10 July 2011

A fascinating old friend and her unique home

 I was returning to Central Virginia after bundling off the older kids to their grandparents and a vacation in Maine and on a whim I decided to exit the highway and take a spin through my grandparents old neighborhood. I lived there with my parents, grandparents and uncle in their larger house until I was two. When I was fifteen they moved into a smaller house across the street, more about that later.
To my surprise as was driving by their house on the verge of tears, I spotted their long time neighbor and friend, Miss Vivian, as she was known to me. I called out to her and she invited me in and we chatted about art and my family, who she misses.
She is a fascinating woman that I have known most of my life and an artist, now at the prestigious Torpedo Factory. Her style is impeccable  and her taste exquisite. She's had grasscloth wallpaper in her entire house since the '70s.

The finest Oriental carpets with a Noguchi table

a white slipcovered sofa and two brown Wassily chairs. She is not a trendy person...

she has had them forever. This is all paired with fine Asian antiques and a stunning, floor to ceiling art collection. All contained in a surprisingly modest home.
Which leads me to the second subject of this post. She lives in a Lustron home, like my grandparents did.

About 2,680 of these porcelain-steel  homes were produced in America between 1949 and 1950 by the Lustron Corporation in Columbus, Ohio.They cost about $10,000 - not including the lot.  The homes were shipped on a flatbed and required 350 man hours to assemble. Most were built on a concrete base. The porcelain coated exterior panels came in four colors: 'Maize Yellow', 'Dove gray' 'Surf Blue' and 'Desert Tan'.

As you can see from the floorplan, They are not the McMansions of today. 
All interior panels were of the porcelain steel which meant a commitment when it came to hanging pictures!

My grandparents only replaced the counters in the kitchen and removed the upper cabinets that separated the kitchen from the dining area. Miss Vivian has painted hers in vertical gray, ivory and beige stripes.

This is the Lustron living room. It speaks to a different generation's idea of comfortable living.
My grandparents put a mirror in the alcove behind the sofa, Miss Vivian has closed hers off and covered every inch with art.

Read more about this unique and disappearing bit of American architecture HERE.

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