R. Harold Zook House Tour Living Room TLC
The view from the front hall shows the wide arm of our first midcentury purchase, a ’50s telephone chair made in Philadelphia that we picked up in Covent Garden in London. Our couch is the International model from Futurama, an L.A. company that supplied sofas for Don Draper’s office on “Mad Men.” And our recovered vintage Womb chair and ottoman share the same black legs and frame as our Modernica Cigar Lotus floor lamp.

Jay and Julienne tell their story of transatlantic romance with midcentury style and the 1952 Zook home they moved across the pond to call their own. Here, they relate the TLC the home needed to reach their long-anticipated vision.

Jay: “The story of our atomic ranch begins back in the ’60s England of my childhood. Like a lot of impressionable kids back then, I spent many happy hours in front of our black-and-white TV watching reruns of “Bewitched,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” as well as countless American movies from the 1950s—a staple of British TV in those days. This started a lifelong love of American style that led me to open a neo-rockabilly clothes store in London and front a band called the El-Trains in 1980.”

Julienne: “Our fascination with midcentury style really kicked in in 1996 when we started to get into the tiki scene. Jay has been a huge fan of Americana for a long, long time, going through various fashion stages influenced by American culture: the Glen Miller look in 1975, zoot suits in 1981, and rockabilly. For me, it was through knowing Jay that I got to appreciate my own American culture.”

Jay: “Fast forward to 2006. Julienne and I were tiring of London winters and hankering to live in a sleek, midcentury modern ranch in sunny California where she grew up. We’d visited the U.S. numerous times and daydreamed about actually living in a place similar to the incredible homes in Atomic Ranch. So we sold our Victorian flat in Chelsea and moved with our three Abyssinian cats to Los Angeles to find our dream home. We spent six months looking all over L.A. We saw plenty of great houses, but, for a variety of rea-sons, none of them seemed quite right. We kept up our search until we finally found the home we’d always imagined, just west of the quaint town of Sierra Madre, which was featured in our favourite sci-fi ’50s movie, Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

“The house was built in 1952 by architect Harold B. Zook, who designed five other homes on the street. The owners of the first house built by Zook told us they had seen a home he’d designed in Palm Springs and asked him to build something similar for them. Zook liked the location of the house so much that he bought the parcel of land next to it and built his own home. For us, the house was the perfect blend of ranch and modern—gabled roofs with walls of glass and a modern sense of space; we fell in love the moment we set foot in the spacious living room with its views of the mountains and valley.”

Julienne: “Although the house was a great example of the style, there were things that needed changing and updating. We wanted to convert the garage to a studio/workroom for all of Jay’s records (he’s a DJ) and for my music and voiceover recording, with a bathroom as well. The bath attached to the master bedroom had been redone sometime in the 1980s (ugh!), and we thought to turn that into a big walk-in closet instead and build an entirely new structure for the master bath. There was a ton of space at the side and back of the house being taken up by old, cracked asphalt, and we knew we would still have plenty of room to put in a cool carport and a big indoor/outdoor master bath. The kitchen had been updated in the 1980s (cheap terra cotta tiles—also yuck!) and so that had to go as well.”

Jay: “There was also a badly built roof extension over the patio added in the ’70s that looked more suited to the inside of a barn, and the electrical and plumbing systems were in dire need of replacement. But we loved the location, the design and the potential of the house, and figured that we could handle the renovation of the house, too. Little did we know…”

Sometimes, the best homes need some serious TLC to become as bright as they once were! Of course, this story is far from over. Tune in to part 2 of this story to discover what Jay and Julienne found out about their Zook home.