Homes, Sweet Homes: Ellen McCormick and Family

25 May

Who was nice enough to show us around: Ellen McCormick.

Lucky me, she responded to my plea for homes to feature on our blog. I’m very thankful she did, too. It was wonderful to hear about a home from an architect’s perspective.

 What they told us about their home: A gorgeous mid-century modern home built by Erling Olauson for he and his family. Erling had done mostly commercial work (i.e Sutter Memorial Hospital) and that shines through in some of the choices of materials he used on his personal home. The home is 1700 sq ft and at least 50% windows. It truly is a beauty.

Since Ellen and her family have purchased the home, they’ve replaced the flooring, electrical, done some re-landscaping and a kitchen remodel. We’re looking forward to re-featuring this home eventually to see what other wonderful things they do to bring their home back to its original beauty.

 Where is the home located: Meister Terrace, East Sacramento, California

When was the home built and when they moved in: The home was built in 1951 and they purchased the home in October 2010. They didn’t move into the home until December 2010 though, after some renovations were made.

Why they chose this home: They were looking to be in a neighborhood with good schools for their two-year old daughter. Ellen also loved the “architectural integrity” and it helped that the price was right.

Photos by Serene.

Click to view slide show

What attracted you to MCM design?  I love the simple lines and clean, pure form design.  Also, MCM homes at their best embody passive architectural principles like usage of daylight and natural ventilation and they often blur the lines between inside and outside space – all of these are so important to me.

Favorite designers and biggest influences for your style?  The architect I admire most is Tadao Ando; the time I’ve spent in his buildings, specifically analyzing his use of light and darkness influences nearly all of my design choices.  I am also greatly influenced by the work Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright, Christopher Alexander and my teachers, Professors G.Z. Brown and Ron Lovinger

How do you feel about reproductions?  If the reproduction is of a lasting quality, then I am very supportive.  I think the Ikea Poang chair is a great example of taking a timeless design (Aalto’s cantilevered armchair) and making it available to a broader audience – everyone deserves good design.

Furniture wise, what do you think is something you should invest in?  I invest in furniture that is lasting, beautiful, timeless (in my opinion) and affordable for my budget.  However, I will occasionally buy something slightly out of budget because I know I won’t see the item again.

Where are your favorite places to shop for home décor?  Thrift stores, antique shops, flea markets, garage sales, salvage yards, craigslist and of course Ikea (for new stuff).  I also have an unhealthy addiction to design magazines.

What are some of your best finds? From where?  Last Friday I bought a 1950 light green steel lounge chair from Ruland’s (16th Street) for $30 – it is marked “State of California EDUCATION”, it is also numbered.  Also, a pair of hand-hammered and punched “starlight” atomic sconces from Midway Antiques for $250.

Greatest achievement in your home? Clearing out some terrible early 90’s remodel offenses.  Biggest challenge: finding a stopping point.

Future goals/projects?  A modest bed/bath addition that captures the architectural spirit of the house – it should look like it was always there and build on the passive heating and cooling aspects of the house.  More developed gardens.

Do you have any home inspiration recommendations for our readers?  Look at lots and lots magazines and books, save pictures of inspiring spaces; spend time analyzing: what is it about this image that moves me?  Lighting?  Intimacy of the space?  Vastness/openness?  Color?  Answers to these questions assist in finding design solutions for any space – regardless of budget.

Advice and last words?  Unfinished spaces hold so much beauty for me.  I enjoy spending time with unfinished projects imagining what they can be.  I like to go slow; when a project is finished I have to live with it.  Also, I like to ask everybody, regardless of background, for design advice.  I think my best design moves are informed by a wide range of input.

Thanks so much to  Ellen and her family for sharing their amazing home with us. It was such a delight to speak with someone as enthusiastic  and creatively motivated as Ellen. Thank you again! :)

If you’re interested in having your home featured on the blog, shoot me an e-mail at:

2 Responses to “Homes, Sweet Homes: Ellen McCormick and Family”

  1. Gretchen May 25, 2011 at 11:58 am #

    As someone who has seen the before, during and after of this home, I am so impressed with Ellen + family’s vision, hard work and aesthetic. I love the work they have done to date; they have been wonderful stewards of this rare East Sacramento MCM home.


  1. mimomito | Midcentury Modern Mid Town - June 12, 2011

    […] also wanted to thank Ellen McCormick, Curtis Popp and everyone who reads our blog that came out to support this wonderful new store. […]

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