Aunt Bobby on the house she grew up in…
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As we’ve talked about earlier on this blog, my dad Louis Wasserman, who is our architect, grew up in a house his dad, Eugene Wasserman, designed. This house was a great example of mid century Modernism, and it has influenced … Continue reading →
As we’ve talked about earlier on this blog, my dad Louis Wasserman, who is our architect, grew up in a house his dad, Eugene Wasserman, designed. This house was a great example of mid century Modernism, and it has influenced my dad growing up, and my brothers and I as well, in terms of understanding design and what being surrounded by good design feels like. One of the main things I’ve taken from her house is that the best house is not the biggest house: and simplicity and attention to function makes for a beautiful life.
However, I only visited my grandmother in that house, staying for a weekend or a night : I never lived in the house. To find out more about what it was like to actually live with modernism, I interviewed my aunt, Barbara Vinson, a graphic designer, and my dad. Bobby’s interview is below (and I’m working on finding more pictures of the house).
What’s your earliest memory of the house at 215 Superior?
I remember visiting the site with my father…I remember it didn’t take very long to build. My father used to visit the house construction site, and I would go with him. The backyard carport was going to be a playhouse…I remember talking about that. Our neighbors the Rumps contested the lot line and they were anti semitic…so to coexist we gave up trying to build anything back there.
What was on the land before your house?
We think it was just an empty lot don’t remember foundation
Did you think that your house was different from other friends growing up? do have any memories of that?
I didn’t think it was different. But in kindergarten or first grade the teacher thought there was something dramatically wrong with me…when I was asked to draw my house it looked different than all the other children’s drawings. My drawings of houses would be all rectangles! They called my parents in to talk about it!
But I didn’t think it was different, I thought all houses should look like ours.
What was your favorite room in the house?
The living room fireplace…because of the lighting and the family gathering there.
Where did you spend the most time?
The living room fireplace space.
Our father thought the basement area would be a kids space, but it was such a tight family that we hung out upstairs
Did you like your room?
I loved my bedroom, everything just fit. But I didn’t have enough bookshelves, we added more later just with stacked bricks and wood. I think Louie’s room had shelves. All of our furniture was built in brought in from Philadelphia, where we had lived before, and our drapes that ran along the bedroom wing corridor were made in Philadelphia too.
Did you like your house? Did you ever not like your house?
It was difficult when my father died. It was totally irrational but couldn’t figure out how the house was there but my father wasn’t.
What would you have changed about your house if you could?
It was perfect for how we lived
What were parties/entertaining like in the house?
Louie played poker in the basement.I did have parties with girl friends, girl scouts, BBYO.
I have very fond memories Parents parties. Because of the open plan I could hear everything at the parties even after I went to bed. There was always some entertainment going on every week, and the kitchen was a magnet.
After my father died I think it just became easier for your Grandmother to take people out instead of entertaining.
Eugene (my grandfather, your father) was an architect, and Sylvia (my grandmother, your mother) was a lawyer, were most of their friends architects or lawyers?
Back then it was quite common for people to have different clubs
They had clubs called the Guys and Dolls, they had a bridge club; and they had a club where they would give each other gag gifts, “booby prizes.” Do you remember the crap in the basement? (Yes, there’s was a 1950s beer sign that when you plugged it in would “fill” a glass with beer) One guy in that group was a beer distributor and would give them funny beer signs that Louie didn’t want to throw out.
Grandma had her club of University women, and her own bridge club, and book club (and that’s how I sold all my girl scout cookies). Daddy played poker during the week with the husbands.
They had an investment club too: the men would always be upset because the wives would just pick the stock by what sounded good, but they would always be up.
Where did you hang out as a kid or teenager?
Living room fireplace or in my bedroom.
Did living in a house like this affect the way you view the world or your creative life?
Yes! It was very important to direct Louie and I in our work.
Some of the things I use as I go through life and my work as a graphic designer, like:
Less is more
Everything in its place
Space used for the client not push m view
Innovation use of contemporary techniques
all came from living in that house.
In my graphic design I am influenced by that time and by innovation. I’m aware of design resourcefulness, and utilize that awareness for clients visually and economically, I try to be economically creative in everything I do!
Seeing all the innovations and creative solutions in that house gave me the interest in trying different things.
Some things our house had that seemed totally innovative at the time were: all the doors would be flush, the bedroom walls three were one color but the facing wall was different color (none of my friends had that), hanging cabinets that opened on both sides, my father left space for a microwave because he had read about them and thought they would be ready when the house was finished: but he got tired of waiting for it to be ready so he put in a second oven instead, there were built-ins in every room of the house, hideaway shelves, under cabinet lighting, cabinets hung by suspension, no door of the shower, privacy windows, overhang that provided shade in summer, light in winter, the heated floor in the bathroom, cork floors in the bedroom wing…and we definitely the first people in Sheboygan to have shag carpet!
Where do you think these innovations came from? From his research travels?
Maybe…but i think he just grew up so poor that he wanted the design to always be as frugal and efficient as possible
I think the house cost 40,000 to build with everything.
Some of these design decisions are about the kitchen…How involved was grandma in the design of the house? She never really seemed that into cooking but was she asked about the way she would like the “woman’s space” or any other space in the house to be?
He might have asked her, not sure … Grandma didn’t have much to do with the house. She probably asked for a place for her purses!