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cincinnatimodern's favorite things, part VI

our daughters performing their surprise version of the 'sisters number' from white christmas on christmas morning, 2014. best gift ever!

Holiday season is upon us, so it's time once again for our annual installment of our favorite things - gift ideas for modern design lovers! 

jonathan adler luggage from target  and

custom luggage tags


I am a Jonathan Adler junkie, so when I happened upon this luggage on the Target website (not sold in stores), and saw the green.......well, I just couldn't resist.  Good quality, great details.  And the price is unbeatable with Target specials and much of it on clearance right now.  Some coordinating custom luggage tags from Shutterfly (the conbinations are endless on their webiste if you are creative) and the price for these is unbeatable, too! 



interior/exterior sconce lighting 

Modern bling.  It's like jewelry for your house. An inexpensive facelift.  We just put one of these over our front door, and have another one on our 'wishlist' for our screened porch! Use LED bulbs, and save energy and $$, too! 

five crowns

My parents introduced us to this game a couple of years ago.  Fun group game and great way to spend time with friends and family.  It's fast paced, yet super easy.  Even my mom likes playing and she hates games.  And our kids always ask to play when they are home.  How cool is that?! 

harper pillow

This Charley Harper raccoon pillow is from kids' retailer Land of Nod (a division of Crate and Barrel), believe it or not!  Looks great on our living room couch.  Even our cat, Harper, approves!  Beautiful quality and craftsmanship and an absolute bargain (especially with one of their frequent promos like 15% off and or free shipping!).  The rest of the Land of Nod Harper collection is pretty amazing, too.  Check it out!  

hydro flask water bottle

We take cold water bottles very seriously in our house!  This one is great.  Keeps water ice cold in a hot car. Looks good sitting on the counter, too :)  I can't imagine anyone wouldn't like this! 

simplehuman LED mirror

I treated myself to one of these for my birthday this year and WOW!  Beautiful design and hands free LED lighting.  A charge seems to last forever, too.  Looks great on our vintage bath vanity.  It's available all over, but I found Container Store with their frequent coupons and promos to be the best deal.  Expensive, but a nice luxury item.  

cuban coffee maker 

We got hooked on Cuban coffee when our daughter moved to Miami.  It's everywhere down there, and it's good and cheap.  The actual coffee (Cafe Bustelo) is available locally for ~$3.50 a brick at Meijer and Kroger.  There are many versions of this simple device (which is actually a stove top espresso maker), like the Bialetti available at Crate and Barrel or this cooler looking one from the IMA.  But with the cheap form follows function one from Amazon (which we have and works great), you can make up a Cuban Coffee gift basket for the coffee lover on your list for under $15! 

modern ornament tree

I picked this up years ago at Crate and Barrel's after Christmas sale.  It's the perfect way to display our heirloom signed Harper ornaments which are too precious to risk hanging on a tree!  It's back at C&B by popular demand.  And available in two sizes and now in copper, too!  

snapPower guidelights 

I first saw this gadget on a facebook sponsored post, and ordered them on a whim.  Great subtle and modern nightlights.  Super easy to install.  Modern and simple.  A great gift, because no one knows that they need these until you give them to them! 

fused glass tray

Our friend Amy is an incredible glass artist and offers a plethora of quirky and fun gifts as well as custom orders like this small fused glass tray that I ordered for my bff Jenny.  Yes, that's us early in our sales careers, peddling bugs on her driveway.  How could you not want to immortalize this moment?! 

archidoodle book

Great gift for the doodler and wannabe architect in your life of any age.  Suitable for kids and adults to let their creativity flow and learn a few things while they are at it.  

That's it for this year!  check out our previous lists from 201120122013 ,2014, and 2015 for many more modern classics!

