A groovy front porch makeover — on a budget — for Sarah’s 1964 round house

A local metal shop made the fab escutcheons
The mosaic tiles on the outside wall are from Home Depot

mid century front porchReader Sarah is one creative woman — in fact, it seems we have a lot in common. We are both homeowners (both bought our first home at age 23), both have tackled fixer upper type houses and both of us studied art in college. One thing we don’t have in common — Sarah’s super cool house is round (I’m jealous). When she first purchased her home, the exterior was in sad shape. Sarah used her creativity and design skills along with materials that were readily available in her area and in her budget — and the results are amazing.

house-before mid century house in need of repairSarah writes:

I’m 25 and bought the house — it was built in 1964 — when I was fresh out of college at 23. I was looking for a place to buy, but didn’t know that I would end up in my dream home. I went down …[the street]…to see a house that was for sale by owner and passed up the round house.

I tried to be interested in the house I was viewing, but broke down in the middle of the tour and said ‘what’s up with the round house down the street?!?’ They said no one had been living in it for a couple of years. I got in touch with the next door neighbor who got me in touch with the owner….

It needed A LOT of work. It was so dingy and had been redecorated in the early 90s so I had to bring it back to the 60s. There is also a problem pool in my backyard, so I negotiated and got the house for a thousand less than they had bought it in 1991.

The house was almost torn down too, before I wanted to buy it Walgreens wanted to buy the entire corner and tear everything down, but because one person wouldn’t agree the project didn’t go through (thank goodness!) the ‘we’ is me and my mom, she is the handy man of the family. We spent 3 months working on it before I moved in, and there are still plenty of projects to do! (it never ends lol)

Craziest thing…. Found another round house like mine from the same architect in Magnolia, Arkansas, last weekend and went up there to visit them! Such nice people and so cool to be in another house like mine. It was very twilight zone! They do not however have the same aesthetic as me, theirs is decorated very traditional contemporary with the beige and granite and you know…. But still very nice, very high end.

front-door-beforemid-century-rounded-houseI’m sharing with you my front exterior makeover with emphasis on the door. I… have done lots of work using your site for tips along the way. The house is completely round, but still has the ranch feel. It was built in 1964 and the architect was Gilbert Spindel. The son of the architect said his father sold 25 of these house plans so there may be more of them out there! My goal is to find them all!

The front had wood siding under the porch area before. We took that down and put up concrete board and finished that off with a mosaic tile from Home Depot. I was surprised to find the tile of my dreams there, but it worked out and was a very reasonable price.

mid-century-door-handlesglass-door-insert-retroAs for the door, we replaced a single door with two side lights, for double doors. The double doors were just two plain wood slabs, and we had our local glass company make the window boxes for us.

The dimensions of the windows are 5″ wide x 57″ high with a “cotswold” or “rain” texture. The glass lady tried to convince me not to pick this texture because it reminded her of a shower door, but I didn’t listen LOL. I like it, and I think it looks period.

The round escutcheon is just flat cut steel that a local metals shop cut for us then cut in half. The diameter is 22 in and we spray painted it bronze. The handles are appliance pulls that mimicked the design of the tiles. The door is either open and may swing open with the wind or is shut and locked. Not the most practical, but we must suffer for beauty, and we have learned to live with it.

The outside got a nice pressure washing and coat of paint. the paint is all Benjamin Moore. The green being Lewisville green, the beige is Barbados sand and the orange is Peach Sherbet.

mid century porchThe decorative concrete blocks were found in the backyard in a pile, so I used them to line my beds then repeated the diamond design on the garage doors with the same orange as the front door. I got inspired to paint my garage doors from looking at old advertisements in vintage home magazines.

The patio furniture is Homecrest found at an estate sale.

mid century address numbersretro-wall-plaquesThe house numbers are those plastic wall art panels that you see at every garage sale. I just painted the interior black and put my house numbers in the middle. these were all solutions because I couldnt find authentic or reproduction retro in my area or within my budget.

mid century porchSarah adds:

The house won a GE all electric award when it was built. Heated flooring, internal vacuum system, curtains opened and t.v. Swung out with the touch of a button. Of course none of those features work today! Shucks!

