Help. My 'new' house is too dark

Home improvement Q&A, pictures and news fro Mid Century Modern Homes and Houses(NOT for Real Estate)

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SDR
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Postby SDR » Sat Oct 22, 2005 5:58 pm

I wonder if those fascia boards could be angled differently, to admit more light to the ceiling (if that's what is desired). I think they're neat, and admire the kind of light they are meant to provide: "indirect' was the term used at the time. Also, a brighter lamp might be available, either to fit the existing fixtures or with new ones. Finally, the back of the boards could be painted white, if they aren't already; this would have a very norticable effect, without changing anything else.

I know that different persons are comfortable with different levels of light; it's hard to imagine that a uniformly bright environment would have the charm and warmth of one with "shady spots" to contrast the areas provided with brighter "task lighting" (more light where it's actually needed). What a comfort home can be, after a day at the office or a store. . .

I'm really intrigued with this house !

SDR
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Postby moderns-r-us » Sat Oct 22, 2005 6:40 pm

Me too!

I sure wish we had more photos to admire!

DAS
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Ceiling Wood

Postby DAS » Sun Oct 23, 2005 12:26 am

My spouse and I live in a MCM development of 124 homes in the Denver area, built between 1949 and 1957. We have a few of the original plans for our house and they call out for redwood board-and-batten (4" even spacing) siding on the outside. Unfortunately the primary views (main elevations, and plan view) have been lost. On the interior we have exposed beams and beveled tongue-and-groove ceiling planks, all stained, but there is no definition of wood type called out on the drawings we have.

While perusing the latest Eichler book, "EICHLER/Modernism Rebuilds the American Dream", I noticed on page 112 an interesting pertinent discussion:

"The architects selected a variety of pre-dimensioned building materials that economized the process and added character to the interior spaces. The Douglas fir plank ceilings were one example. Integral to the building structure, the tongue-and-groove 2 x 6 planks were the only roof sheathing, yet the beveled edges and a finish of translucent Cabot's stain refine their appearance."

We recently did a sensitive addition to the back side of our house, matching the roof line. We were very happy to find that 2 x 6 (nominal) tongue-and-groove (1-1/2 x 5-1/2 actual) is commercially available as a perfect match to our original.

We also needed longer beams for the addition, and the originals appear to be Douglas fir as well. It was a trick getting the beams delivered in proper condition. The first delivery guy slid the first beam down the back of the truck on the corner (shredding it), presumably to reduce the friction of sliding the beam down on it's side. I had to explain that he had destroyed the beam for our purposes. It took four tries to get the beams on site in proper condition. It took major communication to make it understood that the beams were going to be EXPOSED, NOT PAINTED, STAINED ONLY, COMPLETELY VISIBLE.

Sheesh. We finally got there but it wasn't easy.

Cheers, Dave

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Postby moderns-r-us » Sun Oct 23, 2005 7:20 am

Dave:

Welcome to the LL board

Robert M. Here from KC. We have spoke before on the phone about the Denver HTHB.

Did you see the book auction that I posted over at the Arapahoe Acres site? Hope I was not out of line. Some great stuff about AA in it.

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?Vi ... %3AIT&rd=1

I think that Doug Fir is often mistaken for cedar or redwood, but I will not disagree with someone who lives in an Eichler. Redwood is just not a great structural material. Doug Fir is a great structural material!

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Postby JXBrown » Sun Oct 23, 2005 9:37 am

Deleted - wrong thread.
Last edited by JXBrown on Sun Oct 23, 2005 10:06 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby SDR » Sun Oct 23, 2005 9:56 am

It's great to hear from an Arapahoe Acres owner -- our first, I believe?

MRU, would it detract from the potential sale of "Before You Buy a House," to post images and text from the two-page AA spread?
There is an exterior view, an interior shot, a floor plan and a site plan. Perhaps these would be of interest to Dave (DAS). . .unless
these materials are already available to the AA community.

Oddly, the only interior photo, of the living-dining area with its lovely copper-hooded Roman brick firelace, shows what appears
to be a flat ceiling of 12" acoustic (?) tile; the floor is a dark VCT tile with lighter streaks. The text mentions three roof styles applied
to the uniform floor plan: flat, hipped, and gabled. Perhaps the flat-roofed
type has this ceiling finish, while one or both of the pitched roof types have exposed fir 1x6s?

Dave, I feel your pain about the trouble of acquiring the right
material, in the right condition -- and congratulate you on your stubbornness !
Way to go. . .

JX, thanks for the shot of your redwood -- with that color (including the whitish sapwood) and if you can easily dent it with a fingernail, you've got redwood (for any still in doubt.).

This subject deserves its own thread -- but let's not stop now. Still hoping for photos from Aurora. . .!

SDR :cheers:
"I laugh in the face of danger! Then I hide until it goes away." Bender

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Postby DAS » Mon Oct 24, 2005 12:13 am

SDR,

Fortunately we do have a huge amount of archival photographic material in the neighborhood. The original G.C. is alive and well and has a huge stash of photos, brochures, etc. Thanks for the consideration. MRU/Robert and I have also been in previous and recent communication.

