Remodeling was necessary to bring this 50-plus-year- old home into the 21st century.
Written by Romi Carrell Wittman | Photography by David Olson
Mid-century style — a term describing the clean, minimalist designs from about 1945 through the late 1970s — is having a moment. You see its influences in everything from new home design to home décor at both high-end and mass-appeal stores. Need proof? The once collector-only furniture brands Herman Miller, Knoll and Eames are almost commonplace today.
What most people don’t realize is that Tucson is home to some of the country’s best examples of classic mid-century design, and the Windsor Park subdivision is one of Tucson’s master-planned, mid-century gems. Located on the northeast side, this small community of about 125 homes was built in 1962 by developer J. Herbert Oxman. Marketing materials from the time advertised the homes as “almost living outdoors,” with the average three-bedroom home featuring some 575 square feet of glass. Double carports, angled roofs and large, one-quarter- to one-third-acre lots were among the community’s other selling points.
This iconic style is what drew Jim Eck and Roxanne Rossi to purchase a house in Windsor Park. The couple has long been a fan of mid-century modern style and architecture. “We spent vacations in Palm Springs and were really drawn to that style,” Eck says.
“We looked at various locations (in Tucson), but this area is an enclave of mid-century homes — not just one or two,” Eck elaborates. They estimate they looked at 30 houses before finding “The One.”
Rossi realized the moment she walked through the doorway that it was home. “When I saw the wall of glass, I just knew,” she says of the 1,700-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bath home.
But it required some TLC before they could move in. As with many older houses, it had been altered a bit through the years and it needed some updating to make it a comfortable, modern living space. The U-shaped kitchen, common to the era in which it was built, divided the living and dining rooms. The fireplace sat in a room that had no windows.
“The previous owner had a teenage son and they called it the ‘man cave,’” Eck says with a laugh.
The first order of business was to open up the kitchen and living room and transform them into a great room. There was one problem: the kitchen wall was load-bearing, meaning it couldn’t be removed without devising another means of supporting the roof.
The couple turned to architect Chris Evans for help. Evans is known for his work with the Tucson Historic Preservation Society, and has extensive experience renovating and updating mid-century homes.
“We didn’t want to go into historic preservation mode of pink tiles and a lot of that,” Eck says. “We went more contemporary with the goal of retaining the design aesthetic. We landed on ‘open and light,’ with the use of mixed local materials like adobe to maintain the character.”
“They wanted to combine all the living spaces — kitchen, dining, living,” Evans explains. “The big challenge was trying to figure out how to open it up.”
A large support beam was installed so the existing walls could be removed. New windows, a concrete flooring overlay, and the addition of a window to the fireplace room also were addressed during the remodel. The couple plans to renovate the bedrooms in the future.
Most recently, they constructed a 400-square-foot studio for Rossi, who is a mixed media artist. Her artwork — as well as that of the couple’s son, a potter — is featured prominently throughout the home. Rossi, a former art teacher, observes, “I’m a maker — I have to create things. I’m inspired by my environment, people, and the places we go.”
The couple loves the “new” home and its one big room for living, cooking and entertaining. “It’s a very comfortable house,” Rossi concludes.
Artist Roxanne Rossi, roxannerossi.com
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