Tuesday, July 16, 2013

denwar pottery's home mixes mid-century modern and craftsman treasures

Two times a week I drive down the same street in Costa Mesa, CA. It is after work, and I am tired, on my way to get my butt kicked at the gym. And four times a week (both coming and going), I notice this little mid-century modern across from a charming park.

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern

I have wondered but never investigated.

 Until this.

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern


YAY! Open house. After I dragged my friend up to LA for the Downtown Modernism show, we had a bite to eat in Costa Mesa's latest trendy restaurant. Casually, over lunch, I mentioned there was an interesting mid-century modern open house, just down the street. Would she like to check it out?

Friends don't let friends go to open houses alone. She was game. I got way more than I bargained for as you will soon see.

The main gate had tile inlaid into it. Intriguing...

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern


And past the open gate, the first open air patio/deck ... nice ...

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern


Then up to the front door. It was confirmed. Something special was a foot. The door was a mosaic of metal and tile.

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern

We found the friendly real estate agent inside. The house was built and owned entirely by one couple, Jo and Esther Dendel. And what was so special about Jo and Esther? Their marriage included a collaboration as business partners for Denwar Pottery. Um yes, I had lucked into the home of mid-century modern potters.

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern
Denwar pottery picture from eBay

The house was owned by an estate as Jo Dendel had died maybe within the last year and his wife had died about ten years earlier or so.

As I wandered around the house with my friend, the immense amount of detail became evident. Upon first glancing at a room, I didn't notice it right away. After staring things began to pop out. Look at the way the speakers are built into the bookshelf.

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern


The living room came appointed with built-in sofas.

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern


This screen was set up to obstruct the front door from the living room. Look closely. There are tiny strips of orange tile on each post.

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern

The mosaic tile throughout the home is beautiful.

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern


Another shot of the bookcase detail. Lots of little nooks for collectibles.

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern


I love these big, stone, somewhat ugly fireplaces. We have one. The rock is local, I believe. And the hearth again has the mosaic.

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern


Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern


Perfect dining set. The textiles around the house were either made or collected by Esther. The light fixture above the dining table is obviously hand made.

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern


Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern


Custom cabinet separating dining from living.

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern

Looking back to the front door.

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern


I like this bio of Jo and Esther Dendel a lot and it is oriented around the pottery. This web page has other links to the pottery and the story of the couple's initial meet-up in Africa, when Esther was traveling with her "first" husband. We know how that turned out. Jo was the potter and Esther was more textiles and woods.

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern


They collected a lot of African art which was throughout the home. I was told that much of the remaining furnishings were going with the house. Lucky.

The kitchen was compact but had a ton of tile and was nicely laid out.

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern


Sub-zero refrigerator. nice.

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern


Exhaust fan. All tile.

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern


Close up of tile and exotic wood cabinets.

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern

The drawer handles.

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern


Look at this mosaic wall clock! Isn't it amazing? Update from Dana below:  that is a "George Nelson steering wheel clock mounted on that huge mosaic piece!"  

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern


When I saw this tile clock I about passed out. Ask my sainted friend.

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern


This LA Times obituary of Esther Dendel is good and provides a lot of detail about the couple. It sounds as if they had regular salons in the house, and taught various crafts classes on a weekly basis. Denwar tile was right next door. Their original land parcel was cut into three pieces and this house was one.

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern
LA Times obituary

The house has an interior patio on three sides, with a back wall covered in  tile.

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern


Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern


Back in the day the house had a water feature. And a really nice patio cover that has since rotted.

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern
Los Angeles Herald Examiner Pictorial Living, May 12, 1963

Lower left  picture is their home as well.

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern
Los Angeles Herald Examiner Pictorial Living, May 12, 1963

One bedroom. Abundant built-ins again.

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern


Extraordinary tile shower. Guest bath.

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern

Atrium window. From a long, long time ago.

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern

Master bedroom. Look at all the built ins!

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern

Master bath. More mosaic tile.

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern

Too dark, but another built in mosaic shower.

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern

Built-in dresser.

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern


 More shots of the headboard. The built-ins were crazy! Patient ghost friend.

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern


Towards the back of the house a "bonus" room was added on. Somewhat of an office area. With built-ins. Esther was prolific and wrote some 11 Books and countless articles. I bet right here at this desk.

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern

And a bar area. Nice.

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern


As we exited the house, I admired all the little, carefully planned spaces. On the left is a little room sort of tucked behind the kitchen. Another small office?

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern

So custom with so much history.

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern


I found the home listed on Zillow. It sold last week for $969K. Here are the stats:
  • Bedrooms:  2 beds
  • Bathrooms:  2 baths
  • Single Family:  2,364 sq ft
  • Lot:  10,018 sq ft
  • Year Built:  1953
Yeah. Sure it is missing one bath for its size and at least one bedroom. And the kitchen is pretty tiny by modern standards. But there is the awesome bonus room and at least two small offices I found tucked in the space around the kitchen. One could most certainly be another bedroom. It is not a small house, after all, at 2,364 sq. ft.