Regarding roof types, I'm not sure if you're referring to material from the book for sale on E-Bay or material on our neighborhood website www.arapahoeacres.org. At the time of publication (1953) of the book for sale by MRU, I don't think there were any hipped roof houses in the neighborhood. By the time of the completion of the development in 1957 there were at least two. The design of the homes did evolve and became more flamboyant during the course of the development. The homes are individually designed, leading to the beauty of the neighborhood.

The home shown in the photo(s) in the E-Bay offering is the original show home for the neighborhood. It was designed by the original architect, Eugene Sternberg, who was brought onto the project by the developer, Edward Hawkins. Those two had a falling out after the first year, and Hawkins went on to design most of the homes in Arapahoe Acres.

The ceiling in the show home was flat, but the roof was gabled. Acoustic tiles of that period were in fact used and the floor is asphalt tile (similar to asbestos tile and VCT).

Flat roofs are very common in the neighborhood, as well as low pitch. Ours is low pitch (1 in 12) with the 2 x 6 Doug fir beveled, tongue-and -groove planks. The interiors here have a huge amount of variety. I have been inside about 85 of the homes in the neighborhood and have only seen the Doug fir planking in two others. Other ceiling treatments include fir plywood (1/16" thick veneer - amazing) with recessed strips - obviously inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright's Pope-Leighey house and other Usonian houses; non-beveled stained tongue-and-groove; painted masonite tiles with multiple stained mahogany battens of varying configurations/angles; 8" wide curved, stained, overlapping mahogany panels; and on and on. The developer/designer was quite obviously indulging his design expression.

He retired after the completion of the neighborhood and lived here for nine years before re-locating to a home he built, overlooking a golf course in San Diego.

Regards from AAcres, Dave

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Postby SDR » Mon Oct 24, 2005 5:30 pm

Thanks, Dave -- I was ignorant of most of that. My only reference has been the 1953 book. Interestingly, the text there mentions the three roof types. Were these perhaps projected by Sternberg and/or Hawkins, at that early date?

The variety in the homes Hawkins completed on his own sounds really wonderful. Imagine indulging oneself in that way, on a (seemingly) risky business venture. Had Hawkins a design education, do you know?

I'm not sure I understand what "curved overlapping mahogany panels" would be, but am ready to be amazed. The other options sound delightful (yes, there was a time when fir plywood had a nice thick face veneer).

Thanks for the excellent and inspiring information.

SDR
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Postby moderns-r-us » Mon Oct 24, 2005 6:13 pm

I would post a few pages of AAcres from Before You Buy a House, but I seem to be photo challenged recently with my updated browser. Let me sort out the bugs.

There is even a better section on Hollin Hills.

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Postby DAS » Tue Oct 25, 2005 1:27 am

SDR,

By 1953 Edward Hawkins had been designing the homes in the neighborhood for about three years. It's hard to say what influence he had, if any, in the Sternberg designs done in the first year of the development.

The discussion of the roof types in '53 could certainly cover a lot of ground since the development proceeded from 1949 through 1957.

Sternberg left the project after about the first year. Philosophical conflicts regarding idealism and low cost housing (Sternberg), as opposed to development profit which led to design expression (Hawkins) were the dividing elements.

Hawkins basically had a magnum opus with his design of our neighborhood. He decided to call that good while he was in his fifties. He then retired and lived here for nine years.

I'm in contact with the original general contractor (Clyde Mannon) who did the building of the neighborhood for Hawkins. The old boy is healthy, in his late 80's, and has a great memory. He has been a wealth of information about the original building of the neighborhood. He said they pretty much had the same construction crew together during the entire project because "the guys could tell that it was something special".

Clyde has said that until some time in the sixties, he had all the original plans for the houses in Arapahoe Acres. He and his wife moved several times and the storage and moving of the plans became quite a burden. At one point, he told me, he just closed his eyes and pushed them over the edge into the dumpster. I can understand why he did this. Several of us however did have to hold 'a few moments of silence for Arapahoe Acres' when I mentioned it. I did shed a tear on that one. Wouldn't we love to have all those original plans now, simply for information.

Clyde told me that 'Ed' was more excited than Clyde had ever had seen him when they purchased 'ground' for a new development, Arapaho Hills (correct spelling). According to Clyde, Hawkins decided "to be smart and not work himself to death", and so did not design any homes for that project.

Clyde went on to do the development with a young architect named Bruce Sutherland. It's in the southwest Denver area and is pretty cool.

Sternberg immediately moved on (in 1950) to design the Mile High Cooperative development of Modern homes for Denver University personnel. Sternberg proceeded on to a long career of designing Modern residential and institutional architecture.

Apologies for my poor description of the 'curved overlapping mahogany panels'. I took the easy way out on that one, but they are tough to accurately describe. Those mahogany panels are used on one ceiling in the neighborhood that I know of, as well as a continuing wall in that house, all with a blond stain. It's dramatic.