The entire house is decorated with 50s and 60s furniture because I’m a garage sale freak! The bathrooms are original too one is terrazzo and the other is lavender!

I could talk and write about my house all day, I was an art major so this house is my ultimate masterpiece! LOL so I will end here… I hope sharing my reno tips inspires others with their home projects.

house-before mid century house in need of repairmid-century-house-exteriorSarah has made some great design choices. The use of a neutral dark tile around the front door creates contrast from the lighter brick facade — which when combined with the orange door — creates an inviting focal point and directs visitors to the entry. Her use of repetition — the starbursts on the garage doors, diamond shaped address plaques and decorative blocks as well as the rounded metal on the front doors which echo the shape of the house — help to make the overall design feel cohesive. What a fabulous house!

Sarah, the creativity and resourcefulness you put forth in your exterior restoration job is impressive. Kudos to you (and helper Mom) for a job well done. You’ve shown all of us that if you have a vision, a little ingenuity and some creativity that you can successfully restore a home on a budget.

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Comments

  1. says

    Love the round house and what you did with the entry. I’ve been intrigued by round homes for some time, who was your architect? You mentioned you came across another of his/her designs.

  2. tammyCA says

    So, Sarah this must be the other round house:
    http://blog.prcno.org/2012/09/17/the-division-of-historic-preservation-needs-your-help/
    My husband just told me that the SciFi author, Robert Heinlein lived in a round house in Santa Cruz..but, I think he designed it himself…it’s called, Bonnydoon.
    Also, don’t worry about your neighbor, maybe, she has agoraphobia or something…I wish I had neighbors like you (instead of these scary jail ones)…I’d have you over for fondue & crepes…recently found the best vintage crepe pan like I had in the ’70s. :)

    • Sarah g says

      Yep! That’s the one in Arkansas that I visited, which was all thanks to that webpage. That is the house all redone… If you search the Internet more you can find the old mls listing and see the before pics. Ive gotten in touch with the LAHS i thought for sure i was the rumored round house in louisiana but turns out they were waiting for someone in the nola area to call! They were very surprised and happy to hear from me in swla. I unfortunately cant register my house as historic until 2014 when it becomes 50 years old. Oh and thanks so much for the invite! I looooove crepes!! Yum

      • tammyCA says

        How cool that your house is going to be on the historical registry in 2014. I love how they want to preserve the special history in your state. It saddens me that out here there have been so many famous architectural places mowed down or left to disintegrate…I’m reading the book Googie Redux by Alan Hess and so many vintage ’50s-’60s places that even I remember are gone or unrecognizable. Last night I was thinking about buildings in the round and remembered a school my daughter went to is round (and, funny that I always got lost & turned around in it and kept going in circles! lol)…it was designed by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright (googled it and happy to see it is listed as historical). Then realized my own grade school in the Midwest was round! Both schools built in the ’60s.

        • Sarah g says

          Oh no you’re not alone. A lot of awesome buildings and homes have been destroyed in my area too. What’s worse is that the yanks came at the turn of the century and wiped out our cypress groves to build their Victorian homes then they just tear down those homes and it leaves you asking yourself ‘was this all really worth it?!’ I have a book on historical houses from my city published in the 1960s. I tried to go drive by all of them, unfortunately quite a bit of them were gone… Replaced for parking lots…

  3. says

    I didn’t want to look for fear of developing a major case of house envy. After letting it sit for a few hours, I tempered my desires and was ready. ZAMAZINGNESS!!!! And I adore the crewel work.

  4. kyle says

    Great job with the doors. I had the same double doors in my 1969 split level but had to replace them for security reasons. Still have one for the garage back door thankfully.

  5. Lorie says

    Sarah, I love your house!! If you have the time, I would love to see pictures of the interior–the fact that it’s a round house with so many different features has my head spinning!!

