Topic: Outdoor Living Ideas

Date Posted: Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Posted by: Tanya Zanfa (Master Admin)

Modern indoor-outdoor living: Street of Dreams

Modern indoor-outdoor living: Street of Dreams 

The leaders of what's now known as midcentury modern had lofty goals. To create homes families could live in. Inside and out. To unlock once tightly defined rooms like parlors and claustrophobic kitchens to unleash great open spaces. To efficiently organize a house into gathering places, work areas and sleeping zones.

American houses today benefit from designers, builders and crews executing these ideals.

Technology has allowed the concepts to progress. Smooth sliding doors can now erase the demarcation between interiors and exteriors. Matching the flooring, finishes and, yes, even furniture and appliances further obscure what's under the roof of the house and what's sheltered by a patio cover.

New gadgets also advanced the ideas of easy living. In the 1950s, Zenith introduced a hand-held device for "lazy bones" tuning, that is, being able to change TV channels from the recliner. Microwave ovens, nonstick pans and colorized kitchen appliances also eased into homes in that exuberant era.

Over the decades, ultra modern builders have gone overboard, cantilevering glass rooms into the horizon and exposing spaces so much that there's no place to put away everyday items, not to mention leaving out a little of life's clutter.

What pulls them back to reality is this question: Is the house livable, comfortable and attractive?

What works? You know it when you're in it.

One of the new houses on the 2015 NW Natural Street of Dreams home tour in Lake Oswego through Aug. 30 is called Mid-Century Evolution.

Builder Mark Stephens of Stephens Homes was inspired by the iconic indoor-outdoor designs of architect Frank Lloyd Wright and midcentury modern builders Joseph Eichler in California and Robert Rummer in Oregon.

Stephens worked off plans created by Barclay Home Designs to build a three-level house with split-face limestone that runs from the exterior to the interior.

Interior finishes and furniture for the 5,653-square-foot house were selected by Ron Thompson Design.

Wander into the wide glass front door and into the double-height entry. Off to the left is a doorless room, an inviting office or library. Continue forward and you're in the great room, where walls of windows climb to reach vaulted ceilings. To the right is the kitchen, the center of a home.

A home chef himself, Stephens knows that space is the best ingredient to any home-cooked meal. This house has:

  • Counter space on both sides of range.
  • An island that is ample in size but not too large that you can't reach the middle. "It has to be thoughtful, not wasteful," he suggests. "Not like you can land a small plane on it."
  • Five feet of floor space around the island so people can maneuver.
  • An eating bar where people can gather and stay out of the cook's way.

Here's another smart idea: Anyone who has ever tried to duplicate a kitchen outdoors knows there is always one thing left behind in the "real" kitchen, whether it's tongs or sea salt. Stephens solved that issue – and saved a lot of money and energy use – but making the kitchen flow into the outdoor patio.

Glass-panel pocket doors completely open one wide wall.

A barbecue is all you need outside, he says. Here, a built-in grill has counter space on both sides and a hood above. Stephens also added a fire pit with a seating area near the lawn.

Stephens, who grew up in a 1940s farmhouse on the Oregon coast, saw the first Street of Dreams home tour in 1976. Since then, he has watched how cool new features like energy-efficient LED lighting systems and sustainable materials have moved from being expensive to affordable.

"The new way of relaxed living introduced in the middle of the last century is in more demand especially since we all seem to be on duty 24/7," says Stephens. "There is a need for a less-cluttered, sit back and relax home life."

-- Janet Eastman 

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