The walls in our living room are also done with the same curved panels but with a rich red/brown stain color. I'll give a shot at a better description here:

9-1/2" wide vertical panels, flat on the backside where they mount to the wall. 1-1/4" thick on the left side, 1/4" thick on the right side. Visible to the room is an arc/radius profile from the 1-1/4" thickness to the 1/4" thickness from left to right. The panels are installed similar to siding so that the next panel over (to the right) overlaps the thin portion of its mate (to the left) by 1-1/2". Therefore you have 8" vertical mahogany panels with a curved front to each panel.

Whew!! This is drawing back somewhat on my days of technical writing. Hope you can follow that.

Anyway, the aesthetics of the paneling are wonderful. According to the original G.C. the paneling was milled on-site at the Woodshop that was used for manufacturing custom built-in furniture, ventilation-louver assemblies, etc. I have seen the same paneling in about six other homes, always in different stain colors. It appears that the stain mix for the interior of any given home was done individually for that home.

BTW, the original G.C. tells me that "at the time these homes were built, mahogany was almost as cheap as pine". Therefore lots of mahogany in many interiors.

Cheers, Dave

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Postby moderns-r-us » Tue Oct 25, 2005 6:53 am

Dave:

Drummond tells similar stories of cheap mahogany.

He built a crazy wall out of the surplus wood leftover after cutting out walnut gun stocks for the military. Unfortunately this was for his own home which does not survive.

Thanks for the more detailed description of the curved panels. It sounds like it could almost be a Scandinavian influence. We would love to see pictures of that unique wall or ceiling!

Robert

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Postby DAS » Tue Oct 25, 2005 6:10 pm


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Postby shannanigan » Tue Nov 01, 2005 6:26 am

I just ran across this website today.... they have some pretty cool reproduction fiberglass "bullet" shaped lights in different configurations...

-

DAS
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Bullet Lights

Postby DAS » Tue Nov 01, 2005 10:18 pm


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Postby MoneyPitModern » Tue Nov 01, 2005 10:25 pm


DAS
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Bullet Lights

Postby DAS » Tue Nov 01, 2005 11:14 pm


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Lighting issues

Postby blambo » Wed Nov 02, 2005 7:06 am

Hi:

I have the exact same lighting issue I have redwood walls and darkly stained douglas fir ceiling. I also have 2 nelson bubble lamps -- track lights (one providing up lighting and the other providing spot lighting on the only white wall in the room,), and three floor lamps. Its still too dark. I have had architects and lighting designers look at the issue and here are the conclusions.

1. Lots of up lighting -- with either wall sconces or cleverly mounted string lighting. (concealed along the edge of the support trusses.) The problem it takes a LOT of light to reflect off the dark wood. SO ---

2. lighten the ceiling by striping the stain off and then white washing the wood -- this way you get a lighter, more reflective ceiling but you can still see the grain in the wood. I tried this in a corner of the room and it looks awesome but was WAY too tedious to perform the work. Hours of overhead scrubbing with bad chemicals etc. And inc redibly costly to have someone else do the work. (some suggesting sand blasting -- which is a good idea - but really messy, and will leave the wood horribly pitted.) SO---

3. Paint the ceiling white. I did not like the thought of changing the look of the room so dramatically, but looking at a lot of MCM homes -- especially the Eichlers they all have similar roof structures to your roof and 90% of them are painted. I have not committed yet to painting -- but each day I lean a little further in that direction. If i paint i will only paint the planking and not the beams. Some of the eichlers have white ceilings and the beams are painted a different color or are just bare wood.

Hope this helps. Please let me know what you do. It may help me in my decision making.

Bry.

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Postby moderns-r-us » Wed Nov 02, 2005 7:54 am

blambo and afigure:

As someone who has a lot of experience lighting new structures with ceilings similar to what you describe, I can say that uplighting is the way to go!

Sconces unfortunately are mostly designed to light the wall with a "puddle of light." I think it is best to use a fixture where the lighting affect is the focal point, not the light fixture.

The cable lights you describe are one way to go and can be aimed up and down. I like the fixture called "birdie."

Another option would be to have a lighting designer design a concealed cove of some sort that concealed aimable lights on a strip of track.

I have also thought of designing a custom floor lamp with a combination shade that conceals task lighting and up lighting in the same fixture. The dilemma is getting a shade tall enough to mask the up lighting as a 6'-0" person walks by. This would be an option of least invasiveness.

Remember that with a dark ceiling and uplighting you are only trying to reduce that dark feeling, not indirectly light the whole room. I would not want to try to read by uplighting the ceiling. This uplighting must be combined with ample downlighting, or task lighting in the form of floor or table lamps.
_______________________________________________________________

A third and most controversial option is to float a cloud of painted drywall that is designed to be easily removed in the future, between the beams. It could be suspended from wires much like a commercial dropped ceiling. It would need to be held away from the beams at its side and away from the top and bottom of the roof plane. This way you can see the natural wood beams and the deck around the edges. This should be done sparingly and can be thought of as an area rug for your ceiling. In many ways I prefer that to actually painting the ceiling.

OK, I have donned my protective fire suit on! Let the flames fly!

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Postby SDR » Wed Nov 02, 2005 6:19 pm

"I laugh in the face of danger! Then I hide until it goes away." Bender


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