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Contemporary 1950's Home
by Dr. Oneida Cramer

?Fun,? in a nutshell, sums up the whimsical nature of the 1950?s and 1960?s modern design that homeowner, graphics designer Carlos Cardoza, has modeled into his low-slung home built in 1954 by Gordon Nichols. And as much as Cardoza remained authentic to established modern concepts, he also stayed true to the nature of Latin American modern garnered from his own heritage in Guatemala City.

?In Central and South American countries, modern is the style that most people prefer,? Cardoza said. Growing up in Guatemala meant glass top coffee tables, plastic chairs, and nothing made out of wood. In fact, antiques and old furniture are actually viewed negatively suggesting that the owners don?t have enough money to buy new. Consequently, Central Americans want to have the latest and greatest and most outrageous usually in bright, bright colors.

?I feel like I need to be surrounded by color,? said Cardoza who likes to bring out a copy of Guatemala Rainbow to show the Guatemala he remembers, where the climate is temperate, the sky is a bright sea blue and clouds look touchable. Color is everywhere in the rich flowers, the graceful tropical fish, and on garments and architecture.

Yet, it took a 20th century design exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art to launch Cardoza into the authentic modern transformation that is his home today

?The house was kind of new (to me), and I was still experimenting with color and a few things,? Cardoza said. ?But the exhibit just gave me a lot more information and a lot more inspiration to say?OK, I have a 50?s home. So, I?m going to furnish my house with all the icons that museums are now acquiring.?

Just inside the glass front door and opaque waffle fa?ade stands a large brick wall and shelf with a cluster of Pinocchio characters and several black and white album portraits. This unusually large brick ?visual center,? not only defines the foyer, it holds a coat closet on the living room side, an indoor grill to the kitchen side, and the wood-burning fireplace on the interior. The large living area extends from the master bedroom past the fireplace and into the dining/kitchen area on the far left. And the room is bounded by numerous surfaces?to name a few?painted wood walls, brick/tile covered walls, and ceiling to floor windows with a view of the backyard decking, the restored swimming pool, and behind the pool a smiling Big Boy.

?When you go outside, you can see that every room has a door to the outside, which gives you that sense of freedom and consequently centralizes the focus of the house on the outside,? Cardoza said. The swimming pool was restored with 1-inch black tile and a random smattering of blue tile, carefully laid out by Cardoza the night before the workers set the tile in stone. Cardoza also designed the zigzag pattern in gray/white plastic coating cement surrounding the pool. The painted gray wood decking outlines a former screened porch area. Cardoza removed the overhang and screening and leveled the decking on par with the house flooring.

?When you step outside, you don?t have to go down. So, it feels like it floats together with the glass all around it. And when you have the indoor and outdoors at the same level, it gives you that open feel, like you?re outside.? For an even greater sense of continuity between inside and outside, Cardoza removed all window curtains. Also, he increased the natural ambient lighting by widening the small dining room window with glass blocks for something he had always wanted?a glass block wall.

?One thing that I like about this house is the orientation as far as the sun, ? Cardoza said referring to the morning sunlight through the south and east windows and the western solid walls that prevent heat build up from the afternoon sun. A skylight not only adds light to the kitchen, it enhances the natural birch wood cabinets.

?When I first came to this house, the only room that I was not happy with was the kitchen,? Cardoza said. ?Wood was to me a little too traditional. But I?ve been able to learn more about the era of the 50?s, and birch wood was very popular. So, to have birch wood is kind of like a touch of luxury.? Another touch of luxury is the built-in, hi-fi hidden away inside two bottom drawers of a birch wood cabinet, a feature that Cardoza enjoys and will not remodel. He did, however, remove the wood doors on the cabinet?s upper body and replace the wooden shelves with glass, which now have colorful trinkets that seemingly float like rainbows or, better yet, like tropical fish. Why fish?

Cardoza has taken the natural coloring of tropical fish onto a series of canvases in such a way that he paints the fish components?the eyes, teeth, and skin detail?without giving shape and contour to the features, thus creating, in essence, design abstractions. These large paintings hang throughout the house and can also be found at Particularly unusual is a black/yellow/white canvas with components that get repeated and reemphasized in the room. For instance, white stony elements (meant to be fish scales) are repeated in the white circles headboard on the master bed, which is easily seen from the living room. And shades of yellow around the edges of the painting seemingly spread out as accents in the living room in the flowers, the plastic lemons, and a bright yellow wall paneling.

-by Dr. Oneida Cramer
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