The private front patio is home to numerous midcentury pieces: highlights (clockwise) beginning with the all-original 1971 Vespa 150 Super, include a reissued George Nelson slatted bench, a gray Eames fiberglass shell rocking armchair, vintage Danish chairs and a table made by the homeowner, a bullet planter and a wire Bertoia diamond chair.

Paul and Kathy Day fall for a Cliff May ranch house (part 1), which became the perfect place to layer in pieces from Paul’s Norwegian childhood, among many other things. For Kathy, it was not love at first sight. But all it took was a few clerestory windows to win them over.

The smallest model in their Long Beach, Calif., tract at 1,150 square feet, the three-bedroom house had little curb appeal. Friends were driving the couple through the area on a gray, rainy day, and as Kathy peered out the half-open window, she thought, “There is no way in hell I’m going to move here. This is horrible. It’s dark, it’s gloomy, the houses look like compounds [with their tall fences]; forget it.” But, she continues, “Paul was obsessed, and once he gets obsessed with something, there’s no stopping him.”

Once the Days walked through a few of the homes that were for sale, she became more enthused. The couple was living in Belmont Shore in a 1920s bungalow and were ready for a change from the constant stream of people and traffic that came with the beach locale. “We wanted to find something that was as original as possible,” Kathy says. “This house was owned by an artist who had nice antiques and a flair for color. That made it easy for us to come in and do our thing.”

“The glass transoms are what really made me like these houses,” Paul says about the clerestory windows. “At night they have this wonderful glow. Most of my childhood was in Europe, and up until the age of six we lived in Norway. Kathy and I have some of the modern Danish furniture in this house that my parents had in the Oslo house. My parents are very conservative, but I think they wanted to try something different; we had very hip houses growing up.”

“They have a great eye for design,” Kathy says of her in-laws, “and when they pass something down to us, it’s still in the original box. If they bought it in Europe 50 years ago, or 30 years or two weeks ago—everything is complete and has directions. Paul inherited tools from his grandfather that are in 70-year-old boxes.”

“I’m the first generation that’s been able to throw boxes away,” Paul explains. When it’s suggested he doesn’t have room for boxes because he has so much neat stuff, he counters with, “Too much stuff isn’t in my vocabulary. You just have to learn how to rotate your things. We have collections that are in other people’s homes, like the American Indian pottery we bought when we had Arts and Crafts furnishings in our previous house.”

The couple—she runs a safety consulting firm and Paul is a design consultant—started collecting midcentury pieces six months before moving to their home, transitioning from Arts and Crafts to modern pieces. They kept some items in storage while they waited for the right Cliff May ranch house to come on the market and when it did, they were ready to move right in.

 

From Clerestory to Collectible

Windows may make the house, but midcentury collectibles make the home. Stay tuned for Part 3 to learn about the Days’ collections, from surfboards to a ’63 Shasta trailer.