another one bites the dust

this is the only 'before' picture we have of the house. to the left (not shown in pic) is a 3 car carport. the portion to the right is the split level bedroom wing.


I write of this with a heavy heart, and after a long day and a glass of wine.  The house that started my quest into Cincinnati Modern architecture was torn down today.  I knew it was coming.  The house was in terrible disrepair and suffering from what must have been an incurable mold infestation due to a horribly leaking (and collapsing) roof.  But I weep for the house that is was.  And for the original owners, who graciously invited me into their lives and their home when I started dating their best friends’ son, Arlen.   This house was built on a dream, for a young Jewish family who wanted to build their ideal house in Amberley Village (after first being denied permission to purchase a building lot because of deed restrictions against Jews).  Why they wanted to build here after such treatment, I have no idea.  But in 1960, they got their wish courtesy of avant garde architects Carl Strauss and Ray Roush, the architects to the movers and shakers in town, and a heavily Jewish and progressive clientele. 

The façade (shown in pic above) was private and somewhat modest, but the house was grand – a large entry foyer, with glass walls to front and rear and a ‘floating’ closet in the middle.  To the right of the entry, the house was a split level – master suite on the lower level, and 3 bedrooms on the upper.  The upper hallway was lined with closets and cabinets.  One even housing a mop sink for the housekeeper.  All of the bedrooms had sliding window walls to the rear of the 4 acre private heavily wooded lot. 

The main level of the house had a living room, dining room with private courtyard, HUGE family room and rec room, a large kitchen adjoining an equally large laundry room, and beyond that was a maid’s room and a full bath.  There was a 3 car carport and a full basketball court on the front motor court.  It was the stuff that dreams were made of. 

I was 18 when I met the owners and I enjoyed going to dinner with them and my (soon to be) in laws immensely.  As soon as I graduated college in 1984, they hired me to ‘help redecorate’ the bedrooms in this amazing house.  I was beyond thrilled to be able to work and spend time in the most amazing house I had ever known.  At the time I did not know who Carl Strauss was, but I knew he must be a genius!  But even then, the house had issues.  It had a particular musty type smell that came back to me full blast today when it was being torn down and the wind blew.  They had always battled the flat roof issue, and somewhere along the line, it got away from them. 

Eventually, the owners passed away and family members moved into the house.  Shortly thereafter, we actually bought the house behind it, and have been back yard neighbors for the past 16 years.  We helplessly watched the house deteriorate over the past several years.  It’s been vacant for the last 5 or so, and the house was condemned and ordered torn down last summer because water damage made it uninhabitable.   I don’t question why it was torn down.  But I will always wonder what could have been done to keep it from that awful fate.  I wish I had photos of what it was.  All I have are memories.  I’ll treasure the good ones.  


click here for a very sad video of the demolition

a modern tragedy

It once stood proud

It’s now in tatters

Is architecture all that matters?


Carl Strauss, Ray Roush, you built them all

You never intended to see them fall


If you love it, a house is a home

But watch out if you start to roam


Fifty years from start to finish

Wood, glass and stucco, hard to diminish


Yet there it is, so uncertain

Waiting for its final curtain


-Susan Rissover, March 26, 2012 (upon first viewing of the condition of this property)


the times they are a changin


Vintage buffets and credenzas can work well as media storage for today’s flat panel TVs and components, but sometimes there is that particular space where nothing vintage (or cool) seems to fit.  It’s amazing how much of our furniture is really space specific.  Something that worked so well in one home may just not fit in another.  

As I was recovering from shoulder surgery last month – and staring at our bedroom TV -  it reminded me how inadequate our TV  setup had become.  When we moved into our house 16 years ago, a tall Techline bookcase fit the bill in a very utilitarian (but not very stylish) way.  It gave us needed storage (no room for dressers in our bedroom), and a place to house (hide) our then state of the art tube TV, along with a stereo and a VCR (remember those?). 

 our original bedroom media setup. great for 1997. not so good for 2014! this is also before we put cork floors in our bedrooms.

But as TVs got flatter and wider, the boxed in space of the Techline limited the size of the flat panel we could accommodate.  And let’s face it, our eyes aren’t getting any younger.  I really wanted a bigger screen.  And I wanted the TV to be a little lower than it was (blended bifocals, but let's not go there!).  So I started looking for a dresser or highboy that would fit the space.  The dressers were all too wide – and the highboys too small for our storage needs.

As a last ditch effort, I checked Ikea and to my surprise, found that their Besta media storage offered the perfect solution.  Two of their low bookcases side x side on an aluminum base, and outfitted with doors and full extension drawers filled the space perfectly, did not obstruct the heat register, gave us plenty of storage, accommodated the dvd player, cable box, and apple TV.  And best of all allowed us to fit a much larger flat panel TV on top.  It fits much more flush to the walls than the old Techline did.  Overall, it turned out to be the perfect solution.  For now…..

 we had 47.5" to work with - the exact width of the Ikea Besta unit. a perfect fit! the unit completely clears the heat register. it is outfitted with 6 full extension drawers (top) and two doors (bottom). It is actually two shelf units, screwed together and sitting on one base. Ikea had just discontinued the single unit this size.

to give the unit a little midcentury flair, we chose these Paul McCobb inspired pulls in a brushed chrome (NOT satin nickel) finish. These pulls and many, many, many other cool ones are available for order at one of our favorite places, Bona Decorative Hardware in Oakley.



it's showtime!

come see us at the cincinnatimodern booth at the show this weekend! 


modern in the snow

a snow day photo essay by tenley rissover



the farnsworth experience

Architourism has become a favorite pastime of ours.  One day soon, when we are ‘empty nesters,’ we will take our much anticipated trip to Palm Springs for Modernism Week.  Until then, there are plenty of destinations within driving distance of Cincy.  Last summer, we finally made it to the Farnsworth House near Plano, IL.  As luck would have it, the house was not open for public tours on the only day we could make it.  So we booked THE FARNSWORTH EXPERIENCE tour, which was supposed to be a small group tour with a guide.  Turns out, we were the only ones who signed up that day, and we got our very own PRIVATE TOUR of the house and grounds with tour guide Larry Simon.  It was one of those surreal experiences where you pinch yourself and can’t believe you are there.  Or maybe that’s just me…. 

So that I don’t repeat what you probably already know, here are our eternal questions:

  •     It really is a one bedroom, two full bath house with NO closets.  What was Mies van der Rohe   thinking? 
  •      How did a house that is so far out in the middle of nowhere end up so close to the highway?
  •     Why did they build it in such an obvious flood zone? 
  •     Were Mies and Dr. Farnsworth having an affair? 

Please enjoy this slideshow presentation of our rainy (and cold) July '13 visit to IL.  If you are planning your year’s excursions now, I highly recommend a trip to see the Farnsworth house.  You owe it to yourself!  You be the judge….