The 2019 Oklahoma Modernism Weekend Mod Home Tour
by Lynne Rostochil.
After every Mod Home Tour, I find myself driving home with a giant smile on my face thinking that it’s the best one yet and there’s no way we can top it … and every year, I’m surprised that we pull off an even more spectacular tour with a truly amazing collection of homes. Well, this year the exact same scenario played out, except I was so blown away by all of the homes that I REALLY don’t know how we can top it … have a look at the houses on the tour and you just might agree with me:
Our first stop took us to the Britton Heights neighborhood, which began being developed a few years after World War II. Homes of all kinds of architectural styles began cropping up in really large numbers, though, once nearby John Marshall High School opened in 1950. It was completely filled in by the early 1970s.
When Glen Sallis wanted to construct a new home in 1961, he chose a lot in Britton Heights and turned to the man who had designed the unique building for his business, Associated Glass, back in 1956 — Fred Pojezny. Pojezny was an OSU grad — you can read more about his career in this Mod Blog. His meticulously planned three bed/two bath home design is compact at 1,700sf, but it feels surprisingly spacious with light-filled and open common areas. Here, you can see how the living and dining room wrap around the kitchen:
Here’s the kitchen:
Did you notice the windows from the living room into the kitchen to let light flow throughout the entire space?
This was a trademark feature in many of Pojezny and his former partner, Duane Conner’s designs for both homes and schools and I think it’s genius.
On the other side of the kitchen is an informal den space anchored by an angled fireplace:
You wouldn’t think that such a small home could comfortably accommodate so many people, but everyone on the tour fit in the space easily and had lots of room to roam, both inside and out:
Here tour goers Brent and Ashley check out the home’s original blueprints:
I took a few photos of them for you to salivate over:
The Sallis family lived here for over 40 years and current owners Freddie and Dawn Harth have kept all of the home’s impressive mod details. Dawn perfectly fits in her home surrounds, doesn’t she?
Oh and check out that artwork behind her:
There’s also a piece in the den that she recently received from her grandfather that had everyone trying to figure out how to smuggle it out without anyone knowing:
The three bedrooms are pretty fantastic, too:
But I think one of my very favorite features of the home is what’s under foot in the entry — a very cool and all original Chiclets-style tile floor:
Yeah, pretty sassy! You can check out more photos of this house when the Harths thought about selling it in 2014 on this Mod Blog. I’m glad they changed their minds and decided to hold on to it.
Our next stop took us a few blocks south to the Highland View neighborhood and this house:
Like Britton Heights, Highland View opened for development after WWII. Unlike a lot of other areas of town, not just one developer was responsible for laying out and designing the neighborhood, so there is a lot of variety in style and size in Highland View. Most of the area was completely filled in by the early 1960s.
The architect for this house was Bill Halley. An OSU grad, one of Halley’s first projects after becoming an architect was to design this modest mod for his family, but instead of limiting the project to just one home, he designed seven houses with varying layouts in a small cluster on this street. All of the homes featured large common areas with plenty of windows to let in light, all-electric kitchens, and attached carports with outdoor storage. Although it is just over 1,300 sf, Halley loved this home and lived here with his family for many years. Come inside and you’ll see why.
The current owner, Jim Jordan, purchased it in 2006 and has maintained all of its originality while also adding more character, such as the stunning Cadillac mural in the entryway. An avid classic car collector, Jim is also in charge of the Wheel-o-Rama during the Oklahoma Modernism Weekend, so you will find it very appropriate to see all kinds of interesting car memorabilia throughout the house. Here’s the very large living room with original parquet flooring and windows on nearly every wall:
Through the living room is what might be the most pristine ’50s kitchen I’ve ever seen:
Here, Jim (wearing this year’s amazing OMW t-shirt) and tour goers Jennie and Brian chat about all things mid mod:
The big wow of the kitchen is, by far, the built-in wall refrigerator made by G.E.:
The unique cabinet refrigerator was introduced in 1955, one year before Halley built this house, and the first two doors are the fridge, while the last one is the freezer. This ad explains that “it hangs on the wall like a picture” — yeah, a VERY heavy picture:
You can read more about this short-lived but so sexy fridge at Retro Renovation.
The kitchen opens to the dining room on the other side:
Let’s look closer at Jim’s car art:
Wow, wow, wow!!
