Featured: 222 Juniper Drive, Rotterdam

Vintage frontA mid-century gem designed by noted architect John Johansen, one of the famed Harvard Five, that included Philip Johnson.  Striking exterior, beautifully sited on a half-acre lot.

Open floor plan with large picture windows in living room and modernist clearstory windows throughout.  Fireplace, hardwood floors, walnut paneling.  Central air, central vacuum, newer appliances.  Lower level includes brightly lit family room and additional space plumbed for possible third bath.  Rear deck overlooks large backyard.  Everything well maintained by original owners.

OPEN HOUSE, SUNDAY NOV. 22, 1-3 PM

Three-quarter
Built 1952, rear wing by Eric Fisher added 1957.
3 bedrooms, 2 baths.
1,500 square feet on 1/2 acre
Offered at $195,000

FRONTLiving room 1
Living room 2
Bedroom 1See the full listing here.   Take the virtual tour.

RearLocated in the unique West Hill Community of Rotterdam.
Check out more cool houses in West Hill.

“Simply Chic” in the Times Union

TU real estate reporter Leigh Hornbeck has started a monthly column, “Architexture” that describes the hallmarks of different styles in residential architecture.  November’s focus was Mid-Century and here’s what she had to say:

Mid-century modern architecture is characterized by flat planes and open space. At the time, post World War II to the 1960s, these homes were referred to as “contemporary,” a term now reserved for houses under construction and built in the last 20 years. The ranch design was introduced during the time, but the houses made popular by Frank Lloyd Wright, called Prairie houses, are rare in the Northeast because of their flat roofs. Mid-century modern contrasted sharply with its predecessors because of its simplicity. Victorian styles celebrated ornamentation, but the architects that designed the new post-war style wanted simplicity, homes that could be built quickly and blended with their surroundings.


Prominent architects include Wright, Edward Durell Stone, who designed the uptown campus of the University at Albany, and Philip Johnson, whose colleague John Johansen designed 222 Juniper Drive in Rotterdam (below).

Wright’s Frederick C. Robie House on the campus of the University of Chicago is a famous example of mid-century modern architecture. Albany has a few examples of Lustron houses — prefabricated steel houses that illustrated the drive in the United States to build simple houses, quickly.

Kilbourn house

Places & Spaces, Leigh’s blog on local real estate is at:  http://blog.timesunion.com/realestate/

Albany architect Harris Sanders

By Joseph Dalton
Times Union, July 17, 2014
The first in my occasional series of profiles of Capital Region architects.

Sanders         During the 60-year career of Albany architect Harris A. Sanders, renovations of commercial spaces have been bread and butter work.  Little did Sanders know, however, that a commission in the late 50s to update a rather mundane reinforced concrete building built during the teens on North Broadway would result in an enduring landmark.  The site was to become the new home of RTA, an appliance distributor specializing in products of RCA.

“The client wanted something put on top that would tell people he’s in electronics,” recalls Sanders, who came up with the idea of a giant Nipper.  The 25-foot tall white dog was fabricated by a firm in Chicago and shipped here in pieces on railcars and assembled by a 10-story crane.

“That’s my claim to fame,” says the 87-year old Sanders.Nipper

If Sanders’ name isn’t particularly well known, his vision has been realized in countless commercial, residential and religious spaces across the Capital Region.  Long time residents of the area may recall a couple of his more imaginative projects that are now shuttered, including the Golden Fox Restaurant in Colonie, and Story Town, an amusement park in Lake George.  He also designed the worship spaces for Congregation Ohav Shalom in Albany and Congregation Shaara Tfille in Saratoga Springs, and supervised the renovations of St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church on Albany’s Whitehall Road.  “Those golden doors are mine,” says Sanders, with a proud smile.

An Albany native, Sanders had early exposure to the workings of buildings, since his dad was a plumber.  After some experience at the trade though, it didn’t take long to conclude that pipes and fittings weren’t his calling.  Yet there was never any question that Sanders would return to his hometown after completing architecture studies at the Pennsylvania State University.

At college, Sanders delighted in exposure to the emerging language of modern architecture, a far cry from the environment of Colonial and Greek revivals in which he grew up.

“The only architecture we talked about in school was modern and the big leader in the late 30s and early 40s was Frank Lloyd Wright,” says Sanders.  He recalls that Wright even appeared as a guest lecturer, if only for about 45 minutes.  “He began by saying ‘You have a beautiful campus here,’ and that puffed us up. And then he said, ‘But the buildings spoil it.’ Then we knew who we had with us.”

Further contributing to Wright’s early influence on Sanders was a fieldtrip to Falling Water, the iconic Wright home in western Pennsylvania.  Sanders explains that one of his professors was close friends with the Kaufmann family that built the home and that at the time of their visit some additions to the property were still in progress.  “And I remember dachshunds running around and they matched the style of the building,” he adds.

Albany Public Library, Delaware Avenue branch

Albany Public Library, Delaware Avenue branch

Accentuated horizontal lines are a Wright trademark that appears in a number of Sanders’ own buildings, especially 331 Delaware Avenue.  Originally designed for the Chicorelli Funeral Home, it was converted to a branch of the Albany Public Library a few years ago.  It may be Sanders’ most recognizable local project after Nipper.

“Normally we try to sneak in some interesting ideas here and there,” says Sanders. “That’s what architects do.”

“But these were great clients and let me do anything,” continues Sanders, mentioning in particular the double cantilever on the building’s southwest corner that sheltered cars arriving at the front entrance.