And don't forget to shop local:




Many of you have asked, so even though we are frustratingly not ‘done,’ I wanted to provide an update on the #presslerhouseproject, the process of breathing new life into the exterior of our 60 year old Midcentury Modern home.  The concrete portion of the project was finished in 19 days.  The crew at Ed Bryant Construction did an excellent job in realizing the vision of #chrismageearchitect.  We have now begun the intricate dance steps of the ‘reconstruction’ phase of the project.  Between the bobcat and the insane amount of fill dirt needed to level the garage and patio slabs, our lawn (such as it was) was completely destroyed.  They left us with a lovely icing of top soil, so after some research on seeding lawns, we headed over to Newtown Feed & Seed to stock up on shade seed (for the back) and all purpose seed (for the side and front).  Somewhere along the way, we lost sight of what this project started as - a landscape project.  The hardscape is lovely, but the landscaping is what will tie it all together.  So before seeding, Arlen defined the planting beds around the floating steps and cut in a little round bed for a pink dogwood tree that will be nicely visible from the kitchen window.  


Determining the ‘dance steps,’ with winter right around the corner, has been a challenge.  Once the planting beds were defined and the grass seed planted, we had to keep the seed well watered through a 10 day dry spell.  That meant  dragging sprinklers around and creating a whole lot more mud in the process!  It also meant that we can not walk on the lawn areas at all.  So no wheelbarrows of rock, and we were limited to planting the minimal amount of plants that we could find this late in the Fall season.  The rest  of the plants and the accent rocks will have to wait until spring.  

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the project was emptying our garage onto the covered portion of our brand new patio so the new garage slab could be poured.  The new garage walls are being constructed now, and once the interior of the garage is painted, we can move the garage contents back in and seal the new aggregate concrete patio.  See what I mean about sequencing?!

And of course, there is Mother Nature and her agenda.  We are experiencing a bumper crop of both black walnuts and acorns this year, along with our yearly mega onslaught of leaves.  As they warned us on the day they finished the concrete work, wet leaves and black walnuts will stain the fresh concrete, especially before it is sealed.  And it can’t be sealed for 4-6 weeks.  And how do you seal a massive concrete job when mega oak trees are dropping their bounty?!  Arghh!!  

Next up yet this Fall is finishing the reconstruction of the garage, painting the exterior of the house, and hopefully getting a coat of sealer on the exposed aggregate if not all of the new concrete.  Additional landscaping, rockscaping and screened porch improvements will have to wait until Spring.  Here are some progress photos from various stages along the way.  



the mod squad

the cincinnatimodern team - david g. smith, susan rissover and arlen rissover in front of the corbett house | cincinnati, ohio

In the real estate world, there is a relatively new phenomenon of real estate teams.  Groups of agents who work together under a common umbrella.  We are pleased to announce that, thanks to all of you, Cincinnatimodern has grown so much that it was time to add an associate agent to the team.  Many of you in Cincinnati modern circles may already know David Smith as owner of Designsmith Gallery, or as long time board member of cf3 (Cincinnati Form Follows Function).  You can teach someone real estate, but you can’t teach modern.  And you really can’t teach good taste.  Luckily, taste and modern are second nature to David.  He gets ‘it,’ just like we all do and we are so glad to have him on board as a licensed agent!  

Some real estate teams have buyers agents, and listing agents, and transaction coordinators.  Our team works a little differently.  David will handle his own clients - both buyers and sellers, just like Arlen and I will continue to do (although sometimes we will list jointly).  But David will be available to help us out when we are out of town (and vise versa).  It’s been difficult to travel as a married real estate team, with no one home to ‘watch the shop.’  This addition should add greater flexibility all around, while still letting us do the relationship based and referral business that we love.  

David has been a resident of OTR for nearly 20 years.  He has a great knowledge of downtown and urban neighborhoods, tapping into the rental and commercial markets as well as residential.  He also is a great resource for clients looking to downsize since he has had 30 years combined education and professional experience with particular emphasis and skill in matching client needs/lifestyles, design choices, and the efficient, expedient disposition of furnishings with an eye to maximizing return including estate situations.

We hope you join us in welcoming David to the team and consider contacting him for your real estate needs.  You can’t go wrong with a team with this much modern experience!   

