Dean Gustavson 1957 midcentury modern house — with private observatory and underground bunker

Thanks for reader Karen, who spotted this amazing 1957 time capsule house for sale in Holladay, Utah, a suburb of Salt Lake City. The house was built by architect Dean Gustavson for his own family, and he lived there from 1957 until his death in fall 2011.  Okay, we see a lot of midcentury modern houses and many are all gorgeous-like and many have valued provenance, but This One Has a Private Observatory. And, Mony tells me, there is also an Underground Bunker that includes its own ventilation system, etc.

private observatory in backyard of dean gustavson midcentury modern house

A view to the observatory from the bedroom — amazing!

Gustavson’s obituary (excerpt below) explains that in World War II, he flew B-17, B-24, P-51 and P-28 planes. Mony Ty, the listing agent, said this is what led in his strong interest in the night sky.

In 1986, Dean (with the help of his son, Clint) restored a World-War II vintage Stearman Biplane to better-than-museum condition and, well into his 80’s, Dean could be seen flying aerobatics over the skies of Southern Utah. A strong interest in astronomy led him to design and build an observatory in the backyard of his Holladay home where he spent many years peering at, and photographing, planets and deep-space objects.

In addition, Mony says, Gustavson was very concerned about nuclear safety after the near-miss of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1961. Hence, the bunker. This is an amazing house. *Lust*.

midcentury-modern-patio-shelterAnd, reader Shannon asks:

Is that a hyperbolic paraboloid roof I see in the backyard?

If you say so, Shannon!

More information and historical resources:


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  1. Evan says

    As someone who has lived in this part of Utah I can personally attest to the amazing amount of MCM homes there. SO AWESOME.

  2. wendy says

    Whoa! Very cool! Be sure to click on the link to his other listings….there are several more killer MCM homes. Utah….who knew?!!

  3. chris says

    So fun! Makes me think of the Brendan Fraser movie Blast from the Past — a plane crashes on their house and they think the Cubans have unleashed a nuke, so Christopher Walken and Sissy Spacek live in their bunker for 30 years. It is pretty funny!

    As an aside, my parents went to an auction in rural Illinois this weekend. There was a huge brick ranch house from 1965 or so — with acreage, mature trees, new roof — 4,400 sq. feet!!!!!!!!

    Guess how much it went for? 135K! Nooooooooo!

    I’d have snatched that up in a heartbeat. But unfortunately, the community there is small and jobs are too.

      • chris says

        Duhhh — that’s what I get for doing a quick look see, rather than really reading.

        I was trying to postpone doing laundry and putting away Christmas decorations — then I felt guilty.

        I want to go back and look at all the pictures!

        • pam kueber says

          Well isn’t that music video a perfect little tour through mid mod kitchen history? Thank you, Just another Pam. I’ll post this on the blog soon!

  4. BlueJay says

    What I wouldn’t do for a wall of floor to ceiling windows! Awesome house! I can’t wait to see the photos of the bunker!

  5. Peter says

    On the back yard gazebo: That is a faceted roofline. A hyperbolic paraboloid is non-linear and symmetrically curved about one axis while possibly asymmetric about the axis perpendicular to the “fall” axis.

    Case in point: George Nakashima’s studio(s) on Aquetong Road in Buck’s County, PA. He used both hyperbolic paraboloid roofs as well as “Conoid” roofs.

    Hyperbolic Paraboloid Roof:

    Conoid Roof:

  6. Marion Powell says

    I do find these houses interesting. Even exciting.

    But are they really homey? They’re so minimalist that everyday clutter would be a sacralige. And though the windows are great to look at, are they really great to live with? Privacy? What’s that? And I can’t keep my windows clean now but to have 8′ windows to keep clean, no way. And wow, those heating and air bills.

    But I am forgetting that at $585,000, I could afford a maid and window washer.

    Love the house but I’ll take a mid-century modest.

  7. Rachel says

    I grew up in Holladay UT near this house and there are indeed some great examples of MCM architecture there. There are many quiet subdivisions of lovely flat roofed rambler homes in this part of Salt Lake. My parents live in one of them and their whole neighborhood still has this atmosphere of “Dick and Jane” era gentleness. The sad thing is that as these homes come up for sale, young families moving into the area who don’t understand the value of the MCM architecture, are tearing out a lot of the ramblers to put up cheek by jowl multi-story McMansions. Sigh. I wish more people would get educated about architectural preservation.

    • Mony Ty says

      That is my fear that I am loosing more homes every year. I hope educating people about the home, giving a history of it and show the value of good design will save some. I have over 1000 homes on my mailing list from Provo to Ogden and have been trying to contact the current owners the value to their homes, so that some other agent will not list their home for the value of the land. I also hope that some will start to register their home on the Historic Society to protect it from being torn down.

  8. says

    Love this home! It would feel like living outdoors but with all of the comforts of being inside. And I love all of the wood. Also, I don’t know what it says about me but I’ve always wanted a bunker.

  9. Mark S. Gustavson says

    Hi Pam:

    Thanks for your excellent blog on my father’s house. It was a remarkable experience to grow up there as I did from 1957 through 1974 when I got married. My father and I spent many evenings in that observatory photographing Messier deep-space objects.

    However, there is one important thing to clear up. John Sugden had absolutely NOTHING to do with the design of this home. My father always made that clear to those who asked; I have the original drawings and only my father’s name appears on them, for instance. My father was INDEPENDENTLY influenced after World War II by Mies, while in Europe, rather than influenced derivatively through Sugden who, by the time the Holladay home was designed, didn’t even work for my dad. Sugden did NOT do the drawings for the Holladay home.

    Also, my father was the exclusive architect on the Engineering Center at the University of Utah for which my father received a design award. Again, Sugden didn’t work for my dad when that building was designed. Some authors have mistakenly expanded Sugden’s list of projects to include those designed solely by my father.

    Thanks again for the blog, and for this opportunity to set the historic record straight.

    My best,

    Mark S. Gustavson

    • pam kueber says

      Hi Mark, It is an honor to show your father’s gorgeous design on the blog. Thank you for the correction regarding the design credit; I have updated the story accordingly. What wonderful memories you must have — what a gorgeous house — we all hope very very much that the new owners treasure every square inch right down to those vintage GE steel kitchen cabinets! Many thanks!

      • Dana says

        Hi, I ran across this story of yours and couldn’t resist responding to say my family and I are the new owners of this fantastic home. We absolutely love it! We tell ourselves this everyday. And yes, we are enjoying and paying tribute to all the details. Especially the GE metal cabinets, we are definitely keeping those and are just looking to have them painted to ensure they stay in good condition. The fun thing is my husband is a contemporary architect himself so this home suits us and we are keeping it in it’s original format. I see several people commenting on the bunker, I will try and get some pictures this Spring and post them. We are wanting to turn the bunker into a 50’s style hangout for the kids. Thanks for the great story, I promise you it is a magnificent home and Dean designed it perfectly, every detail is perfect!

        • pam kueber says

          Congratulations, Dana!!!!!!! It is so wonderful the house has ended up in sympathetic hands. We can’t wait to see what you do with it!

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