For the progeny of Cleeve and Jean Horne, this spectacular modernist home in a picturesque valley in Pickering, Ontario, is a seldom-used summer place, an after thought that has been allowed to slide into disrepair, if not disrepute. The house is tucked away behind the main residence and barn on a 200-acre family property and as one of the Horne’s adult grandchildren told me yesterday during Doors Open Pickering, it’s a challenge to hold onto the place in the face of rising taxes and land values.
Seeing the state of the interior, I couldn’t help thinking that this architectural gem might be better off in the hands of someone more invested in honouring its uniqueness. Designed by architects Michael Clifford and Kenneth Lewis in 1957, the hyperbolic paraboloid structure brings to mind a giant stingray. The freestanding roof was constructed a year before any of the walls or windows were added and few of the interior walls actually go all the way up to the ceiling. There’s an expansive feeling of openness to the place, a connectedness between rooms as well as between the indoors and out.
Most of the furniture and all of the appliances are original to the house, which you’d think would be a good thing except the spaces have a sorry, neglected feeling about them, the house is dingy and tired, not the spectacular showpiece it deserves to be. There’s an original, Saarinen Womb Chair shrouded in an old sheet (above), a pair of funky mid-century recliners sun-bleached and sad, and a coffee table jacked up on concrete cinder blocks.
I completely understand why the house is in the state it’s in; this is no one’s full-time residence and I expect that the families invest in their own domiciles rather than in this place that they’ve been coming to forever and probably don’t even really “see” anymore. It’s just grandma and grandpa’s house, an architectural oddity that they take for granted.
I especially loved the sunken living room and master bedroom, such a marvellous throwback to mid-century living.
In fact, upon entering the front door, I had something of a deja vu, the place feels a lot like Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater even if architecturally it’s a completely different beast.
Cleeve Horne House is like a mid-century time capsule without the glamour, a taste of what was without the realization of what could be. In the right hands this home could be sensational.
Special thanks to my friend Cora Golden, co-author of Design in Canada, for bringing this house tour to my attention.
AND as a little afterthought, in honour of Desire to Inspire‘s occasional feature about Pets on Furniture, here’s a shot I took of one of the Horne’s great granchildren reclining on a pet AS furniture. Mom says she leaves the baby this way all the time and the dog seems to love it.