    And cudos to you for saving the home from the ravages of the south! Bugs, heat, and humidity are no friends of homes.

  6. Atomic Amanda says

    Great job, Sarah! Very creative door solution. I was just browsing through the Fannie Mae houses in Florida and stumbled upon a round house on their site, it is in Pahokee a small town on Lake Okechobee. Is it similar to yours? Its hard to tell from the exterior photo, due to the vegetation. But maybe you can tell from the interior layout:
    http://www.homepath.com/listing?listingid=34055496

    • Sarah g says

      OMG atomic Amanda!!! You found another one!!! I think I’m planning a trip to Florida! My parents are thinking… Vacation home!…

  7. Brian Askew says

    This is the coolest house! I’d love to see the lavender bathroom; last year I bought a lavender bath set ( tub, toilet, and inset sink), and am wondering what kind of tile to use with it.

  8. Elizabeth L says

    I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Sarah and this house. It’s amazing what she’s done with the place!
    Sarah you have such a great eye.
    I also really love that the living room is central in the house and round, as well… I could go on and on about the layout alone. Anyway, congratulations! You have made your house look awesome and I, for one, can’t wait to see what else you’ve done.

  9. says

    My family had those exact diamond wall decorations – from a company called Home Interiors I think – and I think they are still hanging in my family home. If they are, they will now be my new house numbers!! I love the tile around your front door. Would never have thought of doing that. It looks fantastic. I’d love to see the inside!

  10. Carolyn says

    You did the architectural gods honor when you saved this house. Your choices on the entry are amazing, and the Homecrest makes it *complete*.

    I am aching to see the inside — I trust it’s more enlightened than its Fannie Mae cousin (I laughed out loud at the address post they thoughtfully included in the real estate pics).

    (and side note: I have that same crewel flower picture — it’s more ‘right’ in your home, though)

  11. Jewel says

    Sarah…what a great job you’ve done! You and your mother must be a great team! Please, please, please post pics of the interior as soon as you can. We’re all chomping at the bit to see them!

  12. amanda says

    It looks amazing! That traditional door that was on it before did not work at all. I’m so glad it was saved from a Walgreens, yay for the person who resisted. So where can I see the rest of the house?!!

  13. Costumedzyner says

    The renovations did wonders for that entryway! Now I just want to see the rest of that odd and fabulous house!

  14. says

    Sarah…what a small world. I have driven past your round house many times through the years. I think I first discovered it in the late 70’s and was always curious about it.

    We should get together and compare notes. I have a very unique1959 tri-level about 3 blocks away from you. Pretty sure it’s the only house in SWLA with a “butterfly” roofline…and part flat roof.

    “before” pictures of mine are here; http://www.flickr.com/photos/kwicmcm/
    Still a “works-in-progress”.

    • Sarah g (round house) says

      I’ve driven by your house too! (…and taken photos ;) ). One of these days ill just stop by and see if you’re home, then we can trade house tours lol

  15. says

    Sarah, We are preparing a National Register nomination for a 1952 round house in Eads, Colorado, and came across your story. We’re trying to document the relative rarity of round house designs and it was interesting to learn of Gilbert Spindel. What city in Louisiana is yours located? Thanks, Tom, Denver, Colorado

  16. MattH says

    Sarah, Do you have a copy of the floor plan? I saw a Gilbert Spindal called “Geodesica” at the Jacksonville, FL Museum of Science & History, but the floor plan was unintelligible. It’d be really nice to see how it was laid out.

    So, if you have the floor plans, and if you are willing to post a link, that would be much appreciated.

    Thanks!

    • Sarah g (round house) says

      No I do not, but I know who has them… I’m working on it and eventually will try to share that with everyone.

  17. Ali says

    Love your house. I’m house hunting and would love something like this! With your house numbers, did you remove the middle design to put the numbers on, or did you just put them over the top? Its a fantastic idea.

    • Sarah g says

      Those plastic plaques were made in a variety of different ways. The ones I had, simply had a flat image of flowers in the middle so I just painted black over them.

