Savory Stanford Renewal

Roger Lee home on campus retains original aesthetic, grows to meet new owner needs
Fridays on the Homefront
This Roger Lee-designed home (above) may have been a well-kept secret on Stanford campus for its first 55 years, but it's sure getting some notoriety these days. After its recent rehabilitation, with an eye on restoration as much as possible, the split-level home went from "disastrous condition," according to its current owner, to a "happy ending," thanks to Klopf Architecture and its team. All today photos: Mariko Reed; vintage photos: courtesy Klopf Architecture

Matthew Gentzkow and Aude Gabory were excited to move to California when Matthew got a job teaching at Stanford, partly for the opportunity to embrace the state's modernist housing tradition.

Little did the couple know how close their embrace would become, involving the spectacular rehabilitation of a home by one of the region's finest architects of the mid-century, Roger Lee.

"We were very much hoping to find a mid-century modern home. We've always loved that architecture," said Gentzkow, who became a Stanford economics professor in 2017. "It would be a shame to move here and not do that."

Moving to Palo Alto from Chicago, they house hunted for several months, a search that included an unsuccessful bid on an Eichler. Finally, they found a somewhat rundown home on campus designed by Lee for a professor who lived there for half a century before passing away in recent years.

Fridays on the Homefront
Fridays on the Homefront
Two shots of the same interior space: before (top), after (above).

"It was really in kind of disastrous condition. Not a lot of maintenance had been done," Gentzkow said of the four-bedroom home from 1962. "The challenge was pretty much rebuilding from the ground up, but we wanted to do that keeping as much of the original architecture as possible intact."

That would require a team that appreciated Lee's work and shared Gentzkow and Gabory's restoration concerns. The couple "talked to probably a dozen architects" before selecting John Klopf of San Francisco-based Klopf Architecture. Considering that Klopf's firm does about half its work on Eichlers, there was no doubting the architect's appreciation and understanding of MCM design.

"The proportioning of the house was really beautiful…It reads almost like a single-story house from the street," Klopf said of Lee's original, 2,138-square-foot design.

"A lot of mid-century modern homes are single-story; this one is split level," said Klopf, noting that Lee "used a single, sloping roof to create kind of a wedge."

Fridays on the Homefront

However, Gentzkow and Gabory have two children, and, as Klopf points out, "Everything [in the original home] was a lot smaller and more compressed than what today's families use."

Ironically, the couple had never heard of Lee before learning the architect's name from the original blueprints. As part of their house hunt, Gentzkow said, "We basically got a huge stack of books from the Stanford Design Center."