You can’t go back to the ’50s but you can relive them in a swanky midcentury modern house in St. Paul’s Highland Park neighborhood.
The Danish-inspired home is so packed with sleek wood built-ins that it merited a spread in Better Homes & Gardens magazine extolling its smart kitchen storage. There’s also built-in storage throughout the house for just about everything, from books to TVs to LPs.
Owner Dr. Mark Eikenberry bought the well-preserved modernist home 12 years ago from the family that built it in 1955.
“There was something about the house,” he recalled. “I walked in and said, ‘This is the house for me.’ ”
With its open floor plan, dramatic vaulted and beamed ceilings and walls of windows, the house is great for day-to-day living and for entertaining, Eikenberry said. “It’s the perfect place to do a ‘Mad Men’ cocktail party.”
There’s a double-sided built-in bar that opens to both the living room and the den, although Eikenberry suspects it was originally designed to hold the big boxy TVs of the era.
The house was built for attorney Linn Firestone and his wife, Jean, who appeared in the Better Homes & Gardens spread along with their kitchen.
The Firestones hired a prominent architect, Robert Cerny, to design their house, which is set on 0.84 acres of wooded land. Cerny, who taught architecture at the University of Minnesota for 40 years, also designed the City of Lakes building in downtown Minneapolis, the Weyerhaeuser Memorial Chapel at Macalester College and other modernist homes around the Twin Cities.
Eikenberry has been committed to preserving and updating the home without altering its distinctive character.
The kitchen, for example, is “100 percent original,” with the same tile floor, wood cabinets, white countertops and pass-through that it had when it appeared in the magazine 60 years ago.
“The only thing we changed is we updated the appliances,” said Eikenberry, replacing the original ones with European Miele appliances, including converting the electric cooktop to gas.
“We tried not to touch the aesthetic of the kitchen,” he said.
In the main-floor living areas, Eikenberry also replaced the original carpeting with large-scale charcoal tile flooring, while redoing the electrical system and adding in-floor heat under the tile. “It looks original,” he said.
And he recently refreshed the redwood exterior using original surplus materials that came with the house. “It’s been a huge effort to preserve but not change,” he said.
The house remains a time capsule from the Eisenhower era, with its large sunroom with original Tennessee marble tile floor, skylights and walls of glass. “You’re surrounded by windows,” said Eikenberry.
There’s a wood-paneled owners’ suite with a walk-in closet and a catwalk, a dumbwaiter in the kitchen that descends to a pantry on the walkout lower level. The room has metal countertops, which Eikenberry and his two children used as a lab for science projects. And there’s a vintage “Mamie pink” bathroom, one of four in the home.
The house is extremely livable and functional for modern living, said Eikenberry, a pediatric critical care physician.
“It’s really my sanctuary when I come home from a difficult day. I love being able to read in the den and look out over the forest. I love to cook, and it’s an absolutely amazing kitchen, so functional. The countertops are super-durable and don’t stain. It’s very easy to maintain.”
But Eikenberry is now ready to downsize from the 3,498-square-foot, four-bedroom house, which is on the market for $925,000.
“It’s a completely unique gem — an iconic midcentury modern house,” said real estate agent Nora Webb, Quinby & Webb. Some midcentury modern homes can seem cold, she said, but this one has warmth because the interior is finished with a variety of wood species including oak, birch, Philippine mahogany, butternut and redwood.
“It’s been preserved so well,” Webb said.
Eikenberry will miss his home and all the nature surrounding it, he said. “I hope the people who buy it will love it as much as I do.”
Nora Webb, 612-245-9205, and Becky Quinby, Quinby & Webb, have the listing.