architourism part VI 

Sometimes, you just have to see what you have to see.  While on our road trip East over the Summer, I decided it would really not be all that much out of the way while heading home to casually drive through New Caanan, CT.  I've been entranced by Philip Johnson's Glass House since I was a kid.  I used to draw pictures of my own glass house creations.  I simply could not be that close to "the house" and not stop by for a look, right?  But as it turns out, we drove through on a Sunday morning, and there were no tours planned.  To top that off, the 'welcome center' is no where near the actual house.  But thanks to some on the fly google searching and our GPS, we found it!  Well, we found a massive (and ancient looking) stone wall that seemed like it was miles long, and by some strange act of fate, stopped our car at the exact point where the house was.  Thanks to Kirsten (and her Cross Fit training), she climbed up on the wall for a better look, and got some pretty cool stalker-esque photos! 


 kirsten on the wall


another modern house across the street from the glass housemore information on the glass house

and philip johnson


architourism, part V

I’m no architecture critic.  But I am, by nature, critical of architecture.  I can’t help it.  Our latest in a series of mid distance road trips took us to Boston via Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.  With no real knowledge of the Falls area and no expectations, we were pleasantly surprised to find the second most striking attraction in the area to be the midcentury modern Skylon Tower. 

Photo taken on the American side, with the striking Skylon Tower in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada in the background. It was designed by Bregman + Hamann Architects and completed in 1965. Look closely and you can see the external 'yellow bug' elevator beginning its ascent.

This tower, soaring 700+ feet above the falls, is a raving beauty from the exterior.  I’m a sucker for shapes (Saarinen furniture, Jonathan Adler ceramics) and this one is super sexy, rising out of the landscape with grace, beauty, and a bit of Googie moxie.  Completed in 1965, it was a continuous concrete pour, round the clock, for 38 days (compared to UC’s Crosley Tower, the infamous brutalist campus building, which was completed in 1969 with an 18 day continuous pour)!  That’s 6,000 cubic yards of concrete, folks!  The tapered shape of the tower required reducing the size of the slip form as it was inched upward, a precise operation that had not been previously attempted.  

yikes! brass boob lights as far as the eye can see......every single thing added to this building since its construction in 1965 is inappropriate. luckily, lots of the original yummy details are still intact!

Imagine my horror to enter into the building through the game arcade level to find the entire base floor under an endless canopy of brass boob lights!  Was the entire building similarly defaced? If this mish-mosh level of 80’s/90’s mediocrity and seemingly lack of maintenance was any indication, hopes were not high.  As we stepped into the ‘yellow bug’ elevator pod that raced up the exterior of this edifice, I was heartened to see that it was pretty darn original.  When the doors burst open onto the restaurant level, we were greeted with beautiful diamond patterned wood inlay on the walls, and subtle recessed lights on the curving ceiling as if it were still 1965.  Did they actually have the forethought to leave well enough alone?  The buffet dinner was surprisingly good.  The views were breathtaking. 

original wood inlay walls in the Summit Suite Buffet Dining Room

cool vintage detail in an office area on the way to the women's washroom in the Summit View Restaurant

original terrazzo floor detail on the base level of the Skylon Tower.

daughters tenley and kirsten take in the view of the falls from the summit view dining room.

One floor up from the restaurant level is the 360 degree indoor/outdoor observation deck.  The sunset view of the falls was stunning.  You could even see the Toronto skyline way in the distance.  The center of this level was the ubiquitous campy gift shop.  It was like stepping back in time to 1965.  Exactly what I would have hoped for.  The journey back down in the yellow bug was just as awe inspiring.  But the real treat was walking away and looking back to see the colored lights shooting up the exterior in the now dark night sky.  The trap worked on this tourist!  

 view of the falls from the Skylon Tower - with shadow of the tower!

view from the observation deck of the Skylon Tower. photo by tenley rissover

view from the observation deck of the Skylon Tower. photo by tenley rissover

view from the observation deck of the Skylon Tower. photo by tenley rissover

view from the observation deck of the Skylon Tower. photo by tenley rissoverclick on image below for a short 20 second video 

the Skylon Tower at night

the clan on vacation - sid tobias, tenley, susan, arlen + kirsten rissover. that clunky tower like building in the background is NOT the Skylon Tower!


see these other installments in our architourism series: 

it's miller time!

day trippin'

mcm architecture geeks invade columbus, in

a funny thing happened on the way to a swim meet

the farnsworth experience

more architourism


late spring market update

our newest listing in Clifton - multiple offers and pending in 3 days!

