The iconic Case Study House #26 (1963) is full of surprises. From its natural clerestory windows to hillside construction, this home boasts an exuberant liveliness all too enticing.

A dining room table surrounded by white mid century chairs.

Located in San Rafael, California, it was designed by Beverly (David) Thorne as a part of the experimental Case Study program of the 1940s.

But after it was acquired in 2015 by architect, Cord Struckmann, and his partner, Alfonso Cordon, the two wanted to make updates without disturbing the home’s original presence. Four months and many updates later, the couple had successfully renovated Case Study House #26 in both a smart and efficient manner. Here is how they revamped such an iconic piece of MCM history…on a budget!

Splurged

Cord and Alfonso brought in state-of-the-art appliances from Miele including a dishwasher, fridge/freezer, island hood, induction cooktop, and oven. “I think they were maybe above our budget … but we like cooking so it was worth it,” Cord admits.

While the metal kitchen cabinets were reused, the stripping and refinishing had to be completed by an auto body shop that set up a workspace on-site at the house. This cost more than expected, but the high-quality finish turned out beautifully.

A Case Study House by the budget with internal appliances being worked on from the home's exterior.
To refinish the metal cabinets, a shop was set up on-site.

The home’s relatively large lot was another unexpected expense, requiring extensive upkeep. “It’s almost one acre, and I think this is where we spent way more time and money than we expected,” Cord shares.

Saved

Being an architect, Cord was able to coordinate the renovation and took on some projects himself. “When it was too expensive, we would just see what we could really contribute,” says Cord.

The light brown tiling in the living room of Case Study House #26.

To save on the budget, he purchased the backsplash glass and cut the pieces in their onsite “body shop,” which helped with fumes and provided an almost dust-free environment. To ensure that no green tint was visible in the finished product, he used an extremely clear glass from Starfire Glass. After using a special back-paint to prepare the area, he installed the glass pieces to create a stunning backsplash.

Nutone

A Nutone intercom system from the 1960s created a truly unique look but was no longer working. Not wanting to lose such a specific original detail, Cord found two more similar Nutone models on eBay. Eventually, he located someone to restore the system, and the repairman used all three models to create one working intercom.

Three silver Nutone intercoms in the Case Study House by the budget.
Parts from three Nutone intercoms were used to create one working central unit.

The system runs throughout the home, and fixing the central unit made all other intercoms function properly. Not only can you use the intercom and radio, but you can now connect your phone.

Infrared

Original to the home, the copper radiant heating system was still functioning well, but it required Cord and his team to do extra planning. Before any drilling, it was imperative to locate the copper pipes. To combat the heating loops, they used infrared on a cold day to decide where to position cabinets.

The infrared system spotlighting the radiating heating loops in the Case Study House on a budget.
Infrared captured the home’s original system of radiant heating loops

 

To learn more about Case Study House #26 in all its MCM glory, read our piece on how this breathtaking renovation came about!

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