Love is in the air. Love for MCM, we mean!
By Clair DeLune Photos by Carter Wade
Perhaps better known as mid-century modern design, MCM has been described as “an architectural, interior, product, and graphic design that describes mid-20th century developments in modern design, architecture and urban development from roughly 1933 to 1965.” In home design it usually implies a ranch-style home, only without the livestock – at least for us city dwellers.
Perched on a low-rise midway between a lovely lake, a golf course, and Forest Lake Country Club, Spring Lake Road boasts a recently redesigned mid-century modern home born in 1955 that has achieved the near impossible. It has retained much of its original charm while being lovingly enhanced by its new owners, Pete and Susan Strom, with the guiding hand of Christy Edens, one of three designers for Verve, a local design firm in Columbia.
The new owners, who are both prominent Columbia attorneys, were gracious enough to let Verve allow Columbia Living Magazine a peek at the renovations prior to the couple’s early April wedding.
Brick or stone-floored foyers are a hallmark of MCM and one alights upon them when entering the Spring Lake house through the original double doors, featuring raised panels of dark, heavy wood lying inside a rather unusual feature: twin protective outer doors. Once inside, visitors see an imposing three-quarter height dark walnut barrier that once served as the de rigueur planter that no self-respecting MCM architect would have left off his home plans. Edens chose to bypass the ’50s-era plantings of philodendron or snake plants, and instead topped the former planter with ebony granite for a more stately effect, with a large clay vessel at one end to switch up the focus to the beauty of art pottery – not plants.
Past that is a small, warm foyer with a sleek slate fireplace, a sassy leopard-patterned velvet ottoman upon a zebra rug between two fawn-colored high-backed armchairs. Positioned precisely to let the occupants gaze upon the basket weave brickwork patio, which runs the gamut of the rear of the house, it “is a favorite spot” for the couple’s frequent guests, as “they entertain frequently,” according to Edens, who designed those inviting furnishings around the couples’ gregarious lifestyle.
Adjacent to the foyer den is a grey and silver-toned guest bath with floor tile in a Moroccan style by Walker Zanger. Edens has brilliantly echoed the floor tile’s Moorish influences with a tall, arched mirror shaped as you might once have seen in a desert temple thousands of years ago. Offset with a modern touch, the walls of the bath are in a grey stacked slate throughout, including a glassed-in shower so large it would rival most master bath offerings.
Favorite outdoor perches feature teak tables and chairs in one spot, while nestled closer to the private patio outside the master bedroom is a more private patio spot nestled into the blossoming garden amid several immense pieces of art pottery.
Buried in the pathway wending down to the lake is an ancient millstone that might remind residents that the workday grind is over, and by stepping over it, they may symbolically shed the cares of the day and thoroughly relax.
Back indoors, the ability to reflect and shine is no longer solely the lake’s purview. Along the main hallway, a Biedermeier chest and gilded starburst mirror set the stage for a 1950s-style lamp with three gilded circles forming the base. Nearby, a silver starburst mirror, this one flanked by a pair of matte aluminum-toned circle-in-a-cylinder lamps stunningly reflected the couple’s wedding cake. The sunken den lies ahead featuring another fireplace flanked by a huge suede sectional. Edens avows that “this house is all about the view,” and because the home’s original architect cleverly designed it to follow a curve as if matching the lakeshore, breathtaking views may be had from each successive angle in every room. The lakeside view is a study in blues, offset by the earth tones of the décor. Creamy silk window dressings frame yet another view of the deep azure lake just beyond the shimmering turquoise waters of the swimming pool. The view from the front of the home overlooks a well-maintained, but still natural view of the front gardens, circular drive and, farther away, the white columns of the clubhouse at Forest Lake peek through the pines.
Either vantage point gives the owner’s vast locally-curated art collection quintessential competition for your eye. The art the couple has acquired features many Sandlapper painters. Among them are Betsy Havens, whose art is in the den; then, keeping it “in the family,” Havens’ husband, artist Jim Calk, has a painting that enhances the mini-den in the foyer, which serves as one of the home’s most intimate nooks; two Steven Whetstones – one in the dining room and a larger painting in the entrance foyer give different perspectives on his viewpoints. A golden Cami Hutchinson landscape graces the master suite – perfectly placed for maximum effect – for it seems naturally aglow when lakeside reflections reach the far bedroom wall. Across from it is a tasteful nude, with blue and cream hues.
Another dreamy and creamy cove of respite awaits guests in the main dining room. The table is lit by a five-foot Niermann Weeks chandelier, which is a refreshing departure from often stark and bare MCM offerings. The streams of dropped crystals with the intentionally rusty “candle” holders pairs styles reminiscent of 14th century France with today’s rustic Bohemian trend. Edens chose it for its sheer beauty, she says, but it also echoes the original MCM period’s love of French provincial, and seems as if it could have been rescued from a decaying palace in Europe. The piece succeeds with its dash of panache; hanging above the stark white mock calfskin chairs that are softer than can be imagined, yet resistant to stains from food or wine. The 18” white Travertine marble floor tiles give another light, bright and easy-to-keep aspect for the owners of three rough-and-tumble pups, one each in small, medium and large sized poodles, who dash with abandon without wreaking too much havoc, thanks to many of the designer’s wise choices for easy-living materials. The dining table is a detailed inlaid walnut with light nut-wood accents, and anchors the room with its deep richness. A striated mirrored console reflects the ethereal lightness of the room, which shines below an immense abstract lacquered art piece from California, which is one of the few non-native pieces in the collection.
The same light floor tile ties together the den, dining room and kitchen as well as another den and breakfast room, both off the kitchen. The kitchen quietly boasts a clean, Scandinavian look – another aspect popular in original MCM homes. Its on-trend blondish, handle-free cabinetry is complemented by brown granite countertops, installed by previous owners. The current owners added a comfy spot between the kitchen and breakfast foyer for relaxing or reading the paper. The overhead light is shaded with a square hanging Currey lamp featuring a metal pattern simulating an enlarged loose burlap weave – a pattern that Edens says “seemed to echo the 1950s.”
It is indeed a chef’s kitchen, with its main double sink overlooking the golf course and a prep sink in the ample island adjacent to the six-burner Viking gas stove, which rockets this kitchen well beyond any dreams that an original MCM “kitcheneer of the future” could have conceived of in the period when manned space flights were only beginning to blast off, but, hey… what’s millennial life without a little splurge?
Speaking of splurges: when that stove is heating up, the wine is cooling down.
Many modern couples who enjoy sharing an evening bottle of vino have found ways to incorporate a separate wine refrigerator in their space. And the previous owners did just that. Between the kitchen and a glassed-in shelving display for silver trays and chafing dishes is a wine refrigerator. But wait! There’s more! This house has a feature that Michelin-starred restaurants featuring the finest wines might envy.
One of the couple’s biggest changes included turning a front outdoor patio – always a “necessary” in early MCM blueprints – into a ground-floor wine cellar. And not a mere closet. The wine room here is larger than most master bedrooms. The temperature-controlled room fit the entertaining needs of the Stroms better than yet another outdoor space and, considering their surfeit of lake-facing patios – each of which seems to boast a better view than the last; and despite the fact that the front yard is breathtaking – the sacrifice was more than worth it to them. They enclosed the space, taking great care once again to keep the entrance seamless in MCM-style.
The newly-finished and dramatically-lit wine room is filled with wine from floor to ceiling and, when entertaining, the large central space provides a perfect perch for a chilled marble table piled high with delectable cheeses selected to perfectly pair with wine selections.
If there is a critique most often made of MCM design it involves the overuse of dark wood panels, which when paired with the fairly low ceilings of a ranch home can tend to imbue a cramped quality. Here, what could have been a dark, low home is lightened, heightened and brightened. Throughout the interiors, Edens has balanced that characteristic mix of dark woods and offset them with whitewashed brick and white-painted tongue and groove paneled ceilings. The sense of lightness in the home is assisted by its nearly 7,000 square foot floor plan as well as the many floor-to-ceiling windows, where light can be tempered by automatic shades.
Remote controlled shades were considered a necessary addition to the master bath as well, which has three of its four walls made partially, if not entirely, of glass – the only obscured part of the view is the nearly all-glass shower with one rough-hewn, coppery-brown stone wall. For those brave enough to dare, you might raise the blinds, look out over the water and imagine you are in the lake under a private waterfall as the showerhead rains gently down upon you. Add a stunning summer sunrise and cup of coffee to the mix and you will be in the mood for a glorious day.
Following a long hallway past the many walk-in wardrobes, ample storage closets, sinks and water closets, the ensuite ends in a spacious sunken master bedroom. Quiet, sedate and subdued; it centers on a large bed overlooking the lake. A pair of cushy white chairs nestle near an homage to another current rustic trend: a rough and very lightly whitewashed wood console. The couple’s private exit to a secluded, walled-off patio is through glass doors and provides even more spectacular, yet cozy and private, views of the sunrise as the residents arise each morning.
Two guest bedrooms are at the end of the hallway, and a short turned stairway leads to a rare feature in an MCM ranch home, a second story tower with two additional bedrooms and full baths.
The wedding, a second marriage for both, was held at the couple’s home in April – with necessary space being reclaimed by Eden’s clever use of a Plexiglas cover atop the pool. Nearly, but not quite upstaging the bride, the incredible breathtaking beauty of the carefully cultivated outdoor setting made this an event – and a home – to remember for years to come by their many friends and loved ones.
The increasingly popular MCM style has created a thoughtful renovation and rescue movement in this country, which is saving many homes from becoming infill development. Therefore, instead of razing and rebuilding, and eventually losing this landmark American style, which was innovated by such renowned architects as Frank Lloyd Wright, MCM homes are now being lovingly renewed and respectfully improved.
This newly married couple will start their lives together in this five bedroom, five bathroom house with laundry room, pantry, office, multiple dens, dining room and sumptuous master suite - a house they have taken the time and care to renovate and change to suit their desires while still respecting the dignified roots of its mid-century modern heritage.
Thus, they have enhanced the capacity of this home to survive and thrive for many decades as the sparkling gem of real estate it represents.