They say the American dream is a home with a white picket fence.
For me, it's a home with floor-to-ceiling windows, a pitched roofline and original crank windows from the 1950s.
Those who know me well know this: I truly believe I lived a past life in the 1950s (kidding, not kidding). Ever since I was a little boy growing up in Southern California, I was always captivated by mid-century modern design. While some people dream of stucco mansions, I always felt like the odd one who dreamt of a much more humble home built by architects like the famed Joseph Eichler, Frank Lloyd Wright and Ralph Haver.
I will say this up front: I cannot believe Phoenix Home & Garden chose to feature my tiny, humble 1,700-square-foot mid-century modern ranch with three bedrooms and two baths. I thought someone was playing a joke on me at first. I mean, the magazine usually features sprawling mansions in Paradise Valley, not a 1951 home in Uptown Central Phoenix.
How did this even happen? Well, for starters, I bought this house because I wanted to preserve a piece of Phoenix history. When I moved here it was love at first sight. No, not because I loved the "dry heat," it was the architecture. But, I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw gorgeous mid-century modern homes and buildings being torn down like they were an eye-sore instead of being appreciated and preserved. So, I bought an original Haver. From the curb, it looked like a tear-down. It had been neglected for years. But, my gut told me, "Brandon, this is your home. See the beauty. See the history."
[SLIDESHOW: Some of my own photos]
[MORE PHOTOS: Before and during construction]
It started with a simple, "Oh, I'm just going to re-do the side yard," to "Just bulldoze the front, side, backyards. Let's start from scratch." I wanted to keep it authentic to the time period. I studied old photos of homes from that era. I wanted people who drove by to feel like they were being taken back in time -- like a time machine-- and transported back to the 1950s.
One of my favorite features is the decorative breeze block wall in the front. I had to special order that design from a company in California and have the blocks shipped here. The other feature I love the most is the floor to ceiling windows. When you walk inside, it's all open. No walls -- just a large great room with exposed beams and windows bringing the backyard into the living space.
For furniture and design, I kept it simple. I didn't hire a decorator. I'm a minimalist anyway. I found a couple of authentic pieces from the 1950s, like my record player/credenza that I found for cheap at Modern on Melrose in central Phoenix.
Even my kitchen is simple (some say too simple) - no cabinets! It's sleek, white, simple.
Owning a Haver is like being part of a club. I didn't realize how many people were fans of mid-century modern. At the end of the day, I would want Ralph Haver and his family to be happy that his style is still being appreciated and admired. I'm just a Haver guy whose soul is still trapped in the '50s, MadMen style!
Note: Brandon Lee's "Haver haven" is the cover story for the August issue of Phoenix Home & Garden. The magazine will be on newsstands July 21.
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