Down the hall is a bathroom and two bedrooms:
See, this is a pretty small house but it packs a giant punch. We wanted to include it on the tour because, not only is it an beautifully preserved house, but it also shows that there are some pretty impressive modest mods out there that fit almost any budget.
Our third stop took us to the east side of town and beautiful Wildewood Hills. Unlike the two previous neighborhoods we mentioned, Wildewood Hills was a master planned community laid out by developers Med Cashion, Jr., Lamar Cashion, Jay Hickox, and Jim Milligan. The neighborhood is comprised of 183 hilly acres, some with views of downtown. Development of the neighborhood began in 1958, with home prices in the $20,000 – $30,000 range ($178,000 – $265,000 today). Around 400 houses on large lots were constructed in the addition.
One home that stands apart from the rest of the tract houses in the area is tucked away on a hilltop amid the woods on a quiet cul-de-sac. There was no way the bus would have made it up the hill to the house, so we took a little walk up the tree-canopied driveway…
… and were greeted by the proud homeowner, Nathan York:
Nathan’s home was designed by another OSU grad, Alan Lower, who was a pioneer in passive solar design and was one of the first architects in the area to create and construct an active solar heated home in Oklahoma. So, when it came time to create a place for himself in 1966, he put his vast knowledge to use.
The house consists of three low-slung, top-hatted pods, each measuring 1,100 sf. The pods feature exaggerated eaves and recessed windows that both let in light and protect the interior from harsh sunlight. All of the common areas are in the first pod (above), the bedroom wing takes up the second pod, and the third one houses a massive garage, which was one of the biggest draws for Nathan, who is an avid car collector. We got to check out this gem that was resting in the garage:
The Lower family lived here a few short years and then second owner Ross Cummings stayed until very recently. Current owner, Nathan York purchased the long-neglected house, which wasn’t even habitable, a few short months ago. Since then, Nathan has brought the house back to life in a major way and plans to stay here as long as Cummings did.
One reason why is that, although this house is located in the heart of the city and even near a major highway, there’s so much greenery literally everywhere you look that you could easily think you’re out in the middle of nowhere far from any life at all:
It’s very quiet, too, except for the haunting meowing of the neighborhood peacocks that roam wild along its charming streets below.
As for the house, an abnormally tall distressed wood door imported from Europe opens onto a central hallway:
Here are a couple of other shots of the door I took back in March:
It’s pretty darned spectacular and it has a twin on the other side of the hallway that leads out to a small balcony overlooking a wooded ravine. As you can see in the above image, the central hall is capped by clerestory windows that let in a ton of light. To the left of the front door is the pod containing the common areas, a large living room, office/den, dining room, and kitchen:
Here’s more of that gorgeous fireplace:
This room is so huge that it even fits a grand piano:
The snug den/office is off of the main living room and features more treehouse views of the surrounding woods:
On the other side of the living room is the dining area…
… which overlooks the balcony I told you about earlier:
To the left of the dining room is the very sweet kitchen:
Yes, there’s an indoor grill that is just waiting for some dogs and burgers to be thrown on it:
Love the fish plate holders:
And I might enjoy doing dishes more if I had this view from the kitchen sink:
That’s it for the living pod — now let’s check out the three bedrooms. There’s a shared bath and two bedrooms with sliders that open to the outdoors:
And here’s the master:
Off of the master is one of the best showers ever. It’s a two-sided, step-down number with original tile and a giant window looking out to the woods beyond:
That window might freak out some people, but there’s literally no house or neighbor in sight so why not, I say! Be an exhibitionist and have no worries that you’ll get busted!
This is such a unique, secluded house that few people even know is there, and I’d say that Nathan certainly has found paradise with this place.
The fourth house on our tour felt very much like Nathan’s house — secluded among the trees and containing a beautiful surprise when you walked in the door.
It’s located in the lovely Forest Park neighborhood. The acreage where Forest Park sits was first purchased in the 1920s by Perry Maxwell, who had just completed the nearby Twin Hills golf course. The neighborhood was first opened for development in 1937 and advertised that you will “live where you can be close to nature.” The ad also mentioned that the area would be “strongly protected by permanent restrictions.” While there were a lot of racial restrictions back then and I’m sure those were included in the Forest Park rules, the one the ad specifically refers to involved buyers having to submit home designs for approval by a committee. The developers believed this would ensure that all homes would be unique and of high quality, and if you drive through Forest Park today, you’ll see that they were correct in their assumption.
