Specs logo

Design Trends

Meet the Kramers: Modernist Moguls

Meet Rochelle and Doug Kramer, realtors specializing in midcentury, ranch and modern real estate. With interest trending in midcentury design (see our recent posting of Simply A Renaissance 2013, Simply Revival), we spoke with the Kramers on how they cornered this market of real estate.
 
Background
Recognizing a love of design and feeling the need for a career change, Doug, who already had a love of midcentury design and owned a Cliff May home, decided to pursue a real estate career. He loved the open floor plan of his dwelling, the “James Bond” aesthetic, but it wasn’t until he and Rochelle came across a book that included a photograph of a home in their neighborhood, that they recognized the historical significance of their home. Rochelle explains, “We contacted the home owners to find out more about Cliff May and the history of our Long Beach neighborhood, and finding more about our home touched off ideas of creating a niche market in real estate.”
 
Rochelle, who has a background in graphic design, joined Doug in real estate a couple years later and developed their four web and blog sites, the first being ranchostyle.com, their real estate website dedicated to marketing ranch style homes for buyers and sellers. Rochelle reveals, “Living in our Long Beach neighborhood where Cliff May homes are prevalent has provided an easy network of neighbor contacts and information-gathering, all assisting in highlighting the beauty and history of the ranch-style home.”
 
  
 
Selling Modernism
To capture the attention of buyers and sellers, the websites have become key selling tools for Rochelle and Doug. “We realize that our customers are looking beyond the vanilla, and will get to our listings when they start looking for homes with modern elements,” says Rochelle. “Websites and social media have greatly helped in standing out against the competition by reaching a broader range of people, even outside the US.” The monthly traffic to their four websites averages upwards of 22,000 a month, and are from as far away as India. This has helped to keep their real estate business brisk while the general real estate market is still faltering.
 
The Social Connection
Here are the four websites that the Kramer’s developed and maintain for design enthusiasts.


SoCalModern.com   – Midcentury Modern Architecture & Homes for Sale
 SoCal Modern is a destination website for anyone interested in midcentury modern homes. With upwards of 13,000 unique visitors a month, SoCalModern.com has a growing fan base and a Facebook page to boot. The website features our own listings plus a curated set of modern homes for sale in Los Angeles and Orange Counties.

LagunaModern.com  – Contemporary & Modern Architecture in Laguna Beach  Laguna Beach and the south Orange County coastline features impressive architectural homes, from midcentury modern designs by Chris Abel, Lamont Langworthy and the great John Lautner, to contemporary designs by active architects such as Horst Noppenberger and Mark Singer. LagunaModern.com pays tribute to the unique modern and contemporary architecture of this region and curates listings of homes for sale. 

RanchoStyle.com   – Cliff May Ranch Style Homes for Sale
 This website showcases the Cliff May designed ranch homes in Long Beach, California. There is an extensive photo gallery as well as featured listings of homes for sale. Resource material about Cliff May is prominently displayed.
 
CalBungalow.com  – Bungalow and Craftsman Architecture
 Cal Bungalow focuses on bungalow and Craftsman architecture in Los Angeles and Orange County. Along with featured listings the site aggregates the best bungalow and Craftsman homes for sale in all price ranges. Cal Bungalow is also on Facebook.
 
 
 

So who’s buying?
According to Rochelle and Doug, the typical buyer of a modern or midcentury modern home is in their 30s-40s and typically in their second or third home. However, there are many first time buyers who would love to own this style of home and the Kramers represent these firsttime buyers as well. 

Also, collectors of midcentury homes and décor are always interested, sometimes having all the home décor and even dressing the part, with the last part of the puzzle being the purchase of a midcentury gem to complete the lifestyle. “In terms of trends we are finding that buyers are craving an indoor/outdoor connection and either a clean, modern style (Dwell-like interpretation) or completely original (Atomic Ranch interpretation). They would rather live in a smaller home with style than in a larger, newer home that feels relatively boxy.
 
 
 
 
Trend-wise we are seeing that many buyers are savvy when it comes to design. They have a vision for how they want to live. They often have modern furniture and art and are looking for the right home to call their own. The design of outdoor spaces is increasingly important since most affordable, midcentury modern homes are small. The same is true for bungalow style homes of the 1920s and 30s.” 

Designers take note, according to the Kramers, buyers are willing to pay top dollar for these modern elements: Polished concrete, wood or cork flooring rather than laminate, carpet or tile floors. Even natural stone such as slate and travertine is not desirable; Flat front European style cabinetry over raised panel or molded doors;  Birch, maple and walnut over cherry and oak;  Quartz, such as Casaerstone, countertops rather than granite, Corian or tile; and Chrome and satin chrome hardware over bronze, brass and nickel.
 
Yet, when helping buyers, location and pricing can be another challenge as Rochelle unveils, “Unfortunately for buyers there is not a lot of modern architecture to choose from. Price range plays the biggest factor for buyers wanting these architectural styles. Price will determine locations where homes might be found. Over $1 million buyers will find modern homes scattered throughout LA and Orange County. Under $700,000, which is the majority of buyers, modern homes are mostly relegated to just a few tracts: the Eichler tracts in Orange and in the SF Valley, and the Cliff May tract in Long Beach.”
 
 
 

A Love of Design
Selling to this niche market also requires Rochelle and Doug to be in-the-know on design trends. Catching up with them at the Dwell on Design Show, I asked them to describe the top trends they found at the show, Rochelle describes,  “Color is big. Kohler has a new line of porcelain fixtures in candy colored hues. I often advise my clients to try and work with original fixtures like the blue bathtubs that are original in the 1950s Cliff May homes. Augmenting original pieces with new ones is a great way to honor the past and still achieve great design with modern conveniences. 
 
There was a great variety of outdoor design products from planters to concrete pavers, teak tiles, furniture and fire features. Many in sustainable or recycled materials. Teak tiles are a favorite of mine. They provide a clever way to define an outdoor space and a cosmetic cover-up solution for cracked and tired looking concrete.”
 
The recent exhibition at University of California, Santa Barbara for Cliff May architecture brought more attention to the ranch and midcentury lifestyles, and the Kramers closer to their design dreams. This appreciation of simplistic design, meaningful beauty in uncluttered and sustainable forms, is confirming a very bright future for these two.
  
To contact or find out more about Rochelle and Doug Kramer, go to www.socalmodern.com, www.ranchostyle.com , www.calbungalow.com , or www.lagunamodern.com

All photography courtesy and permission of Rochelle and Doug Kramer