When Atom Stevens bought his house in Harvey Park, he had no idea it would lead him on a journey to becoming a Cliff May historian and an advocate for mid-century preservation. But the more he learned about his home in the Harvey Park Neighborhood, the more he realized he was on to something AMAZING.
Cliff May was a home builder and designer who became nationally known as a home designer and builder for the rich and famous. He also wanted to bring his ideas to the masses, and began by co-creating a modular, pre-fabricated, low-cost home-building system with architect Chris Choate.
By they way, photo credit for all these (modern) photos goes to Atom Stevens. And the historical photos were turned up in his research!
Cliff May transformed the residential landscape and is credited with creating the quintessential “California Ranch”.
These prefabricated Cliff May Homes can be found all over California. Most were built through a licensing program that gave builders the right to build homes using the system. Estimates for planned homes number over 10,000…but by Atom’s count the total of built homes is closer to 2,750.
His neighborhood, Harvey Park in Denver, is home to the largest tract of these post-and-beam, modular, prefabricated homes outside of California.
Stevens has spent years researching the origins of his and his neighborhood’s mid-century modern homes. He’s always uncovering more details about the thoughts and work of iconic California home designer, Cliff May. But it all started when he purchased a home few people (then) wanted!
In Today’s Episode You’ll Hear:
- Why May’s take on the mid century home was so unique.
- A Cliff May Home is both easy and hard to update . That depends on what you know about the way it was constructed!
- How Harvey Park ended up with so many May homes.
- Why the May homes have endured and continue to increase in value.
Listen Now On
Resources on Cliff May Homes
- Find Atom all over social media: he’s on Instagram @harveyparkmodern, @cliffmayprefabs, @atomstevens and @modernatom. He’s on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/hpmodern, and online @ modernatom.homes
- Read another post on Cliff May and the Origins of the Ranch House
- Watch for information on Denver Modernism Week 2023
- Did you miss last week’s kitchen clinic? Don’t worry…we got you. You can purchase the replay to watch ON DEMAND!
- Learn how to get ready to remodel in 2023! Watch my FREE Masterclass, “How to Plan an MCM Remodel to Fit Your Life(…and Budget)”, ON DEMAND.
And you can always…
- Join us in the Facebook Community for Mid Mod Remodel
- Find me on Instagram:@midmodmidwest
- Find the podcast on Instagram: @midmodremodelpodcast
Read the Full Episode Transcript
Della Hansmann 0:00
What is your mid century villain origin story? In other words, how did you become obsessed with mid century homes? You’re listening to a podcast on mid century home improvement project. So I’m gonna go out on a limb and assume you’re pretty far down the rabbit hole with me. Today, I’m talking to Atom Stevens about how his mid century obsession began when he moved into a home designed by Cliff May. This podcast is part one of my interview with Atom.
Atom is a Denver based real estate agent with a design background specializing in what he calls mid century modern and mid century charming homes. I love it by the way. He’s a fellow mid century obsessive and he has made himself an expert in the cliff Mae homes starting with his own expanding out to the regional development in the Harvey Park neighborhood of Denver, home to the largest tract of clip made prefab homes outside of California.
Della Hansmann 0:47
And from there to tracking down and learning about Cliff May homes all over the country. Prepare for a deep dive into what makes a cliff May home so great. The enthusiastic creative ethos of the mid century building boom in general, and what you can borrow from a cliff may post and beam home if you live in a more modest one. Hey there. Welcome back to Mid Mod Remodel. This is the show about updating MCM homes helping you match a mid century home to your modern life. I’m your host della Hansmann architect and mid century ranch enthusiast, you’re listening to season 11 Episode Three.
Della Hansmann 1:18
Before we get to the interview, I just want to give a quick shout out to the amazing group of mid century homeowners who showed up live the last weekend’s mid century kitchen clinic workshop. We had such fun running through a micro Master Plan process. And I got an answer some very good kitchen update questions. If hearing that makes you feel sad that you missed out, turn your frown upside down, you can still purchase and watch the replay. In some ways, watching it on your own time gives you an advantage. Because I had to do the entire clinic in two hours. When I tell the clinic that we’re going to pause for five minutes on the clock to go document the most important elements of their kitchen, you can hit pause and take as long as you need.
