The gut rehab of this house left no trace of its original interior layout. The front entrance leads visitors to an open-plan multipurpose room that’s an exercise in pure, clean geometry. See more photos in our gallery below.
Architect Ken Circo and homeowner Eric Deutsch faced a problem: How do you take out the middle of a structure without having it fall down around your ears?
“In the very first meeting, Eric said, ‘I want to open everything up.’ And he wasn’t kidding,” Circo recalls. Deutsch’s dream was to emulate his idol, architectural great Richard Meier, and give the tired 1930s Riverside house he’d purchased a pristine minimalist makeover, stretching the term “wide-open” to the point where every last corner of the first floor would be visible from the front door.
Central fireplace? History.
Stairs? Barely there.
“I would have made the stair treads glass, but then my mother would have been afraid to go upstairs,” Deutsch says.
Behind the Scenes: Making the Most of Minimalism »
Ah, families, always getting in the way of great design. Actually, Deutsch, a 35-year-old Harrington College of Design grad who runs his own busy firm, Neutral Interiors, is pretty practiced at accommodating the intrusions of family life. When he and his wife, Nicole, had a daughter two years ago (Deutsch also has a 15-year-old son), one of the first things he did was create Plexiglas gates (see-through, of course) for the stairs.
“I think it takes a special person to live in a very open modern house like this, to live without clutter,” Circo says. “That takes a lot of work.”
The biggest challenge was finding a way to work a load-bearing column into the design (so the house would stay standing) without offending Deutsch’s artistic sensibilities. Once the pair agreed on an inconspicuous spot behind the oven, it was smooth sailing.
The previous owner, though, had not changed so much as the original carpet in 41 years, and Deutsch describes the condition of the house as “dire.” “It was hideous,” affirms Circo, who also lives in Riverside.
“Plus it was brick, and I’m not a big brick fan,” Deutsch says. But while living in a house across the street, he couldn’t help but see that the property had possibilities. “One day it came up for sale, and I just walked across the street and bought it. Nicole was pretty mad.”
She’s over it. Even from the curb, it’s obvious the house is now a modernist gem. With its brick exterior sheathed in sophisticated cedar and stucco, the crisply rectilinear, flat-roofed structure gives this corner of the venerable Frederick Law Olmsted–designed suburb a big dose of the 21st century. “Everyone in town calls it ‘the modern house,’” Deutsch says.
He even found the perfect spot for Nicole’s cherished Le Corbusier armchairs. “She made me promise she’d be able to see them from everywhere,” he recalls.
In this house? No problem.
Photography: Andreas Larsson
Styling: Kami Bremyer
Behind the Scenes
Making the Most of Minimalism
(Left) Deutsch and his daughter hang out in the backyard, where a nearly 400-square-foot addition to the master bedroom projects over the deck. (Top right) Cedar and stucco conceal the original brick. “This house used to go unnoticed—now it stands out,” says Circo. (Bottom right) Front exterior: before See more photos in our gallery below.
Yes, there can be salvation from the wrecking ball even for a house that architect Ken Circo says was “an ugly Art Deco box.” Working alongside homeowner/designer Eric Deutsch, he improved the curb appeal of this 1930s home simply by covering its tired brick exterior with stucco and cedar. Deutsch loves how the gray stucco imparts the modern feeling of concrete, but concedes he also needed some texture and color to warm up all the gray. That’s why both the former garage (now a family room) in front and the new addition at the rear are clad in natural cedar siding. “The color of this cedar is very vibrant,” Deutsch says. “It puts you in a good mood.” New windows with commercial-grade glass tinted dark for energy efficiency replaced old ones, but the original windows’ shapes and locations were retained. Horizontal lines, flat roofs, and wraparound windows are elements of the International style of architecture.
See more photos in our gallery below.
1. An office area in the second-floor hallway is brightened by a skylight above the stairwell. 2. “I stained the white oak floors dark because you can get lost in an open plan like this,” Deutsch says. “These dark floors give a sense of grounding.” Twisted steel cables inside steel railings enclose the staircase. 3. Le Corbusier chairs are shown to good advantage in the main living area; past the stairway is a family room created from space formerly occupied by the garage. The only nonwhite wall in the house is behind the stairs. “It’s the tallest wall, and the pale blue color brings your eye up to the huge skylight,” Deutsch says. 4. The powder room’s subtle scene-stealer is a rectangular Philippe Starck dual-flush commode. “I admit it. I splurged on the toilet,” Deutsch says.
Photography: Andreas Larsson
Styling: Kami Bremyer
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Interior design and interior finishes: Eric Deutsch, Neutral Interiors, 525 Berkeley Rd., Riverside, 630-361-5109, neutralinteriors.com. Architecture: Ken Circo, Circo Architects, 404 Addison Rd., Riverside, 708-835-9875, circoarchitects.com. White oak floors: Edward and George Flooring, 6145 W. Belmont Ave., 773-745-0727, egflooring.com. Floating stairway: Mylen Stairs, Peekskill, New York, 800-431-2155, mylenstairs.com. Exterior stucco: Sto Corp., Atlanta, Georgia, 800-221-2397, stocorp.com. Cedar siding: Central Building Materials, 6817 S. Harlem Ave., Bedford Park, 708-924-1700, centralsiding.com. Windows: Star-Tech Glass, 1835 N. Major Ave., 773-745-0800, startechglass.com. Living room furniture: All, Design Within Reach, dwr.com. Family room: Custom sectional, Stendmar, 909-781-6608, stendmar.com. Kitchen: Cabinets, Ikea, ikea.com. Hardware, Blum, blum.com. Appliances, Plass Appliance and Furniture, 877-752-7727, plassappliance.com. Bathroom: Blown-glass vase, Ikea. Chilewich floor mat, Crate & Barrel, 850 W. North Ave., 312-573-9800, crateandbarrel.com. Second-floor landing: Painting, Cody Hudson, Andrew Rafacz Gallery, 835 W. Washington Blvd., 312-404-9188, andrewrafacz.com. Woven runner, Luminaire, 301 W. Superior St., 312-664-9582, luminaire.com. M0851 laptop bag, m0851.com. Kitchen: Playsam Red Rabbit rocker, Galt Baby, 1915 N. Clybourn Ave., 773-327-9980. Konstantin Grcic Glove vase, Luminaire. Entryway: Handblown Bambu vases, Laura de Santillana for Arcade, Luminaire. Sitting room: Bertille Hurard freeform glass sculpture, chartreuse pillows, books, Luminaire. Dining area: Fat Fat yellow tray, Patricia Urquiloa by B&B Italia, Luminaire. Black pod vase, Ikea. Sitting area: Le Club chair by Little Nest, Galt Baby. Painting, Cody Hudson, Andrew Rafacz Gallery.