December 2, 2022

Modernist architect Eduard Drieir designed this masterpiece for a dynamic couple in 1970, and their daughter has just finished lovingly restoring it.

Architect Eduard Drieir, born in Bern, Switzerland and trained in architecture in Switzerland, arrived in Utah in the late 1940s and left the Wasatch Front a legacy of Mid-Century Modern designs inspired by Europe’s International Style, as exemplified by this home in the Saint Mary’s neighborhood in the foothills east of downtown Salt Lake City. The clients were Harlan Nelson, a businessman in the hospitality industry and an early promotor of Ski Utah, his wife, Marie, a nationally recognized Yale-educated classic composer of orchestral works, scores for plays, and an opera, and their four children. 

Photo by Scot Zimmerman

The dramatic design has a sloping cantilevered roof that soars toward the western views and tilts downward to streetside to shelter the carport and entrance. A brick wall transects to separate front from rear to provide privacy for the corner lot. 

Photo by Scot Zimmerman

Steel supports the massive roof as the apex meets the sky. The design is dramatic, but also practical in managing direct sunlight and providing for a multi-leveled interior space. The wall shields a private patio space so that it is unseen from the street face. The wood in the ceiling continues uninterrupted from the interior to the exterior with the unframed top panels of glass providing no visual barrier. The effect is uniting the interior with the exterior. 

Photo by Scot Zimmerman

From the streetside, the home appears modest and private. You can see how the brick walls I mentioned when discussing the home from the other direction continue through the design to shield the home for privacy and also to separate the carport from the home to baffle noise and glare. 

Photo by Scot Zimmerman

The front entrance is sheltering and inviting. Here again you can see how the continuation of the rich wood of the ceiling and the mitered glass joinery seem to float the roof and unite the outside with the inside.

Photo by Scot Zimmerman

As we enter the home and are greeted by the fireplace, it is well past time to introduce the team who have brought this home back to life. Metta Driscoll, the original owners’ daughter, wished to repair damage, to address wear and tear, and to make it appropriate for the lifestyle of her family while preserving the integrity of the home and honoring her memories. She enlisted the help of architect Bradley Waltman for architectural work on the remodel, interior designer (and artist) Meggan Waltman for selections and guidance, and Living Home Construction (Chris Towson), well-recognized in the preservation community for careful detailing and respecting the integrity of original designs to build the improvements. 

Photo by Scot Zimmerman

To the right as you enter is a living area, you can see the roof slope down to the to the right. The far wall has floor-to-ceiling glass and a clerestory lets light in as well. Paired chairs dating in design to the era of the home allow for conversation by the fire and beyond is a seating area with a sofa and Eames chair illuminated by a Noguchi lamp.

Photo by Scot Zimmerman

To the left as you enter, you can appreciate the configuration of the three levels of the home, which is somewhat comparable to a split-level design. At the entry level is a glass table and four white molded chairs and the grand piano. The stairway leading up reaches the dining room. Also on this level are the kitchen, primary bedroom suite, and media room. Stairs go down to a small social area, a conversation pit, and two bedrooms.

Photo by Scot Zimmerman

With so many conversation groupings, the home is designed for entertaining. The dining area is similarly well-considered for dinner parties. The separate level allows for the transition up to a set table. It is positioned for views to the valley and the sparkling lights of the city, and conveniently adjacent is the kitchen. 

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Photo by Scot Zimmerman

The fully updated kitchen is designed for ease and convenience with all new appliances and a spacious island. 

Photo by Scot Zimmerman

A former bedroom was transformed into a media room. New glass doors open to the yard. The bathroom for this bedroom was retained and updated and serves as a guest powder room.

Photo by Scot Zimmerman
Photo by Scot Zimmerman

The primary bedroom and bath occupy the same footprint in a quiet corner of the upper level and have been updated.

Photo by Scot Zimmerman

Downstairs is an original sunken carpeted conversation pit. I am so pleased that they retained and refreshed this bit of a 1970-time capsule. 

As a photographer and a person with an interest in preservation, this was a truly wonderful opportunity to see and appreciate an incredible design brought back to look as perfect as possible. At every turn I could appreciate the decisions that were labored over and the challenges of the workmanship. And, I get to share it with you!

Another note, when we toured and Metta showed me her childhood bedroom, I asked her what it was like to be in the home of her childhood. For me, the thought was a little overwhelming. I wonder if any of you have experienced it or imagined it? 

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