Della Hansmann 1:54
Grab your copy of the replay at the link in the show notes. Findthe transcript of this episode and a number of really gorgeous images that Atom has shared with me of Denver, Cliff may homes, and some screencaps of our zoom chat with the model he’s made of unusual modular wall systems and equipment home at our show notes, midmod-midwest.com/ 1103.
Della Hansmann 2:15
Without further ado, here’s my chat with Atom Stevens about the cliff may Homes of Denver and beyond.
Della Hansmann 2:21
Here we go. This is so much fun to actually be seeing your face again after we met for the first time in person at Denver modernism week where Atom, you are a co founder. And of course, we already knew each other from this wonderful, weird little mid century Instagram community. But I saw Atom all over Denver modernism week, obviously, as you expect for one of its creators, anchoring a panel on what homeowners should know about preserving and updating their mid century homes based on his own experience. Also found him holding down the cool kids table better known as the Docomo, Colorado organization booth where he’s the secretary. And he’s also a realtor specializing in helping people buy and sell mid century homes in Denver. So hi, Atom. How’s it going?
Atom Stevens 3:06
Thanks for having me.
It’s a delight. I’ve been looking forward to this. So can I ask you do you know when did your passion for midcentury begin? Where do you get started? It started.
Atom Stevens 3:20
I’m a designer turned real estate agent. I actually trained as an interior designer and practiced in the corporate world for about a decade. And through that whole time, even through my education, I wasn’t really exposed to it that much. Mid Century Modern, I want to say I took three semesters of architectural history. And I think maybe the last half of the last semester covered modernism and interests. So then as my wife and I were shopping for a house now 18 years ago, last December.
Atom Stevens 3:52
We were I was just going through the MLS going through the MLS. This was when going through listings online was brand new. And I stumbled across this house, I was like, What is this? This is totally different. This is amazing. This reminds me of some of the architecture that was in this shopping district in the Denver area called Cherry Creek that used to be full of mid century modern buildings. I was like, we have to check this out. And we showed up to the house and we actually walked in the gate to the courtyard that surrounds our house. And my wife was like, we’re buying this she didn’t even go in the front door. We we hadn’t even looked at it. That’s
Atom Stevens 4:30
that we’re buying this house. And so we did and only after I owned this house for about seven or eight years. Did I really get curious, like who designed this? Like, what’s the story behind this thing? Nobody really knew. And so I started doing research. I went to the library and I
Atom Stevens 4:49
I asked the librarian, I was like so how do I look up advertisements because I felt like that was probably the best way to get some clues and the lady looked at me like why would you want to
Atom Stevens 5:00
Got advertisement. So she was no help but I just got onto the microfiche, which is the only way to get Denver’s old newspapers. Still, and I spent hours and hours and hours going through the papers from 1955, which is when my house is built and wallah, I stumbled across this ad for Cliff May homes, which is the kind of home that I own here in Denver.
Della Hansmann 5:23
Oh, that’s amazing. This is funny, because I feel like our villain origin stories are actually very similar. I also went through my whole design training. And all of my practice up until now working in residential architecture.
Della Hansmann 5:35
Knowing Mid Century Modern was a thing, having heard the term but not really having studied and having anyone pointed out to me as interesting, I liked it. Like I liked all cohesive design movements that, that sort of feel like you can identify them and see their features and appreciate them as a unit. And then I bought a ranch house. And I was like, what, what do you do with the Ranch House, I went to the library, I didn’t find any books.
So I was starting only about five years ago. So I went to mid century Instagram, and we went to the Online Newspaper Archive, and started hunting. And I found in Madison, we don’t have any Cliff may homes, sadly. But we do have actually a wonderful tradition of a Parade of Homes. That started in 1952. And they did a huge advertising spread, which you can go find and a bunch of like cool features and talking about it. And
Atom Stevens 6:27
That’s great. Okay, Denver’s first Parade of Homes was 1953. And going through the special sections that they ran in the newspaper for the Parade of Homes every year is a wealth of information, right? What merchant builders were building in the 1950s. And what they thought everyone would think was cool, which is still so cool today. And other times, it’s like, oh, a built in vanity in the bathroom with a mirror. A lot of times when we think about postwar homes, we think about, you know, these homes built for soldiers coming back from World War Two.
