Built into the slope of a hill and completely glassed in on the entry level, Mindi and Kevin’s house is a standout on their block. A mixture of stacked slate, vertical wood siding, and a sloping post-and-beam roofline define the look of an era. From the street view, this house seems like a perfectly preserved time capsule of the atomic era. Step through the large red front door, however, and fast forward to present day, where Kevin and Mindi are raising their three kids in an ever-evolving atmosphere of energy and color.
Kevin and Mindi’s home was built around 1964, and is part of a collection of homes in their neighborhood that were constructed by Albert Builders. Their home, the “Kendalwood,” as named on its architectural drawings, is one of hundreds of Albert Builders’ homes in Grand Rapids, many of which are sprinkled throughout Kevin and Mindi’s neighborhood, and easily identified by their modern lines and appealing use of glass, wood, stone, and brick. Silas (Sy) Albert, who founded Albert Builders, began developing neighborhoods during a housing shortage when many GI’s were returning home from World War II. Though the “Kendalwood” isn’t specifically attributed to them, Albert Builders frequently employed the skills of local architects, O’Bryen and Knapp, whose names adorn many of the architectural drawings of the homes they built, essentially bringing quality, architect-designed modern homes to the masses during the mid-century development boom.
Mindi admits she cannot leave anything around her untouched, and the Kendalwood is her creative playground. Since Kevin and Mindi moved in in 2009, their house has been in a constant state of change. “The whole house is a DIY project, and it needed a lot of work” says Mindi, who herself, is an interior decorator. Though she doesn’t recall exactly what triggered her enthusiasm for mid-century modern architecture (her background in English certainly didn’t do it,) perhaps it was the years spent working at an art gallery, where she cultivated a refined sensitivity to art and design. “When we started looking for houses, my husband, Kevin got sucked into the appeal of mid-century modern, so our search just branched out from there.
Though not immediately apparent from the street view, their house has five levels. In the main entryway, a bi-level staircase leads to both upstairs, where the bedrooms are located, and downstairs, where a family room, dining room, and kitchen are found. Also on the entry level is a formal living room on the right. From the lower level, stairs lead down yet another half-level before descending to the basement. Being built into the hill, there is walkout access on the lower level in the dining room.
“When we moved in, the lower level was very dark and closed off,” recalls Mindi. “We wanted to open it up more and use the natural daylight, because we knew we’d be spending most of our time down here.” Daylight now streams through a large skylight over the kitchen island, and bank of sliding glass doors in the dining room. A pass-through between the dining and living area lets daylight permeate even further into the house. Where walls were taken down during the remodel, support beams were left in place, but covered in a handsome walnut veneer. The end result is a completely open floor plan on the lower level, with spaces neatly defined by use of materials and furnishings.
Wherever possible, salvaged items were used throughout the house during its transformation. Made of the remains of a bowling alley lane, the dining room table, for example, was a reassembled craigslist find, and is flanked by a playful collection of colorful mix-and-match chairs. The industrial metal sliding door for the pantry was also found via Craigslist. In the kitchen, metal washers and quarters embedded under epoxy create a shimmering bar countertop, which Mindi designed herself. Classic Herman Miller furniture, where present, is mostly second-hand.
“At first, I decided I wanted to paint everything grey, and ended up coming home from the store with about nine different colors,” says Mindi. Kevin has been really supportive. When I say, ‘I think I’m going to paint a wall hot pink,’ he’ll hesitate, and then follow up with an ‘okay!’ Things are always changing around here. I’ve changed out the pendant lighting in the kitchen twice, for example, and am still not satisfied. I often have to ask myself, ‘Do I really want to do it again?’”
Mindi’s relentless quest to improve and cultivate her family’s space shows in the home’s personality and charm. The amount of love the home has been given by the couple is apparent. Its vibrant pop-art color accents serve as an offbeat accompaniment to the home’s mid-1960’s origins. “I would love to have nothing but designer furniture in here, but with three kids under ten, that’s not happening right now,” Mindi quips. But given time and effort, Mindi and Kevin’s home becomes more and more of a familial self-portrait of modern day life mid-century modern home.
Interested in Mindi’s Interior decorating services? Click here to learn more.
An extra special thank-you goes to the Grand Rapids Public Library for the original drawing of the Kendalwood. The Albert Builders Collection at the library primarily consists of architectural drawings of single-family homes designed between the mid-1950s and 1960s, and can be viewed online. The images in the collection are mostly front-elevation drawings; additional details and drawings can be accessed on-site from the archives.