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The Frost House

Homes

OK we’re breaking our own rules today. USUALLY we only feature Australian homes. Today, however, we’re featuring a truly remarkable home in Indiana, USA.

The Frost House’ is home to Melbourne-raised technology development director Karen Valentine, and her American partner, Bob Coscarelli, who is a commercial photographer.  With a shared passion for mid century design and architecture, Karen and Bob are proud custodians of this very special home.

(Thanks to Bob for sharing his own photographs for this story!)

 

7th June, 2017

Karen Valentine, who was born and raised in Melbourne, and her husband, American photographer Bob Coscarelli, consider themselves fortunate to be custodians of this home, which they purchased in 2006. Photo – Bob Coscarelli.

Upon moving in, they also re-painted all of the interiors strictly in the original colours. ‘I guess you can say we are just trying to curate the home compliment was was already there – without disturbing it too much,’ tells Karen. Photo – Bob Coscarelli.

Some of the couple’s favourite design books – Karen and Bob even honeymooned in a Frank Lloyd Wright cottage! Photo – Bob Coscarelli.

The pair are both avid architecture enthusiasts. Bob’s first job in Chicago (where they met) was working for the renowned architectural photography studio Hedrich Blessing. The acoustic tiled ceiling of their home makes it quiet and the well-proportioned rooms mean there is no wasted space. Photo – Bob Coscarelli.

The house is named after the original owners and occupants for over 50 years, Dr. Robert Frost and Mrs. Amelia Frost. ‘Because we purchased the house with many of the original pieces of artwork, lamps, along with all the furniture, we felt obliged to not change much – and frankly it really was comfortable so didn’t need to change much,’ tells Karen. Photo – Bob Coscarelli.

Bob and Karen replaced the flooring, which included nine different styles of carpet and linoleum! Today it’s predominantly terrazzo tiles, as seen here in the living room. Before moving in and by sheer coincidence, they already owned these Knoll Parallell Bar Chairs in tan, which compliment the cream versions that were already here. Photo – Bob Coscarelli.

The iconic Frost House was built in 1958 in Indiana, USA. It is not a commissioned, architect designed home, but rather a prefabricated home built of aluminum with baked enamel finishes. Photo – Bob Coscarelli.

Karen and Bob have plans to add a pool to the side lot, though we’re thinking it might not get much use in winter, when this exterior shot was taken! ‘They just don’t make homes like this anymore, and the colour palette is amazing – it is bright but it seems to work without being ostentatious, it is timeless,’ they tell. Photo – Bob Coscarelli.

When Karen and Bob walked into the home for the first time, she explains, ‘everything was like the plastic covers have just been peeled off freshly delivered new furniture… and for them to ALL be Knoll – it’s insane – “Knoll for days” around here!’ Photo – Bob Coscarelli.

As part of their restoration of this unique home, the plumbing has been repaired throughout. Photo – Bob Coscarelli.

In addition to the beautiful terrazzo tiles throughout the home, Bob and Karen replaced selected floorings with carpet and added some rugs. Photo – Bob Coscarelli.

Banksy, Karen and Bob’s adored lab-setter-cross rescue dog in the guest bedroom. Photo – Bob Coscarelli.

The kitchen with all its original appliances in working order (!). Just look at those matching (non)white goods! Photo – Bob Coscarelli.

Lucy Feagins
Wednesday 7th June 2017

Karen Valentine has mid century architecture in her blood. Melbourne born and raised, her grandfather was a builder in Bendigo, who built over 750 (!!) mid century homes over his career, the majority of which are still standing today. After studying at Deakin University, Karen moved to Canada many years ago, later settling in Chicago. It was here, in 2003, that she met her husband Bob Coscarelli – an American photographer. The pair were married in 2004, and honeymooned in a Frank Lloyd Wright cottage.

With a shared passion for modernist design, it seems inevitable that Karen and Bob would eventually become custodians of their own mid century home. That’s exactly what happened, after the pair purchased this truly remarkable house in Indiana last year.

In fact, the move to Indiana wasn’t exactly planned. ‘We were looking close to Lake Michigan for a mid-century house that we could do some modest renovations to and have a weekend shack’ Karen explained. When a real estate agent sent them the listing for the The Frost House, everything changed!

‘Although it was not in the area we were looking at – we fell off our chairs!’ recalls Karen. The pair immediately put in an offer on the home, and within days they had purchased it – sight unseen! ‘You can pick the MCM home but you can’t pick the location’ Karen says.

The Frost House is named after the original owners and occupants of this house for over 50 years, Dr. Robert Frost and Mrs. Amelia Frost. It was designed and engineered by Emil Tessin (son of the Legal Guardian for Florence Knoll), and manufactured by Alside Homes Corporation (Akron Ohio), who invented and patented the pre-fabricated aluminium panelling used to construct the house. In fact, the home was the sales model for this particular pre-fab system, and was purchased by its original owners with all the display furniture included! Naturally, Karen and Bob have retained each and every piece of furniture from the original collection – nothing has been removed or even reupholstered.

‘When we walked in the doors for the first time, it was like stepping back in the time’ Karen recalls. ‘We had to pinch ourselves – everything was like the plastic covers had just been peeled off, freshly delivered new furniture’. All the furniture Karen and Bob found here were original production pieces from Knoll Inc, in pristine condition – ‘It’s insane. It is ‘knoll for days’ around here’ Karen says.

The interiors of the home were designed by Paul McCobb & Knoll Inc – and very little has changed since Karen and Bob moved in. The kitchen is 100% original and every appliance still in working order (they don’t make them like they used to!). Likewise, the bathrooms still have all the original fittings and fixtures.

Some elements, though, have needed careful restoring. Bob and Karen have sympathetically replaced the flooring – which was previously an ad-hoc collection of nine styles of carpet and linoleum. In keeping with the home’s distinctive aesthetic, Karen and Bob selected carpet for the bedrooms and terrazzo tiles everywhere else. Plumbing, heating and cooling was updated throughout, and interior rooms were re-painted in the same colours. The pair also have plans to add a swimming pool to the side lot later this year.

Karen and Bob are passionate custodians of this very special home. ’We feel incredibly fortunate for this home to have come into our lives’ Karen explains. The pair very much feel that their role is to preserve and restore, and are campaigning for National Historic Place Designation, to have the home recognised as an iconic example of American MCM history. ‘It truly is a great untold American story in the architectural world , we don’t know why these homes have never been celebrated. and we are out to make sure that this one gets recognised!’

Though not officially open to the public, Bob and Karen occasionally hear from design enthusiasts interested in the house, and welcome them to come visit. ‘Most people, like us, can’t believe that these homes have never been shared or talked about in the MCM history within America.’ We have a feeling that anonymity may not last long!

Find out more about The Frost House on Karen and Bob’s website, here.

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First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net