But really, that’s not the case. Really, those homes,we actually have examples nearby to me, were built in the late 40s. Come the 1950s. Those soldiers who had returned, they were starting to have families, they were getting good jobs, they had good, well paying jobs. And they were looking for the next thing to move up to. And every merchant builder in town wanted to come up with what that next thing was going to be.
Della Hansmann 7:31
And one of them was well, not in town, but somehow so you unwittingly moved into a cliff my home, let’s talk about the magic of Cliff May, who was not even an architect and yet has had such a huge impact on what mid century architecture is at the residential level.
Atom Stevens 7:48
The best way to describe Cliff May I think is a is a designer in California. He spent his most of his career designing actually homes for the stars, massive homes for people you’ve actually heard of SO and these were like 10,000 square foot 50,000 square foot homes all over California, and even outside of California and around the world.
Atom Stevens 8:11
And yet, he’s not an architect. He went to college but didn’t actually graduate. He kind of got bored and decided to get into design. First, he started actually building furniture to decorate model model homes for a local builder in San Diego. And the builder liked what he was doing so much. He found that having these Staged homes with Cliff Mays furniture in it was making the home sell faster and eventually worked up to actually allowing Cliff May to design a home for him. So Cliff may design the home for him. And that sold well and Cliff may then took the money that he was making and broke out and became a developer himself designing the homes that he was developing.
Atom Stevens 8:56
And he was also Cliff May was just a very charismatic guy. He was very charismatic, very inventive.
Atom Stevens 9:04
He was willing to experiment with anything, he was always looking for a way to build a better house. And he caught the attention of the publishers of House Beautiful and Sunset Magazine. Through those relationships with those publishers, he gained visibility across California, across western United States and even to the East Coast. Cliff may became somewhat of a household name in the 19, late 1940s, early 1950s for not only the big Custom Homes he was designing, but also for in the starting in the early 50s, this new prefabricated system that he had worked on with an architect in California named Chris Choate
Atom Stevens 9:48
and a company called Cliff May homes. And that’s exactly why I live in one of these prefabricated homes.
Della Hansmann 9:56
Yeah, so but Cliff May was in California and you’re in Denver, so where was that in his sort of rise tocertainly thought leadership, if not actually building houses all over the country he was building across the west by that point, or was it
Atom Stevens 10:14
He actually wasn’t. So that’s an interesting part of the story is, so Cliff may stuck to California, he actually moved up to LA, and continued building grande custom homes there while he was working on this prefabricated project.
But yeah, this this man, you’ve basically manufactured home, I don’t want to, I want to be careful not to call it a manufactured home, because that actually became a problem for him to getting approval, FHA and VA approval for his homes. They were like, what’s the difference between what you’re building and a trailer home or manufactured home. Hewas really trying to build a low cost version of the grand custom homes that he built for the stars.
Atom Stevens 11:00
And part of the reason you may have heard Cliff may refer to as the inventor of the modern ranch home or California ranch home. Yeah. And part of that title actually comes from the fact that cliff may comes from a long line of his heritage is actually in Mexico, in people who had ranches in what was California before it was California. And if you know anything about the architecture at that time, a lot of the way the homes were built, were like little forts. Either u-shape or completely a square, that enclosed a central open outdoor area, but then had living areas around that outdoor area. So we’re talking about homes from the 1700s 1800s, built in early California and in Mexico. And that’s that was his inspiration for the Custom Homes he was designing.
Atom Stevens 11:58
So if you look at his huge custom homes for the stars, you see these floor plans where it’s a U shaped building or completely enclosed building that has a an open courtyard in the middle, much like those early California ranch homes. And that’s where the whole notion of a ranch home comes from, as he was imitating those early California ranch homes.
So he wanted to bring that same idea, how can I make that an affordable version of that for the masses, that wasn’t you know, the homes he was building for the stars were like 10,000 square feet, because that’s what you need to surround that big courtyard with a house. He came up with this system with Chris Choate where it was a very simplified version of his architecture.
Atom Stevens 12:43
And by using in some examples, my house is not one example. But through examples of using like an L shaped floor plan and then connecting the other two sides of the fence, he creates that same sense of an outdoor living space. That’s really an outdoor living room, or outdoor living space is a core component of the cliff may prefab.
