The Red Hot Roush Residence: Mid-Century Modernism in the Sacramento Suburbs

Roush Residence
The Roush Residence, Mid-Century Modernism in Sacramento
Share |

             It was a red-hot Sacramento day (90 plus degrees) when I toured the mid-century modern home built in 1954 for Bob and Jan Roush.  The home’s most distinctive feature, its red-hot colored steel beams, outline the roof and crisscross its interior ceilings like a roller coaster frame.  Reminiscent of a ride at Disneyland, I expected to see a train of cars zoom past at any moment, screaming riders and all.  Instead, thrill-seekers of another sort gathered inside the Terry Waters’ designed home to ooh and aah at the 1950’s era furniture, building materials, and appliances.

Roush Beams

Visitors discuss the distinctive red-colored open web I-beams during a recent tour of the Roush residence.

            Mid-century modern (MCM) architecture is a far cry from true modernism’s pared-down less-is-more approach.  Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe would have cringed at the attention-grabbing decorations added onto this home.   But this particular 1950’s vein of modern design has its own special appeal and was very popular in post-World War II California.  It is now enjoying a wave of resurgence as MCM fans pour-over specially dedicated magazines (Atomic Ranch), visit blog sites (, and shop in trendy retail outlets (Design Within Reach). 

            Thanks to the dedication and hard work of Gretchen Steinberg, MCM fans in northern California have been privy to some of the best examples of the era’s homes.  Steinberg spearheads “Sacramento Modern, (SacMod)” a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting, preserving and protecting modern art, architecture and design in the Sacramento region.  SacMod organized the open house at the Roush residence on Saturday, June 2, 2012 and provided visitors with a 12-page glossy brochure detailing the home’s providence. 

Roush Fireplace

The focal point of the open floor plan living area is the cone-shaped fireplace topped with the crisscrossing red I-beams.

            Aside from the red-colored open-web beams, the Roush home’s other distinctive features include its hexagonal shape, concrete block walls, floor-to-ceiling plate-glass windows, Italian marble terrazzo floors ­– that connect the interior to the exterior, and a massive black cone-shaped metal fire place that sits in the center of the main living area.             

            The architect Terry Waters, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright and a draftsman for famed California MCM architect John Lautner, intended the Roush home be integrated with the surrounding nature.  Waters succeeded as an abundance of natural light streams throughout the home, and views of the exterior landscape are provided from nearly every room.  The home’s open floor plan provides a relaxed atmosphere and its location, on a leafy suburban lane, gives its residents an abundance of privacy.  The home, well hidden from the street, sits in a mature setting at the end of a curved driveway. 

Liv and Jenny

Artists Liv Moe and Jenny Stark enjoy the Roush residence open house. Moe is also the Director of the Verge Center for the Arts, and Stark is an Associate Professor and Coordinator of Film Studies at CSUS.

            Miles Treaster, who was at the forefront of bringing modern design to residential and commercial properties throughout the Sacramento region, was one of those touring the home.  Treaster revealed to me that he only recently discovered the Roush home.   He was surprised that he didn’t know of its location and existence despite the fact that he himself had worked, in the early 1960s, on two residential properties in the same Arden Oaks neighborhood.

            According to the tour’s accompanying brochure, “Fifty percent of the proceeds from this event will benefit the development of the upcoming exhibit ‘Ray Eames: A Century of Modern Design,’ at the California Museum, tentatively scheduled to open later this year.”  For fans of MCM that exhibit, focusing on Sacramento native Ray Eames, is definitely something to look forward to with excitement.

            It’s good to know that a serious interest in preserving and maintaining mid-century modern architecture and design exists in the Sacramento region.  Homes like the Roush residence and designers like Ray Eames add to the richness of the area’s fabric.


2 Responses

  1. I’m a huge fan of MCM. We collect Heywood Wakefield furniture from the 1950’s (I love the dogbone chairs in the blond wood) and pretty much anything designed by Russel Wright. Thanks for the review. It’s yet another reason to visit Sacramento!

  2. Rosemary Andriesse says:

    Love your article. Keep up the good work you cover so many beautiful things that we can now sit in our little houses and see and appreciate. Great job A+

Please Leave a Comment