From abject neglect, the Gillman Residence is restored and reimagined to 4,700 square feet of modernity

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The sprawling Gillman Residence at 574 W. Mariscal Road is the Modernism Week Showcase Home of 2020. This house represents a salvage project, and just six months ago it was little more than a carcass.

After a sensitive renovation by DeeAnn McCoy and Jackie Thomas of Thomboy Properties, it’s brightening up a great location in Little Tuscany Estates.

Herbert Burns receives credit for the original design. According to Michael Stern and Alan Hess in Julius Shulman: Palm Springs, Burns was a solid Modernist who developed and built his own projects.

“The work of Herbert Burns showed a less austere and frankly less daring approach to Modernism than Frey or Lautner, and yet his design’s clean lines, strong composition, warm materials, open plans, and response to the climate reflect a clear and moderate Modernism,” they write. 

The exterior lacks a bellwether feature; the pool being in front would have to be the closest thing, and it registers more as a curiosity. The main entrance appears to be an afterthought, and once inside there is no grand foyer or commanding focal point.

“Trademark Burns signatures that have been restored include strong horizontal lines with flat roofs, cantilevered overhangs, floating soffits, grids of ribbed obscure glass, and vertical piers and planters of Arizona sandstone,” the ModWeek brochure tells us. 

Inside, the furniture and decor come from a special place in the catalog of Room & Board Home Furnishings. I was so flattered when Heather, of Room & Board’s Los Angeles store, recognized me from two years ago at the Hidden Frey.

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A guest strolls past the pool, with the casita in the background.

Despite all the new finishes and features and a strong emphasis on indoor-outdoor living, the interior can’t keep pace with others I’ve seen even as recently as yesterday. Making do without clerestory windows contributes to this. And the best midcentury houses–this one was built in 1948–have a commanding fireplace.

With so much living space, it nevertheless appears that a lot of time would be spent in the two occasional chairs just outside the kitchen workspace.

The decor overcompensated with glitz, starting with a $20,000 Bang & Olufsen Harmony television. But mark me down as appreciating the Petra Chandelier, designed by Frederick Ramond, which combines a familiar architectural grid motif with surprising elements, namely the rock crystals.

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A new acquaintance was Mitchell O’Neil, a not-to-be-sniffed-at architect from Jupiter, Fla., who was rooting around for inspiration. Mitchell flew into LAX yesterday and endured the holiday-weekend exodus that made the 120-mile drive last for five delicious hours.

Susan Nicole Thompson and I were seeing each other for the second day. Susan is senior interior designer for KT Tamm, Inc. of Scottsdale. Funny how you can just find a kindred spirit without really looking. I think it’s safe to say Susan shared my general reaction to the house.

She’s advanced quickly in the design world. So what sort of philosophy is she putting forth these days? “It’s all about texture and layering things together,” she says of the desert look in an interview with a Phoenix television station.

For my next trip to Scottsdale, Susan tipped me off to another do-it-yourself architect along the lines of Herbert Burns, one Al Beadle, who made big contributions in Phoenix during the midcentury period.

Meeting people like Mitchell and Susan is among my biggest benefits from volunteering in Modernism Week.

Tomorrow, the Guggenheim House!


One thought on “From abject neglect, the Gillman Residence is restored and reimagined to 4,700 square feet of modernity

  1. I love the embellishments in this house. The house strikes me as a blank canvas that doesn’t call too much attention to itself. It makes a good background for the tastes of the inhabitants, which I enjoy very much.

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