Becky Miller struck gold when she got a mid-condition California Contemporary in a peaceful, undiscovered neighborhood in Denver (Part 1). Good things can be kept quiet for only so long but a bit of a commute and the labor of love that midcenturies require kept leering house hunters at bay.
While Denver’s median house price hovered around $265,000 last year, a two-bedroom, one-bath, 900-square-foot WP bungalow would have fetched $400,000 to $600,000. Miller is recruiting friends to the Lynwood cult by showing them how much more they can get for their money and how fab the houses are. It can be a hard sell though; the neighborhood is a whopping 15 minutes from downtown and trendy restaurants and shops are in short supply. “All of my friends are very city oriented; you might as well be in a different universe. They come out to visit and say, ‘I have no idea where I am, but this is really cool.’ Then when they start looking for their first houses and see real estate prices in town, they’re amazed. They like this neighborhood but wonder if they can do the drive.”
Miller’s house was remodeled in 1977 when the carport was enclosed and the garage converted into a family room. The kitchen is right next to the front door—a plus in her view—and the former living room off the kitchen is now a dining room. The kitchen originally housed both a dining nook and the washer and dryer, in addition to the usual appliances and storage.
Three bedrooms and two baths are off narrow halls toward the back of the floor plan. “I started doing research and realized this was basically an Eichler,” she says. “I read that these houses weren’t built with heat efficiency in mind, and it’s absolutely true. There’s very little insulation—it’s hot in the summer and really cold in the winter. Still, in Denver you’ll have one day where it’s 30 degrees and snowing and the next it’s 60, so you spend time outside even in the winter. This house has three patios and a great relationship with the outdoors; it’s really fun to entertain in.”
About three years ago the media discovered the neighborhood and Miller says she could stand outside and watch looky-loos drive up and down the street. Lynwood mid centuries are selling for $340,000 or more today. She sees two reactions to that price bump, both of which she experienced herself: “This is such a cool house. I have to have it; I’ll make it work.” And, “This price is kind of ridiculous for a ranch house that needs all of this work.” “Some people feel these house are cheaply built modular homes,” she says. “Any house takes work and if you take care of them, they’re great. Most new construction is stucco and frame; I would so much rather pay the money for a unique house.”
Corporate Takeover in Denver
In part 3, buyers only looking for a good deal had moved on to other neighborhoods, but developers soon swooped in with their own ideas about how to remodel midcentury modern homes.