An outstanding example of contemporary architecture, this compact, steel post and beam two-story is the work of Warren Heylman, a well-known Spokane, Wash.-based architect who designed the Spokane International Airport terminal and many other iconic examples of modernism in the Spokane area. Heylman’s brother-in-law, Lee Zimmerman, owner of Zimmerman Steel in Lawrence, commissioned the house for his family.
Heylman served in the Navy during WWII and was stationed in Japan during the Occupation. It was there that he developed an appreciation for traditional Japanese architecture and its emphasis on simplicity and structural honesty. It is manifest here. From the entrance hall, a floating stairway suspended with metal rods leads to a balcony hallway upstairs, offering an interior vantage of the living room directly below. A freestanding fireplace with raised hearth rises to support the second story, and provides separation between the living-dining areas. With no interior doors, movement within the house is free flowing and relaxed. Room-filling natural light is provided by 12X12-foot north-facing windows that reach the top of the cathedral ceiling. Mahogany paneling adorns the walls, providing a rich contrast to the milky white tile flooring. The space is delightfully airy, refined, and minimal.
Despite these attractive qualities, Heylman’s design was controversial early on. Some in the neighborhood did not like it and tried to halt construction. Nevertheless, two years after it was built the Zimmerman House was featured on a House Beautiful Tour sponsored by the Lawrence branch of the American Association of University Women. Today it remains a courageous example of a modern, Japanese-influenced design successfully adapted to a Midwestern landscape.