When Lynn and Chip Spitzer (of C.E. Spitzer Inc. contractor fame) found the grey mid-century rancher on a shady street in the Malvern area of the Near West End, they knew it had potential.
With block walls and a nearly flat roof they dubbed "Jetsons-style," the house — which Richmond architect Eugene N. Brooks built and designed for himself in 1950 — had in recent decades been cottage-ized. Traditional shutters, double-sash windows and thick moldings obscured simpler, modernist bones.
Releasing the home's inner modern was a challenge the couple welcomed. The project would also require patience, imagination and really good design. It would also require a ton of vision. υ
Seeing what "can be" is a talent Chip Spitzer, a contractor who has worked on hundreds of remodeling and custom design-build projects over the past 22 years, brings in spades.
"It was a sort of mind-meld," says Lynn Spitzer, describing a renovation process that was equal parts collaboration, creativity and fun. She, her husband, Chip, and their architect bounced ideas off each other and challenged one another to create the best spaces possible.
"The process design was holistic. It wasn't just about the house," Spitzer explains. "It was the feeling the house would create, and about bringing our aesthetic to outdoor spaces as well."
Indoors and outdoors now blend dramatically, and what began as an 1,800-square-foot, ho-hum Richmond rancher has become a 3,200-square-foot contemporary with a pool and Palm Springs-like flair. Great art, vast vistas, expanses of glass and floors of concrete all meld into a family home that's light, bright and thoroughly modern.
POOL AND YARD
The once blah backyard now features an 18-by-36-foot pool surrounded by a variety of gathering spaces edged in concrete, a material used for some flooring indoors. "Swimming pools are often marginalized in landscapes," says architect Jay Hugo. "We embraced the pool as a garden feature," he notes, and the house embraces the pool as well. The Spitzers, their two daughters (aged 13 and 20) and guests often gather poolside around a table Lynn snatched up at a season-end sale at Sears.
Like other rooms in the house, the kitchen was opened up to embrace exterior light and neighboring rooms. The Spitzers kept the existing "cottage" cabinets, painting them gray. (The couple skillfully employs four shades of gray on walls throughout the house and a custom-mixed gray for interior trim.) New oversized pulls and compact stainless appliances make the transformation complete. Decorative elements such as the grid-like mirror and sunny pendant lights become defining features of the reenergized space. Counter-height stools are from CB2. Vintage chocolate molds with stands add a surprising sculptural element to the countertop.
When the Spitzers purchased the house, built-in bookcases — not views — were the focal point in the living room. The space felt confined, dark and indifferent to the backyard. Now, full focus is on a dramatic glass wall and the pool beyond. The line between indoors and out is blurred spectacularly. The sofa, from Design Within Reach, provides mid-century chi. A Calder-like mobile hangs to alert birds to the expanse of glass. After the wall was partically removed, Chip had an opaque screen made to help define the living space and to hide a bathroom door. To the right, a ceramic piece by New Zealand artist Garry Nash sits atop a sideboard that once belonged to Lynn's grandfather.
Though the home's original family room offered lots of windows, their configuration was more "cottage" than modern. Architect Jay Hugo convinced the homeowners to limit windows to the corner, creating surprisingly long diagonal views through the home and out into the garden. With additional wall space, TV viewing is more comfortable. From the couch, Lynn can see across the courtyard and into the study where her daughter often works on the computer. The house presents pockets of privacy and pleasing vistas, too.