Dramatic 1959 split level time capsule house in same family for 55 years — 55 photos

midcentury-staircaseTour-a-Time-CapsuleA hot tip from reader Abigail lead us to this 5,153 sq. ft., impeccably maintained — and impeccably detailed — 1959 split level time capsule home, listed for sale in Kettering, Ohio. The home has an impressive collection of original bathrooms — three full and two half — filled with stunning mosaic tile walls, walk-in sunken showers, double vintage laminate vanities with colorful sinks and some amazing wallpaper. Throughout the house, stunning stone and brick walls seem to await around every corner, along with many other fantastic midcentury details, preserved and loved by the large family that called this house their home since the day they moved in — 55 years ago, in 1959. Wow.

midcentury-split-level-house-exteriorFrom the listing:

  • Price: $325,000
  • Year Built: 1959
  • Square footage: 5,153
  • Bedrooms: 5
  • Bathrooms: 3 full, 2 half

retro-family-roomGorgeous neighborhood in West Kettering by Kettering Medical Center, first offering on a popular quiet street, all tucked away, loved by the same family since day 1 in 1959! Sellers are sad to leave but ready to pass on their passion for this home after raising a large family, retro & fun, all the amazing 3 full baths are original but have huge walk in tiled floor to ceiling showers, you won’t believe this contemporary home created way before its time, multi levels throughout, walls of windows, great potential for a young family, retro lighting, kitchen was updated in the years past, 1st floor study with built-ins & unique distressed wood built ins, double sinks & more fun, 5 bedrooms, all good sized, inviting family room with doors to patios & perennial gardens, lots of privacy with beautiful mature trees, huge stone wall, 3 HVAC systems, separate workshop in the 2 car garage, invisible fence, security system….

midcentury-entryway-stonesplit level housemid century fireplaceparquet flooringYowza — this house is a textural treat for the eyes — with high contrast black stacked stone walls, stacked roman brick, streaky VCT flooring, gorgeous pecky cypress paneling, and many additional, gorgeous materials throughout the house.

ming-green-bathroom-retroThen there are the home’s amazing bathrooms. This minty green bathroom is spacious and user friendly with double sinks, plenty of storage in the vanity and built-in under mirror medicine cabinets.

midcentury-laminate-bath-vanityI am in love with the one inch mosaic tiles that span all of the walls, and that sink — so pretty. You can tell the bathrooms in this house were set up to serve many people at once, as evidenced by the separate space for the (likely mint green) toilet.

midcentury-green-tile-bathroomvintage 1970s wallpaperAnd that vintage wallpaper — so neat. It appears to have a horse racing theme to the design. Pam is going crazy for the vintage novelty wallpaper in this house, of course.

retro-walk-in-shower-greenEach of the full bathrooms have a huge, sunken, walk in shower that feels luxurious even by today’s standards.

pink-laminate-bathroom-vanityYes — they have a pink bathroom too — with the same set up of double laminate vanities with pretty pink sinks, mosaic tile on all the walls and under mirror medicine cabinet storage. So cute.

midcentury-pink-bathroommidcentury-pink-tile-walk-in-showerThe layout of this pretty pink bathroom also seems to mimic the minty green bath– enormous!

vintage-wallpaper-bathroomDig that retro striped detail in the pink and red vinyl tile flooring.

vintage wallpaperThe wallpaper looks like mid mod mad Paul Revere to us. Adds new meaning to “coolonial”.

retro-aqua-bathroomThe home’s third full bathroom must be the master. It has a different type of shower, along side the same awesome fixtures and mosaic tiles as in the other bathrooms, this time in aqua blue.


midcentury-laminate-bathroom-vanityThe curved corner section of the vanity must have held a vanity chair where mom could sit and relax while getting ready. And look at all the storage built into the wall just above the backsplash. This is a very handy idea, if you have the space — and the patience and craftsmanship to build niches like this.

vintage-wallpapered-bathroomYou can tell by looking at these bathrooms that a real effort was made to coordinate all of them.

