Though this historic home was marked for tear down, one couple knew they could sensitively restore it, while adapting it for modern life.
Some love stories are meant to be. Such was the case with Dan and Brandie Meis. The two met at Dan’s office and quickly realized how naturally their talents and interests dovetailed. (Dan is an architect and owner of MEIS Architects, and Brandie is a designer—and both have a deep, abiding appreciation for Mid Century Modern furniture and homes.) They embarked on the grand adventure of marriage, and soon another love story unfolded: finding just the right residences to fall in love with and call home. “I have been practicing for 30+ years but specialize in the design of stadiums and arenas,” Dan says. “Brandie graduated architecture school from University of Southern California. Our experience in renovation has grown from a shared love of mid century architecture and design.”
A High Bar
They relocated from California to New York in order to be closer to Dan’s European projects. The move meant leaving behind an incredibly special Mid Century Modern house located near Malibu, so the couple were determined to find another place that they loved as much. Little did they know just what awaited: a historic home doomed and marked for tear down.
When they first toured the residence, it was in terrible shape. “We immediately knew it would be a big project if we decided to buy the home,” Brandie says. Rain poured into the main bedroom, and the structure was afflicted by termite damage and dry rot. “I was a bit intimidated by how much we were going to have to rebuild,” Dan says. “To her credit, Brandie was more the optimist and saw the opportunity in reconfiguring the plan to make it work perfectly for us.”
Just before they closed on the house, the couple fortuitously ran into the now adult sons of the original owner/architect of the house as they were packing it up. Not only did the sons have loads of information about the home, but they also shared their stories of growing up there, tales which included their parents listening to classical music in the living room and reading aloud to each other at dinner, endless hours in the garden and an impressive feat of planting 1,000 pine seeds on the property. “Having access to the wonderful and fascinating history of growing up in the house was amazing,” Dan says. “It convinced and inspired us to save what was surely a diamond in the rough.”
Mid Century Resurrection
Over the next three years and in two separate phases, Dan and Brandie restored the historic home to its former self, while adapting it for their lives. “We were both very committed to rescuing it and modernizing it without losing the original magic of the design,” Dan says. Originally, the bedrooms were tiny, and the main bedroom was separated from the living room with only an accordion door. Another problem was that the living room didn’t have a logical place for a television. “We literally removed the entire core of the house (roof, ceiling, floor and beams) and rebuilt. Now, the center of the home is the most robust!” Brandie says. “Losing the bedrooms initially was a tough decision, but we weighed that against how important family movie night is to us.”
Aside from reconfiguring the home, there were other challenges, like matching the interior wood stain, which varied from one side of the house to the other due to age and fading. By mixing different stains, they worked to find just the right hue that paired perfectly with existing wood finishes. Overall, the project was a balance of salvaging as many historic details as possible and, when unable to, finding the most authentic way to replace and match them. The couple also added to the heritage of the home by replacing the original skylights in the living area with stunning glass barrel-vault skylights.
“Having access to the wonderful and fascinating history of growing up in the house was amazing. It convinced and inspired us to save what was surely a diamond in the rough.”
Together, the couple poured their hearts and souls into restoring the home. “One of the great aspects of our partnership is that we balance each other out,” Dan says. “When one has doubts, the other is there to remind what a special opportunity it is.” In the end, they transformed a home on the brink of destruction into a one-of-a-kind place that’s full of both history and love.
For more stories of restoring historic homes, Tour the Frost House, a Rare Modern Gem in the Midwest and Restored to Glory: A Mid Century Renovation in North Carolina.For more MCM inspiration, stay tuned to our Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest.