Midcentury Makeover

Photography by Gina Munda
After renovation.


To enter the Old Southwest Reno home of Todd and Katherine Tresidder, cross through the dappled shade of honey locust and blue spruce trees and mount wide stairs leading to the elevated front porch. Inside you’ll find warm colors offset by cool tones in an open floor plan under a 13. -foot vaulted ceiling. This is a 1940 home renovated for modern life.

Before renovation

Like many cities, Reno grew in phases, embracing a succession of industries that brought with them a need for more housing. Old Southwest Reno sprang up house by house, one here, one there, beginning in the 1930s with developments called Newlands Manor and Manor Gardens (the latter on ranchland once owned by Fannie B. Patrick, a 1900s suffragette and Reno civic leader). Today, the neighborhoods’ streets slope away from the Sierra’s Carson Range toward the valley floor. Shady, walkable streets end in bluffs to the west and north, lending an airy feel to outward views.

In this zone, few houses mirror others, though exterior finishes repeat themselves: red brick, painted brick, wooden siding, stucco, with an occasional feature made from river rock. Many were constructed with hardwood floors, patios, basements, wood-burning fireplaces, and even indoor barbecues vented through a chimney. These were contemporary appointments for their time, but 21st-century families have particular needs, and that’s what drives this story.

The Tresidders’ recent remodel project arose from the couple’s itch for living in proximity to downtown attractions and friends already living in the neighborhood. They were spending too much time driving in from farther out, so when Reno High School’s Red House Project, a media arts program, proved a fit for their daughters, they began looking for a home to purchase and remodel. Enter: an elevated two-level home for sale by the last generation of a family that once occupied three adjacent homes. The Tresidders had found their gem, a little rough in places and divided into smaller spaces, but ripe for transforming into a tri-level nest that would “live large enough” for four today, and later feel perfect for a shrinking family (because children grow up and eventually move away).

Home Office
One of two home offices.

The Tresidders work from home—he’s a financial coach, educator, and author of books and courses; she manages their business website (financialmentor.com), as well as the scheduling and accounting operations. “We needed two offices,” says Todd, “but didn’t want a huge house…This one lives small when there are just two of us.” By that he means the home’s 3,100-plus square feet are arranged efficiently throughout three levels set atop the original footprint. Now, living spaces flow into work spaces and back again.

The designation “midcentury,” coined in the 1980s by author Cara Greenberg, often signals post-WWII through 1960s architecture and furnishings, but some interpretations include late ’30s and early ’40s. The style incorporates the sleek designs of renowned California architect Joseph Eichler, which tied indoors to the out-of-doors.

The Tresidders wanted those clean lines, so they moved and removed walls to open up their conjoined living room, dining room and kitchen. An original bedroom became Todd’s new soundproof office (the better to think and write, as well as record podcasts in a closet-cum-studio). A 500-square-foot master suite became the topper, heralding views to mountains and sky.

Kitchen before

Todd, a tall, “big-picture guy,” sketched the first drawings for engineers to formalize. The finished plans included minimum 9-foot ceilings, generous windows, new plumbing, plus new wiring throughout. The house is poised for evolving technologies. All that planning paid off, but still, discoveries made during construction necessitated adjustments and decisions. Some were happy ones: The original house, typical of its time, contained oil heating. In a lucky stroke during the conversion to natural gas, environmental remediation funds subsidized the old tank’s removal. Of course luck only gets you so far.

Kitchen After

Pulling apart a house that was this old, says Katherine, also made for non-stop challenges, such as those delivered by the record winter of 2016, when water found its way into the basement. “We had to deal with it,” says Todd, “but actually it was a gift.” The leak allowed them to modify the property’s drainage, seal the basement walls, and replace a rotted front stoop before building out that level’s bedrooms, office, laundry, and storage. “Everything had to be redirected and reworked to protect the house,” he says.

When opening wallboard for electrical upgrades, the contractor also discovered that outer walls lacked insulation. “Zero zero zero,” says Katherine. Subsequently, walls were expanded with 4×6-inch studs to accommodate super-insulation. A single air conditioning/heating unit now serves all floors via one smart thermostat.

Another challenge was an extraneous wall from a previous remodel. Eliminating that one and shifting the boundary outward allowed for the addition of windows large enough to naturally light the dining area, two staircases, and portions of the kitchen and living room.

In fact, success comes with knowing what you want, then being flexible, which helped establish and maintain the relationship the couple had with Ryan Built Construction. “We still like them and [Ryan] still likes us,” says Todd. “We had a great team,” adds Katherine.

She admits she never pined to build a house or remodel one, but ended up being the detail person, and worked closely with designers at Hedwig & Ludman Interiors. The result is a blend of modern, midcentury and classic touches.

New windows allow more natural light.

Now, Katherine glances around the inviting interior, perfect for a family gathering, a dinner party, or just sitting back to contemplate the slant of light through the yard’s leafy trees. “I love this house,” she says. “It just works.”