David G. Smith

  • Bachelor of Science in Design - University of Cincinnati DAAP (College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning)
  • Interior Design and Architectural History professional experience and education
  • Midcentury Modern expertise in the area of architecture, design including interiors, furnishings and decorative arts
  • 20 years experience buying/selling furnishings and decorative arts  

if you give a mouse a cookie……

part 2 - progress

4:02 a.m.

Day 13 of the #presslerhouseproject

I’m not sleeping well.  My head is spinning with plans and questions and what-ifs (and second guessing what we are spending on all of this…).  What started as a back yard improvement project has turned into a comprehensive major rehab of our entire exterior hardscape.  When we bought this house 19 years ago, we liked the house and loved the neighborhood.  In raising our 3 kids here, we quickly realized that this house is truly something special.  The interior layout is extremely livable and after some aesthetic tweaks, all we could have ever wanted in a modern home.  It’s a one-off home, so you have to take my word for it.  I’ve been in thousands of homes in my 13 years in real estate.  None have ever tempted me to move.  That says a lot.  It’s not the biggest or the best, but it’s perfect for us.  Except the yard, which had no where to go but up, and where this story continues……

 day 1 - demo just about complete. the orange string to the left is the final elevation of the patio. we need some fill!

What we have learned so far:

  • I hate MUD! 
  • Hire an architect!  It will be money well spent. Poor #chrismageearchitect is getting several calls a day from us and the contractors.  Not only did he come up with a killer plan that we mere mortals could never have imagined, he is both the answer man and the voice of reason.  The contractors appreciate having the plan to follow with the details in place.  As it all comes together, it’s very exciting to see 2D come to life in 3D.  
  • Hire a great contractor.  Ed Bryant Construction came very highly recommended.  We’ve seen his work, and he was well worth waiting for.  We were in the queue all Summer.  His crew is hard working, conscientious, and best of all, they are perfectionists! 
  • If you give a mouse a cookie…….he’s going to want a glass of milk.  We read that book to our kids hundreds of times.  But that’s what this project has been.  As long as you are doing this, why not do one more thing……
  • The economy of scale.  Along those same lines, it truly is less expensive and makes sense to do some things together.  After we agreed on a price for the majority of the project, Ed gave us a great price to finish it off and do the driveway as well.  And since we are already so torn up, it seemed like a great idea to get it done.  (Until they tore up the old driveway yesterday in the rain  - see ‘I hate MUD’ above)
  • Construction is messy and LOUD!  It’s kinda fun to see the bobcat bopping around the yard, but the constant stream of dump trucks and cement mixers is getting old.  So is the mud (see above) and the noise!  The cats are enjoying watching the workers, but are not too happy about the big trucks.  
  • An old house is never ‘square,’ and it takes a lot of fill to make things level! 
  • No matter how well planned, you have to make split second decisions along the way.  See above. Again, so glad we had #chrismageearchitect to help with this.  
  • It’s a helluva lot of work to build retaining walls.
  • Good drainage is exciting and awesome!  Through this we have had the opportunity to run new underground downspout lines.  And we are getting a new driveway drain.  If you have ever had an old drain line back up, you would understand our excitement! 
  • People who work out in the elements every day are completely badass and have our utmost respect!
  • It’s really fun to see progress at the end of the day.  Below are some photos of the ongoing work. 


laying out the new patio. hard to see in this pic, but the orange line indicates how far the ground needs to be built up to make it level.

getting ready for the new retaining walls and downspout lines. The a/c was hung on the house in preparation. The block screen wall saved!

patio prep work. the porch stairway has been temporarily removed and new solid cedar 8x8 porch supports added as well as another new downspout line

footers poured for the new retaining walls and original block screen wall securely in place!

our elderly asphalt drive is really taking a beating with all the heavy trucks......to replace now or later?

our first weekend with the new patio - well, the finished fire pit and the compacted base. could not resist a few tiki drinks with neighbors.......

forming the retaining walls along the bedroom wing

the patio is poured and beautiful native stone aggregate finish exposed.

the process of exposing the aggregate.

problem of the day - laying out a perfect grid pattern when the house is not perfectly square.

