oklahoman:
I’ll post the article at the end of the blog. Also, there are several more Shulman images of the home at the Getty in Los Angeles.
Here’s a photo gallery that appeared in the Oklahoman at the same time.
Second, this house comes with … ORIGINAL BLUEPRINTS!! I know you love that!
FYI, several of Shulman’s images and the magazines in which the home has appeared come with the house.
The third reason this house has such meaning for me is that Julius Shulman returned to the angled home on Pembroke Terrace on his final visit to OKC in 2008. Robert and Cara hosted a party for him in the home he photographed so long ago and it was such a treat to be a fly on the wall as he and George reminisced about their adventures together…
… as he and Cara looked over the photos he took of the house in 1959…
… as George’s lovely wife, Sharon, and Jerri Bonebrake, Bruce Goff’s secretary during his OU days, carried on a lively conversation…
… and as he signed one of my treasured books:
Look at all of that brown hair on me — 11 years is a LONG time, obviously!
Finally, this the last reason this house is incredibly special to me because my son, Will, had a life changing moment here. He and Julius Shulman share a very distinctive birthday — Shulman was born 10-10-10 and Will was born 10-10-00. As I told Mr. Shulman this, he beamed with delight and looked very earnestly into my eight-year-old boy’s eyes and said with great conviction, “Will, you’re going to do great things in life.” Even though he was so young at the time, my son has never forgotten those words and strives every day to live up to them, and I will always be thankful to Mr. Shulman for inspiring Will in such a magical way.
That’s Will on the left with Mr. Shulman, my older son, Jack, and my husband, Chuck.
So, now that you know why this home is one of my all-time favorites for a plethora of reasons, here’s the nitty gritty. The 2,748 sf house is selling for $879,000 but isn’t listed yet. If you’re interested in checking out George Seminoff’s first design, please contact the owners’ realtor, Kerry Norman at 848-4940 to set up an appointment. I’m sure you’ll fall in love with it for an entire new set of reasons, which I hope you’ll share with the Mod Squad.
The 1959 Oklahoman article:
Modern Design Is Their Choice
It was no sudden whim that prompted the John C. McConnells to choose modern as the architectural style for their new home. For several years before they built, they studied styles of architecture and analyzed the kind of life they enjoy. They prefer the relaxed and informal mode of life which modern affords. And they wanted a house with no more space than they needed, ample storage area and easy maintenance. Again modern seemed to fulfill their requirements best. After living two years in the home at 2532 Pembroke Terrace which Architect, George Seminoff designed for them, the McConnells are convinced modern was the perfect choice. (Mr. Seminoff also co-ordinated the interior and land-scaping, making the entire house and garden a harmonious whole. Builder was Carson E. Hickox.) On a corner plot, the house of 3,300 square feet is oriented around the garden and pool. Core of the house is the living area; leading from it in one direction is the living area and from another the eating-cooking area. Beyond the last area is a utility room (the house has year-around weather-conditioning), Mrs. McConnell’s mother’s apartment with its own outside entrance, a double garage and storage room for garden furnishings and tools. Walls of the eating, master bedroom and living areas adjacent to the garden are of glass. Enclosing the rest of the garden is a high redwood grape stake fence. Strongest impression gained from studying the McConnell home is that of the flow of space from exterior to interior, from area to area and from house to garden.
To achieve this, Mr. Seminoff consistently employed a 60-degree equilateral triangle instead of the conventional right angle in his plan. While a right angle dictates barrier-like walls, the equilateral triangle rhythmically guides the eye from one area to another, letting vista flow into vista. Emphasizing this flow of space are the ceilings, which follow the outside roofline, soaring to 14 feet in the living area and extending to the edge of the broad overhang or eaves. Of natural finish redwood siding, the ceilings add an interest of pattern to the delight of line. Natural linen curtains on the glass walls leading into the garden are hung seven feet from the floor. Inner walls are glass above the folding walnut doors, which slide into recesses in the walls. Thus curtains may be drawn and the doors closed without interrupting the flow of space overhead.
Like the redwood siding and ceilings, other materials are continued from the outdoors inside. A precast terrazzo flooring, imported from Mexico, flows from outside entrance way, through the inside entry-way, living, eating and master bedroom areas. Warm toned, heavily textured brick, called “bark,” is used for the outside of the home and reappears in the den, which overlooks the living area, and on several other wall surfaces.
In the den are a built-in desk and book shelves, an electric organ and a Danish card table of teak, which can be extended to make a luncheon table for six. The floor is of pigskin on a concrete base that needs only an occasional waxing to preserve its warm, rich color. Japanese grass cloth on the walls blends with that of the bark brick and the sliding shoji screen that separates the den from the living area. Forming an island away from traffic lanes in the living area is a brilliant olive green carpet, hand loomed in Puerto Rico. (By recessing the flooring the carpet is flush with the surrounding terrazzo.) Centering the carpeted area is a long coffee table, inlaid with terrazzo and walnut, and surrounding it is a conversational grouping of a blue green sofa, modern chairs and occasional tables.
In addition to the indirect lighting are accent lamps in frosted glass from Georg Jensen. (Similar lighting is used throughout the house.) Above the raised fireplace a black metal hood rises through the roof to form the chimney. The fireplace ledge extends to form another seating area with cushions of leather-like plastic. Curving along the wall from the ledge, under the sliding shoji screen of the den and to the entry area is a row of storage cabinets of blond Nikora ash. Deep to hide extra card tables, the cabinets also house a color TV set, a tape recorder and hi-fi equipment.
Giving access to the sleeping area and the garden is a small hallway. The master bedroom adjoins the garden and also has its own private patio. Two double beds are placed below a 13-foot headboard brown pigskin paneling and white leather-like plastic. The ample storage area the McConnells wanted is provided in the bedroom by an 18-foot closet on one side of the room and on the other by a long wardrobe fronted with Nikora ash doors alternating with black lacquer drawers. The ash and lacquer wardrobe extends into the dressing room, which is separated from the bath by another sliding shoji screen. Typical of the attention to detail seen throughout the house are the heated towel racks, timer-controlled heat and sun lamps in the ceiling and full-length mirrored door on the medicine cabinet. The guest room, with its plastic tile floor and sofa beds upbolstered in white and yellow plastic, doubles as a bath house for friends who swim in the McConnell pool. The guest bedroom bath is also a tornado shelter. Walls and ceiling are of 10-inch, steel reinforced concrete and the door is of steel.
A planting corner brings the garden through the glass wall into the dining area. Set on a base of white marble chips, tropical plants climb toward the sky light above. Nearby is a round table that seats four usually but by the addition of another top can seat 10. Like the ceiling, walls are of redwood. Terrazzo covers the eating area floor and vinyl asbestos that of the cooking area. Topped with yellow formica, a buffet curves from the eating area to form the counter tops in the work area. Although compact, the kitchen is so carefully planned that three women have been able to work in it at the same time without getting into each other’s way. Over the electric burners set in the counter top is a stainless steel hood, the oven is placed in the wall and the cupboards have touch latches and magnetic catches. And one of the nicest features of the kitchen, according to Mrs. McConnell, is that she can enjoy the vistas of the house and garden beyond while she works. In planning the garden, the McConnells’ wish for “easy maintenance”‘ was not forgotten. The pool is the focal point and nearly all of the surrounding garden area is paved with terraces around the pool. The paving is the same color as the brick of the house and the equilateral triangle plan of the house has been repeated throughout the garden.