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Mid-century modern meets Minimalism

October 5, 2011

[This is a slightly tweaked version of an article originally published in the Herald-Times “Homes” section in 2010. My weekly column features unique local homes and original gardens; see for archived columns. Click on each photo below to enlarge.]

The Herndon house by night.

The talented home designer Russ Herndon has built a series of notable residences for himself, the last one a beautiful Voysey-style Arts and Crafts home with high coffered ceilings and a sleeping porch. But his latest house is even more visually striking: a 1960s mid-century modern that he and his wife Shelli gutted to the studs and reconfigured in order to emphasize the modern lines.

The kitchen has lime-green counters and a moveable worktable; the cabinets are sleek white glass with invisible hardware.

Built by Maxine Dunfee in 1964, the two-bedroom home was mid-century modern in style, with 1400 square feet on the main level and a 400 square foot loft level overlooking the living area. It had never been updated and had only one set of owners after the original builder. Russ had been tapped to install updates in the home for the second set of owners, but when their plans changed, the house was placed on Craigslist.  Shelli spotted it there, and the couple ended up buying it.

The dining area is filled with ambient shadows when night falls.

Even though Shelli had loved their English Arts and Crafts home, she also enjoys modernism.

“I had been pushing Shelli to do a new project,” Russ said. “She told me if we were really going to move, she would move here. She let me relocate from a great home and an established garden, so I had to agree that this house would be the last.” He added with a grin, “But that was what I agreed to with the previous house.”

“We lived in a camper in the driveway here for four months while work was going on,” Shelli said reminiscently. “It was an adventure. But when it was time to move in, we were ready, I can tell you that.”


The living room area....the kitchen area is directly behind the camera. The main floor is one large uninterrupted space.

With period-appropriate changes in mind, they gutted the home completely, removing a massive fireplace that had divided the kitchen area from the living room and opening up the non-bedroom space to create a single large living space containing living, dining and kitchen areas. They added more huge picture windows, relocated the garage entrance and built a covered patio on the front, giving the house a new voice.


Another look at the green and white kitchen. Note the large window and absence of a backsplash.

“We now have radiant in-floor heat,” said Russ. “It’s like living on a hot water bottle, it’s just wonderful. There’s no dust, as with forced air.”

The green and white kitchen is eye-popping in its lines. A seemingly endless expanse of bold lime-green Formica countertop is broken only by a deep stainless steel sink and a sleek induction cooktop with a pop-up vent hood. A huge window descends all the way to the countertop, with no backsplash. The adjoining wall of cabinetry has gleaming white opaque glass doors with understated metal pulls and back-mounted invisible hinges; the refrigerator and freezer are disguised similarly. A lime-green Formica table on thin metal legs serves as an island. The kitchen is stunningly elegant and clean-lined, with no crevices or paneling to catch dust or grime, no clutter, and no countertop appliances to block the view.

The wooden blades are original to the house.

“We took modernism a little toward Minimalism with the kitchen,” Russ acknowledged. “In today’s homes, the kitchen is the nucleus of the house. To incorporate the kitchen with the rest of the living space, we removed the stone fireplace. Instead of having everyone spilling out of the kitchen, we effectively now have a 600-square foot kitchen.”

Slim “blades” of dark wood (original to the house) rise from the floor of the living space to the 14-foot ceiling overhead, forming visual accents; horizontally ribbed translucent glass panels near the entry delineate a vestibule. The stairs are original and have a floating tread design. The master bathroom is as Minimalist as the kitchen, with starkly beautiful stone tile and a custom walnut cabinet beneath the sink.

A red rectangle on the wall gives definition to the "living room" part of the interior space.

The living room area is delineated by a square of orange paint on the wall that creates the illusion of a raised panel. A free-standing mid-century-modern storage unit creates a division between the living room area and the dining area. Modern lighting fixtures float overhead. Seen from outside at night, the house becomes an angular glass box gleaming with light.

The house is considerably smaller than their 3200-square-foot previous home. But since their children had left home, Russ and Shelli were ready to downsize. Due to the high ceiling and the open sightlines, the home seems far larger.

The patio resembles a porte-cochere but the roof allows outside entertainment during rain. The egg-like plastic seating pod is a terrific touch.

“We find we can function well in a much smaller space than we thought,” said Shelli.


“There is a trend today away from massive homes,” Russ agreed.

The couple particularly likes the large lot with mature evergreen trees. “This is a great blend: rural feeling, located close to town,” Russ said.

“I can walk to Bloomingfoods East in five minutes,” Shelli added. She added with a smile, “Sometimes it’s like living in a fishbowl, because we don’t have any window coverings. A friend of mine was driving out-of-town friends around town, and she drove by and told them ‘There’s Shelli, cooking dinner!’”

She summed up, “I love it here, it’s just perfect. I can have a BIG garden here. This is my final house!” She looked at Russ.

“No comment,” he said, hiding a grin.

Contact Herndon Design at 812-822-1919. See












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