Knock, knock. In 2018, Curbed was there, asking to be let into many, many midcentury modern gems in California (yes, please), a flood-resistant Ranch-style home in New York on stilts (!), a former pub turned residence in Belgium (!!), an aerie with excellent wood floors and swoon-worthy plaster details in Paris (!!!), and so much more, for our weekly home tours column, House Calls.
Photographing bungalows, vacation houses, apartments (and everything in between) reminded us that our homes continue to be places of sanctuary, fonts of expression, and vessels for creativity. Won’t you come in?
We kicked off the year by heading to San Francisco, where Noe Valley couple Vivian Lee and Robert Edmonds (co-founders of Edmonds + Lee Architects) gave us the lowdown on what it was like to build the house they craved on a small lot no one seemed to want. Their tenacity and vision led to a modern, two-story family home with minimalist-yet-warm interiors—and excellent views of the city.
The home-tours team at Curbed works from climes where temperatures drop well below freezing in winter, so in February we found ourselves hungering for sun and heat. Enter the Palm Springs, California, home of David Kearney and Chip Graves, a newly developed house built with eco-friendliness—and midcentury style—in mind. We were especially fond of the house’s unfussy coolness, mix of 1960s and 1970s furniture, and excellent terrazzo floors.
And speaking of terrazzo: We practically fell out of our chairs with excitement about the eye-popping kitchen—and the terrazzo countertops and backsplashes—in this 19th-century townhouse in TriBeCa, which was renovated by New York City architect Susan Yun of Yun Architecture and interior designer Penelope August. The homeowner talked to Curbed about the house’s “layers:” muscular wood ceiling beams, left exposed, nod to the house’s 1820s origins, and play nice with shiny new doorknobs and hinges, and an array of thrifted, curated, and custom furniture.
It’s not every day that you get access to a home designed by a legend like architect Louis Kahn. But, earlier this year, we had just such a pleasure when homeowners Paul Savidge and Dan Macey invited Curbed in for a tour. The iconic Esherick House, designed by Kahn in the late 1950s and built in Philadelphia’s Chestnut Hill neighborhood, was commissioned for local bookstore owner Margaret Esherick, the niece of a friend of Kahn’s. Esherick wanted a simple one-bedroom house—and that’s what Kahn delivered, with a peerless level of detail. To update the home for life in the 21st century, Savidge and Macey asked architect Kevin Yoder to spearhead a sensitive revamp that, among other things, turned an existing utility room into a new kitchen (especially important for Macey, a professional chef).
Loft living isn’t for everyone, but this airy apartment in Chicago’s West Loop makes a solid case for open floorplans and exposed structural steel. The homeowner, Julia Wood, hired architect Jeff Klymson of Collective Office to cut through the noise of the flashy 1980s renovation she inherited and unearth the space’s potential. (Custom storage made of gorgeously milled walnut and new flooring went a long way.)
The Sea Ranch, a circa-1960s planned community along California’s Sonoma Coast, has a long history of being a hotbed of innovative design thinking. In April, we paid a visit to an Oakland, California, couple, architectural designers Chad DeWitt and James Cook, who purchased a home with a small footprint in the development, and worked to make it theirs—with the blessing of one of the Sea Ranch’s original architects, George Homsey.
Lest you think only professional designers have the chops to whip their spaces into shape, please take a look at the plant- and art-filled Brooklyn home of creative director Dan Pelosi. Pelosi, in a story photographed by his landlady (!), the lensmith Gabriela Herman, dished on his enduring love of color, cooking, hosting, and creating a retreat from the chaos of the world outside his front door. “My friends make fun of me because I don’t want to leave my house,” Pelosi told Curbed last spring, “but I think that should be the goal.”
Brooklyn contains multitudes. Where Dan Pelosi’s apartment (above) is exuberant, this renovated 1901 townhouse in the borough’s Park Slope neighborhood—given a refresh by Portland, Oregon, firm Jessica Helgerson Interior Design and local studio CWB Architects—mixes modern art and elaborate plasterwork detailing to coolly handsome effect. That’s not to say fun isn’t being had here: In the kids’ playroom, a fun geometric pendant light by Ladies & Gentleman Studio hangs overhead.
