Renovating with the intention to sell may not be a new concept, but doing so with a desire to truly showcase Midcentury Modern style as well as find a new take on tiki might be.
The husband and wife team of Mandy Lacher and Joseph “Joe” Vadnay, a California real estate agent, take on midcentury houses and carefully revive them—blending old with new, preserving and renovating. Once the long process is complete, the couple lives in the home for a while before returning it to the market ready for another mid mod enthusiast.
“The Modernism movement was all about simple and minimalistic living. When you remove the ornate elements of a pre-modern era home, you have to focus on the basics: door, roof, windows, yard, garage/ carport—and even just space,” Mandy says. “I think architects had fun with the basics, such as designing dramatic roof lines or angled windows. Many modern homes, such as the Alexander home we renovated, are really works of art.”
Racquet Club Gem
Originally built in 1959 through the partnership of William Krisel A.I.A. and the Alexander Construction Company, this Palm Springs home is located in the iconic Racquet Club Estates neighborhood.
The couple found the home while driving through the neighborhood. A “coming soon” real estate sign caught their eye. Not long after a tour, they made their offer, and it was accepted. Mandy and Joe then got to work dreaming up how to revive the 1959 gem—which they refer to as the “Starr house” due to its street name.
“One of the most appealing aspects of the Starr house is that it came with an original fourth room; most homes in the neighborhood are three bedroom, two bathroom,” she says. While the couple doesn’t know why this particular home received the extra bedroom, they are confident of its originality as they found the 1959 permit stamp on one of its walls.
According to Mandy, homes in the neighborhood are generally about 1,225 square feet and most sit on about 10,000 square feet of land. Thanks to the Starr house’s fourth bedroom, it comes in a bit larger at 1,491 square feet. The pairing of large lots with angled ceilings make the homes, especially the Starr’s, feel even bigger.
Getting to Work
Balancing renovation and preservation is a delicate matter every mid mod homeowner faces, and certainly one with which Mandy and Joe are familiar.
“I love it when I see midcentury homes that have been well cared for in their authentic state, but for me, I love the challenge of blending old with new,” Mandy says. While the sting of sometimes needing to remove an original element is real for Mandy, she makes her decisions on a case-by-case basis and always with the overall beauty of the home in mind.
“We had spent months working on a design, and some of it was bold, so there was a lot of angst wondering if what looked good on paper would look good in real life,” Mandy says. With their design in place, the couple dove in head first with the renovation—initially having to tackle the cleanup and removal of unsalvageable or inauthentic elements.
Over the course of a year, Mandy and Joe diligently repaired, renovated and restored the Starr house. Fortunately, the house came with no major structural or safety concerns—despite the many small issues that popped up along the way. “We’re not fix n’ flip types,” she says. “We really want to get it right, and sometimes that means taking a break to plan and prepare the next step,” Mandy says.
Despite their authenticity, the bathrooms and kitchen were each in desperate need of restoration. To maintain warmth and period charm, they chose walnut cabinets for both spaces. In the kitchen, stainless steel appliances gleam against the wood tone while mod-inspired textured tiles add vintage appeal. To make the most of the available space without changing the kitchen’s footprint, they had a downdraft range installed—eliminating the need for a bulky range hood.
Windows, often a source of concern in terms of balancing authenticity with energy efficiency, were replaced with dual panes. Given that many people now use these homes year-round, Mandy says the tradeoff is a must. “I think the most important thing is that we kept the original designs of the windows in the front of the house because that was the architect’s vision curbside, and I wasn’t about to ruin something perfect,” she says. “I don’t think replacing the actual window glass disrupts the integrity of the house.” Mandy and Joe did add windows to the living room to maximize the view of the backyard as well as let more natural light into the otherwise dim space.
Focal Point Addition
Despite the fact that most Alexander homes had fireplaces, the Starr house lacked this element, making Mandy and Joe wonder if it had been removed at some point. Rather than leave the main living space feeling lackluster, they seized the opportunity to add a fireplace as well as an iconic accent—rock.
With a watchful eye on the installation to ensure the end result conveyed the same retro vibe as the Brady Bunch house, the addition of a rock-clad fireplace now brings unique character and texture to the home. “The point is don’t be afraid to bring in some of the authentic elements of midcentury design. There is a mainstream midcentury revival going on everywhere right now, but it’s a little safe, in my opinion. I’m not suggesting we start carpeting our bathrooms again, but have fun with it,” Mandy says.