1950s Rebound to Get a Cliff May House

Josh and Jen Amstone had just bought a house in Long Beach, California, when they became enamored of a local tract of midcentury houses constructed by renowned midcentury architect Cliff May. Josh his heart set on one of these houses, known because of their indoor and outside connections, would frequently drive through the area on his way home from work, looking for available properties. He eventually connected with Doug and Rochelle Kramer, Realtors in SoCal Modern, who informed them about a house that they were in the process of rehabbing. What started as a dilapidated house in complete disrepair gradually shifted into the couple’s dream house.

With exact curation and classic finds from neighborhood shops like Xcape and Inretrospect, the house has been restored to its initial midcentury perfection. In Reality, the house lately received a Preservation Award from The Long Beach Heritage Coalition.

in a Glance
Who lives here: Josh and Jen Amstone, high school special education teachers
Location: Cliff May Rancho tract, Long Beach, California
Size: 1,130 square feet; 3 bedrooms, two bathrooms
That is intriguing: Cliff May constructed a handful of models in this tract and made each one unique in its own orientation around the lot and also the location of the garage.

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

The spacious floor plan and abundance of windows create the 1,130-square-foot living area feel spacious.

The Amstones are inspired by the belief that things were easier in the ’50s and ’60s. To them, life back then was slower and more balanced; communities were tighter; family and friends were the priority. Embracing the decoration and design of the era, they hope a less-is-more mindset radiates throughout their home. In decorating their great room, they desired to make an inviting space where friends and family can gather.

Floors: Dorado by Celestial Cork; wall paint: Waterby, Vista Paint; couch: classic gondola style maybe by Adrian Pearsall, Xcape; java table: classic Acclaim dining table in Walnut, Lane Furniture Company, Craigslist; pub stools: 1960s Erik Buck for O.D. Mobler Denmark, Xcape

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

Realtors Doug and Rochelle Kramer had started the landscaping outside, and it’s still a work in progress. The backyard design aesthetic of Josh is drought-tolerant plants with ample spacing. The couple recently created a raised planter box alongside some foxtail ferns to grow their own vegetables and veggies in.

The couple might love to add a pool, hot tub and fire pit in the far corner, as well as paint the inside of the garage. They want to make the garage a expansion of the house to house their workout room and laundry area.

Patio collection: classic Brown-Jordan dining set, Xcape; tiki torches: Costco

Before Photo

BEFORE: The house was neglected when the Kramers found it. The windows were yellowish from cigarette smoke, and one window wall was even covered with boards. The Kramers seen the possibility, nevertheless, and had started the restoration process before it captured Josh’s and Jen’s eyes.

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

AFTER: A town ordinance allows owners in this tract to construct 6-foot-tall solid fences all of the way from the curb. Improving Cliff May’s notion of authentic indoor-outdoor living, the new redwood fence encloses the lawn, making a private outdoor space wrapping around the house.

Although most of the house’s reconstruction stayed true to midcentury roots, the Kramers had inserted a low and lean modern-style fence and gate during the restoration. Contemporary address numbers and a low-maintenance stone garden with succulents accent the front of the house.

Contractor: Gilbert Scales

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

Within the gate a peaceful outdoor living space starts. With five French doors around the property, there’s no “appropriate” front door on this particular home. Rather, multiple entrances contribute to the unified feeling and indoor-outdoor connection.

Straightforward modern concrete and landscaping pavers keep a feeling of simplicity and order in the outside space.

Concrete work: Seasiders Concrete, Anaheim; landscaping: Doug and Rochelle Kramer, SoCal Modern

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

A lot of details here have been in character with a Cliff May layout:
Board and batten siding, found here painted a serene gray-blue colour that matches the landscapingA low, pitched gable roof, keeping with the low long feeling of these ranch homesClerestory windows over the doors and under the roofline. These windows let abundant All-natural light into the home, raising the indoor-outdoor feeling.Exposed beams, both indoor and outdoorUnique glass doors and doors with wooden cross railingsPatio chairs: vintage-inspired low X-chairs, Xcape

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

This opinion of the rear side of the house also exemplifies that the five characteristic features of a Cliff May layout, which drew the couple to the house. Surprisingly, each of the doors and windows in this house are original.

The many windows on each side of this house link every region of the house and lawn together.

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

The front entrance fence provides the homeowners ample outside entertaining space, allowing each one of the exterior living spaces to stream continuously.

When the Kramers found this house, the backyard was an overgrown jungle of bushes and weeds. Clearing off the mess, they discovered an wonderful large yucca tree that has been there for probably 60 decades. It now serves as a centerpiece in the landscape.

Bedroom chairs, table: Alfresco Grey, Crate & Barrel

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

Jen and Josh curated every outside item. A classic Brown Jordan chair found from neighborhood shop Xcape is set against retro bullet figurines full of succulents. The pale green seat complements the pale gray-blue board and batten siding.