The materials used throughout this house: We estimate they would cost oodles and oodles of money to replicate today. Oodles. As with all of the other time capsule houses we show — we sure hope this one finds appreciative new owners who recognize all the value in this gem of a house.

Link love:

Tips to view slide show: Click on first image… it will enlarge and you can also read my captions… move forward or back via arrows below the photo… you can start or stop at any image:

  1. KakiMack says:

    I’ve never heard of Kettering, Ohio, but I would totally move there if I could have this house. I adore all the different textures, and the bathrooms are incredible! The only thing I would change is the kitchen.

  2. Rudy says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a step down shower before! I dig that green tile in their too. Almost every picture you have here makes you pause for a second and think “what am I looking at exactly?” Very clever and interesting. Another gem.

  3. Sandra says:

    My house: 3/2, 1956, 1122 sq ft, $400,000
    This house: 5 bed, 3 full, 2 half, 5,153 sq ft, $325,000.

    Given the cost of materials and labor, that house must be cheaper to buy than to build, because land value doesn’t explain the difference.

    Are there no jobs in Ohio? There aren’t many jobs in CA, either. The cost of heating and cooling? What accounts for the price difference? Maybe it’s the cost of upkeep: this place needs a riding vacuum cleaner.

    California may be out of whack. No wonder people are leaving the state–one doesn’t even need to be rich to live like a king, in Ohio!

    1. Joe Felice says:

      In general, housing prices are determined by (and we all learned this in Real Estate 101) location, location and location. Houses in a desirable area are usually more expensive. Land costs more, building costs are greater, and insurance even costs more. If you watch HGTV “House Hunters,” you can easily see this. Houses seem to be the cheapest in Texas and in most places in the south. I have also noted cheaper houses in parts of the mid-west than here where I live (Denver area). Because so-many people want to live here and are moving here, housing prices are outrageous–I mean ‘way out of line. When I watch HH, I am amazed that you can get twice the house in many parts of the country than in others, such as here. However, California is not one of them, nor is the area around New York City. Even within states or regions, however, homes farther away from large cities are less expensive than those near the cities. I guess it boils down to supply & demand. It is just a fact of life that housing (rentals & purchases) are more expensive in places where people choose to move and live.

  4. ineffablespace says:

    I think that one of the reasons many people don’t embrace modernism (or any highly characterized style of architecture) is that it doesn’t “evolve” or “adapt very well. We’ve at least embraced Victorian eclecticism enough that we are now used to leaving it be and putting whatever kind of furnishings in it that we want.

    But modernism of this sort can’t really be adapted or “updated” or whatever you want to call it, because the character of the house is too strong to really allow it. Split levels, open tread stairs large and asymmetrically placed windows don’t lend themselves to any form of Neo-Traditionalism, which is what most people like. And if you are like me and look at a Lot of real estate, I’m sure you’ve seen similar houses to this tricked out with crown moldings and Edwardian looking bathrooms and raised panel door kitchens—and what a mess.

    At the very least, imo, that sort of updating takes a house that is, at the very Least “dated” but intact in original intent, and turns it into something u*** [edited] because it’s trying to be something it can’t (in current fashion/neo-traditional).

    So, that’s why we see these full-on time capsules, I think, not because the people were too cheap to ever “update”, but because they realized things were better left as is.

    I think most of the rooms in this house would be somewhat adaptable to some current form of modernism, but the core of that house with the open stairs and the stone wall essentially has to be left “as is” or changed into something else completely. I think a major step toward reducing the visual stimulation of that stone wall would be to regrout with black grout, turning it into a big textured monolith, rather than a mass of outlined stones. That would be a more current look, but it would tread very lightly on the original fabric.