The house is a real value, honestly. There is a ton of custom art inside with its priceless tile work and the woodwork. The home appears to be in great condition from what I could tell. And finally, the custom built-in headboards, book shelves, light fixtures, sofas, etc. make this house an exceptional find. Whoever bought this place is one lucky guy or gal. I will keep watching it. If I see the new owners outside, I'll have to stop by and congratulate them. I will be a tiny bit curious as to what attracted them most. 

Can you tell I fell a little in love? So I got myself a souvenir on eBay. Why not?

Denwar Pottery Home, Esther and Jo Dendel, Costa Mesa, CA, mid-century modern
DENWAR COLA BROWN SUGAR CREAMER PEPPER SHAKER 
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37 comments:

  1. OMG...I'm dying over all this tile. I'm going to have to set aside at least an hour tomorrow to look at every photo up close. Looking through this once was so overwhelming I couldn't take it all in. That metal and tile door! The George Nelson steering wheel clock mounted on that huge mosaic piece! That blue tile wall at the back of the deck!

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    1. Dana... thanks for the ID yet again. I need to pay you for these services. I took the pictures really fast and became over whelmed as I was taking them. When I looked at the photos at home, I understood why. A work of art... Really impressive.

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    2. The blue tile wall at the back of the deck is made up of old kiln shelves. When a shelf needed to be retired, they would melt bottles onto the shelves. You are looking at art created of Milk of Magnesia, Lily's Pond Cream and wine.

      The reflection pond is covered now because my brother "fell in" (the story grew) when he was 18 months old.

      This home holds a special place in my heart.

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    3. Thank you for sharing those amazing facts on the tile wall. My son fell into my parent's koi poind as well. Boys and bodies of water. . .

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  2. I pray the new owners respect the house as it is and don t do some crazy "remodel"

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    1. Don't say that. It didn't occur to me that someone would go crazy on this house. It is in a very good location. **argh**

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  3. Amazing place, and one huge post! The details such as the mosaic wall (and mosaic everything) and tile floors are something. Only thing to me that needs rework with more durable materials to match those inside is the landscape...and maybe the kitchen counter tile! Thanks for the tour...

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    1. David... you are so right. I should have mentioned that. The landscaping is totally over grown and has seen much better days. I have had fantasies about the house and I start by ripping out nearly all the landscaping, restoring the water feature, and putting back the trellis patio cover.

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  4. I just love this! I got some serious goosebumps as I read your words and looked through the amazing photos. It reminded me so much of the previous owners of our house. He was a potter, architect, and landscape architect and she was a pianist. There was a built in couch and a built in bed... as well as an office addition. Even a water feature in our back yard with an attempt at a covered porch which later just rotted. The similarities just freaked me out. We have lots of little built in features, etc., too. Of course this house is much more refined and better thought out. The finishes are amazing!!! I hope whoever gets it appreciates every little detail. But I have to admit I don't think I could live with all that dark wood. It's gorgeous but it would depress me. I know (hang head in shame). LOVED THIS, Rebecca! Thanks for sharing.

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    1. How lucky are you to live in a true craftsman home. Funny you mention the dark Stacey... After I left the house I went on and on about how much I would like to live there. My friend felt it was too dark. I think it is the paint and all the wood. I think it would be possible to brighten it up without ruining its aura. Keep in mind, the mistress of this home has been gone for 13 years. I think it showed. Everything looked a tad run down, but not crazy bad.

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  5. Wow...so beautiful and interesting! I love these home tours that you post from the West Coast.

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    1. Awesome! You can bet I will keep them coming as I like taking the tours very much!

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  6. What an incredible home! Love the pictures....love the house. What a treasure for the buyers. Amazing.

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    1. Treasure is for sure. I will keep a close eye on it and see if I can add a postscript about the buyers someday.

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  7. I swoon! This place is just a few miles from my last house...but a world away. I don't know whether I'm more impressed with the tile clock wall or the tile stove hood. Wow - so glad you got to see this!

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    1. Swoon is a good word. I swooned all the way through. So intricate. My favorite was the clock. First the utter shock of it knocked me out. Secondly, such a work of art.

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  8. That mosaic clock is fantastic!!! And all that exotic wood. Does anyone know a good source for mosaic tile like in the clock (and elsewhere in the house)? I have been itching to get some in my house, maybe a table top or something. Or maybe do a piece of wall art for the lanai. Have no idea where to find this kind of thing, though. In SoCal.

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    1. I really think you should check out retrorenovation.com for retro tile sources. That is where I would go.

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  9. This home has so many custom features that are impossible to duplicate. I hope the new owners respect what they've aquired. If they do a tear down, whip over there and stage a rescue party.

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    1. It is an R2 lot which means you can build multiple properties on it. And a huge piece of land. I am hoping hoping hoping.

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  10. I drove past this home and studio every single day when I was newly married (25 years ago this month) as we had an amazing one bedroom house on Redlands Place just down the way. They held open house days once or twice a year to sell their pottery. I was young and foolish and always thought, "Oh, I'll stop next time". Eventually, we moved and I had forgotton all about this adorable house until I saw your post. What I would give to turn the clock back to have that opportunity again!

