A 1950s Savannah Home Restored to Its Former Glory

Wednesday, Dec 10 2014
Posted by:
Nigel F. Maynard

Built in 1955, this Savannah, Ga., home was a crumbling wreck before a design-minded couple bought the property and restored the residence to its former glory.

“It was in deplorable condition,” says designer and home owner Celestino Piralla, who runs the Savannah firm CSCP Design with his partner Cornelia Stumpf. “It was flooded twice so the cabinetry and woodwork was in throw-away condition.” To top things off, the home had sank approximately 5 ins. on the north side, which resulted in large cracks on the floor and walls of the building.

Owned by the same family for the last 54 years, the 1,800-sq.-ft. home was vacant for the last two years prior to purchase and, though slightly altered, was largely the same as when it was built in 1955.

Stumpf and Piralla assessed the property, keeping a keen eye for what was original to the home and what could be saved. “We salvaged as much as we could, and tried to respect the house as much as we could,” Piralla said.

The layout of the home was pretty good, so the duo kept the floor plan. They pretty much maintained the structure of the home, too, inserting only a structural beam to integrate the enclosed porch into the main living area. To remedy the sinking, contractors lifted the home with 13 steel posts. They preserved the original windows, glass sliding doors, tiles in bathroom, original GE oven and slate floors in the kitchen. “We went through many layers of paint to find the original colors,” Piralla added.

Other architectural features and finishes were also preserved, the designer said. They peeled back the popcorn ceiling to expose the tongue-and-groove wood ceiling and painted everything (including the post and beam structure) white. The idea was to showcase the mid-century modern characteristics, the firm said.

Energy efficiency was also a priority. To tighten the shell, they maintained the roofline by using spray foam roof insulation; they also used foam insulation for the walls. “Beams and siding was replaced the same way the home was built originally,” the firm said. “The carport was enclosed … with decorative mid century modern concrete blocks.”

But not everything in the home is original. In those cases where the existing products and materials were beyond saving, the duo specified replacements that blend seamlessly into the design. They used new Bazzeo kitchen cabinets, an induction cooktop from Fagor, Caesarstone quartz countertops, a sink and faucet from Blanco America and a new refrigerator/freezer and wine cooler from Liebherr.

Restoring and renovating an old house wasn’t enough for the couple; at the same time the main project was in process, the duo also built a complimentary modular structure that would act as an office and library.

For this structure, the couple turned to ASUL modular components and clad the entire structure in corrugated galvalume. “The steel based construction is similar to the 1950 method implemented by Pierre Koenig’s for the case study house #22 in LA and his own home in1985 and allows for an easy elevation of 6 ft. above the ground required by FEMA law for the area,” the firm said.

A 16-ft.-by-20-ft. interior was combined with a deck measuring 16 ft. by 8 ft. Large commercial windows permit natural light, while solar shades provide protection during the hot months. The construction includes a light-gauge steel frame, R-38 batt insulation in the wall, floor and ceiling cavities, argon-filled double-pane windows, recessed LED lighting and a mini-split system by LG Neo Plasma for cooling.

In the end, the couple brought dignity to a home that needed it and helped beautify the neighborhood with the attractive accessory building. It was about “improving the neighborhood’s original character by restoring one of the [mid-century modern] homes and brining a vacant building back to life and inspiring others to see what can be achieved with a so called ‘ugly house,’ ” the firm said.

Main house before