Location: Owens Lane
Architects: Tsuruoka, Martin, Melvin & Osborne (main house); Richard Peters (breezeway) (architectural plans)
Builder: Robert Modrell; R.T. Bruce & Elmer Van (stone masonry) (post-construction photo)
Year built: 1953
Original Owners: Mr. & Mrs.Robert Blank
Current ranking: 10 (view details)
Dissatisfaction with traditional architecture and a hunger for something new drove Bob Blank, a commercial photographer, to construct a contemporary house based on architectural plans purchased from House Beautiful magazine. While many young couples did the same after WWII, the results were often less than optimal. The Blank House, on the other hand, is a largely successful adaptation because of numerous enhancements to the original design.
This particular house was based on plans used for a model contemporary home for House Beautiful at the Chicago Fair of 1950, which exhibited modern houses. The house signals its modern intentions with a butterfly roof. Atypical of most roof designs, the projecting eaves angle upward and the gable ends slope gently downward toward the middle of the house, allowing water to collect and drain at a central location. (The house has no gutters.) The design also allows for larger windows along the longest stretches of the house, a benefit that Blank seized upon by expanding the glass area of the original plan. Blank also enlarged the entrance, which is on the backside of the house, and connected it to a long breezeway that leads to a double carport. The addition makes the house seem much bigger, and imbues the landscape with a California contemporary feel well suited to the lot.
The long breezeway is echoed in the house’s main hallway, which stretches from end to end, connecting every room in the house. The living-dining room features a gray stone fireplace and is finished with Philippine mahogany paneling, lending the space an air of subdued suburban refinement. Here, east-facing windows capture early morning sunlight that is balanced throughout the day with built-in artificial lighting designed by Blank. A fully finished basement serves as a family room, another modification to the original plans that significantly expanded the size of the house. In all, the Blank residence represents a local do-it-yourself modern case study housing project that works. Originally designed to fit the needs of a modern-minded young couple with three children, the design served a retired couple well into their golden years until new owners bought it in 2014. Not bad for plans that cost $100, plus postage.