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August 9, 2010

Midwestern Modern – The Tour Of The Alden B. Dow Home And Studio

By RetroRuth

I had an amazing weekend.  Tom’s parents were up visiting, and we packed every single minute of the weekend full with activities.  Not that I mind at all, it was a ton of fun!  But I must say, the best activity was the tour at the Alden B. Dow Home and Studio.

I have featured a few Alden B. Down houses on the site, such as this home in Saginaw Township, the Calvin Campbell House and this house down the street from us.  If you want to learn more about Alden B. Down and his designs, you can visit the Home and Studio website or make the trip and attend the tour yourself.  It is more than worth it, trust me.

Unfortunately, photographs of the inside of the house where not allowed on the tour.  It is probably a good thing, because all of my dear, faithful readers would have DIED if I showed them to you.  I am not kidding here.  Tom and I had to keep each other propped up during the tour, because we were both on the verge of fainting the entire time.  Even heroic, stoic Tom leaned over and breathed in my ear “Oh my Goooooooooooooooooooood,” like a little schoolgirl when we were sitting in the Bertoia/Knoll furniture on the screened porch.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

You must come and see the tour.  All of you reading this. All. Of. You.  Not only is the house spectacular in and of itself (and on the Historic Register since 1989), but the tour is a very unique experience.  Per the wishes of Alden Dow and his wife, there are no velvet ropes, or closed off rooms, or docents shaking fingers at you saying, “No, no, don’t touch.” It is a completely interactive tour.  Completely.  I traced my fingers along the painted murals, scuffed my feet in the mosaic-like carpet in the “family” room, leaned against world-map wallpaper, rested in Eames chairs when I got light-headed and secretly hugged a grass-green tiled bathroom wall when no one was looking.  It was completely interactive.  Completely.  Our friendly tour guides must have thought I was insane as I staggered around from room to room, sitting in every chair, touching the George Nelson lights and being the very last one to leave the kitchen with its white Geneva cabinets.  For a lover of Mid-Century, it was a Mecca.  I saw and TOUCHED things that I may otherwise have never seen in my lifetime, let alone afford for my own home.  I SAT on works of art.  It was amazing.   Some of the highlights included:

A complete set of white Geneva cabinets in the kitchen, with such innovations as a blender INSIDE the countertop and a microwave built into the cabinets.  They looked exactly like the cabinets in my kitchen. Exactly, except for the color.

The floor of the Dow kitchen was a pebbled yellow linolieum.  It was very pretty.

The bathrooms of the home all had white Crane sinks with chrome legs and chrome towel bars on the side.  The bathrooms were blue, green and brown. The tile on the walls went from floor to ceiling, and the tiles on the floor were white.  They looked like the bathrooms from the Saginaw Township home, except without the wooden accents.

I saw at least two George Nelson ceiling fixtures.  One was the classic saucer lamp, which I touched.

The chairs we sat in were numerous, and have become sort of a soft blur of amazingly cool seating in my mind.  But the ones that still stand out are:

Bertoia Bird Chairs

Photo from AllModern 

Two white Arne Jacobsen Swan chairs.

Photo from FritzHansen.com

Of course, the classic Eames Lounge Chair. There were two of them, in fact.  Tom and I both sat in one, and sighed.

Photo from StyleCrave.com.


But the most informative part, and the part of the home where I would love to spend more time, is the Archive room.  Thousands of design plans, stories and vintage photography lay dormant in a brightly painted room in the house.  They are open to the public by appointment so I can play to my heart’s content, but the challenge will be trying to bring the information to all you lovely readers.  Will I be able to?  Will you get to see decades of amazing Midwestern Modern designs??? 

Give me some feedback and leave some comments on your thoughts about having some of the Alden B. Dow archive on the blog.  I want to convince them to let me show you some amazing houses!

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5 Responses to Midwestern Modern – The Tour Of The Alden B. Dow Home And Studio

  1. Pat Reply

    August 9, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    I’ve often said to my husband, “We should visit the Alden Dow house,” and now you’ve made me determined to do it! I’m sharing this post with him. Thanks.

  2. Sara in AZ Reply

    August 9, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    Oh gosh that house looks amazing! I can only imagine the awesomeness of the inside!!! Oh, that would be great to see some Dow archives on the blog. Do you think they will let you? Hopefully! 🙂

  3. Andrea Reply

    August 9, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    I think the outside of that house alone has killed me already – I cannot imagine how fantastic the inside was!

  4. Cheryl White Reply

    August 9, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    I have visited the Alden B. It was several years ago when Midland sponsored an Alden B. Dow Home Tour during Christmas time. It was heaven. We toured about 15 homes in the area as well as his studio. Sadly, the tour is not available anymore. It was soooo wonderful!!

  5. Annie B. Reply

    August 10, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Oh, Ruth! The experience of a lifetime! I am soooo jealous!!
    I recently found a book on the architecture of Alden B. Dow at our local flea market. What a guy!!! So brilliant, so cool. I was not aware of his genius until reading about him on NPR. You’ve enlightened and enthralled me with his work! Thank you!!!

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