House Call: The Lorna House

Phoenix

Name: The Lorna House Location: Phoenix, AZ

Reader and home owner Traci Brandon sent us a few photos of her renovated 1950's Ralph Haver designed residence located in Phoenix, Arizona (Haver was Cali born, but set his roots in Phoenix professionally), a modernist ranch tract home with literal layers of history behind its walls. The Lorna House was recently renovated by previous owner and architect Shawn Kaffer, who took the task of uncovering a modernist aesthetic hidden under years of era non-specific additions while also riffing on its roots with his own additions. The home was renovated from some worn, but still charming, condition into a house whose 50's character still permeates through and with the modern updates...Here's some insight into the thought behind the renovation as reported by architect Shawn Kaffer, interviewed by Modern Phoenix/Desert Living Magazine: “God rest her soul, Lorna had stuccoed the entire house,” Kaffer recounted with a wry chuckle. “I couldn’t sandblast with the way the stucco was applied, so I was out there with a chisel for about a year and half.” The stucco was chipped away brick by brick with the resolve of Sisyphus to reveal the running bond of the original masonry. The reality of economic building was most evident here; the mortar and CMU block were sturdy, but too tender to hold up against sandblasting media. The result was worth it as earthy grays and flecks of black aggregate were revealed in the original block.

By today’s standards, the home wasn’t so pretty, though it’s easy to understand why it was fashionable in its heyday. Lorna had already bumped the kitchen further back on the property decades ago, and had knocked down one of the bedroom walls to create a dining room. A flashy Art Deco mural had been integrated into the remaining wall. The original materials palette included raised velvet wallpaper and deep ocean blue carpet throughout. It took a little x-ray vision to strip away all the surfaces and recognize the good bones beneath.

Want to know more about the Haver House? Listen to Desert Living Editor David Tyda discuss the renovation in detail with Alison King and Shawn Kaffer. There's also a thought provoking discussion about Kaffer's renovation and the topic of historical modification here that may appeal to you passionate midcentury/historical architecture buffs.

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