written by:
photos by:
May 17, 2013
Originally published in The Furniture Issue
as
The Right Stuff
Seeking a modern shell for their mid-century pieces, a pair of collectors found a relatively untouched Eichler in San Rafael, California—and a built-in excuse to acquire more furniture.
Sawback chair with fur throw cover.

Mark Neely and Paul Kefalides’s living room is decked out with the couple’s vintage finds, including a Hans Wegner Sawback chair (the fur throw obscures an area needing repair), a George Nelson Ball Clock, a DF-2000 cabinet by Raymond Loewy, a light designed by Greta Von Nessen, and a suite of Brian Willshire wooden sculptures, one of Neely’s many collections.

Photo by 
1 / 15

The couple’s vintage Stadio dining table is by Vico Magistretti for Artemide; the Eames chairs came from an old school in Palm Springs.

Photo by 
2 / 15
Assorted Dansk pepper grinders.

Neely has been buying Dansk pepper grinders at antique shops for the past ten years.

Photo by 
3 / 15

The kitchen in the couple's home retains its original cabinetry.

Photo by 
4 / 15
White Algues sculpture designed by Bouroullec brothers.

See for Yourself

After painting the sitting room room Kendall Charcoal from Benjamin Moore’s Aura line, Neely wanted a sculptural element that would show up against the dark hue. So he assembled his white Algues set, designed by the Bouroullec brothers for Vitra, on the wall behind the sofa with pillow by Judy Ross. “Though the Bouroullec piece is manufactured in mass quantities, you can create your own take on it,” he says. “It looks great no matter how you place it. I think of it almost like an inkblot—the randomness is part of its beauty.”

Photo by 
5 / 15
The exterior of Neely and Kefalides’s house is punctuated with a bright red door.

The exterior of Neely and Kefalides’s house is punctuated with a bright red door.

Photo by 
6 / 15
Vintage chest of drawers.

A vintage chest of drawers supports the playful forms of a Nesso lamp, designed by Giancarlo Mattioli for Artemide, and a collection of Holmegaard ceramics.

Photo by 
7 / 15
Living room featuring a travertine-topped coffee table by Paul McCobb pairs well 
with the Florence Knoll Parallel Bar System sofa. The Josef Albers print over the fireplace is an original, scored on eBay.

In the living room, a travertine-topped coffee table by Paul McCobb pairs well with the Florence Knoll Parallel Bar System sofa. The Josef Albers print over the fireplace is an original, scored on eBay.

Photo by 
8 / 15
Grass-cloth wall treatment.

A Good Reed

The most changed area of the home is the small guest room–office, where Neely, who works from home, removed the closet doors and added a grass-cloth wall treatment to distinguish it from the rest of the house’s decor. “Many of the Eichlers originally had grass cloth as a covering on the sliding closet doors,” he says. “The guest room–office is the only other room that can be seen from the public areas across the atrium, and I wanted this wall to add visual interest.”

Photo by 
9 / 15
Modern backyard furniture.

The beanbag chairs and outdoor sofa and chairs are from West Elm and the Case Study Museum Bench is from Modernica.

Photo by 
10 / 15
Mark Neely standing in backyard.

“I love the look of mass plantings,” notes Neely, near Mexican feather grasses--which thrive on the sunny lot.

Photo by 
11 / 15

Tall Stacks

In reworking the landscape, Neely added 1950s ceramic sculptures by Malcolm Leland, who calls them “modern totem poles.” 

Photo by 
12 / 15
Neely sitting on two single 1950s  George Nelson Thin Edge beds.

Full Nelson

The bed in the master bedroom is actually two single 1950s George Nelson Thin Edge beds--made from birch, enameled metal, and cane--that Neely bought at auction at the John Toomey Gallery in Oak Park, Illinois. "I love the contrast of the white wall with the wood and woven material," says Neely, who likes to keep the beding simple--often a paisley from Ralph Lauren--so as not to detract from the bed's strong lines.

Photo by 
13 / 15
Modern white dining table with floral display.

Full Bloom

The white Vico Magistretti dining table is a focal point when you enter the house--"and a great spot to create assemblages of some of my favorite objects," says Neely, who changes the display every few weeks. Set atop a reversible Finn Juhl tray are ceramics from Heath and a Carl Auböck fruit knife with a cane-wrapped handle. Notes Neely:"I always keep a handful of tillandsia around--air plants soften and warm up the space."

Photo by 
14 / 15
Modern wall covering.

Graphic Novelty

A textile designed in 1998 by Scandinavian designer Carl Johan Hane serves as an artful accent to the guest bedroom. Neely found the patters--Mobile, created for the Swedish textile company Kinnasand--as Skandium, in London. "I wasn't sure how best to display it. Then a painter friend of mine suggested I have it stretched across a wooden frame, just like artists do with raw canvas," he says.

Photo by 
15 / 15
Sawback chair with fur throw cover.

Mark Neely and Paul Kefalides’s living room is decked out with the couple’s vintage finds, including a Hans Wegner Sawback chair (the fur throw obscures an area needing repair), a George Nelson Ball Clock, a DF-2000 cabinet by Raymond Loewy, a light designed by Greta Von Nessen, and a suite of Brian Willshire wooden sculptures, one of Neely’s many collections.

Architect 

Graphic designer Mark Neely and gastroenterologist Paul Kefalides had spent years collecting furniture for their apartments in Chicago and New York before a career opportunity for Kefalides materialized in California. Neely was game but had one stipulation: “I told Paul, ‘We can move out west if you can find a modern house that the furniture can go into,’” he remembers. It was 2005, during the market frenzy. Kefalides lucked into a connection with Eichler expert and real estate manager Catherine Munson. She showed the couple a house that had only two owners since its construction in 1966; both were architects who had made the home’s conservation a priority. Neely and Kefalides soon found themselves the new owners of the roughly 1,700-square-foot post-and-beam house, designed by architect Claude Oakland for developer Joseph Eichler’s 500-plus-home Lucas Valley neighborhood in San Rafael, California. The pair had found their modern house, but the ongoing journey of furnishing and preserving it had only just begun.