view from the living room of the freshly cut expansion joint grid pattern on the patio

the mismatched t-111 siding on the garage (left), and the original 9" redwood tongue and groove siding on the house (right). you can also see here how the blacktop drive goes right into the garage. time to finally make it right!!

we originally had a two car garage (right) and one car carport (left). the garage walls being removed in preparation for the new concrete slab floor! (of course we had to completely empty the garage, too. but that's another story. the garage walls will be rebuilt with tongue and groove fir siding to better match the existing redwood.

interesting look at the house with the garage stripped down into a 3 car 'carport.' a little out of proportion., but interesting nonetheless. might be good for families without junk, but that's not us!

side view with the stripped down garage. this side will have paths and steps to connect front to back.

the other side of the house - with new steps formed and ready for the concrete pour.

....and we bit the bullet. old driveway out!

we're having trouble containing our excitement over our sexy new concrete garage floor!! no more kick stands sinking in asphalt, y'all!

more of my favorite - MUD - as we prepare for the new driveway. yay!


middle aged face lift

 part 1 - the problem and the solution

the ambitious masterplan devised by architect Chris Magee to connect front to back, create a large entertaining space, and enhance the garage and carport.

Our house turned 60 this year!  Hard to believe ‘futuristic’ Midcentury Modern homes are 50 - 70 years old, and like the rest of the baby boomer generation, they are showing their age and are often requiring more than just routine maintenance.  Some items in midcentury homes (like ceramic tile and Formica counters) hold up remarkably well.  Other items, like roofs and exterior retaining walls, not so much.  Original appliances are few and far between these days, and seeing an original furnace or boiler is an even rarer sight.  And don’t even get me started on midcentury electrical issues (no GFCI outlets, Federal Pacific electric panels, fuse boxes), which are all easily remedied and certainly worthwhile improvements.   At least we know exactly what to expect and can counsel our buyers and sellers accordingly.  But time marches on….and sometimes bigger issues need attention, which can present the opportunity to kick it up a few notches. 

 side view of house. adding a path to get from the front yard to the back yard is a priority. so the pine tree will have to go, as does the 45 year old air conditioner.

Our current home of 19 years is our 3rd midcentury home.  In our 30 years of MCM home ownership, we feel like we have personally experienced it all.  But we are embarking on our biggest project to date - removing our 60 year old loose laid paver block patio, cement block retaining wall, and some old cruddy brick steps and giving our house the back yard entertaining space that it needs (and deserves).  We are following our own advice, and doing an improvement that we can actually enjoy while we live in our house, instead of improving to sell.  


currently there is no easy way to get from the front of the house to the back yard, making entertaining in back extremely difficult (hence our propensity for 'driveway parties' ) 

But like any good project, one thing has lead to another (if you give a mouse a cookie…..).  First thing we did when we decided to move forward was to hire an architect to mastermind the plan.  We have worked with Chris Magee in the past (fireplace renovation, front steps/entry and carport addition) and knew he was the one to tie all of these projects and the new project together with a comprehensive plan.   The huge rainstorms of a few weeks ago tipped us off that we had issues with 3 of our buried downspout lines, luckily in time to remedy within the scope of our project.  And then there is the matter of our garage and driveway.  Do we take this opportunity to improve these as well?  It's all in the master plan!  

 original paver blocks have held up well for 60 years, but don't do the back yard justice. 

we can't grow much in our shady back yard - except moss grows extremely well on the old, porous pavers. this photo is from May 2016.

and this photo was taken in september '16. the moss grows out of control!

part of what led to this project is this old block retaining wall started collapsing over the winter. The original screen block wall will be saved at all costs! but the current retaining wall will be replaced with a simple poured concrete wall. we hope to be able to re-use the extra screen blocks elsewhere in the project, but they are more fragile than we originally thought.

the other side of the house also lacked an adequate connection to the back, so this area will be addressed as well.

Today was day #1 of construction.  Or should I say demolition.  Here are before pics and Chris’ masterplan.  I will post project updates here and on  Facebook  and instagram if you want to follow the progress.  Ultimate goal: a great space to entertain and serve tiki drinks!  These baby boomers need a place to chill :)