About 65 homes were constructed on the 180-acre plot from then until the early 1950s, with prices ranging from $25,000 to $75,000 ($240,000 to $715,000 today) for small acreages. The rest of the 154 sites filled in by the early 1970s. Because it was such a desirable area with plenty of room to stretch out, several builders and architects constructed homes in Forest Park over the years, including architects Robert Vahlberg, Robb Moore, and John Turnbull.
Although he wasn’t a licensed architect, Garth Kennedy was one of the people who decided to make Forest Park home. By day, he was an engineer at Corkin, but another big love of his was architecture. So, when he bought a wooded lot in the heart of Forest Park, he chose to design his new abode himself using Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater as inspiration.
Kennedy and his family obviously loved the result of his labor because they lived here until 2016, when the home sold, along with most of its contents, to current owners, Kent and Guinise Eldridge. They have been excellent caretakers of Garth Kennedy’s dream and have kept it original, even incorporating many of Kennedy’s furnishings.
The dining room is all original with a beaded curtain separating it from the entry:
Here, Squadders look through vintage photos of the house that show how little the house has changed over the years:
Oh and see that panelled wall behind the ladies? It opens to create a passthrough and serving station between the dining room and kitchen:
The kitchen itself is pretty fantastic, too, with its cheerful yellow accents and vintage wallpaper:
The enchanting Guinese was on hand to chat about the history of the house:
Back through the dining room is the giant living room with Kennedy’s furniture on glorious display…
And yes, that’s an original Eugene Bavinger painting on the back wall that has been in Kent’s collection for a long time:
It fits in perfectly, doesn’t it?
The one giant change Kent and Guinese have made since they moved in was to remove the enclosed porch off of the living room. I’m not sure when Garth Kennedy enclosed it, but it was not a pretty sight when I toured the home in 2016:
This room was the whole Fallingwater portion of the house because it cantilevers over a deep ravine. Unfortunately, the drama of the cantilever was lost when it was enclosed. Kent and Guinese remedied that with a total redo of the space:
Kent is obviously very happy with the result:
And it’s much easier to spot people or animals wandering around the lush grounds now:
Here’s the rest of the back of the house, which is basically one giant patio overlooking the verdant forest:
Back inside and down the longest hallway I’ve ever seen in a house are two bedrooms, two baths, and an office:
As I said earlier, the home was sold with everything in it, including original drawings by Garth Kennedy:
You can view many of Kennedy’s drawings in this Mod Blog.
At the end of the hall is the giant WOWZA of a master suite, which Kennedy added several years after the original house was completed in 1956. It’s a true getaway and comes with a reading nook …
… dramatic fireplace …
… and sitting area surrounded by three floor to ceiling windows with views to the woods beyond:
This is where I’d be camped out on a chilly day with a warm fire and a good book, for sure.
The adjoining dressing room and bath are pretty exceptional, too:
I can honestly say that I’ve never seen a sink like this.
What an amazing and beautifully cared for home. You can check out our first post about this house when it went on the market in 2016 in this Mod Blog.
Our next stop was just down the street at what has been a big fan favorite in the Okie Mod Squad group on Facebook, the neglected-but-still-sexy Cody House.
You can read the sweet history of the Codys and this home on this Mod Blog. Soon after that post, Ben Sellers purchased the house with the intention of fixing it up and moving his family in; however, they were already in the midst of a big remodel in Mesta Park and were reticent about taking on another project and recently relisted the house. It has sold to people who plan to save the place and restore it to its original greatness.
Raymond Carter designed the Cody House, which features his signature lattice work and rock:
Inside, the place has been completely untouched by time — everything is just as it was when the home was completed in 1956:
Aren’t those lanterns amazing? They are another Raymond Carter signature.
There’s even a hidden door in the master bedroom that held a small TV — do they even make televisions that small anymore? I don’t think so; therefore, it’s now home to a dryer:
The kitchen is all original, too, and features some very rare pieces:
Ben also provided a few original drawings of the home:
And he also kindly chatted about its interesting history:
We were so lucky to get one last look of the place in all of its dilapidated but original glory, and here’s hoping that we get to see this lovely place on a Mod Home Tour again after it has been renovated.
