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. We were very, very lucky. We have very few horror stories,” she said. Almost all the home's furniture was custom designed by Lost City Arts of New York and craftsman Eddie Myers of Austin, Texas — who the Barnes discovered at Oklahoma City's Festival of the Arts. Some of the furniture is angular, like the house itself, and much is low to the ground, like some of the '50s-era furniture. In the living room, for instance, the round table with copper edges and the triangular end tables were constructed of natural ash to connect with the ash cabinetry found throughout the house. Designer Chadwick used several shades of green — "so appropriate for that time in history” — to complement the creme-and-mocha terrazzo floors. "Of course, that is one of my very favorite color combinations, creme and mocha and green,” he said. During the renovation, the Barneses also implemented energy-efficient measures, like adding dimmer light switches, programmable thermostats and back windows and doors with low-E coated glass. In addition, Seminoff positioned the home to take advantage of the sun in the winter and the shade in the summer, Cara Barnes said. It was last October that a Metropolitan Home editor and photographer visited the couple, telling them they were interested in doing more stories from the central region of the nation. Cara Barnes said they told her: "So much of what we have submitted is from California and New York and we are really trying to report on other parts of the country. So we are thrilled.” In turn, Seminoff is gratified his design is receiving national attention — 51 years after the home was built. He said it reminded him of a story about Frank Lloyd Wright, who was bestowed with an American Institute of Architect's top award when he was about 80 years old. "He had never joined the AIA because there was so much crap being built. So they ignored him, until they could ignore him no longer,” Seminoff said. When Wright accepted the award, his response was: "Well, it's about time.” Seminoff said that also was his response to the national attention: "Well, it's about time.” Then he laughed. "I would never compare myself to Frank Lloyd Wright. He was a genius. He was a god. We worshipped at his feet,” he said. Besides the Barnes home, the Metropolitan Home April issue includes stories about homes in Seattle, Chicago and San Francisco. Cara Barnes said this is not the first time her home has made it into print. "The Daily Oklahoman ran a story in 1959. It was a parade home or show home or something like that. And it was so nice to have that,” she said. "And then when our renovations were so extensive, we realized what an amazing team we had. It became a special project and we wanted to share that.”Comments
The Barneses are happy with the Metropolitan Home story. However, it's nothing compared with the satisfaction they get from living in a home with renovations both well-done and complete.
"I had no idea how much joy we would get out of it each day,” Cara Barnes said.
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.