Here’s a short tale of two bungalows – both midcentury modern architectural gems, both having reached varying degrees of disrepair, and with interesting common features to their form and situation despite being an ocean apart. One has a compelling before and after story already told… the other’s: still to tell.
Bungalow #1, Architect: Arthur Witthoefft
We start with a stunning, no-expense-spared restoration of a midcentury bungalow designed by Arthur Witthoefft in 1957 in the woods of Westchester County, New York. The property won the AIA‘s First Honor award for Witthoefft, at the time an architect in the Manhattan office of corporate modernists Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and was home to the architect and his wife until they sold up in 1989. Seven years, and a succession of owners and abandonment later, the property had fallen into serious disrepair; only by virtue of its steel frame was it still standing. Back on the market again – for no more than its land value – developers were starting to circle like vultures.
Cue our heroes: Todd Goddard and Andrew Mandolene who spotted the property and were so enamoured that it inspired them to relocate West Coast to East Coast. With steeled hears and strong vision, they took the project on with a passion and a preservationist attitude to restore as much as possible to its original condition.
And to that end, they were remarkably lucky not only to track down Witthoefft – made a Fellow of the AIA in 2011 – for his verdict on the property’s condition and potential… but also to engage him as consultant on the project!
The result is a spectacular resurrection of a landmark property, preserving over 75% of the original structure, and finished with interior fittings and finishes blending the curatorial with the casual to keep this timepiece vintage without being precious.
It made me so happy to see it so smart looking again… I can’t get over what they’ve done—it’s unbelievable.
Bungalow #2, Architect: Michael Manser
A lovely find by our friends over at WowHaus, this late-midcentury bunker-like bungalow in Surrey, designed by eminent architect Michael Manser came to the market late 2011 in need of some TLC. Featuring wall-to-ceiling sliding doors onto a central courtyard (much like Cambria, into which we’d just moved), with flat roof, skylights and a timepiece interior, the house was a significant example of its type – midcentury modern at its best.
What also caught our eye was that from its grey-bricked, black trimmed sleek exterior with minimally glazed frontage, it bore a remarkable resemblance to the Wiffhoefft bungalow. Our curiosity was piqued as to whether similarities extended further, and indeed, whether the eventual purchasers might undertake a similar update to the property. Certainly, the approach taken by Goddard and Mandolene to their home provides a particularly relevant wealth of inspiration and resource for the lucky new owners of Manser’s ‘Weston Point’.
Interestingly, Manser was a strong proponent of the steel and glass aesthetic of the modern movement and his international commissions no doubt exposed him to leading trends in architecture both commercial and domestic. Californian influence is evident here with ‘Weston Point’, just as Whaley brought back Eichler / Quincy Jones’ inspiration from the US to his Edgcumbe Park development.
Another parallel between these bungalows came to light, sadly in the form of keen developer interest – this property too occupying a sizeable third-of-an-acre plot, and in a sought-after, Surrey locality too. We spotted a tweet to the effect that an interested party had tried to arrange a viewing through the selling agent who seemed keener to sell to a developer instead. The PDF particulars carry but a scant two photographs – thankfully their website showed more of the living space to help convey the property’s feel beyond its mere land value.
Twitter, again, yielded further insight as just recently in recommending an aluminium window supplier to friends, the purchaser spotted our tweet and went on to tweet the window company that they had a Manser bungalow to refurbish. We knew it had to be the same house… and it was! It transpired that whilst the agent indeed would have preferred to sell to a developer, the vendor quite rightly had other ideas and much preferred to sell to a fellow midcentury fan and enthusiastic homemaker.
We’re looking forward to keeping track of their renovation and will be inviting them to blog their progress here on our Journal. (Now in dialogue with the new owners, and having receiving some incredible original photographs, there’ll be a follow-up post very soon!)
What’s clear is that many midcentury gems have been enjoyed for decades by the same owners, fallen into states of disrepair, and presented to the market by agents keener to make a good sale than help preserve the architecture. Thankfully, both these properties won out, but in many cases the homes are razed to the ground and lost forever.
…And that provides a subject for a post to come!