Type to search

Before & After: A Midcentury Wrapped Around an Oak Tree Turns Over a New Leaf

Inspiration

Before & After: A Midcentury Wrapped Around an Oak Tree Turns Over a New Leaf

Share

As a California native practicing in the Bay Area during the heyday of Eichler developments and Case Study Houses, modernist architect Wayne Littlejohn developed a style strongly influenced by the midcentury modern movement.

This hillside-embedded house completed in 1963 in Danville, California, bears the hallmarks of an Eichler—sweeping expanses of glass, deep cantilevered overhangs, and an embrace of indoor/outdoor living—yet it had fallen into disrepair by the time a young house-hunting couple discovered it last year.

Before: The Front Facade

Newsletter

Join the Renovations Newsletter

Get carefully curated content filled with inspiring homes from around the world, innovative new products, and the best in modern design

The home is split into four terraced levels that echo the surrounding topography.

The home is split into four terraced levels that echo the surrounding topography.

After: The Front Facade

See Arch replaced many of the original single-pane wood windows with new thermally broken aluminum windows. They also painted the exterior.

See Arch replaced many of the original single-pane wood windows with new thermally broken aluminum windows. They also painted the exterior.

Fortunately, the damaged exterior and dismally dark 1970s interior didn’t scare away the couple, who were captivated by the home wrapped around a massive oak tree embedded into the inner courtyard. Undaunted by the renovation process, the new homeowners reached out to Oakland-based See Arch to restore the home’s modernist character while updating the dwelling to contemporary standards.

Before: The Deck

The outdoor deck showed signs of damage from natural weathering over time and lack of maintenance.

The outdoor deck showed signs of damage from natural weathering over time and lack of maintenance.

After: The Deck

See Arch repaired and refinished the deck.

See Arch repaired and refinished the deck.

“This home is an exception to the modernist mantra of form follows function and we wanted to celebrate the playfulness and dynamic quality of the layout by emphasizing its interconnectivity and indoor relationship to the outdoors,” the architects explain. “The public and private spaces, as well as the terraced separation of program, allude to a family-focused, treehouse way of life and references many concepts inherent to Loos’ Raumplan.”

Before: The Dining Room

Wrapped in wood paneling and lined with old carpet, the dining area felt dark and stuffy before the renovation.

Wrapped in wood paneling and lined with old carpet, the dining area felt dark and stuffy before the renovation.

After: The Dining Room

Folding glass doors creates a more seamless connection between the dining room and the outdoor deck.

Folding glass doors creates a more seamless connection between the dining room and the outdoor deck.

Littlejohn planned the 2,575-square-foot house as four terraced levels that climb up the hillside and embrace the landscape through large windows. Emphasizing the original architect’s approach to indoor/outdoor living was an important part of the renovation; the interior layout and elevations were preserved, as were other key modernist details, such as the central living room hearth.

Before: The Living Room

The old living room was dominated by a muddle of brown colors.

The old living room was dominated by a muddle of brown colors.

After: The Living Room

See Arch repainted the architectural block fireplace and reworked the existing stone-inlay ledge into a built-in wood and tile bench.

See Arch repainted the architectural block fireplace and reworked the existing stone-inlay ledge into a built-in wood and tile bench.

See Arch replaced many of the dated and damaged surfaces. Thermally broken folding walls of glass replaced many single-pane sliding doors to strengthen the indoor relationship to the landscape. The interiors instantly brightened once See Arch swapped the distracting wood paneling for new sheetrock and wood trim.

Shop the Look
West Elm Kasbah Wool Rug – Ivory

West Elm Kasbah Wool Rug – Ivory

Inspired by traditional Moroccan rugs, the artful Kasbah Rug is handcrafted from New Zealand wool. Luxe and soft underfoot, it would be ideal in a bedroom or living room. As a Fair Trade Certified™ product, this rug supports better living and working conditions for the artisans who made it. Photo…

Hans J. Wegner Easy Chair

Hans J. Wegner Easy Chair

“A chair is to have no backside,” said Hans J. Wegner. “It should be beautiful from all sides and angles.” Sculptural and balanced, his Easy Chair (1950) embodies this maxim, a classic example of the “organic functionalism” for which he is famous.

