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Tuesday, Nov 25, 2014
Lifestyle Stories

Midcentury-style house blends form, function -- and fun


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ruce Laughridge and Ron Haynes love midcentury modern architecture, a style characterized by its clean simplicity and integration with nature. So when they spotted a “For Sale” sign in front of the vacant 2,500-square-foot residence 19 years ago, they knew it would be the perfect place to live.

“We were driving to the beach when Ron saw it and screamed at me to turn the car around,” Bruce recalls.

Built in 1959, the residence was designed by Tampa architect Joe Chillura Jr. for the Settecasi family. Though two bedrooms and two bathrooms might limit the home’s appeal to some, one step into the living room — with its 13-foot-tall windows and breathtaking view of a lush, tropical backyard — easily compensates for the lack of sleeping space.

“This house doesn’t have a lot of rooms, but all of the rooms are large rooms,” Bruce says.

Midcentury style emphasizes ample windows and open floor plans, with the intention of opening up interior spaces and bringing the outdoors in. Function was as important as form in midcentury designs (which were built before 1965) and, according to Haynes, this house provides a stellar example.

“It has such a workable floor plan,” Ron says. “Today’s lifestyles are much more casual, so we eliminated many of the doors that once separated the common areas.”

The partners — in business and in life — lovingly restored the residence while retaining much of its original flair. A former bar area now does double-duty as a library/dining room, while the original dining room was converted to office space for their company, Urban Innovations Inc.

“Bruce handles the interiors while I handle the building aspect,” Ron explains.

In their kitchen, new stainless steel countertops and a dishwasher were added, but the original cabinets, oven and terrazzo floors remain — in perfect working order. (The marketing folks at Publix loved it so much they filmed a television commercial there.)

Every room in the house was wired for music at the time of its construction and the original speakers still work — including those in the spacious master bedroom. Though the bird plywood on the walls of the master bathroom is original, a solitary sink was replaced with two sinks retrofitted into a 1940s wooden buffet.

Private courtyards off of the master bedroom and bathroom “are very spa-like, though they were built long before spas became popular,” Ron says with a smile.

Midcentury modern is more than an architectural style: It also refers to interiors, products and graphic design from the mid-20th century. The style is now recognized by scholars and museums worldwide as a significant design movement.

Not surprisingly, Laughridge and Haynes have amassed a large furniture collection from the period: Vintage Saarinen “tulip” chairs by Knoll are clustered around the dining table. The coffee table in their media room (designed by Robs Johns Gibbons, for Widdicomb) appeared in the film “Driving Miss Daisy.” It stood in the living room of Dan Aykroyd’s character, Boolie Werthan.

Notes frequently appear, tucked in the front door, asking if the house is for sale. It isn’t, but the couple graciously share it — with neighborhood dogs and cats who drink from the fountains outside, and for political and nonprofit fundraising events with more than 200 guests.

Admits Ron, “This is a party house.”

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