Vintage chest of drawers.

A vintage chest of drawers supports the playful forms of a Nesso lamp, designed by Giancarlo Mattioli for Artemide, and a collection of Holmegaard ceramics.

Neely: I remember walking into this house, and thinking, This is perfect. It felt like we had walked into the ’60s. It fit the furniture and still had all the original bones. Sometimes older houses are in states of decay and disrepair, but because the original and second owners of this house were architects, they maintained it very well.

Kefalides: We were attracted to it because the setting was beautiful and the house proportions were smaller and more intimate. It had a warmth not always present in modern homes. It seemed like it had once been a cherished home. Once we moved in, we learned a lot about Eichler. He was trying to make elegant, simple modern homes accessible to the middle class. That was one of the things he did that was pioneering: democratizing design and architecture.

Neely:Initially, we had grand ideas to do some renovations or extensions, and then the recession hit and everything sort of flatlined. In a way, it turned out to be a good thing because it made us sit back and appreciate what the house had to offer as it was. We saw it in a new light and turned our focus to the furnishings. We brought a lot of things to this house from Chicago—I started collecting mid-century modern and Danish when we lived there in the early ’90s. I got many pieces from Knoll, Herman Miller, and the Merchandise Mart, and the antiques shops were filled with stuff at the time. The Danish chest in the living room is from Chicago, as are the Hans Wegner oak Sawbuck chairs—those are from Wright, the auction house. No one was bidding on them, so I did.

Assorted Dansk pepper grinders.

Neely has been buying Dansk pepper grinders at antique shops for the past ten years.

Kefalides: When we were in Chicago, it was a time of discovery. We were so excited about purchasing some of those things, like the Raymond Loewy buffet, which also came from Wright. We rented a truck from Home Depot and moved the buffet ourselves to our apartment—it’s really heavy. It’s spectacular and has a lot of sentimentality for us. I tend to get attached to things that were real aspirations at the time we acquired them.

Neely: Many of those pieces work so well in these rooms, like the Paul McCobb table, which I found when we were living in New York. When I placed it in our living room here, I realized it’s basically the structure of our house. The travertine top looks like the roof, the drawers resemble the house itself, and the negative space, the carport.

Kefalides: There’s a dilemma with these houses—on one hand, we realize we don’t need a lot of space and can live comfortably with furnishings from the same era, which were designed to fit in a small space. But some areas, like the kitchen and bathrooms, really do need updating. We are sensitive about changing the footprint of a home that has specific sight lines and light entry points, and we would never alter it in a way that disrupts those features. We’ve talked to a lot of architects, and the back-and-forth usually leads to more indecision, actually.

The exterior of Neely and Kefalides’s house is punctuated with a bright red door.

The exterior of Neely and Kefalides’s house is punctuated with a bright red door.

Neely: Our general approach has been to keep the house up and bring areas to life by putting up a new wall covering or adding furniture. The integrity of the architecture depends on the details Eichler put in, which should remain. I’m on the architectural review committee for the Lucas Valley neighborhood, and we have an ongoing debate in the community: What would Eichler have done, and what would he have thought of this or that? The whole modern idea was always to move forward and not feel constrained by the rules—that’s what modernists were revolting against when they came up with the modern ethos. I like to think Eichler would have wanted this neighborhood to evolve in a modern way.

Kefalides: We have to retain elements of Eichler’s mid-century modern aesthetic but still make sure that the house is functional for 21st-century life. It’s like two kinds of modernism coming together. I don’t think Eichler and his fellow modernists would have wanted their homes entombed; instead, they would rather have them grow and develop organically.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

45 dva 2270 persp1 cmyk 0
The prospect of retirement doesn’t just signal the end of a career; it offers the chance to recalibrate and re-prioritize in life.
July 25, 2016
18
You don’t have to choose between sustainable energy and curb appeal.
July 19, 2016
jakemagnus queensland 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
July 06, 2016
content delzresidence 013 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 29, 2016
abc malacari marwick stair 01 0
A simple set of stairs is a remodel’s backbone.
June 28, 2016
Design Award of Excellence winner Mellon Square.
Docomomo US announces the winners of this year's Modernism in America Awards. Each project showcases exemplary modern restoration techniques, practices, and ideas.
June 27, 2016
monogram dwell sf 039 1
After last year’s collaboration, we were excited to team up with Monogram again for the 2016 Monogram Modern Home Tour.
June 27, 2016
switch over chicago smart renovation penthouse deck smar green ball lamps quinze milan lounge furniture garapa hardwood
A strategic rewire enhances a spec house’s gut renovation.
June 26, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent coralie gourguechon treviso italy cphotos by coralie gourguechon co produced by isdat planche anatomique de haut parleur1
Coralie Gourguechon's paper objects will make you see technology in a whole new way.
June 26, 2016
green machine smart home aspen colorado facade yard bocci deck patio savant
Smart technology helps a house in Aspen, Colorado, stay on its sustainable course.
June 25, 2016
Compact Aglol 11 television plastic brionvega.
The aesthetic appeal of personal electronics has long fueled consumer interest. A new industrial design book celebrates devices that broke the mold.
June 25, 2016
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
angular
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent marjan van aubel london cwai ming ng current window
Marjan Van Aubel makes technology a little more natural.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016