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To Dream the Impossible Midcentury Dream

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A little more than five years ago Jeffrey Bond took on a DIY project so enormous that it seemed almost impossible. He bought a piece of property with a formerly cool midcentury house on it. It was listed for sale as a “tear down,” but Bond decided rather than knocking it down, he’d fix it up.

Joe Shoemaker, who specializes in midcentury properties and works as a real estate broker and owner of MacDuff Realty, had shown the house to a client for “project” property. According to Shoemaker “the space was fantastic but it was so far gone from deferred maintenance and termite issues” he thought it was unsalvageable.

Jeffrey holding a section of rotted beam he replaced in the living room of his midcentury dream home. - PHOTO BY CONNIE ZEIGLER
  • Photo by Connie Zeigler
  • Jeffrey holding a section of rotted beam he replaced in the living room of his midcentury dream home.

Adding to its list of “issues,” the house’s leaking tar and gravel roof had caused major water damage. The large beam supporting the center of the roof and the living room ceiling was so termite-ridden that it looked like shredded wheat. But when a friend posted pictures of the house on Facebook, Bond knew it was meant to be his. Yes, it would be a big job, but he says he “had always been mechanically inclined … had a minor in industrial technology, so I suppose that helped too.” He knew he was up to the task.

Still, the job has turned out to be so much more than he expected.

Because the it remained unheated and unsafe to live in, he didn’t begin working on it until spring of 2011. Underestimating the scale of the project, Bond assumed he’d have it renovated long before now. As for the expected completion date, Bond says with a wry smile, “That date’s come and gone … fall of 2013. I was optimistic and naïve.”

Now a year and a half past his imagined completion date, Bond still has far to go in his quest to return his extreme fixer-upper to its original modernist cool.

But for anyone interested in midcentury architecture, it’s easy to see that this was once a house with a lot going for it. It was built in 1965 in the 3800 block of Kessler Boulevard East, for or perhaps by (the house’s designer is a matter of mystery, or at least debate) Dorothy Weaver, a doctor who worked for the State of Indiana. Its floorplan is centered on a large, open-air central courtyard/atrium. In its heyday, visitors entered through the orange front door beneath the low-gabled roof into that atrium, with a view of the sky above and the glass walls of the living room ahead.

The open atrium of Jeffrey Bond's extreme fixer-upper offers a great view of the sky from the center of the house. - PHOTO BY CONNIE ZEIGLER
  • Photo by Connie Zeigler
  • The open atrium of Jeffrey Bond's extreme fixer-upper offers a great view of the sky from the center of the house.

In the living room a huge brick fireplace still has a floating concrete hearth. These days the shelves on the fireplace sport Bond’s Tiki glass collection. And although there remains a need for roof and ceiling repairs, drywall and flooring replacement, along with finish carpentry work to be done before it’s complete,Bond’s passion for midcentury furniture and decorative items is already helping get the house back to its modernist groove.

An Eames chair and sofa and a Marshall Studios table in the unfinished living room give promise to the future glam of this midcentury modern home. - PHOTO BY CONNIE ZEIGLER
  • Photo by Connie Zeigler
  • An Eames chair and sofa and a Marshall Studios table in the unfinished living room give promise to the future glam of this midcentury modern home.

Chairs and a sofa designed by Charles and Ray Eames encircle a Marshall Studios ceramic-tiled table in front of the fireplace. There’s a veritable modern chair collection -- more Eames and some Eero Saarinen, enough to make an MCM collector drool, in one of the bedrooms beneath new ceiling beams and cross members, resting on the part of the floor with its replaced joists.

Those repairs in that one bedroom, which took Bond most of last winter, were far more extensive than he had expected. He’s learned that in this house the termites followed the water damage. And there was a lot of water damage.

A new membrane roof and a serious chemical termite treatment later, Bond is pretty sure he has the leaks stopped and the termites evicted. He’s no longer seeing new insect damage. What he has seen, though, might have quelled the enthusiasm of a man of weaker stomach and less resolve -- a10-inch-tall termite mound rising from the ground in the crawl space below the house. He figures there may still be some live ones in there. But no for long.

But he’s confident he'll win that battle and resume his work to finish this house. An impossible dream? Maybe, but Don Quixote has nothing on this man. Bond is on a renovation quest, slaying his dragons, one termite mound at a time.

As for his new expected completion date? Bond set fall 2015 as his new target. Is that the theme song from Man of La Mancha playing in the background?

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