Interiors by John Chadwick

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Refreshing Green



A newly married couple in Oklahoma City bought a midcentury home and treated it to an earth-friendly renovation for a new millennium.

Cara and Robert Barnes’s plans for their 2006 wedding did not include searching for a new residence. But after obliging a Realtor friend who insisted they see a classic midcentury modern Oklahoma City property, the couple began to dream.

The 2,700-square-foot, three-bedroom house looked “very unprepossessing from the front,” Cara recalls. “Our ‘wow’ moment came when we stood in the entry hail. It was late in the year, but all of this light was streaming in. We just looked at each other and said, ‘Can you imagine living and entertaining here?” The newlyweds— she a PR and marketing consultant, he an attorney who specializes in the oil-and-gas industry—wound up closing on the house the day after returning from their honeymoon.

The hexagonal rooms of Robert and Cara Barnes's home embrace the backyard pool(the custom wood double lounge is by Eddie Myers of Austin, Texas; pillows are hand-knit alpaca from Bolivia)

The living room features original center-cut redwood ceilings, shoji screens, millwork and a copper-clad chimney.  Taupe sofas with green piping and contrasting chairs are custom from New City Arts; tables are by Eddie Myers.

Designed and built in 1957, the house was the first commission by local architect George Seminoff, a protégé of Bruce Goff, who was celebrated for designing homes with multi-sided rooms. The low-slung house shows the organic influence of Goff as well as that of Frank Lloyd Wright. The physical structure had been well preserved over the home’s first half-century, but there were changes to be made for the next.

“I loved the way the house just opens up in front of you as you walk in,” says Robert. “We didn’t want to be the ones who screwed it up.” The couple also wanted to make the house even greener than it was in its forward-thinking original design by increasing its energy efficiency and adding native plants to the garden. Seminoff’s passive-solar design met them more than halfway.

From the street, the house keeps a low profile;
it includes scarcely any right angles, even in the contour of glass and eaves above the doorway.

Cara and Iris, the resident canine, a I Pembroke Welsh corgi, in the newly opened kitchen, with its refinished
original redwood paneling; in the living room, a pillow from Pier 1 sits
on a classic Thayer Coggin armchair.

Robert has been acclaimed for successfully litigating against polluters, and it was important to him and Cara that the renovation embrace sustainable building practices in its attempt to preserve the architectural integrity and spirit of the original house. It was already ideally oriented to capture winter light and shade out summer heat. Walls of windows and sliding glass doors at the back of the house were replaced with insulated low-E windows to help increase energy efficiency. The original terrazzo floor (another legacy of Wright) was kept and refurbished; it acts as a radiant-heat source. The Barneses also retained all of the property’s ample trees, which shade the home from summer sun. As a result, the couple often keep their air-conditioning off and the patio’s sliding glass doors wide open to capture the evening breeze.

A custom dining table and chairs (all by Eddie Myers) can squeeze in as many as eleven guests, Cara says. The Catellani & Smith chandelier weaves silver wire and halogen bulbs into a lucent sphere.

The plant-filled, fenced yard is private enough that even with glass walls the Barneses don’t feel the need for curtains; John Chadwick (left in photo) joins Robert, Cara and Iris poolside.

“Cara is an exceptional woman,” says interior designer John Chadwick of his client. “We’d send drawings back and forth a lot, and Cara and I were able to be so honest and up-front with each other. She is very open. I could say to her, ‘I have a faux finisher I want to introduce you to.’ She’d say, ‘Great.’ But if I needed someone, she said, ‘I know just the person,’ and it seemed to work every time.”

Working with Chadwick (a longtime Oklahoma City acquaintance who is now based in New York), craftsman Eddie Myers of Austin, and Lost City Arts of New York, the couple had new furniture designed for most of the house. Myers’s six-sided glass dining room table allows extra seating during busy holiday gatherings; its natural ash complements the extant cabinetry.

A low-slung living room of sofas and chairs are clad in earthy light taupe and cream tones that pick up on colors in the terrazzo floor. Chadwick prefers to work in color schemes tied to the surrounding local landscape. “Because of that huge expanse of windows and all the redwood trim, green was just a natural,” he says. Eco friendly cork, grass cloth and Venetian plaster add texture to the walls.

The original architect provided built-in storage along the master-bathroom wall; floor-to-ceiling glass helps frame a movie-size view of outdoor greenery from the master bedroom, with its hand-tooled leather-and-wood chair, which Robert brought home from Peru.

The couple’s art collection reflects their travels. Overlooking the fireplace is a portrait Robert remembers buying in Prague shortly after the Iron Curtain fell. A chair in the bedroom came from Lima.
Removing the kitchen wall was cause for reflection. “George thought long and hard about this house,” Cara says of the original architect, who still lives nearby, “but we just didn’t want a wall around our kitchen.” Ultimately, though, this renovation was all about embracing an architectural gem for what it is. “We said at the beginning that a midcentury modern house has clean lines and we want to respect that,” Cara explains. “However, we’re casual people and want it to feel warm, with comfortable couches to lie down and watch a movie on. That balance is what we’re most grateful for.”
A wall sculpture from a local arts festival hangs above a custom bed dressed in Nicole Miller linens.

What the Pros Know

Sustainability and energy efficiency were important to Robert and Cara Barnes, but not at the cost of their efforts to preserve and accentuate the home’s midcentury style. Luckily, the two goals were sometimes in sync, as with the furniture made by local craftsmen or the natural light’s reducing the need for electric light. The homeowners replaced all the back windows and doors with low-E coated glass, installed a new HVAC system (replacing damaged ducts for better airflow) and added dimmable light switches and programmable thermostats as well as an efficient Frigidaire washer and dryer. The original radiant terrazzo floors, fluorescent light fixtures and overhanging eaves would all impress any green builder working today. Robert and Cara also frequently give their air system a break by ventilating naturally. “A lot of the time, we just keep the back patio doors open,” Robert says. Their next step? Photovoltaic solar roof panels and geothermal heating and cooling.

• House Porn Wednesday •
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• Design Focus: John Chadwick •
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• What's Ours is Yours •
• The Designer's Oklahoma Residence •

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Interiors by John Chadwick

Revised: October 16, 2015
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