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Sleek and Chic

Circa 1967 mid-century modern.


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This is a house very much in the modern mode, designed by local architect Francis Mah. For many years it was home to Ward Archer Sr. (a founder of the advertising agency that eventually became archer>malmo) and his family. It has a low-pitched roof with interior ceilings following the shallow slope and deep exterior overhangs that protect the interior from the direct rays of summer sun.

The floor plan brilliantly separates public from private spaces while subtly integrating the interior flow to the exterior topography. There is a gradual fall toward the street on this acre lot in old East Memphis.

Mah used a favorite device of both Frank Lloyd Wright and his Arkansas understudy, Faye Jones. They both loved to bring people into a house under a low ceiling, and then the room heights soar in the living area. Mah accomplished this by placing the entry on the uphill, garden side, and then dropping the floor level of the forward-facing living, dining, and kitchen to follow the gentle grade change. The private bedroom spaces, baths, laundry, and study are all tucked away from the street.

The current owner has lived in the house for three years and spent much of that time updating the place. His attention to detail is as rigorous as was Mah's. An understated palette of finishes was selected for the recent renovation and carried throughout the house. The work included enlarging the master suite and enclosing the original carport to create a separate media/guest house.

All the rooms are now a bold white. The kitchen is softened by cabinets of a lustrous African fiddleback anagre wood with tops of Calcutta gold marble. The original kitchen, though conveniently placed between the dining and living rooms, was small and enclosed. An interior wall was removed, allowing a large island to anchor this room as a center for entertaining or family activity.

Part of the original master bedroom was converted to a walk-through laundry center, handy to all the bedrooms. The newly enlarged master bedroom has gently vaulted ceilings like the original part of the house, and great walls of glass have a view to a shady rear porch.

The new master bath is well laid out, with lots of built-in storage, and the new master closet has a tremendous capacity. All of this results in a thoroughly modern mid-century house that is as chic and sleek as anything in Memphis.

4500 Minden

Approximately 3,100 sq. ft.

3 bedrooms, 4-1/2 baths; $759,000

Realtor: Coleman-Etter, Fontaine 767-4100

Agent: Fontaine Brown

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