    1. pam kueber says:

      Hmmmm…. I hear what you are saying, but this house is not minimalist in its design — all those surfaces create a very eclectic backdrop. I think you could have a heckuva lot of fun decorating this house without being narrowly bound by rules — not changing a thing about the walls anywhere — and I ADORE the black stone with white grout — NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, don’t change it! And Nooooooooooooo, don’t touch that pecky cypress. Don’t mess with any of those original surfaces unless there are environmental or safety reasons. Of course, the kitchen could use an inspired Retro Renovation, to be sure. With that, you would have a cohesive backdrop.

      I believe the key reason that people did not embrace midcentury modern back in the day — and this is still an issue today — is that many of its key theoretical proponents promoted minimalism — lack of unnecessary ornamentation. This fights human nature: We are ornamental beings. We love to acquire, to decorate, to embrace our precious pretties. Decorative austerity is not favored by the masses. Those Bauhaus dudes tried… but we Americans are an exuberant folk — we like our color and pattern and … stuff.

      Finally, just to be clear, this site is not about adapting homes to “some current form of modernism.” I do have strong thoughts about “backdrops” — all the pretty permanent stuff in the house. That is: Everything is “dated”. So you might as well date the expensive permanent stuff — like kitchens and bathrooms and overall architectural feel — to the original date of the house — the blog is first and foremost about surfacing the product solutions to help you do this, to find the materials you need. After that, though, decorate any way you want. Have fun. Push the limits. Make it your own. You talk about “Victorian eclecticism” — that’s a good term. I would say we are well into the era of “modern eclecticism” as well — here, at least!

      Keep the comments coming, ineffablespace — I enjoy talking to you!!!!

  5. ineffablespace says:

    I’m strongly in favor of preservation and restoration. But on the other hand, a certain amount of evolution is only natural. I don’t remember which interior designer said it, but it was something to the effect that he didn’t care how beautiful it was then, you don’t put the same dress on a society matron now that she wore to her debut.

    A number of elements of modernism really predated the technology to make them completely successful, and a lot of that technology exists today. Frank Lloyd Wright designed beautiful, leaky buildings. The original windows in my 1964 Brutalist are sheets of glass held in between 2x4s with pieces of quarter round, cobbled with small awnings for ventilation. If the architect had had the Budget or the Technology to make large, irregularly shaped, insulated, operable windows in 1964–I am sure he would’ve done so, and wouldn’t begrudge me the opportunity to do the same in 2015 or whenever it happens.

    When I spoke of a current form of modernism, I was discussing interior design/decor, not architecture. A lot of the rooms are basic rectangles with the only strong feature being window placement, and these rooms could be decorated in a way that was both completely sympathetic and in keeping with the house, and at the same time not a period recreation.

    I think sympathetic is a key word. It’s best, imo, that everything looks like it belongs in the house–that it is in sympathy with the historical fabric of the house. But I am not so sure that if you do need to change something that the new work has to be a complete recreation as if the house is a museum–and to some extent to do so is a form of playing “pretend”. If it’s not original, it’s not original and will never catch up.

    The original bathrooms in my house are long gone, replaced with something inappropriate and inferior in workmanship. I know from “archeology” (one of the newer inappropriate bathrooms is already gutted), and from the few remaining baths I’ve seen in this architect’s other houses, that the original tile in one of the bathrooms was Daltile Golden Granite (gold speckles on white, still made) and black and yellow mosaic. While I *could* recreate the tile–I couldn’t recreate the colored fixtures, and honestly I am not sure I could commit to the speckled gold tile anyway.

    But what I can do is create a bathroom that looks like it *could have been there when the house was built using period referential colors and materials–something that completely respects the house–but doesn’t intentionally try to fool people into thinking it has been there since the house was built.

    I don’t know that it is the intent of any architect or designer that once they build something that it remains unchanging forever.They are not like a painting—they are more like interactional or performance art. Modernist houses were designed to be “machines for living”, and living involves some change.

    1. pam kueber says:

      “Sympathetic” is a word I use often, too.

