Promoting the preservation of Mid Century Modern residential architecture in St. Louis through education, appreciation and awareness.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Look Into Five Star Home No. 2301

Upon completing the Ridgewood project, Burton Duenke realized the appeal of presenting the homes to Better Homes and Gardens readers through their Five Star Home program.

In "An Acheivement in Small House Planning," Better Homes and Gardens accurately describes the Ridgewood home in its January, 1953 issue. As demonstrated in an ongoing showcase of featured homes, the Ridgewood house was offered as "Five Star Home No. 2301."

The Five Star home program was a way for Better Homes and Gardens to provide anyone access to quality home plans at a cost of only $5, and a way for builders to promote their homes to a broader audience. This program also allowed Better Homes and Gardens to present the best aspects of a home's appeal regardless of style. This was especially important when featuring a "modern" home as early as 1953 since some buyers were less familiar with the benefits of living in such spaces.

Photographs used in the article were taken of the house at 1739 Ridgewood Dr. The introduction to the Ridgewood home, written by John Normile, AIA (American Institute of Architects) for Better Homes and Gardens accurately describes the home as follows:

"Here's a house that packs a lot of living into just 1,168 square feet of floor space. Selected as Five Star Home No. 2301, the three-bedroom scheme is developed within the rigid limits of an economical rectangle that's only 26X51 feet in size. It reflects to a high degree the sound planning ideas usually employed in more elaborate houses.
Does the term "modern planning" apply to this house? Definitely. Very simply, it shows up in the allocation of space according to use; in openness developed through use of glass, sloped ceilings, and lack of partitions; in a smooth indoor-outdoor transition.

Though this house has fewer square feet than many two-bedroom houses you'll find, it has three bedrooms. For the family that needs only two bedrooms, the smallest can become a study-guest room. The six closets are prefabricated units that double as partitions. Each has sliding doors, plus a shelf above. The largest bedroom has a built-in dressing table with large mirror and recessed light.

Each bedroom has nearly equal access to the bathroom. Linen is stored in a closet just inside the bathroom door, only a few steps from linen-using areas. Another stepsaver is the built-in hamper opening into the hallway. soiled clothing and linen go into this hamper that's only an arm's reach from the washer.
All three bedrooms have high strip windows along one wall, allowing free arrangement of furniture without cutting out light and air. In addition, they insure privacy from next-door neighbors.

This house develops a pleasing feeling of spaciousness considering its limited size, through the use of glass and space. Large windows give a light, airy feeling lacking in many houses half again as large.
Floor-to-ceiling windows in both living room and parents' bedroom add visual "space" that you don't get with smaller openings. Except in the hallway, all ceilings follow the roof line.

At least a portion of every glass area includes screened sliding sash for ventilation. All movable glass is removable, too, for easy washing in the sink.

Furthering the openess is the elimination of partitions in the living-dining-kitchen area. Here, the dining room becomes an extension of the living area, and the kitchen is open, too, except for a well-placed, partial partition.

The smooth transition from indoors to outdoors is furthered by the large windows. And with the entrance under the carport, you're only a few steps from the terrace. If you don't mind letting the car get wet on rainy days, the carport is useful as a fresh-air rumpus place for the kids.

The low-pitched gable roof gives the house drama and a feeling of stability. The long roof extensions, which shelters the inexpensive carport and bulk storage space, gives the house extra width; it serves as an important design variation from the basic rectangle of the house itself.

A touch of luxury is found in the handsome stone fireplace. But it adds so much warmth and friendliness to the living room, and gives such good balance and texture to the exterior, that it becomes almost a necessity. Five Star Home No. 2301 has wonderful flexibility. It will serve the needs of families numbering from two to five. Its architecture is contemporary, yet moderate enough to fit comfortably into almost any neighborhood."

Burton Duenke would later comment on the success of the Five Star program and its ability to draw visitors and buyers, within the St. Louis area and beyond.

