Mad About Midcentury Modern
Montgomery County's architecture isn't all colonials and Cape Cods
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The house rents for $203 per night. Since they listed it on Airbnb two years ago, it’s often been rented by tenants looking to stay for weeks, even months at a time. In addition to design-savvy tourists, tenants have included couples who were relocating to the area and politicians passing through. This past summer, a neighbor’s parents rented it while waiting for the birth of their grandchild. (It’s also attracted some high school kids looking for a cool place to party for the weekend, but Cook says he turns down those requests.)
Photos by John Cole
Inside the house, Cook has cobbled together vintage furnishings he’s gleaned from yard sales, flea markets, dealers and a little dumpster diving. Some of the lighting fixtures are original to neighboring Goodman homes. Herman Miller and George Nakashima chairs sit at the kitchen island. The living room is furnished with couches and chairs by Danish designer Hans Wegner.
While the furnishings feel retro, many of the home’s touches are contemporary. Cook knocked down walls and added recessed lighting. The kitchen is lined with sleek cabinets from the German company Poggenpohl. The counters and island are a light-colored Silestone.
Photos by John Cole
The Brazilian cherry floors almost look striped. “We wanted to have this organic cabin kind of feel to it,” says Cook, who lives in another Goodman home in Hammond Hill, a neighborhood of 20 homes built in 1949. In Montgomery Modern, Kelly writes that homes in Hammond Hill were originally priced at $10,750, and often sold within a week of going on the market.
They’re still hot properties. Cook says this house has been almost completely booked since March. “It basically pays for itself,” he says.
Photos by Michael Ventura
When Mike Lecy and Kit Yeoh began looking to buy a home, they knew they wanted something midcentury modern. But they didn’t expect to find it in Rockville. The surrounding neighborhood of ramblers and split-levels gave no hint it was there. The real estate listing made no mention of it. But when Lecy saw the photos online, he had his suspicions.
Built in 1966, the home is in the Oak Spring neighborhood, in the Manor Woods area of Rockville near Rock Creek Park. Deigert & Yerkes, a prominent midcentury architectural firm in the D.C. area, designed the neighborhood’s 85 homes.
Photo by Michael Ventura
“Contemporary homes designed for family privacy on wooded lots” is how the original marketing materials described the neighborhood. Lecy, 39, a personal banker at Sandy Spring Bank, tracked down the brochure from the builders, Miller & Smith, a McLean, Virginia, firm that is still in business.
Yeoh, 39, says he knew nothing about midcentury modern style until he started working as a buyer at the Bethesda furniture store Urban Loft in 2009. “Midcentury modern is what our customers come for,” Yeoh says. He hooked Lecy on the style and they set out to find a home that matched their taste. They spent a year searching before spotting this one in 2015: a 2,000-square-foot split-level at the top of a hill on a quarter-acre lot.
Mike Lecy, left, and Kit Yeoh, spent a year house hunting before finding their midcentury modern home in Rockville. Photo by Michael Ventura
Large windows look out from an open living room and dining room, which is divided only by a brick fireplace and chimney. Lecy and Yeoh are furnishing it with contemporary takes on midcentury style. Eames chairs sit at the sleek dining room table. A bold blue sofa and patterned armchair sit by the glass coffee table.
The neighborhood turned 50 this year, making it eligible to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places—something Lecy is hoping to accomplish. To do so, he’ll need to prove to historic preservation officers with the National Park Service, which oversees the register, that the neighborhood is old enough, well-preserved and historically significant. Lecy thinks Oak Spring meets the criteria.
Photo by Michael Ventura
“You just look around this neighbor-hood and you can tell something is different about it,” he says. “I think it’s significant. I think it’s important. This neighborhood should be protected. I don’t want this character to go away.”
David Frey lives in Gaithersburg and has written for Sunset magazine and other publications. To comment on this story, email firstname.lastname@example.org.