In certain circles, today’s San Francisco gets a bad rep, shunned for becoming a playground for tech company employees and relinquishing quirk in favor of sheen. But architect John Toya, who lives off Alamo Square, brought his personality and a sense of whimsy to his apartment, filling it with mementos from his travels and reclaimed industrial cast-offs.
For our first-ever international House Call, we visited the home of Belgian couple Yves Drieghe and Bert Pieters (co-founders of creative agency Dift), whose pub-turned-dream house in Ghent first caught our eye—where else?—on Instagram. It took some real reworking to turn the former watering hole for fans of local soccer team K.A.A. Ghent into a cheeky sanctuary for Pieters and Drieghe, but it was worth it, the couple reports.
Fire Island, New York, has a scruffy, evergreen allure. In July, we trekked out to a home crafted by interior designer Alexandra Angle for a Manhattan-based client who wanted an escape for herself and her family. Behind an elegantly simple facade lie colorful, pattern-filled interiors where comfort is paramount—and ocean views are plenty.
Every so often, a home comes along that moves you to make new design choices in your own space. The highly personalized home of greeting card designer Jesse Levison and her husband Alex Trendelman was one such space. The couple transformed their 1,200-square-foot bungalow in the Los Angeles County city of Glendale with art, plants, and carefully chosen paint colors—and we walked away with a million ideas for our own spaces.
Though our homes are highly personal, they’re also reflections of our cultural contexts. Nowhere was that more clear than in the Brooklyn home of design mind and woman-about-town Alyse Archer-Coité. About her serene, sunlit space in the borough’s Fort Greene section, and its figurative photographic works and sculptures, Archer-Coité told Curbed: “I like [having that in my home]—a history of brown people in the world.” Then, she paraphrased a line from Maya Angelou’s poem “Our Grandmothers”: “‘I come as one, but I stand as ten thousand.’ I think that element of not forgetting where you come from...it’s really important to my home space.”
For its own COO, acclaimed Los Angeles full-service firm Marmol Radziner built this hilltop modern house in Mar Vista, California. Its clean lines and handsome color palette are, in short, stunning, and the house’s seamlessly indoor-outdoor spaces make us want to pick up and move west.
You’d expect the home of the former global brand director at Herman Miller and Dwell editor in chief to be bursting with modernist treasures. And you’d be right. In Grand Rapids, Michigan, Sam Grawe turned a “1971 dream palace” into a home fit for a family of four. The combination of vintage Herman Miller pieces and work by Jasper Morrison, the Bouroullec brothers, and more, is just right—playful without seeming fussed-over.
If you know cookbooks, you know award-winning cookbook author Dorie Greenspan. In November, Greenspan welcomed Curbed inside the freshly renovated Upper West Side home she’s shared with her husband for nearly five decades (and that had been revamped over nearly as many years). To push the renovation over the finish line, Greenspan’s interior designer was someone she’d known for a long time, too: her son, Josh, of Studio 639. The result are gorgeous interiors that are high design without feeling at all over-designed.
Paris is always a good idea. Creative director, pastry chef, and author Jackie Kai Ellis knew this when she decided to buy an apartment in the City of Light and settled on a flat in this turn-of-the-20th-century building in Paris’s tenth arrondissement, near the picturesque Canal St. Martin. A refresh of the space, which hadn’t been updated since the 1940s, included the removal of layers of paint over the space’s elaborate plaster moldings and the selection of a number of brilliant paint hues from Farrow & Ball.
With the environment in mind, Indiana homeowners Kelsey and Tyler Johnston set out to build a house that sits lightly on its 8.5 acres, and incorporated as much green design tech (think: energy recovery ventilation systems) as possible. The couple was also inspired by vernacular architecture in the region, including agricultural structures with clean, simple forms that exalted their materials.