When Karen Valentine and her partner Bob Coscarelli discovered mid-century time capsule The Frost House, it became not just a home but a passion project. Here, she shares their story…
We purchased a 10-acre plot of land and went through two architects trying to turn the idea into reality, but, due to escalating costs, we soon discovered that our champagne plans could not be achieved on a beer budget. Despondent, we were about to throw in the towel when a very special email arrived in our inbox, and the plan changed completely. As we caught sight of the eye-popping colours of The Frost House in the real estate listing sent by our realtor, we realised that dreams can come true – and they can be affordable. Without hesitation we placed an offer and have never looked back.
The Frost House is named after Dr Robert Frost and his wife Amelia, who, in 1964, purchased this steel, glass and aluminium prefabricated property that was described in Life magazine as an ‘instant house’. There was a short-lived trend in Michigan City, Indiana, at that time for building these revolutionary structures, and Robert and Amelia were enchanted. The elongated, flat-roofed building sits on just under an acre of land at the edge of a 1960s housing development overlooking a nature reserve, surrounded by old oaks and maple trees. Created by Emil Tessin as one of 22 models for Alside Homes, the ‘Model 2340’, as it was originally known, was designed in collaboration with American designer Paul McCobb and furniture brand Knoll.
We can’t be sure how long it took the Frosts to move in, but for us and our dog, Banksy, it was just 20 days after first seeing a picture of the house online. All we needed to do was add a few new beds, a rug here and there, and some artwork. All of the mid-century fixtures and fittings were in pristine condition – even the original white goods from GE Appliances and the Knoll furniture – so there was no need to decorate.
They were not lying about it being an ‘instant house’! It may have been more than 50 years old at the time, but only a few repairs were needed to the roof and the plumbing, plus we edited the nine different flooring styles down to two: wool carpet in the bedrooms and resin terrazzo tiles for the rest of the space. The only thing missing was a swimming pool. Luckily, though, the property came with the empty lot next door, so we were able to install the finishing touch that completes our modest modernist compound.
With its vast glass walls, The Frost House really invites nature inside – we often find birds and rabbits peering in, watching us go about our daily lives. Our home offers the very best view in every season, but for us, winter is truly magical. We love to stay snuggled in bed with a cup of tea and throw open all the curtains to watch a blanket of white settle on the garden. It’s like living in a reverse snow globe. thefrosthouse.com
This feature appeared in ELLE Decoration December 2019.
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