Apologies for not blogging more frequently this Spring, but we have been BUSY!  Spring is always our busy season and this year is no exception.  What’s different is this year it is busy with an unprecedented sense of urgency.  This is what we are experiencing: Inventory in the Cincinnati is still at a very low point.  There are (finally) more buyers than sellers in the market.  Lots of good, qualified buyers!  IF a new listing is in good (great) condition, in a desirable area, is priced properly, and is in that sweet spot price wise (say, under $450,000), it is most likely selling very quickly, generating multiple offers from buyers.  

This is very good news for sellers, and can be good for buyers, too if you follow our advice. 


  • Sellers, get your homes in tip top condition.  Take care of any deferred maintenance items, and look critically at the house as if you would be buying it. 
  • Pay close attention to ‘summer details’ like landscaping, curb appeal and front entry.  Buyers will make an emotional connection with your home almost immediately.  Put your best foot forward.  Don’t count on buyers to have vision for what it could be.
  • Most importantly, price your home appropriately.  Prices have been slow to recover, mainly because of the appraisal system.  Every sale is tied to a prior comparable sale.  It’s all about the lender’s risk.  Just because there are multiple bidders for a property, does not mean that it is automatically worth more.  An appraiser must know that there are comparable closed sales in that price range.  Gone are the days of pricing homes 10% too high thinking that buyers need to get a perceived ‘bargain’ (not that we ever did this, but it was common practice).  IF we work together to price a house appropriately, you stand a much better chance of: selling quickly, for very close to or above asking price, and generating multiple offers. 



  • First and foremost, have your pre approval in order!  Don’t even begin looking at houses until you have talked to a lender and know what you are qualified for.  This market is moving lightening fast!  Many homes are going pending within hours of listing.  We cannot over emphasize that there is NO TIME to try to get your pre approval in time once you have seen a house that you love.  Do it now.  Not only does any offer that you write on a property require a pre approval, you need to know where you stand as well.  See our list of recommended lenders here.  We get NOTHING from recommending a lender other than knowing that you as our clients will get a great rate, be well taken care of, and that our lenders will bend over backwards to make sure your deal closes on time. 
  • See new listings the same day they are listed.  Homes are selling at record pace.  Cannot stress this enough!  Hence my comment above about the urgency….most of our Spring listings this year have sold within 2 days and in multiple offers. 
  • Put forth a well thought out and very strong initial offer.  Don’t assume that you can get a ‘deal.’  Chances are, you can’t, but interest rates are still very good, so in actuality, you ARE.  Many buyers out there right now have already lost out on something and they want what you want.  Limit contingencies, and be flexible.  Find out when the seller wants to move and write your offer accordingly. 
  • If you go into multiple offers, we have strategies that can and will help.  Ask us!  This kind of market works best with experienced agents on both sides of the transaction. 
  • Be flexible.  Look at areas that may not have originally be on your radar.  You may be pleasantly surprised AND have less competition for a great property.  

OK – that’s our best advice.  We’d love to be the agents to help you with your next transaction.  Ready, set, go!  



how this works

 the wyler house by carl strauss + ray roush. coming soon in clifton!

It came to our attention recently during a conversation with our millennial offspring that people really don’t know how the real estate business works or how we get paid.  So I thought I would use this opportunity to explain one of the strangest – and most misunderstood - professions!  

We don’t get paid to list houses or to show houses.  I don’t get paid to make all of those visual tours that get thousands of viewings each month.  The fancy custom brochures and web pages dedicated to each listing?  The cincinnatimodern website? Nope!

We don’t make a dime until we are with our clients at the closing table.  We (Realtors) are independent contractors.  We are not employees.  Local real estate brokers hold our licenses so we can sell properties through their brokerage.  We have to pay dues to our local, state and national Realtor associations, as well as our local MLS (so we can cooperate with other brokerages and have access to listings).  We also pay an annual fee to Supra so we can have the technology to access lockboxes.  We have to participate in 30 hours of continuing education – that we pay for – every 3 years to keep our licenses (which we also pay for) in the state of Ohio.  This is over and above the cost of the classes to become licensed in the first place (120 hrs of pre licensing classroom hours, licensing exam plus post licensing classes).

Commissions are paid to the BROKERS at closing and are paid by the SELLER.  It is up to the individual broker and the arrangement that they have with their agents (Realtors), what kind of split that agent receives.  So the commission that is collected at closing is actually split 4 ways (listing broker, selling broker, listing agent and selling agent).  Confusing, isn’t it?!