      If a house is chock-full of original features that are in good shape, safe and with no underlying environmental issues: Keep them! Unless you are made of money! You will not likely find much made better / made to last like the original stuff today. Or — if you have lived with your house and its original features a while, have worked to understand the original aesthetic rather than just knee-jerk disliking it because you’ve never seen it before, and want to spend the money — then change things. It’s your house. Donate your original features to the Re-Store. Others may want them.

      Note, in terms of interior design, I do not much recognize proper use of the word “evolution”. Evolution connotes survival of the fittest — meaning “today’s” interior design would be “fitter”…”better.” When it comes to decorating tastes, I do not agree with this type of analysis. Decor is for the massive part: Fashion. Fashion driven my Marketing. We are not smarter today about “what’s beautiful.” We are sold new billets of goods. The only major strides I can really think of when it comes to “evolution” in interior design come from technological breakthroughs. Philip Starke ghost chairs, as a key relatively contemporary example. Possibly also solid surface quartz countertops — although I don’t see a big difference in this stuff from terrazzo, fundamentally? Corian? Golly. What else? I would have to think very hard. Miniaturization of devices like the television, record players (to ipods) and related amplification devices. Those Silhouette shades from Hunter Douglas. What else? The big technological changes driving interior design options — I’m struggling. It’s all just mostly…color, pattern, material differences promoted year in and year out by marketers who want to dissatisfy us with what we already have so that we gut it and buy their new stuff. And so the cycle never ends — unless you recognize the trap and develop your own strong convictions.

      Onward: If the house has been remuddled: Learn about its original architectural features and if you like, recreate them down to the light switch covers. Midcentury modern and modest homes that are “museums” in terms of their original features were designed to be lived in! So, they are not really museums. And, in terms of how we use our homes today vs. in postwar American — not much has really changed since then. Get more amperage. For more discussion of this specific topic see: https://retrorenovation.com/2014/03/24/12-reasons-own-mid-century-home/ . Of course, if the windows, etc., are falling apart, replace them, etc. However, read all our research about why replacing functional midcentury windows are likely to be a bad financial investment. Second, if your house has been remuddled — but you don’t want to create a period restoration — again, learn about the original architecture, I recommend that anything expensive like kitchens and bathrooms be planned in harmony with the original architecture so that that they look like they could always have been there — but that said, go to town. There were and are a lot of looks appropriate to a midcentury home — some more retro than modern and everything in between. Here on the blog, for example, we show lots of different approaches that readers have taken.

      P.S. To heck with what the interior designer said about society matrons vs. debut socialites. I’ll wear my debut dress if I want to!!! I’m reading Sven Kirsten’s FABULOUS tiki books(affiliate link) right now in preparation for The Hukilua. I infinitely prefer:

      “Ah, good taste! That a dreadful thing! Taste is the enemy of creativeness.” – Pablo Picasso

  6. virginia says:

    The bathrooms alone are insanely lovable. Fantastic wallpapers and gorgeous tile work. LOVE.

    These kinds of houses are, to me, the equivalent of going out mining and panning for gold day after day, year after year, Deadwood style, and then one day just hitting it. What are the chances, really, of such gems surviving in such remarkable condition.

    The one thing that floors me is that such a fantastic, one of a kind treasure would go for such a low price. And I know that prices are relative, etc. Still blows my mind.

    The comments and quotes about good taste, taste, etc. are great. Good taste and lunacy aren’t mutually exclusive though. For me, it’s not so much that taste is the enemy of creativity — though it may well be — It’s that taste and craziness, jumping off the cliff in matters of style, can and do go hand in hand.

    Again, all of this house amazing but those bathrooms are totally unforgettable.

    1. pam kueber says:

      As I like to say: My aim, in general, is to try to walk the fine line between genius and insanity right up to the point that bottoms of my feet are bleeding.

      We now have 90+ time capsule houses in our archive — https://retrorenovation.com/category/all-about-the-era/time-capsule-homes/ . At this point, I am all about “show me something I haven’t seen before.” And golly, just when I think there can’t be any more, another one — like this — pops up! The diversity of creativity in postwar America — astounding!