Della Hansmann 13:06
Yeah, so what are some of the defining features if you wanted to describe it? You are a photographer, you have studied this.
We’ll put some wonderful photographs of Cliff may homes onto the show notes page, so absolutely go check that out, but to someone who had their eyes closed, but one of the sort of defining characteristics of a classic Cliff may tract home.
Atom Stevens 13:27
So if we’re talking about the cliff, may Prefabs, the homes were the best way to describe the market texturally is that they are posting beam modular prefabricated homes. To talk a little bit about what post and beam means, because not everybody knows what that means is it’s actually a totally different way of building a house, right, and traditional. So a traditional house, you have walls of made up of studs, that then actually provide the structural support for the roof.
Atom Stevens 13:58
Or if it’s a two storey home for the level above, in a post and beam home, you eliminate the studs. So instead, all the structural loads of the house are carried by beams, and posts. And then there’s a little bit of structure that prevents the structure from racking horizontally.
But otherwise, you could actually take all the exterior walls out the house, all the interior walls out of the house, and it would still stand as a structure. So it’s the same way modern office buildings are built, actually, when you see them putting up a steel, frame of posts and floor plates. That’s basically how these houses work. Although what’s funny is although we call this modern architecture, has exactly the same structural system that’s used when building an old barn. Barns use post and beam framing or, but that eliminates the need for structural walls.
Atom Stevens 14:48
So these houses have no load bearing walls. All the load is post and beam structure. Right so then what I mean by modulars is that the house is actually designed on a five foot by five foot grid. And that’s because the outside of the house is comprised of tilt up panels that are five feet wide, that create the outside of the house. So it has this the structural modularity to it. And that was meant to make it flexible. So even though there were eight core models in the original offering, it allowed builders to say, hey, I want to lengthen a wing of this home or I want to add a bedroom. They could take this kit of parts, these five foot wide panels and make the house whatever they want. All within this 10 feet system.
Della Hansmann 14:48
Yeah. So do you know why five feet? Frank Lloyd Wright liked modular designs, although he always broke his own systems. But he liked four feet.
Atom Stevens 15:48
I don’t know why the choice for five feet. I think you know that one, one answer could be that half of five feet is two and a half feet, which is a common door width. So in the way these houses do handle doors and windows. And I can’t show you right now. But it’s interesting, the doorframes are actually they expose the structure and use the structures, the doorframes. So there are no door frames inserted in the structure is actually exposed. And the door is just installed between two posts. For instance, on the outside.
Della Hansmann 16:24
Rather than having separate stud framing that is independent structure. Well, that’s very efficient. Yeah, that I mean, I always think of four feet is a logical grid number. Because a cabinet width or depth is usually two feet. But it does run you into some trouble when you start to think about door openings, and a 30 inch door would fit very smoothly into a five foot grid. Fascinating. that’s new to me, um,
Atom Stevens 16:50
The last component that I mentioned, is that these houses were prefabricated. So it was what we call a tilt up panelized construction. So they actually had all of these panels built to the lumber yard off site. And so all those parts were loaded up into the back of a truck. Kind of like Ikea furniture flat packed. Then brought out on the site and the cliff may brag to the he could put up a house and 24 hours within the interior finish taking a couple of weeks after that, but he could have an enclosed house and 24 hours.
Atom Stevens 17:25
And so I actually I’ll show you, I actually have an example of one of the panels. So this is the solid wall panel without a window. This would be five feet wide and the houses had board and batten siding on the outside. And so these are the boards of the board and batten siding already pre installed and abandoned if we flip it over this self contained panel had x bracing. Yeah, holding it together structurally and this provides the horizontal structure to prevent the post and beam structure from racking. And then there’s also blocking pre installed so that even though you don’t have studs, the the drywall installers have something to screw the drywall to and the Cabinet installers have something to screw the cabinets to and things like that,
Della Hansmann 18:13
We will show a photo, this is an amazing little model, they’ll show a photo of this,
Atom Stevens 18:17
I have a second panel here. And so when these two panels get put together, you can see the siding just comes together as one consistent unit. And then the of course the boards of the board and bat or the battens of the board and batten siding cover these gaps between the boards.