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

The great room interior welcomes in lots of Southern California sunshine, putting the spotlight on a number of the couple’s vintage furniture, such as a pair of original 1950s Z Chairs by Poul Jensen for Selig of Denmark, bought at Xcape.

Fireplace paint: Night Horizon, Vista Paint; wall clock: Nelson clock replica, eBay; art: original midcentury abstract by Ralph Hasenbein, Inretrospect

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

This corner is the couple’s favorite place. Sitting in this 1960s rocking chair designed by Kofod Larsen, Jen or Josh can appreciate a view of everything. Based on Josh, it helps him “enjoy the fruits of the labor.” This is his favorite place where he can slow down, listen to music, read, chat and believe.

Floor lamp: teak, 1950s, maybe Paul McCobb, Inretrospect

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

Across the room a collection of cacti brings a little of the outside in. The pale blue on the walls, the orange in the chairs and the dwell greenery accents liven up the numerous original wood surfaces in the house.

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

Like the rest of the house, the kitchen is surrounded by windows. The central island provides a practical prep area without even taking wall space away from your windows. The oven and stove are incorporated into the island, with white terrazzo quartz countertops and hardwood cabinetry beneath.

Pendant lamps: Orbis, Rejuvenation Lighting

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

Between the classic Nelson bubble canopy, cloth wall art and ’50s teak dining set, the dining area space comes together in great midcentury form. The art, found at Inretrospect, is a 1963 serigraph on cloth by David Weidman titled “Family of Birds.”

Pendant: George Nelson Saucer Lamp, Modernica; dining table,chairs: Inretrospect

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

Aside from the island, the kitchen takes up just 1 wall. The house may have less cabinetry and storage than other homes, but Jen says that they have everything that they need. “We love the restricted storage. It keeps us living only, with just the most necessary requirements, also helps us concentrate on the things which matter most in life: friends, family and fellowship.”

Cabinetry: MEI Cabinets; backsplash: vitreous glass mosaic, Liberty by Trend, Stone & Ceramic Surfaces

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

The master bedroom decoration is simple, with clean lines and muted colors. The Adrian Pearsall wing seat for Craft Associates brings colour into the space, while the clerestory windows and two complete window walls fill the space with natural lighting.

Moving into this house, the Amstones were made to downsize and divide up their pair of wing chairs. They gave the chair’s twin to the Kramers.

Bed frame: Platform Bed in Natural Steel, Room & Board; bedding: Goal; wall art: mixed media by Bruce Yager, eBay; dresser, nightstands: classic, Glenn of California, Xcape; lamps: Goal

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

There is still space for whimsy in this clean and minimalist space. These original classic Bitossi ceramics were made in Italy and bought at Xcape.

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

This view shows the floor-to-ceiling French doors which make the patio feel like an expansion of this master bedroom. A couple of windows have roll-down coverings, but waking up with the sun is the modus operandi here.

Planter: Case Study planter with rack, Modernica; floors: Dorado by Celestial Cork

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

Unlike a lot of homes built in the 1950s, all Cliff May homes comprised master suites complete with a walk-in closet and master bathroom. This master bathroom was rescued and revived by the Kramers with simple, minimalist surfaces and light colors which assist the small bath feel as open and airy as possible.

Backsplash: China Blend vitreous glass mosaic, Hakatai; faucet: LillÄngen, Ikea

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

Josh and Jen are teachers and use the second bedroom as an office; it’s still a work in progress. The 1 item they can not seem to get rid of is the bright red strawberry-shaped cookie jar. Although it does not match with the couple’s design, it belonged to Jen’s grandpa and is high in sentimental value.

Desks, shelving unit: Slim Desks and Shelf in Natural Steel, Room & Board; art: “Flowers II” and “The Girls” serigraphs by David Weidman, Inretrospect

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

The final of the 3 bedrooms in the house, and the smallest, serves as a den and guest space, with a sleeper couch from Room & Board. The couple feels strongly about not owning a TV in the great room, therefore this is where they escape for movie viewing and relaxing.

This chamber is in the front of the house and is bathed in light like the rest of the house. The couple’s latest splurge is that this 1968 “Birds in Flight” sculpture over the TV by Curtis Jere, found at Materials SF. The movement in the piece distracts the eye in the TV and serves as a focus in the room. An old record cabinet serves as a console which hides electronic equipment.

Side table: Saarinen Tulip side table replica, eBay; console: classic teak album cabinet with tambour doors, Xcape; planter: classic, Gainey Ceramics, Xcape

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

The home is the ideal escape for Josh and Jen Amstone, shown here. The tumor has attracted Cliff May enthusiasts, who link through their love of design and investment in the area. People watch out for one another, invite one another over for cocktails and share life together. Sounds much like the lifestyle that the Amstones hoped for.

Next: Learn more about Cliff May’s California Ranch Style

Your turn: Please discuss your midcentury house with us

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