Lawrence Bill’s 1955 pecky cypress living room

Last week, reader Magnarama clued us all in about Pecky Cypress when we looked at a 1959 Drexel living room and bedroom.

Pecky cypress…I cannot tell you HOW MUCH I love to say that, write that, think that, add that as a Tag, tell my husband about it! And now, dream it: Look at the living room in Lawrence Bill’s 1955 split-levell! Here’s his wonderful story to go with it:

Hi Pam,

Yes, the pecky cypress looks fantastic in contrast to the huge fireplace here in the living room. I just love the look and texture. It’s feels natural, organic, of a place, yet utterly modern. Though it’s hard to tell from the pics, the wood was lightly stained a light blue color. The effect is quite striking; it cools the eyes yet remains warm and inviting. It’s magical, really.

The architect, who is still alive in L.A., told me the story about how the house was built. I’ll tell you just a bit of what I know. He said the owners wanted the pecky cypress look in their living room/dining area. Evidently it was becoming popular at that time. They sourced the best pieces they could find from a supplier that got it from Louisiana. The rest of the house has a lovely mix of hardwoods and softwoods. You could not duplicate this quality today unless you had hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend. And even then it wouldn’t be the same–the untold story about midcentury homes is the quality of woods sourced from forests that no longer exist or can’t be logged for environmental reasons, etc. I don’t need to tell you about that.

The house was completed for exactly $18,000 in October, 1955. I still have the original receipt. It was built by two brothers (+ a helper), one of whom was a demolition expert during WWII. One day, while trying to lay the sewage line from the house to the (then new) dirt road, then ran into a huge underground rock. The demolition expert went out and found some dynamite somewhere, came back, and after a few unsuccessful attempts to dislodge the rock, finally blew it up, sending a huge chunk of clear over a neighbor’s roof into their back yard. Luckily no one was hurt. From what I heard, the brothers went over to the house, apologized, and the police were not called in. How’s that for a 50s moment for you? Could you imagine that happening today?

I could go on with stories I’ve heard about how they built this place but I’d probably bore you. But then again, one of the funnest parts about your blog is reading about other people’s houses and their stories. So in that context maybe not so boring. Which reminds me: one of these days you should consider doing a post about architectural drawings. We have the original drawings to this house and they’re really cool. I don’t know, it just amazes me that all this derived from a hand-drawn plan. I get the same feeling looking at the drawings of famous golf course architects. For some reason, there seemed to be a correlation between the quality of the drawing and the quality of the end result. I don’t know how you’d make a post about architectural drawings interesting, but it might be worth considering. Could be a good idea over the winter when not much is going on.

Regards,
Bill

KABOOM! Get your architectural drawings ready, readers. We will indeed take up Bill’s idea come fall and winter…Thanks, Bill!

Be-Safe-graphic2.3

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Comments

  1. Lawrence Bill says

    Yes, you zeroed in on the look. It does feel like you’re in a cabin here. The house is in the treetops, that’s one reason why, but the pecky cypress definitely heightens the effect. I have some extra board planks left over from when they built the house, if anyone needs any for their restoration let me know.

  2. SaltLake Bonnie says

    My sister just bought a home just up the street from me. It was built in 1960. Mine was built in 1955 and I’ve been an avid readed of your blog since January.
    Anyway, my sisters basment is covered in what may be pecky cypress. At first, I thought maybe it was termite damage, but then realized that someone used this syle of wood to decorate in the 60’s. She is moving in tomorrow, and I’ll get some digital photos of the wood, maybe its something worth salvaging? She also has two great retractable lights she’s letting me have! (She says she’s redecorting “normal” as opposed to our retro style!)

  3. Tikimama says

    “Normal” – humph! Lucky you, Bonnie, to get her rejects!!

    Bill, your house is lovely, and we need to see more rooms!

  4. Sara says

    I love the pecky cypress! I keep coming back and looking at it, I love it and can kind of see the blue stain in some areas…beautiful! I love your lamp too. Thank you for sharing, your home looks very cozy and relazing!

  5. Femme1 says

    Bill, I love your room! I’m not a huge fan of the rustic cabin look, but with your choice of furniture and the painting on the wall, it doesn’t come across as kitschy, but looks very moderne.

    BTW, I’ve visited Lawrence, Kansas, and love the town.

  6. Lawrence Bill says

    Thanks Femme, you’ll have to come to Lawrence again. It’s a fun town. Lots of cool 50s and 60s houses here, too.

  7. jill says

    i have that exact swag light fixture. my daughter broke one of the wooden spheres. i am so sad and hoping wood glue is all i need!

  8. Robert says

    We just bought a house in Rhode Island built in 1949. The basement rec- room walls are covered in this wood with a “demi-lune” bar faced with the same. We had no idea what it was called. We suspected it was cypress but kept calling it wormwood for lack of a better word. It’s nice to finally know the proper term. We’re very fortunate to have found this house in original condition. In the northeast it’s rare to find anything mid-century that hasn’t been bastardized. So glad that we came across your site.

  9. Mary Lucchesi says

    Bill, We have an old cabin wih pecky cypress walls that need refinishing. They are very dry and dirty. How did you bring the life back to yours or were they in really good shape. Thanks for any input. Mary Lucchesi, Pickwick Lake, Tn.

  10. says

    Check out the Bob Hope/Lana Turner movie “Bachelor in Paradise”. Lana’s living room has pecky Cyprus, and they mention it in passing

  11. Angela Speiser says

    The pecky cypress that covered our hallways in my childhood home, a California modern, was covered with taping mud and then wallpapered over in the late 70’s. What a shame!

  12. Scott Schada says

    Pecky cypress was the rage in the late fifties early sixties. It vividly adorns Perry Mason’s TV office. You will hear it referenced in an under-appreciated but really good 1961 Bob Hope comedy (also starring Lana Turner, Jim Hutton, Paula Prentiss, Janis Paige, etc etc) satirizing the “housing development ”
    trend of the time. It’s put to gorgeous use in a subdued stain version that forms the ceiling of St. Lambert’s Catholic Church in Skokie IL., (1960) and doubtless many other elegant edifices of the time in America.

  13. Scott Schada says

    I just saw the prior comment on “Bachelor” . I’m glad Dan also appreciated the film that references pecky cypress. The whole flic is very retro, right down to Lana Turner’s impossible platinim hair!

  14. Rick says

    I saw “A Bachelor in Paradise” (1961 – Bob Hope – Lana Turner) on TCM last Sunday. When Bob asked Lana what was wrong with the wood, Lana said, “it’s Peggy cypress. I have been infatuated with it ever since. I grew up in the 1960’s and wood paneling was the rage – so were Shell No-Pest strips, but I have never seen anything like this. I think the door on the “Golden Girl’s” set was made of it. I thought Lana said “peggy” not pecky. You have to see the house from that movie. I could live in it right now.

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