Della Hansmann 18:33
Atom Stevens 18:34
And this is a premade window unit. And so this is five feet wide. You know that goes against this panel. And so then a paint a window would just be installed in this roof open and you put a beam on top, and then you have a rough opening to put a window inside. The other thing to note structurally is that as these two panels come together, in any case, you have two by fours essentially on the edge of each panel that when they come together creates your structural four by four post.
Della Hansmann 19:08
So this is what I was just going to ask you is what are the posts, they’re just a four by four and the beam test for their
Atom Stevens 19:14
well on the outside, they are the two by two by fours put together to form a four by four. But in the middle of the house, there are four by four posts that provide structure under the main beam that goes in the middle. And then the third component of the exterior are these style and rail windows. And these are interesting too, because where they are going to have the windows like the window you see right behind me is exactly what you’re looking at here.
Della Hansmann 19:40
I will put a screenshot in the show notes!
Atom Stevens 19:44
is that they just put four by four posts on the module, the five foot module where they were going to have glass and then they took these style and rail windows and face nailed them to the structure so to the beam and then the posts on either side. So instead of being installed inside the roof opening, they’re actually installed on top of the roof opening.
And I think that my theory for why they did it that way is it made it so that unskilled labor could put these houses up quickly. Because if you had somebody trying to fit a window inside an opening, that becomes much more complicated than just nailing it up. So these arrived on site with the glass already installed as a self contained five foot wide unit. And they could just put it right on top of the structure. Nail it up and you had the window you were done.
Della Hansmann 20:30
Okay, so I have questions. This is facinating. Because so much of so much of the modularity of a conventional Midwestern tract home or low contractor build home. They were using prefabricated materials like two by fours, and like, eventually, four foot by eight foot drywall panels, but first, the sort of two foot by eight foot long strips. But then the craftspeople who were installing them were still basically like the people installing the drywall were plasters. And so they would then rather than mud, the cracks, they would plaster the wall after the fact.
Della Hansmann 21:07
But this really allowed for for a relatively unskilled or a new contractor to just jump in and be able to take it on. How does it now suit when people want to change the house step to the fact does it work? Well, when a conventional contractor comes in to touch the house?
Atom Stevens 21:21
It gets really interesting, because part of the problem is that a lot of people don’t actually know what’s going on inside the wall. Yeah, so as soon as the contractor starts doing . A great example to blow in insulation, because these houses were built with no insulation in the walls. And, you know, a contractor expects to find studs and instead starts blowing insulation into the wall. And it feels like so there’s actually two by fours behind this blocking. So there’s a cavity here. So you blow in and it fills this cavity, but it’s not. Not going where you expect it to as a contractor, another trade that just loves these walls. Particularly when they don’t know what they’re dealing with. They’re electricians
Della Hansmann 21:25
I was just gonna say.
Atom Stevens 21:47
Like, what’s interesting too, though, is that so my house is not the L shaped model. But Cliff may actually design these homes to be expandable. So all of the houses that aren’t an L shape model are actually sited on the lot, at least in here in Denver in this neighborhood, in such a way that you could add a wing to make it an L shaped plan in the future. And he actually took that to the point that in the in our large bedroom, we call our primary bedroom, there’s actually a soffit that runs through the bedroom, a lowered soffit. Because all the houses all the ceilings in these houses are bolted like everywhere, even the bathroom.
Atom Stevens 22:50
But there’s one part in our bedroom where there’s a there’s a soffit that runs through it that’s actually meant to become a future hallway for when you add a wing onto the house. So you drop a wall, down on the edge of the soffit. That becomes your hallway. And then your new addition goes at the end of that hallway. So they were actually designed to be expandable.
Della Hansmann 23:08
Boom, you’re good to go. That’s so I mean, a mid century house is eminently expandable in a flexible way. In a conventional stick frame house, you have to have thought about it that specifically here’s where the whole will go. That’s forward thinking. Did people have people taking advantage of that over time? Or was it sort of the cool
Della Hansmann 23:27
They have. Um, I have found examples actually. Adrian’s has sold a couple in the last few last few years where it very clearly somebody put an addition on exactly as Cliff May intended. Which I think is great.
Della Hansmann 23:42
That is so cool. So about the bigger picture. So to you
Atom Stevens 23:47
Well, actually, let’s so for a moment, I’m sorry, not to throw you off. So I didn’t actually answer your question about the character, the character fee the character defining features of these houses.