Basically the BUYER for the most part is the only party without obvious skin in the game (at least as far as agents getting paid).  But not really….the buyer holds all the cards to make sure their agent gets paid!  The buyer’s responsibility is actually twofold:

  1. To choose an agent who will work for them, who understands what they are looking for, who has their best interest in mind (see the Ohio Consumer Guide to Agency Relationships for a quick overview of agency),  who is knowledgeable of the market and the housing stock AND
  2. To show that agent the utmost loyalty.  Don’t just call the listing agent on a property because you don’t want to ‘bother’ your agent.  Or worse yet, go on a midnight bender and use the ‘contact agent’  or 'schedule a showing' link on Zillow or Trulia.  These leads don’t go to the listing agent OR your agent.  They go to agents who pay for the leads.   If your agent is working for you, stick with them!   But do feel free to go to Open Houses, because at open houses, other agents will honor agency relationships.  Just let the agent know that you are working with someone! 

Since the SELLER is basically paying all of the commissions, it is their responsibility to choose a listing agent who can represent their house the best way possible and give it the best possible web presence, and who is a skilled negotiator.  Over 90% of buyers search online for properties (2010 statistic from NAR – probably higher now!).  In our opinion, there is no excuse for choosing an agent who does not post photos with a new listing, post the maximum number of photos allowed (25 in the Cincy MLS), and take great quality photos.  It is your choice who you list with.  A top performing agent who knows how to properly market properties will always charge a market rate commission and will likely get you more for your listing than a cut rate agent.  Compare and choose the best!  It will pay off in the end! 

We LOVE what we do!  We love the clients, and the houses and our city.  We love the fact there is nothing routine about this business and that no two days are alike!  For us, it is worth the lack of job security and benefits because we are successful at what we do.  Occasionally a client will get confused about how this works and will not be loyal.   I hope this helps to clear the air, and educate those who just don't know.  And as always, we love feedback and referrals!  Thanks to all past, current, and future clients for a great 10 years of cincinnatimodern! 



another one bites the dust

this is the only 'before' picture we have of the house. to the left (not shown in pic) is a 3 car carport. the portion to the right is the split level bedroom wing.


I write of this with a heavy heart, and after a long day and a glass of wine.  The house that started my quest into Cincinnati Modern architecture was torn down today.  I knew it was coming.  The house was in terrible disrepair and suffering from what must have been an incurable mold infestation due to a horribly leaking (and collapsing) roof.  But I weep for the house that is was.  And for the original owners, who graciously invited me into their lives and their home when I started dating their best friends’ son, Arlen.   This house was built on a dream, for a young Jewish family who wanted to build their ideal house in Amberley Village (after first being denied permission to purchase a building lot because of deed restrictions against Jews).  Why they wanted to build here after such treatment, I have no idea.  But in 1960, they got their wish courtesy of avant garde architects Carl Strauss and Ray Roush, the architects to the movers and shakers in town, and a heavily Jewish and progressive clientele. 

The façade (shown in pic above) was private and somewhat modest, but the house was grand – a large entry foyer, with glass walls to front and rear and a ‘floating’ closet in the middle.  To the right of the entry, the house was a split level – master suite on the lower level, and 3 bedrooms on the upper.  The upper hallway was lined with closets and cabinets.  One even housing a mop sink for the housekeeper.  All of the bedrooms had sliding window walls to the rear of the 4 acre private heavily wooded lot. 

The main level of the house had a living room, dining room with private courtyard, HUGE family room and rec room, a large kitchen adjoining an equally large laundry room, and beyond that was a maid’s room and a full bath.  There was a 3 car carport and a full basketball court on the front motor court.  It was the stuff that dreams were made of. 

I was 18 when I met the owners and I enjoyed going to dinner with them and my (soon to be) in laws immensely.  As soon as I graduated college in 1984, they hired me to ‘help redecorate’ the bedrooms in this amazing house.  I was beyond thrilled to be able to work and spend time in the most amazing house I had ever known.  At the time I did not know who Carl Strauss was, but I knew he must be a genius!  But even then, the house had issues.  It had a particular musty type smell that came back to me full blast today when it was being torn down and the wind blew.  They had always battled the flat roof issue, and somewhere along the line, it got away from them. 

Eventually, the owners passed away and family members moved into the house.  Shortly thereafter, we actually bought the house behind it, and have been back yard neighbors for the past 16 years.  We helplessly watched the house deteriorate over the past several years.  It’s been vacant for the last 5 or so, and the house was condemned and ordered torn down last summer because water damage made it uninhabitable.   I don’t question why it was torn down.  But I will always wonder what could have been done to keep it from that awful fate.  I wish I had photos of what it was.  All I have are memories.  I’ll treasure the good ones.  


click here for a very sad video of the demolition

a modern tragedy

It once stood proud

It’s now in tatters

Is architecture all that matters?


Carl Strauss, Ray Roush, you built them all

You never intended to see them fall


If you love it, a house is a home

But watch out if you start to roam


Fifty years from start to finish

Wood, glass and stucco, hard to diminish


Yet there it is, so uncertain

Waiting for its final curtain


-Susan Rissover, March 26, 2012 (upon first viewing of the condition of this property)