Our last stop of the day was what truly has to be among the top five homes I’ve ever seen in my life. My very enthusiastic but ultimately meager lexicon of superlatives can’t come close to describing how fantastically unique and completely mesmerizing the Prairie Raptor House is.
Created for the Johnson family by Oklahoma-born and Arizona-based Eddie Jones of Jones Studio, and inspired by Herb Greene’s Prairie Chicken House, the one-of-a-kind Prairie Raptor House sits on 44 acres just outside of Oklahoma City’s center. The highly custom home features full thatched fir paneled ceilings, vertical grain fir doors, and paneled Sapele walls. The only material that didn’t come from Oklahoma is the steel.
The entry to the house features a giant Soleri bell:
So dreamy! But that’s nothing compared to the view when you walk through the front door:
HO-LY jaw drop, Batman!!
Can you believe a place like this even exists … and it’s right here in Oklahoma? How lucky are we?
This magnificant room is the heart of the house and all other rooms radiate out from it. The steel spiral staircase leads up to a clear floor catwalk that wraps around to a rooftop deck, which is used by the family’s pups:
Back inside, there’s a telescope pointing to the stars, which are rather boring and dim compared to this incredible house:
A custom-made chandelier of medicine vials hangs from the ceiling:
How very Goff like, don’t you think?
And that floor!
Let’s go back downstairs … watch your step:
(It’s really not as scary as it looks — those steps are SOLID!) Once back to earth, take a seat at the table overlooking the long infinity pool outside:
Even the powder bath is exceptional because the ceiling is the transparent floor of the catwalk I just mentioned:
Down a few steps is the enormous and very comfortable living/dining/kitchen area:
We were very lucky and got to enjoy delicious snacks and champagne in this miraculous space:
This custom-made dining table was pretty amazing, too, and featured some terrific uplit elements:
Our bus driver, Natalie, even played a tune for us while we took in the surroundings:
More mingling and ogling:
Here, Joe chats with architect Neal Jones of Jones Studio:
Back to the magical central area of the home, which I can’t stop thinking about even two weeks after seeing it…
… and through another door is what must be the most glorious master suite ever created. Take a look at these photos and tell me if you agree:
The view back toward the living room:
Just wait, it gets even better with the master bath:
As if that weren’t enough, there’s even a coffee station between the men’s closet and the bedroom, so no need to travel all the way to the kitchen in the morning to grab your cup of Joe:
Yeah, all of this is truly spectacular, but you haven’t seen the best yet … the to-die-for women’s closet and dressing room that is, I swear, the size of my entire house. You think I’m joking, don’t you? Well, take a look and you’ll see that I’m completely serious:
The Johnsons’ African Serval cats share occupancy of the beautiful home with the owners, and they love to hang out in this space. I don’t blame them a bit:
I wasn’t kidding about the master suite, was I? It’s a complete a total dream! So is the guest room/office on the other side of the house that is accessible through this private courtyard:
I met these lovely ladies on my way to the office:
The office/guest room comes complete with a Murphy bed, too, so I was immediately smitten:
And look who I saw on the roof as I was going back inside the main house. Hello, pooch!
There’s a separate guest house, too, but I was so enthralled with the main house that I never made it over there to check out the interior:
Back inside, there was more mingling and looking around to do:
Terri and I took a few minutes to chat with Neal Jones, who was a true delight and offered up quite a bit of wisdom about the design of this house and the state of architecture today.
And Mr. Johnson looks very happy that everyone was so taken with his beautiful abode:
We were, indeed.
By the way, I think it’s very interesting — and it was a complete coincidence — that every architect/designer, with the exception of Garth Kennedy, was an OSU grad. Way to represent, guys!
Thank you to all of the homeowners for sharing your lovely spaces with us: Dawn and Freddie Harth, Jim Jordan, Nathan York, Kent and Guinese Eldridge, Ben Sellers, and the Johnson family. And a giant thanks to Neal Jones for making the trek to Oklahoma to chat about the Prairie Raptor House.
So that’s it for the 2019 Mod Home Tour. Terri says goodbye and see you on next year’s tour!