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Ranch-style home refurb featured on magazine cover
Original architect of 1957 house approves of restoration efforts

By Chris Brawley Morgan Published: April 5, 2008
Metropolitan Home magazine took a rare trip into the heartland for its April issue — "Renovation Goes Green & Gorgeous!” — and landed at the home of Cara and Robert Barnes in Oklahoma City.

The Barnes' mid-century home at 2532 Pembroke Terrace garnered eight glossy pages in the prestigious chronicle of modern design.

Cara Barnes, a public relations consultant, and Robert Barnes, an oil-and-gas attorney, spent 10 months renovating or replacing nearly every facet of their 1957 home.

"As I look around, every surface got something,” Cara Barnes said.

The center-cut redwood ceilings were restored. The terrazzo floors were polished. The sunken six-sided bathtub was retiled.

The architect, George Seminoff, 81, an Oklahoma City resident, enthusiastically approves.

"They didn't change a single material. They spent a lot of money on the house — not changing it, just restoring it, just refreshing it,” he said.

The only structural change in the 2,700-square-foot ranch-style home was the removal of a kitchen wall, necessary to open the kitchen to the rest of the house. Cara Barnes is quick to point out, however, that the counter peninsula provides the same footprint as the wall.

Robert Barnes told Metropolitan Home: "I loved the way the house just opens up in front of you as you walk in. We didn't want to be the ones to screw it up.”

John Chadwick, a former Oklahoma City resident who owns a New York design firm, was the designer for the project.

It was Chadwick who proposed the story to Metropolitan Home, which he considers one of the top three design publications in the nation. The other two are Elle Decor and Architectural Digest. "Very few” Oklahoma homes make the pages of any of the three publications, Chadwick said.

The Barnes home, however, was a special project.

"We were presented with such a fine piece of architecture. It was a pleasure to work with. It is such a playful house. There are no squares or rectangles. The rooms are all trapezoids, hexagons and parallelograms,” Chadwick said.

Seminoff said his design for the one-story brick ranch-style home was greatly influenced by architecture great Frank Lloyd Wright.

"If you are going to copy, you might as well copy the best,” he said.

Wright elements in the Barnes home include sliding shoji screens, a copper fireplace in a chevron pattern, the use of natural materials and the lack of 90-degree angles.

The Barnes bought their home in 2006, shortly after they were married. Their Realtor encouraged them to tour the one-of-a-kind home.

A few steps inside and they were smitten.

"Both of us just went, ‘Oh my gosh.' The glass in the back looks out over this peaceful back yard. We realized this is a really special place,” Cara Barnes said.

In a short time, however, the peace ended and the renovations began.

The natural ash cabinetry was either restored or replaced — in the original design, of course. The master bathroom's original apricot-and-jade tile was damaged and replaced by transparent blue tiles on the walls. Small round tiles — in various shades of blue — were used elsewhere. The vanity was enlarged to accommodate two sinks, but rebuilt to match the original shape.

The leather floor in the bar was particularly tricky. Cara Barnes found several suppliers in New York.

"It was incredibly, incredibly, prohibitively expensive,” she said.

So she appealed to both Looper Leather and the Tandy Leather store in Oklahoma City, which both ended up participating in the project.

"Each step of the way, they were saying, ‘Man, I've never heard of a leather floor, but I bet I can do it,' ” she said.

In fact, most of the trades people who worked on the house were adept professionals, excited about working on something different, she said.

"The painters were artisans.

Continue reading this story on the...

This house plan of the Barnes' home, which originally ran in The Daily Oklahoman in 1959, shows how architect George Seminoff made the home angular, but used no 90-degree angles.


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