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Mid Century Modern Oasis



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Story by Gay Lyons
Photography by Ben Finch

Empty nesters Mark and Cathy Hill bought their mid-century modern home in Lakemoor Hills in 2003 expecting it to be easier to maintain than the “typical Knox Box” they bought when they moved here from California.

“[That house] wasn’t really our style,” said Mark, “but we weren’t sure we were going to stay here, and we bought with resale in mind. Later, as empty nesters, we looked for a contemporary, low maintenance house.”

“This house actually takes a lot of maintenance,” said Cathy. “We thought it’d be easier to maintain because of no lawn. It’s a California style house, but this is not a California climate.”

The Hills were drawn to the 3,000 square foot house. The studio, which accommodates Mark’s office and a fitness room, added another 1,000 square feet in 2011.

“Mark always wanted to design his own home,” said Cathy. “Designing the studio met that need.”

The architecture of the home, designed by Herman Milkey and built in 1955, appealed to both of them.

“We’ve always been interested in this style of architecture,” said Cathy. “My grandmother traveled to California in the 1920s and saw the bungalows. For a house on family-owned land in Arkansas, her father gave her a choice of a Victorian or a bungalow. As a child, I wondered ‘why didn’t she pick one of the fancy houses?’ I was influenced by my mother who grew up in the bungalow.”

“I spent my childhood building with American Bricks,” said Mark. “There were only a few modern houses in my hometown. My two brothers and I all love modern architecture. You could go into any of our houses and things would be pretty much interchangeable.

The first time my mother, who was 80 at the time, walked into this house, she burst into
tears. She loved it so much.” Authentic period pieces, reproductions and vivid art draw attention, but the design aesthetic starts at the bottom. The flooring in the living room and screened porch is St. Joseph Brick.

“This is a Louisiana company that has been in business for 130 years,” said Mark. “They create bricks in wooden molds, so they don’t have holes in them. We contacted the company when we enlarged the porch and needed more bricks.”

“When we first bought the house, we had some beautiful rugs delivered,” said Cathy. “But they were fighting with everything outdoors, and that’s the real show, what’s outside. So we selected some Tufenkian rugs that determined the entire color scheme. We thought about
the colors of the trunks of the trees. We wanted to blend with the outdoors.” Art is everywhere.

“We’re limited,” said Mark. “We can’t buy any more art.”

“If we’re going to buy any more, it needs to be sculptural,” said Cathy.

“But we don’t want too much going on in here,” countered Mark. “It’s the view that makes the house.”

One of the biggest changes was engineered by Mother Nature in the form of storms and tornados.

"We lost a lot of trees in the storms in 2011,” said Cathy. ”There were giant trees down all over the driveway. It was awful. Hopefully the ones that are left can withstand storms. We would never have cut those trees down. You just wouldn’t have done it. But we do have a lot more light now.”

“It’s hard to imagine the process it’s taken to get the house to this point,” said Mark. “Cathy and I have the same aesthetics. We like the same art. Everything we’ve done has taken endless discussion. You have to figure out how to join things and make it look right.

Everything’s so exposed in this house. We were leaving this big brick house, and we thought it’d be so much easier and much less expensive to maintain. We’ve spent twice what we paid
for it.”

“It’s almost like a hobby,” said Cathy. “We enjoy the process, but we also like the results.”

“It’s a passion,” Mark agreed. “We have tried to upgrade it without destroying what it was. It’s a little house in the woods.”

“More than one person has described it as a tree house,” said Cathy.

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