House Tour: Jim & Jeff's Exuberant Post-War American Modern Home

House Tour: Jim & Jeff's Exuberant Post-War American Modern Home

Nov 13, 2007

Name: Jim & Jeff
Location: San Francisco
Apartment Size: 1,600 +/- sq. ft.
Years lived in: 15+

You might recognize Jim & Jeff's colorful house. They were in the 2006 Fall Colors Contest -- see their entry here. We asked them for some more photos, and they were nice enough to indulge us.

Do you have an idea for a house tour? Let us know!

My/our style: Our house was built in 1939 and was a good example of popular pre-war modernism. I wanted to create an exuberant post-war American modern home décor. I grew up with mid-century modern, but lately it's become woefully trendy, so I thought I'd try a slightly different twist on modern–hopefully something you don't see every day.

Inspiration for my home: During the 40's and 50's there was a style to popular modern American home decor. Not the sterile severity of Bauhaus but a more humane modern. Clean, sleek and functional, but at the same time very comfortable and livable. A more populist spin on the idea of modern. Modern you could live in.

Favorite element: The half round window end of the living room. The steel casements are very evocative of the era. Also there's a running theme of curves throughout the house. The fireplace mantle, the bay, the front of the house & the main bath. Curves were a key motif in this particular streamline style of modern architecture but rarely incorporated to this extent in ordinary middle-class homes.

Biggest challenge in designing my home: Time. It's taken a very careful 15+ years of finding just the right vintage pieces and pulling them all together with a color plan that's both nostalgic and modern while still feeling comfortable and cozy. In the 40's post-war life was good. There was an innocently naïve vision of better living through chemistry and the atom. Atomic burgers from the radar range. MMmmm, good.

What friends say about my home: Cool.

Biggest embarrassment in my home: I put laminate on the laundry room floor. What WAS I thinking! If I ever build my own house all the floors will be cork. It's cheap, easy and feels wonderfully warm and alive underfoot.

Proudest DIY: Next year when I finally redo my office. Always look forward.

Biggest indulgence with respect to my home: Thermostatically controlled electric heat in the bathroom floor. It seemed like a frivolous indulgence at the time but now I can't live without it. You have not lived well until you experience the luxury of the warm floor under your feet when you get up to pee at 3AM. Seriously.

Best advice given or received: Don't order mirrors mail order. Seven years bad luck.

My dream source for stuff: Knoll Studio. If you have the money to spend then buy the real deal–it's timeless stuff that never goes out of style. Some current designer stuff looks cool and hip now but I remember the 80's. Memphis stainless hi-tech black leather lacquer 80's. It seemed like a good look at the time but you don't see any of that stuff at MOMA, do you?

FloorCraft in San Francisco
You might find it a wee bit cheaper online but it's not worth the anxiety.

Hundley Hardware in San Francisco
Designer's Brass in San Bruno

eBay and
I look for used furniture first. You can see the life in a well-cared-for piece of vintage furniture. You'll save a few bucks and avoid that crisp and shiny catalog look. And it's green to reuse perfectly sound handmade pieces of superior quality that are not made today for any price. Also no matching furniture sets. That matchy-matchy look is for cheap hotel rooms.

Few and far between. My initial reaction to 'decorator accessories' is to just say no. But let's be honest, there are places here and there that need something. So if you're going to buy a vase to put at the end of the mantle, at least buy one you like and that's practical enough to use once or twice a year. This is my operational strategy for anything of the tchotchke genre. This has a very practical side benefit. Since all this stuff gets taken down and used once or twice a year you won't need to worry about dusting. You'll never have more than say six months of dust build-up and if that falls within your threshold of filth tolerance/cleanliness than yippee you've saved yourself a chore.

Buy vintage, same deal as the furniture.

Window Treatments:
Smith & Noble

I love art, art is great, I'm a painter myself but please don't buy a piece of art because it looks good on your wall with the new room color. Buy art you like. Art for art's sake.

Thanks, Jim and Jeff!

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(Edited from a post originally published on 11.21.06)

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