AN EXHIBITION AND PANEL ON SUSTAINABILITY IN DESIGN
Ann Arbor, MI
As an entrepreneurial designer, artist, project/production manager and business owner, Paul has over 35 years of experience designing and creating, from billboards to environmental graphics to commercial environments to furniture and picture frames. His designs feature Intentionally simple and timeless designs, crafted from salvaged woods, featuring rich organic textures integrated with raw modern and industrial materials.
Paul M. Hickman began as a sign painter for the family billboard company when he was 15. Later while at Arizona State University, Paul was initially drawn to intaglio then seized upon Intermedia as a vehicle to marry new and salvaged materials, painted and projected graphics, audio, video and lighting. Following the completion of his BFA, he spent 12 years building a notable career as a designer/project manager in the scenic-arts industry, where he experimented, refined and expanded his design repertoire. Fifteen years into his career, he hit a wall with the materials he was working with; they no longer made sense to him. For more information, see Paul's Bio.
In this exhibit, Paul presents a story about the transformation of a 1949 mid-century modern home he jokingly dubbed “Rancho Deluxe or RD”.
PROJECT NAME Rancho Deluxe
LOCATION Ann Arbor, MI
ARTIST Paul M. Hickman
PROJECT TYPES Single Family
PROJECT SCOPE Redevelopment
The story behind this 1949 mid-century modern, we have jokingly dubbed “Rancho Deluxe or RD” comes out of the 30+ years or so that I have spent specifying unconventional, sustainable and reclaimed materials as a graphic designer, artist, consultant, interior designer and furniture designer. I ran across this home that had been abandoned for 13 years but still had stunning lines, was perfectly set on the site and in an excellent location. The rest? Well that is where the story starts. The original owner came from California to take over the piano department at The University of Michigan. He, his wife and their only child lived there until 1970, when it was sold to another UoM professor. A single woman from Barbados who also happened to be a hoarder. Think mid-mod lines then decked out in wild bright Caribbean colors and patterns, now toss in mounds and mounds and mounds of stuff. Unfortunately, the second owner got to a point where she could no longer keep up with the maintenance of the house, she closed it up and moved into a retirement community for the next 13 years, until she passed. The house was going feral, the windows were broken out, raccoons, squirrels and birds were taking it over.
We jumped all over this cool abandoned home and bought it in the fall of 2011. We then took about a year to both sit with it and to develop a game plan, design and the team to go about a massive resurrection and transformation. An architect friend of mine called it the largest piece of Paul Hickman furniture ever done, and we get to live in it. I had several main goals for the home, utilize most of the materials from the original site back into the building, often with a new purpose or find new homes for any of the materials we removed and did not want to keep on site. When it came to new materials, I first went after reclaimed materials, if not available, then locally sourced, American made, sustainable and non-toxic were the drivers. The other big item was, I wanted it to be Net Zero in energy usage. Lastly, the overall aesthetic would become a merger between the mid-century modern lines of its origins and my leanings toward raw industrial and Japanese aesthetics. Because the house had lost so much of its original design details outside of its lines and it was in such bad shape, we had no intention of trying to bring it back to replicate its former life. This would transform this once hip mid-mod home left for feral, into Rancho Deluxe, a 21st Century Net Zero home.
We discovered many hidden secrets this beauty had, especially massive water damage on the entire northside of the home that required almost a complete rebuilding of that wall. The original radiant heat floor system had completely failed and heaved the concrete floor in several areas. The uninsulated slab floor was a massive heat sink to the outside, so all of the interior heat was quicking heading into the slab and into the outside ground. Not good in cold Michigan winters. The ceiling had little to no insulation and massive gaps for more extensive heat loss in the winter. The window design and positioning was excellent for extensive cross ventilation and cooling in the summer. The flat roof had bellied up to about 2 inches over the living room. We resolved that with a whole new tapered seam insulated roof system. Now it still reads as flat but sheds all the water off to all sides. We also discovered the house originally had an in wall roof drainage system that had failed and was covered over but they did not redesign the roof to work with the more traditional gutters they added. This we determined is what led to the massive water damage in the North wall.
Building upon the homes original passive solar features, we added a new ground-mounted grid-tied 6.4K photovoltaic system. The design powers the home and the studio/offices for my company, Urban Ashes. We also included a geo-thermal heating system, smart lighting, energy control systems, environmental comfort controls through new ventilation strategies and the use of natural daylight in place of energy consuming light options. Ultimately getting us to an annual Net Zero energy usage.
In addition to it being the home for myself and my family, Rancho Deluxe was intended to be a model environment, inspiring visions of smartly designed homes under 2000 square feet that harvest and produce all the energy they need over the course of the year – and eliminate their energy bills – forever. The home emanates a unique sense of place that respects the history of the home and plans for the future while wrapping it all in my design aesthetics and desire to maintain the lowest carbon footprint in the materials as possible in the renovation and throughout the rest of its life.
Some key materials and their stories; • The original Redwood clapboards unearthed under the “1970’s” vinyl siding will be repurposed and utilized for the exterior soffit. • The old vinyl siding went to another homeowner to clad a new addition and garage. • All of the ½” rigid foam from under the vinyl was salvaged and was reused on site. • All of the salvageable original redwood siding was milled and repurposed as the new undercovering of the eaves, and carport as well as cladding for a few interior soffits. • The new exterior house siding and trim was sourced from 100-year-old Michigan barns, once at the heart of the state’s agriculture infrastructure, and now diverted from the landfill. The antique Hem Fir was then treated with the traditional Japanese technique of shou sugi ban, or charring the wood for a stunning aesthetic as well as making the wood more fire-resistant, more resistant to insect infestation, rot and decay. • The concrete patio material removed to insulate the foundation and provide more permeable landscaping was salvaged and utilized on site for retaining walls, bridges, stairs and as broken pavers • The interior doors, plumbing & lighting fixtures, laminate flooring, appliances and mechanical fixtures not vintage to the house or era that were found in the home were donated to local charities or relocated to new homes. • All of the new interior doors are vintage “Miracle” doors reclaimed from the Sarasota Apartment building in Detroit, originally built in 1939. • New Flooring, trim, and cabinetry designed by the homeowner in a 1940’s style, were crafted from the trees downed by the Dexter Tornado of 2012, and from the only large tree removed from the site, that was too close to the house. • All exterior and interior finishes are petroleum-free non-toxic plant oil-based finishes.
Detroit Center for Design + Technology (DCDT) 4219 Woodward Avenue, Suite W202 Detroit, Michigan 48201 248.204.4060