    2. Joe Felice says:

      Well, I guess we’re in good company. Some of the world’s most-creative people were considered insane (although we don’t use that term today, except in criminal trials). I think creativity trumps insanity. We just express our inner feelings & desires to the world. Nothing wrong with that. Artists deal with it all the time. As we have mentioned so-many times on this site: We do what makes us feel good. We want to feel happy in our homes, and we tend to surround ourselves with those things that evoke good feelings and memories. That’s what it’s all about. So what if they think I’m insane? I have thoughts about “them,” but usually keep them to myself.

      1. pam kueber says:

        Oh. The other thing I wanna say: I’m into the “enough”, too. As in: It’s good enough. In that vein, I also like to show the little time capsule houses that are just kind of normal granny ranches — well-maintained little jewel boxes. That’s what most people had, that’s we most of us still have today — and they are perfect in their “enough”-ness!

  7. Jacki says:

    Maybe in the near future we will see the new owners asking Pam for advice on retro-ing this very same kitchen. My goodness, it needs it. This house is one of the few that has ever made me considering moving back to cold country. Not sure what two fifty year olds would do with 5000+ sq. ft though.

  8. ineffablespace says:

    Within a thread about a specific time-capsule house probably isn’t the best place to get into long theoretical discussion, but I think that, faced with a vintage house of any era, there has to be a certain amount of analysis regarding “then” vs “now” when it comes to the decision making process.

    Of course analysis and interpretation can be flawed, we know now that the “colonial” colors so popular in the middle of the 20th c. were based upon flawed analysis and interpretation.

    If you are lucky enough to have any information about the architect that designed the house you live in, that information can be valuable in the decision making process, but I think that in the final analysis you might find that the “more correct” answer (of several “correct”) answers may not be to simply replace what needs to be replaced with the most similar XYZ currently in production. It may be more correct to try an decide what the architect him/herself would do in this situation.

    Much of this relates to whether the house was custom built for a particular client, and how close the “as built” house is to the “as designed” house.

    The architect of my house designed these as part of a development. I am lucky enough to have seen drawings of what the architect originally proposed, as well as some extant time capsule houses he designed and built for custom clients. It’s clear, looking at the custom houses, and looking at the drawings for these houses, that the execution of some of the details fell short of what the architect intended, and the details in place are some cheaper (and generally more awkward, less modernist-in-spirit) details. Indeed, neither this development, nor the other large mid-century development (of which this was the middle-class version) were completed by the original architects. They left the projects after the initial phases, due to “creative differences” with the builders. (budget, budget and budget)

    I think with that sort of information, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to repair or replace (as needed) with something that is better executed than what it replaces, but closer to the original intent.

    As for changing something like the grout in this house from white to black. If it was a matter of personal choice then, I think it could be a matter of personal choice now. Black grout existed in 1959, they decided to do white. Had I been alive in 1959, and old enough to build this house…I probably would’ve chosen black then, too. I don’t think it affects the house in a negative way to make such a change. Not like dry walling it over would, painting it would, covering it with a different stone would.

    1. pam kueber says:

      Changing the grout on that magnificent stone wall would not be comparable to, say, painting a piece of not-high-value manufactured wood credenza of the era. It would be messing with a unique, gorgeous, original architectural feature. I stand firmly in the camp of: It’s absolutely stunning as is — treasure it!

    2. Joe Felice says:

      Actually, I thought both the stone and the grout had been painted sometime during the intervening years. I don’t recall that people painted stone & grout back in the day, and certainly don’t recall black with white. However, anything is possible. If the original owners had wanted that look, then that’s what they would have had, just like we choose what we want today.

  9. Sam R says:

    For reference, the Hudee-rimmed bathroom sinks and faucets are Briggs models. The original pink sink in my blue/pink 1954 bathroom is an exact match. They’re a bit unusual for flush mounts in that they are solid china, not porcelained cast iron.

    The toilets don’t look like Briggs, but I’m not sure what they are. Briggs generally used very squared-off bases and tanks.

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