Tripod Floor Lamp

Tripod Floor Lamp

The Tripod Floor Lamp (2008), with its satisfying proportions and refined details, has all the potential of a classic. Its cord is coyly hidden down one leg, for an uninterrupted line. Three thin legs, each with a rubber glide at its base, support a perfectly balanced fabric shade.

Before: The Entryway 

The dated living room was constricted with timber on all sides.

The dated living room was constricted with timber on all sides.

After: The Entryway 

The updated living room features new wide-plank white oak hardwood floors. See Arch refinished the wood ceiling and structural beams, and stripped the walls of the original wood paneling for a brighter look.

The updated living room features new wide-plank white oak hardwood floors. See Arch refinished the wood ceiling and structural beams, and stripped the walls of the original wood paneling for a brighter look.

In another nod to the midcentury roots of the property, See Arch fitted the renovated 3,768-square-foot home with a mix of iconic midcentury furnishings from Herman Miller and the Eames design collection, and more contemporary offerings from the likes of CB2, West Elm, and All Modern.

Before: The Living Room Wall

See Arch replaced many of the original single-pane wood windows with more efficient, thermally broken windows.

See Arch replaced many of the original single-pane wood windows with more efficient, thermally broken windows.

After: The Living Room Wall

A geometric wood accent wall lies across from the main entry wall and runs alongside the stairs.

A geometric wood accent wall lies across from the main entry wall and runs alongside the stairs.

“The blend of contemporary and modernist features and use of wood built-in components are our favorite features of the project,” the architects said of the new mahogany wood millwork and custom wall paneling.

Before: The Kitchen

Despite the large window framing the outdoors, the existing U-shaped kitchen felt cramped compared to modern kitchens.

Despite the large window framing the outdoors, the existing U-shaped kitchen felt cramped compared to modern kitchens.

After: The Kitchen

See Arch removed a wall to create a more spacious kitchen with a stronger visual connection to the dining area. The updated kitchen is outfitted with quartz countertops and Viking, Fisher Paykel, and Asko appliances.

See Arch removed a wall to create a more spacious kitchen with a stronger visual connection to the dining area. The updated kitchen is outfitted with quartz countertops and Viking, Fisher Paykel, and Asko appliances.

“We designed many custom millwork moments into the home to weave styles, levels, and spaces together. The kitchen is at the center of the home and it’s the focus of the home’s new millwork. Accent wood walls become an extension of the kitchen cabinets and extend radially to both the front and back of the home, connecting the entry to the dining, kitchen, and utility areas.” 

Before: The Kitchen Backsplash

A look at the dated kitchen. See Arch swapped out all the pictured elements for new materials and appliances.

A look at the dated kitchen. See Arch swapped out all the pictured elements for new materials and appliances.

After: The Kitchen Backsplash

The updated kitchen features an Elite Tile backsplash, white quartz countertops, and new plumbing and lighting.

The updated kitchen features an Elite Tile backsplash, white quartz countertops, and new plumbing and lighting.

Before: The Bathroom

While the existing bathroom layout was perfectly usable, See Arch swapped the dated surface materials for a more contemporary look.

While the existing bathroom layout was perfectly usable, See Arch swapped the dated surface materials for a more contemporary look.

After: The Bathroom

The renovation introduced new plumbing fixtures, lighting, custom wood vanities, and tiled walls in the bathroom.

The renovation introduced new plumbing fixtures, lighting, custom wood vanities, and tiled walls in the bathroom.

Before: The Side Deck

The home is built around an existing oak tree.

The home is built around an existing oak tree.

After: The Side Deck

See Arch refinished the soffit cladding and deck while making repairs as necessary.

See Arch refinished the soffit cladding and deck while making repairs as necessary.

Before: The Exterior Fireplace

The exterior fireplace wall showed signs of water damage and aging, as did the weathered deck with overgrown vegetation.

The exterior fireplace wall showed signs of water damage and aging, as did the weathered deck with overgrown vegetation.

After: The Exterior Fireplace

See Arch restored the exterior fireplace wall and painted it a deep blue hue to match the repainted blue timber cladding.

See Arch restored the exterior fireplace wall and painted it a deep blue hue to match the repainted blue timber cladding.

Midcentury Hillside Remodel floor plan

Midcentury Hillside Remodel floor plan

Wayne Littlejohn's original floor plan

Wayne Littlejohn’s original floor plan

Wayne Littlejohn's original sections

Wayne Littlejohn’s original sections

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *