Neighborhood: Brentwood · Style: Atomic Ranch · Year Built: 1959
A Place for Mid Mod Enthusiasts to Call Home
Newlyweds Jason and Molly Nunn hadn't taken more than a few steps inside their Brentwood-area atomic ranch home before they knew it was meant to be. Within minutes of seeing the inside of the heptagon (seven-sided) house, they made an offer.
"It sounds a little more superstitious than I really am, but I kept waiting for this special feeling in my gut that would tell me when we'd found the right house," said Molly. "When we set foot in this one, I took one look around and knew it was what we'd been waiting for. We've loved it ever since."'
The Nunns' favorite features of the house are many, but they especially love that its circular layout supports a Frank Lloyd Wright ideology that entertaining spaces should be large, roomy, and easily accessible while private spaces should stay, well—more private. The house's three bedrooms and two bathrooms lie behind a "core" wall made of brick while a spacious living area, kitchen, and dining area take up the front. One need only walk in a circle around the core to access any room in the house.
The "core" plays several roles of its own. It contains two wood burning fireplaces—one facing the dining area and one facing the living area—as well as a large laundry and storage room, which also conveniently hides the heating, cooling, and water equipment.
Thanks to the house's shape, light flows in at angles that keeps the house cool and softly lit at all hours. The only source of direct sunlight for much of the time is a large skylight that floods the living area with brightness from dawn until dusk. Though the skylight is original and is dangerously close to wearing out, the Nunns plan to replace it with a new, environmentally sound version within the year.
For Jason and Molly, moving in to their favorite neighborhood was a dream come true after the better part of a year spent searching for the perfect time capsule house. "Everything about this era of design and architecture has always clicked with us, so we wanted something mostly left unaltered from the 50s or 60s," said Jason. "But we kept looking at homes that had had most or all their original features removed and replaced with styles that didn't fit or make sense, which was kind of disillusioning for us. We weren't sure if we were going to find what we were looking for."
Luckily, their home retains just about all of its original features, like teak bathroom cabinets and a starburst-knobbed front door. Unfortunately, not all of the house's original features survived almost six decades of changing ownership.
"We think the kitchen underwent a mystery renovation sometime in the 70s or 80s, so sadly we don't know what it originally looked like," said Molly. "But we hope we can do a full remodel on it in the future that's sleek and modern while still blending in with the rest of the house."
There's one other feature added by a previous owner that the Nunns weren't quite sure what to do with. The middle bedroom contains a triangular-shaped addition that a previous owner added as a "secret" room. Lacking better ideas, the Nunns now use the hideaway as a home office.
"The doorway to the secret room was apparently hidden by a haunted house-style pull-out bookcase," said Molly. "We're obviously not going to restore that part, but it makes for a good story."
Despite the secret room and kitchen, just about all of the rest of the house has been well maintained for 58 years. Each room offers hints of the architect's sensibility and taste for unique touches, from pink marble built-in shelving above the living room fireplace to thick crown molding in the dining room.
Although there's extra work required to maintain and appropriately modernize a 1959 atomic ranch, Jason and Molly are more than up to the task and hope to let their love of mid century modern design lead the choices they make for the house the future.
"Getting to preserve this house is genuinely an hour because we've never seen anything else like it," said Molly. "We're lucky to call it home."