Vintage ‘Haver Home’ Inspires New Midcentury Guest House
By Ken MacIntyre
September 18, 2023 – As midcentury enthusiasts are keenly aware, most cities can point to a handful of architects and designers who helped shape their respective urban landscapes. Phoenix, Arizona is one such city, and Ralph Haver is one such architect.
Iconic civic and commercial buildings, as well as residential real estate, can be counted among Haver’s midcentury legacy, but he’s probably best known for a collection of modern and affordable tract housing designs from the 1950s and ‘60s fondly referred to as “Haver homes.” Typically less than 1400 square feet in size, their block construction, low-sloped rooflines and walls of glass proved to be exceptionally well suited to the desert climate. Today these midcentury gems are in high demand across the Metro Phoenix area.
Enter local realtor Ryan Smith, whose expertise transcends the traditional boundaries of buying and selling. As the founder of “Mid Mod Phoenix,” his agency specializes not only in real estate transactions, but also offers a range of renovation and design services. What sets Smith apart is his passion for preserving and revitalizing midcentury treasures, a passion that’s embodied in his own personal endeavor — the restoration of a 1959 “Haver home,” complemented by the addition of a guest house to the historic property.
Modtraveler had the opportunity to speak with Ryan Smith about his recent labor of love.
ModTraveler: What drew you to this particular Ralph Haver home?
Ryan Smith: The style of these homes were just on another level compared to the typical midcentury ranch homes you see all over Phoenix. Pulling into the driveway for the first time, I was instantly drawn to it. The front elevation with the four large windows and patio port entrance were incredible, and the interior had a great layout, lots of bright light and an amazing living room that had been added to the back of the home, with lots of windows and tongue and groove ceiling. The house had already been cleaned up from being in really bad shape but there was still some work to be done. This gave me the opportunity to finish the yard, put in a pool, and add some details to the house including a new roof and a block wall next to the carport. It’s also situated on a very large quarter acre lot in South Scottsdale so there would be room to add a small guest house out back. The fact the home was located in a historic neighborhood was also a huge plus. Not only was it one of the best Haver neighborhoods in Metro Phoenix, but the piece of mind knowing that the houses next door could not be torn down was also important.
MT: Does renovating a home that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places put any restrictions on what you can do to it?
RS: Yes, if you’re working on the main house. Once you inform the city about what you want to do, they will either approve it and give you a certificate of no effect on the historic status, or they will deny it. This pertains to anything you can see from the street. Since the planned guest house was not going to be visible from the street I was able to proceed with no problem. They encourage the houses to be worked on and maintained, they just don’t allow them to be destroyed, literally or physically.
MT: Given the home’s historic significance, were there any specific materials or design elements that you had to source or recreate to maintain the authenticity of the original design?
RS: Shortly before I purchased the house, a roof patio that had been added on top of the carport was removed to restore the original elevation. This allowed me to re-classify the house as historic on a local and national level. The only recent change to the exterior was painting the main house from bland grey to a period appropriate color palette of blue, white and yellow. The interior of the house is not under any type of historic guidelines and was already partly refinished, so I expanded the kitchen and made several cosmetic improvements.
MT: What was your inspiration or thought process behind adding a guest house to the property?
RS: I had a vision for what it could be and maximized the footprint of the building as much as possible where it would sit in the backyard. There was a forgettable, existing 240 square foot finished storage building that we tore down. The new building not only took an already amazing home to new heights, but the versatility of the building is great. It is a stand-alone 650 square foot, one bed, one bath with a full size kitchen. I wanted it to be complementary to the main house, but have its own soul.
MT: Did adding a second building to the historic property come with unique challenges?
RS: The project began with building something that looks like it could have always been there. The only real challenge when building the guest house was building something that looked like it was from 1959 but with modern construction codes and some new materials. The new structure was required to have fire sprinklers and for those to look good in a building with tongue & groove ceilings they had to be an exposed black metal pipe. They actually turned out great. The other challenge was how to best insulate the roof and the block exterior, which was done with foam on the roof and fire & sound insulation on all the interior and exterior walls.
MT: How did you ensure the guest house complemented the original midcentury architecture?
RS: It’s best to start with your desired look and work backwards. I wanted to make the guest house as authentic and complementary to the main house as possible, so the Haver design was the inspiration for the building that was constructed out of block, not wood-framed, to match the historic house. Finish selections from shower tiles, the terrazzo shower base, original 1950’s medicine cabinet, pegboard vanity, hand stained interior wood doors, a retro refrigerator, to every single light fixture … all amplify the midcentury vibe.
Every decision from the elevation, floor plan, windows, block construction, even to the paint color were decided on based on what would be most authentic and complementary to the main house. The guest house has the same style and soul, but it is built better than the main Ralph Haver-designed house. The commercial glass and the doors combined with it being so well insulated provides an even quieter and more efficient version of the main house.
The “Haver home” guest house construction was a case study for me in building midcentury modern for today.
Ryan Smith works to promote awareness, appreciation and restoration of mid-century architecture. He has bought and sold, as well as renovated, homes from Ralph Haver and E.T. Wright. Smith was recently invited to speak at Tiki Oasis Arizona (April 2023) at the historic Hotel Valley Ho on the subject of “Creating a Mid-Century Home.” You can find Ryan Smith online at midmodphoenix.com and on Instagram at @midmodphoenix