Though written as a description of the Ridgewood homes when new in the early 50's, it is just as easy to imagine John Normile submitting this article for any number of contemporary publications today. The Ridgewood home remains a design that maximizes quality of space, has an open plan that is liveable, and maintains a unique style of living still relevant for today.


18 comments:

Bob said...

I am glad someone has started a blog on the Ridgewood subdivision.

I have been an admirer of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture for many years. I bought my house in April of 2003, because it reminded me of FLW design.

After I bought the house, I discovered who the builder was from a neighbor who has owned her house since it was new. I went to the downtown St, Louis library and searched for real estate adds in the St. Louis Post Dispatch. I found an ad for April 19, in 1953. This add mentions the Better Homes and Garden issue that highlighted the subdivision. I have purchased a copy of the issue through ebay.

I enjoyed seeing the isometric skeleton view of the house on the blog. It confirms what I imagined the bones of my house looked like.

I would like to know if anyone has an original set of house plans for one of the houses in Ridgewood. I would very much like to copy them.

Nathan Wilber said...

Bob,
Glad you've had a chance to visit the blog. We plan to distribute information to the subdivision on a larger scale once we have posted some more information in the hopes it will lead to additional resources such as plans, original photos, etc. We hope the blog can be a resource for all of our neighbors.

In the meantime, upcoming posts will include much more detailed information on the construction process which you should find very interesting as well.

We will also be working to track down and incorporate additional resources. If you would like to get in touch, just send an email; we look forward to meeting another neighbor.

Jill Browning said...

Hello! I just wanted to let you know that I am posting about your blog on my blog. Thanks for the info on this awesome house :)

Anonymous said...

have you seen the Fournier house on Fournier. All original woodwork. Nice job of renovation.

Nathan Wilber said...

It is nice to see that the renovation of the house on Fournier preserved all of the original woodwork.

I viewed this home just prior to renovation, and everything including the flooring, light fixures, kitchen cabinets and windows were all original.

I think the current renovation has been fairly sensitive to the style and era of these homes. It would have also been nice to see someone preserve a home with all of the original features as there aren't many homes left that have them.

This should be a nice home for someone who is looking for one with few updates.

MEISTER-Blog said...

I think the Fournier renovation left only one original fixture. But all the low voltage light switches are still there.

Do you know anything about the neighborhood behind St. Jospeph's Hospital in Kirkwood? Same kind of mid-century modern subdivision.

Nathan Wilber said...

The low voltage system is pretty cool if functioning properly. Many have been replaced due to defective parts, even though replacements are available.

The neighborhood behind St. Joseph's is Craigwoods - another Duenke/Fournier project which came immediately after Ridgewood. The three two-story homes on Liggett in Ridgewood are the first examples of what makes up most of Craigwoods. A 1953 article with photos and info on Craigwoods details the project, and will be incorporated here at some point.

Russ said...

Thanks for showing the area our wonderful home style. Imoved into mine in 1971 (until I could figure out where I wanted to live). Still here! I've made many updates! I love modern open homes. The carport is afamily room, Den/bedr now the diningroom, hall removed and now a 2 bedroom very open plan (removed front den/coat closets) and now open to LR. Added 2 skylights in DR and a large 6'X 12' skylight in kitchen. Added deck to kitchen side.
Had a copy of the orig H&G but loaned it to new neighbor and now gone. Hope you all enjoy your home the way I do!

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Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

We live in Ridgewwood in one of the six homes with four bedrooms and two baths, close to 1500 square feet of living space. We love our home for the past 33 years but know of no one without some unbelievable problems. It has been worked on more than I care to say and needs much more tho most is original. However, I cannot imagine living anywhere else in any other type of house.

Shannon said...

"Five Star Home No. 2301" is for sale! I am the listing agent for 1739 Ridgewood Drive and I just realized that is the actual home featured in the January 1953 Better Homes and Gardens.

I will be holding the home open this Sunday Feb. 27 from 1pm - 3pm. Come be a part of history!

Jausten said...

I was just checking out this website and realized our home in Effingham, IL looks exactly like this. The floor plans are identical! Too cool!

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