Modernist Makeover, Pt. 2: A Midcentury DIY
Homeowners Scott Hunt and Bill Maxwell had quite the feat ahead of them (part 1)—from warped wood to peeling paint, and an interior they described as “almost trailer-like,” serious renovations needed to take place in their newly purchased Palm Springs home. It was the right thing to do since they moved into Vista Las Palmas, a neighborhood in which many of Hollywood’s A-list celebrities of the mid-20th century once resided. To restore it to its elegance, the couple made major renovation—and building—plans, including buckling down for a serious midcentury DIY.
Hunt chose to serve as general contractor and used a local draftsman to produce building plans instead of working with an architect. “I’d done renovations of apartment buildings and houses, so I had experience,” he says. “Architects can be funny because they want to put their stamp on [a project] and take control of it. This was my house and I wanted to have control of the design on it. Having experience with furniture design, I felt comfortable pursuing that.”
Several nearly invisible details required plenty of time and money to finesse. Take the roof: The original was removed and reframed with 2x10s on edge, tapered so that the roof still appears flat but meets today’s codes for water drainage. To achieve a nearly R-40 value, two inches of foam insulation was sprayed between the framing, followed by radiant-barrier plywood and an inch-thick foam roof. Complicating matters was that the original tongue-and-groove ceilings were 1-3/4″ thick, while current code dictated 3-1/2″, so the structure had to accommodate that difference. But between the roof and the new low-E, argon-filled windows and doors, the interior will ‘only’ be in the low 90s when the couple arrives on a 110°F day—a win in Palm Springs.
The window walls are nearly 10 feet tall with tight tolerances, and installing the units was a challenge. “Because it’s an older house, each Fleetwood door was a separate measurement, and they butt up against the beams and ceiling. Each could be like 1/64th off, and there are 32 windows and doors in the house. Just keeping track of which one went where or a wall not being completely plumb created a high stress factor,” Hunt recalls. “Fleetwood came out to assist on one door and they were terrific.”
Another complexity was his desire to have the window blinds roll up into the roof cavity. “It was a major engineering feat to puncture the roof and install the soffits. I wanted the ceiling and the beams to visually pierce through the glass to the outside; it was probably one of the most expensive things of the whole project. That was a nightmare,” he laughs.
A Midcentury DIY Project to Challenge the Status Quo
Hunt and Maxwell already set off on a different foot by not hiring an architect. Find out how they continued to move to the beat of their own MCM drum with customized furnishings in Part 3!
Story by Michelle-Gringeri Brown
Photography by Jim Brown