When he could, Sanders also added touches of Wright to the houses he designed, which are spread across the region.  Perhaps nowhere is the style more concentrated than in Sanders’ own home on Tampa Avenue, where he’s lived with his wife Pearl since 1958.  During a tour of the home, Sanders points to some distinctive features that he unapologetically attributes to Wright. These include glass-to-glass corner windows, a floating staircase and the low ceiling in the entryway, which heightens the drama of stepping into the soaring and spacious living room.

Hidden from the street view is the main entrance.  Though jobs on housing developments didn’t always allow Sanders to have his way, his preference is that the front door of a house not face the street.  “Never show the front door, it’s a mystery,” he says. “Make a person come in and around the house to witness it, like it’s a sculpture.”

Living room Sanders

Interior of Sanders residence

“The Sanders’ house represents one of those fascinating stories about our architectural history that’s just starting to be told,” says Susan Holland, executive director of Historic Albany Foundation.   “We equate Albany with a Victorian sensibility but here is Harris in the 1950’s, designing a thoroughly modern house for his wife and growing family.”

A couple of years ago the Sanders residence was on Historic Albany’s holiday house tour.  According to Holland its inclusion amidst more stately and traditional dwellings was very well received and has helped spark the organization’s gradual expansion into advocacy for mid-century design.

While a front room of the Sanders house serves as a library and office, during a recent visit it was in the kitchen where evidence could be seen that an architect lived there.  Adjacent to the breakfast table was a supply of translucent green stencils, the tools of an architect, or at least one from the days before computer aided design.  Sanders likes to have those implements handy for when he takes work home.  He still shows up at the office everyday.

Established in 1955, Harris A. Sanders, Architects is currently led by the founder’s son, Daniel Sanders.  The firm has grown over the years, from a one-man shop to the current staff of 10 and operates out of offices at 252 Washington Avenue.  The work continues to be a rather broad mix, mostly in the Capital Region and across upstate.  A current focus is renovating former industrial buildings for residential use.  The recently completed River Street Lofts in Troy is one example.

According to Daniel Sanders, one of his father’s legacies is in the training of newcomers to the field.  “Many of the architects in the region started in this office,” he says.  “We have three interns right now and they appreciate his presence.”

“One of his strengths is understating the building as a whole,” continues Daniel Sanders, referring to his dad, the son of a plumber.  “He was trained as much in engineering as architecture and can focus on plumbing, heating and a/c, as well as design and form.”

Realizing such details of a building through mechanical drawings is Sanders’ main work these days. And though the firm bears his name, he carries on with a level of humility that might be considered rare for his profession.

“My son keeps me busy,” he says.  “I’m the little guy in the corner.”

Congregation Shaara Tfille, Saratoga Springs

Congregation Shaara Tfille, Saratoga Springs

101 Brookline Avenue, the coolest house in Albany – SOLD!

International style modern exterior wrapped around a warm and bright interior with a spacious and open floor plan.  Corner lot in highly desirable neighborhood adjacent to Marion Avenue and Buckingham Pond.  Owner has updated and restored all aspects of this beautiful mid-century home.

PORCH

Built 1960 • 1,994 square feet • .43-acre wooded lot • 3 bedrooms, 3 full baths
Architect: William N. Marden • Inspired by California designer Craig Ellwood

4-Living3

9-Den2

6-Kitchen

7-Breakfast

Under contract in just five days.  Closed 6/23/14.  $295,000.
View the full listing:  www.101BrooklineAlbany.com
Times Union: Design Spotlight (5/18/14)

 

11 Oxford Road – a mid-century treasure in Brunswick

New Front May 2014

All the right choices were made to preserve and highlight the mid-century vintage of this 1954 home, while still adding contemporary updates.  Skylights flood the renovated bathrooms with light.  Sparkling hardwood floors throughout the main level.  Family room on lower level features wood burning fireplace and new tile floor with radiant heat.  Expansive finished space also on lower level could become artist studio or in-law apartment.  Patio and porch overlook double-sized lot.

Offered at only $259,000

For showings and more information call Joseph Dalton at (518) 573-1093

2,623 square feet of living space on two levels
3 bedrooms, 2 and a half baths
Master bedroom suite on main level
2-car attached garage
Laundry on lower level
8-year old rubber roof
Natural gas heat in main living area
Forced hot air heat and central air

For showings and more information call Joseph Dalton at (518) 573-1093
New side

 

Aunt Katie’s Attic

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Thanks to Metroland for alerting me to yet another colorful kitchy vintage shop in the region, Aunt Katie’s Attic in Scotia.  Owner Kate Halasz has been collecting and selling for 19 years and specializes in kitchen items, though clothing and furniture are also part of the mix in the 2-story shop.

Her customers range from young girls looking for retro fashion to married couples outfitting their suburban house as a country cottage, to “older ladies who just want an old cookbook.” Katie’s attic also does a brisk business with burlesque performers and fans. “The pin-up girls want to wear authentic clothing,” she says. “A lot of them furnish their homes in that era, and they’re looking for an old vanity,” or aprons or oven mitts, because according to Katie, “Fifties Housewife is the hottest thing going now, and these girls live it head to toe.” From Bettie Page to Betty Draper to Betty Crocker, Aunt Katie has been ahead of the curves. – Ann Marrow, Metroland, March 20, 2014

Fiesta Waretable and chairs

On Saturday, June 7th, Katie’s hosting an out-door vintage flea with multiple vendors!

 

Delmar, prime suburbia

One of Albany’s most popular suburbs, Delmar (in the township of Bethlehem) is filled with Colonials and capes, plus plenty of ranches (some raised).  There’s the occasional shed-style contemporary and a few rare gems…15 Werner Av, Delmar - editedWhite decolong and low