Della Hansmann 24:01
I can ask again: What does that mean for how the way the house is to look at and to live in?
Atom Stevens 24:10
So, you know, that was a long pre preamble for you know what these houses are architecturally? It’s really interesting because they are very simple houses. So one aspect of Cliff Mays work is that it was at once strikingly modern, and yet very rustic. And so if you look at Cliff Mays custom work, it was very old California, lots of stone and heavy timber and he liked to use grape steaks as a finish indoors and out and things like that.
Atom Stevens 24:41
And yet he would have these amazing walls of glass and vaulted ceilings and he would break the peak of the house into a linear skylight that would go along the peak of the house. He would all do all these amazing modern things. And so again he tried to bring those things into the cliff may prefabs so in these houses, the. They are all a single low, low roof pitch about as low as you can go and still get away with shingles. Although they are all built with tar and gravel roof is originally.
Della Hansmann 25:10
what is the pitch?
Atom Stevens 25:12
I think it’s, it’s as low as you can go for single shingles. So it’s like 112, or something like that. I shouldn’t know off the top of my head, but I’m not sure.
Atom Stevens 25:23
The exteriors are board and batten siding, and the siding is rough sawn siding. So you can actually see the sawblades o n the on the siding here in Denver at Cedar in California, it’s redwood. And the houses have deep overhangs so that overhang is actually a half a module. So it’s a 30 inch overhang. And what that means is that water actually never touches the siding. So most of the houses, at least here in Denver still have their original cedar siding, which is amazing, after almost 70 years,
Della Hansmann 26:00
that is really cool.
Atom Stevens 26:02
And then they have these walls of glass like the one behind me. They have you can kind of see the corner of it up here they have these glass gables, where it’s basically a triangular, clear story window that fills the space between the beam and then the top of the roof pitch, or we’re roof peak. And what I like to say is that it makes it feel like the roof is actually floating over the house, I feel like that creates a real lightness of structure.
But overall like that describes the whole thing. So we’re talking about a very simple architectural language. And what Cliff May was actually trying to do is he was trying to create a house that didn’t have a specific style. Today we call it mid century modern, but to him, the notion was the house doesn’t have a style. If you see it from the street, you wouldn’t think it’s Victorian, it’s blah, blah, blah. It’s just meant to be a very simple elevation, triangular elevation, if the if the house is facing the street,
Atom Stevens 27:03
if they are, if they have the end of the house is facing the street. But it’s really kind of meant to fade into the background. And particularly when you’re living it. The idea is, you know, even though we’re all tempted to throw Eames chairs, and all these mid century modern furniture into these houses, his notion was really that the House fades into the background, while you bring your own artwork, your own furniture, you might have Victorian tastes, but be living in one of these houses. And that furniture will still work because you bring your style to this house that’s not competing with it. It’s just fading into the background.
Della Hansmann 27:39
He didn’t see what he was doing as creating a new style, he thought, blank canvas that people exactly fail to.
Atom Stevens 27:46
And so you look at the houses that he was designing, and as I said, you know, he was taking a very rustic approach to modernism. But that was his choice. But he was leaving it up to these homeowners to decide what is this house going to be to me, you know, it’s not I’m not stuck with modern stuff. Because I’m in a modern house, I can bring whatever I want into this house, and it will still work because the house is not going to compete with it.
Della Hansmann 28:11
Fascinating, that’s very generous position for a designer today. I don’t know that I personally agree with that. Although, you know, I love to see I love to see modern interventions into a Victorian house. So I suppose the reverse could be true, fill it with, with overstuffed chairs and heavily upholstered whatnots and see how it goes. That would be fascinating.
Atom Stevens 28:34
Yeah. And then another interesting thing is that when you’re actually so here in Denver, you can see this. Most Cliff may neighborhoods is he really intentionally wanted to break the streetscape. So what they what they’re particularly in the 1950s, but it’s still true today, cities because of zoning have what they call minimum setbacks.
And what that create is even here in Harvey, in my neighborhood of RV park, if you look at the traditional brick ranch homes that make up most of the neighborhood here, you find that these setbacks create these perfect rows of brick houses all the way up and up and down the street. Right and there’s none forward none back there, just these perfect rows of houses all equal apart. And flip may intentionally wanted to break that because he wanted the relationship of the houses to each other to be important, and help emphasize this whole outdoor living space he was creating.