  18. says

    What a stunning, dramatic and creative transformation! And how wonderful to see another “Geodesica” round house by Gilbert Spindel! I bought mine in Jacksonville, Florida from the original owners in mid-2002. It was built in 1959 and was the featured “exhibit house” on that fall’s Parade of Homes. By all accounts it was a sensation in its time — and, based upon the reactions and comments of folks who see it and visit inside, it still is! And it’s so fascinating that you have discovered two more versions. I think we’re now officially on a round house treasure hunt — where are the others, I wonder?

  19. Karen says

    I love it! The colors are perfect and are just what I am looking for…but, I just searched the Benjamin Moore website and neither Lewisville Green or Peach Sherbert was found. Can we confirm the names exactly?
    Thank you!

  20. Karen says

    Hello, Google helped me confirm the colors. They are actually Lewiville Green and Peach Sorbet ! :-)

  21. Gail says

    Hello-

    I’m stealing the house number idea. I was hoping you could tell me if the plaques were covered with anything to protected them from the elements. Plus, did you just glue the number over the uneven picture or did you somehow shave off the emblem before adding the numbers. Thanks for your help.

  22. Zack says

    Hi Sarah
    I have had the pleasure of working on a house like yours. It is located in the mountains of North Carolina. I ran across your house while doing some research on it. Just thought you might want to know there is another one by Mr Spindel.
    Zack

  23. Glenna Cable Brown says

    I remember going in a round house as a model when I was a kid. The house is in Kettering, Ohio. I think it’s on Park Lane, off Wilmington Pike.

  24. Kay D says

    There are at least three of these homes in NW Oklahoma. One belongs to the parents of a friend of ours in Fairview. Last I knew, their home was nearly original. Woodward and Mooreland are the other locations.

    • Roundhouse Sarah says

      Thanks Kay D!! I was able to find the 3 you mentioned. They all appear to be Spindels. I also found a fourth one in Swanee! You’ve single handedly increased the count from 8 to 12, mega thanks!!!

      • Kay D says

        Sarah,

        Glad to help. If I get near Shawnee, I will have to take a look. The one in Mooreland does not appear to have the clerestory window/level like the others. The brick also seems a later style. Do you when the last plan was sold?

        • Roundhouse Sarah says

          Yeah the one in Moreland is the only one that google earth won’t show a ground view of. So perhaps it’s not a Spindel since it doesn’t have the clerestory windows. The other 3 however seem to be spot on. I don’t know when the last plan was sold but the plans were made in 1957 and I know of one house that was built as late as 1970.

        • Roundhouse Sarah says

          I’ve got confirmation that the one in Shawnee is a Spindel. The man in Fairfeild said his is not. Can’t figure out house number for woodward.

  25. Sandy says

    Hello,

    My husband happened across this and remembered an article in our pile of 1960’s Interior Design magazines featuring a round house. I searched through and found the article, entitled “Living in the Round”, in the August 1960 edition. The house in the article is very much like your round house and was built by interior designer Edward M. Holbrook, A.I.D. The home is located” on the outskirts of Norfolk, VA. (Turns out to be in Algonquin Park). It gives the floor plan as well as interior and exterior photographs. If there is a way to attach a scan the article I will do so.

    Google searching turns up part of this article as well as other information about this particular home.

    • Roundhouse Sarah says

      Hi sandy! Thank you for thinking of me and my house but I’ve been fortunate enough to have tracked down this article and purchased a copy of the magazine myself through ebay. I’ve got it framed and on my wall along with other geodesica stuff I’ve found. It’s a great story, it shows the original design that Holbrook came up with and the edited version that Spindel created to sell to the masses ( my version ). Here is the link for the story RR did about my house plan and it’s architect.
      http://retrorenovation.com/2013/10/15/architect-gilbert-spindels-round-houses/

      • Sandy says

        Hi Sarah,

        Thanks for letting me know and for the links. All very interesting.

        If there are any other round house folks out there who would like the article sent out just let me know. I’d be happy to send it for you.

        Sandy
        (rectangular home dweller)

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