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    1. The interweb is an amazing place. Thank you so much for your comment!

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  11. Hello Rebecca,
    Thank you for sharing your photos with the Costa Mesa Historical Society. Rumor has it that the new owners, closing escrow today, are thrilled with the home and want to keep it as authentic as possible. They even have plans to restore the gravel bed back into the beautiful reflecting pond that was originally there. I am hoping that in October the CMHS will have Jo and Esther's display ready for viewing. They have already scanned over 300 images from the Dendel estate and they are quite wonderful! Thank you again,
    Nancy

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    1. Hi Nancy!!! I am so excited to hear your news. I am just a smidgen jealous of the new owners. Smart buyers. I am looking forward to see the CMHS exhibit in October. Please let me know. Of course, I will share it on the blog, and you are very welcome!

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  12. Rebecca, thank you SO much for publishing this fabulous piece on the Dendel house. Esther was my great-great aunt. Esther and my grandmother Beth (her niece) corresponded on a weekly basis when I was growing up. The house is exactly as I remember it when I visited in 1994, the summer before fourth grade. I was in high school when Esther passed away. The photos bring to mind so many conversations I wish I would have had with her. She was a truly interesting person, way ahead of her time in so many areas. Thanks again.

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    1. Thank you for stopping by and leaving the comment. Esther and Jo had to have been just fascinating!

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    2. Sara, I would love to converse with you regarding your great-great aunt Esther. I have put together an exhibit at the Costa Mesa Historical Society on Esther and Jo. We scanned over 400 photos and documents to help preserve their history. They were amazing people and I have met many of their students who all have said that Jo and Esther changed their lives. are you on facebook? Nancy Pedersen (Costa Mesa Historical Society)

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    3. Sara, Rebecca, Nancy,
      Thank you Rebecca for having posted these photographs. Wonderful to see a home so infused with the owners' tastes and talents -- not just decorated in Dendel fashion but with Dendel artistry actually incorporated into the structure. Empty the place and it's still Dendel. Like a Frank Lloyd Wright house.
      Sara, Nancy: I am investigating some mosaic panels, unsigned, that one lead has suggested might have been made by Jo and Esther. I have not found any images of work from their mosaic period -- other than the installation at the OC library and in their home. Who might have information about their mosaic work?

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    4. Hi all, sorry it took me so long to reply. I hadn't realized anyone replied to my comment. Nancy, I will look you up on Facebook! Thanks!

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    5. Peter, after more research I did find one photo of a mosaic with wire outlining that is from Jo and Esther's studio. I'll scan and send it when I can. The former employee that I sent the photos of your mosaic panels to said that she did not think she had seen any like them in the 15 years that she worked there, however I have an article that shows otherwise. Thank you for your visit to the Costa Mesa Historical Society and for sharing your beautiful mosaic panels with me. :) Nancy

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    6. Nancy, this is exciting. I look forward to the photo and the article. Cheers, Peter
      Sara, do you think your mother might have any recollection of the mosaic work produced by Jo and Esther?

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    7. This conversation above is so interesting. I owe the Costa Mesa Historical Society a post on their Denwar exhibit!

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  13. Love this house and your pics and the information you share here and on Facebook. Thank you! I messaged you, but maybe I can ask for suggestion here and not be too presumptuous.

    My late 1950s custom house in the foothills above Palmdale in the Mojave Desert has a fireplace that is similar in style and color to the fieldstone one in this house. It has real wood beamed ceilings with sort of a butterscotch colored finish. Walls are plain old white/Swiss coffee. Lots of light from big windows. It needs work but first thing is to replace the ratty old gold shag carpet--probably not from the 1950s but old and worn out. Any suggestions for wood or tile floors and is light or dark better? Thanks so much for suggestions made.

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  14. Boy, this brings back memories. I went to Denwars studios countless times as a child in the 70's. My mom was a loom weaver and we would go there and spend hours looking the the fine, hand spun yarns, the tiles in large industrial shelving and all of the rest of fascinating items on display. My mom was on a first name basis with Jo and Esther. Jo always had a welcoming hello for us when we entered and Esther could most often be found toward the back of the shop operating the huge, wooden weaving loom. This place is such a fond memory. I am so happy that the buyers of the home plan to keep its original integrity and craftsmanship. Those are some lucky people to have such a wonderful piece of Costa Mesa history in their family.

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    1. My daughter could have written this last post. We frequented Denwars' studio on a regular basis for several years when I was a weaver. We knew Jo best. He was friends with a gallery owner and travel agent in Idyllwild Ca.
      We heard some funny stories about them and their travels from each of them.
      Anyone in the arts will love this issue as my daughter and I did.
      Ahh, the good old days.







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    2. So cool. I can't believe it. There they were five miles from my house and I never knew!

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  15. I was working and suddenly I visits your site frequently and recommended it to me to read also. Age Of War 2
    Big Farm | Slitherio
    Tank Trouble | Happy Wheels
    Goodgeme Empire | Slither.io

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