So really, like the wall of the house next door is creating that, you know, third or fourth wall around your private courtyard. And so some of the houses are in the front of the lot. Some of the houses are in the back of the lot. Some of the houses are turned 90 degrees so that the end of the house faces the street. Others have like mine have the broad side of the house facing the street, although you can’t even see my house because it’s behind the fence because of that whole private courtyard idea. Right. And the other interesting thing is because there were eight model
Atom Stevens 30:00
was offered here, although only seven were built. They range from two bedrooms, one bath all the way up to four bedrooms and two baths. And yet when you go up and down the street, there’s a real a egalitarian to egalitarian ism to it because you cannot tell which houses are the big ones. And which ones are the little ones, right?
They’re not the tallest or the most grandiosely. Finished. And that’s exactly just all the same. roofline the same. Yeah. Because Because again, there’s this simple prefabricated system, they all look exactly the same. And you can’t tell you know, that’s a four bedroom. Unless you have a train die like me, like I can tell. But, you know, to the naked eye, it’s all the people with the smallest house little starter home at the house, it looks just as grand as the people who have the four bedroom, two bath home.
Della Hansmann 30:50
Well, this is fascinating. Atom, you’re such a wealth of knowledge that we’re gonna have to break this episode into two pieces and come back and talk about this more next week. But before we pause, I wanted to ask to you, what’s the influence? What’s the takeaway for someone who does not live in a cliff may or post and beam home. What can we learn or borrow or be inspired by as we see and we study these interesting little moments in history?
Atom Stevens 31:19
Well, for me, you know, every home is different. So like we talked about, a lot of times in Denver, we’re talking about mid century modern versus mid century homes, what I often call mid century charming homes.
Atom Stevens 31:32
All of them bring their own unique characters and design elements. And just because you live in a brick ranch doesn’t mean that somebody didn’t think hard about the floorplan of that home and its design, and its proportionality. And its various elements.
Della Hansmann 31:46
Atom Stevens 31:47
If there’s, you know, it’s hard to create a cliff May home out of something that’s not a cliff may home. They kind of break your heart that way. But the big lesson for me is that I got to this point of knowing all about this home, and really appreciating it, and sharing it with my neighbors, so they really appreciate their home, which in the last 18 years we’ve lived here, it’s like night and day compared to when we moved in. Because there are so many people who have so much pride in their homes now. Oh, there is real value in learning the story of your home, who built it? Why? what materials used? What’s the design all about?
Della Hansmann 32:24
Yeah. That is, oh, perfect way to leave it. So next week, we’re going to come back and talk about what you can learn about your home what you have learned about your home. You the general you and the specific and how you’ve seen the obsession, the interest, the fun of modernism, change over time. Thanks so much for coming on the show. We
Atom Stevens 32:47
Thank you. It’s a pleasure.
Della Hansmann 32:50
Where can people find you if they want to see what you’re up to selling houses, see your fun research, see what you’ve done to your own house.
Atom Stevens 32:59
The best thing to do is to follow my Instagram because that’s where I’m most active. So that’s @modernatom (A-T-O-M). My other Instagram focuses on my neighborhood Harvey Park, and that one is @HarveyParkModern if you want to see what Harvey Park is all about. I also run an Instagram called Cliff may prefabs @CliffMayPrefabs where I just focus on the cliff May homes nationwide. So check that out.
And then my photography Instagram is at atom Stevens ATOM Stevens. And so those are all good places to connect to me as well. I also have a website, modern atom ATO m dot homes. That’s the whole website address. And that I have a curated list of all of the mid century modern and charming homes including some 80s mods because I’ve been really getting into those lately that are currently for sale across the Denver area. So that’s always a good spot to check to see that curated list of homes for sale.
Della Hansmann 34:06
So that’s all for now. But we’ll be back with the second half of my chat with Atom full of ideas for how you can learn more about your home and what good that discovery will do for you. If you haven’t already hopped over to the show notes while you were listening to check out some of the cliff may imagery Atom was describing. See photos and find more resources in the show notes at midmod-midwest.com/ 1103 Until next week, have fun geeking out on Cliff May my fellow mid century villains