Wednesday, July 25th, 2012 Children pay tribute to their parents’ legacy as modern design pioneers

A Mid-Century Modern Gem in Spokane


Posted by Becky | View all posts by Becky
8 Comments » | Published in Architecture, Mid-century Modern, modern inspiration, Preserving Modern Architecture  |  8 Comments

I recently had the pleasure of talking with Sam Ferris (whom I connected with via iittala products) about the incredible home where he grew up in Spokane, Washington. Ferris’s parents, Mary Jean and Joel Ferris, owned a home accessories, art and furniture store in Spokane back in the 1950s, and it was a hub of mid-century design right at the height of the movement.

After having a little trouble getting neighbor approval for the type of modern house they wanted to build and live in, a family member hooked them up with some property that had been in the family since the early 1900s, and they hired on-the-rise, local modern architect Bruce Walker to build them their dream house.

The Ferrises were passionate about nurturing designers and promoting modern architecture and design, and they lived and worked to spread the word. “There were very few modern houses in Spokane back then, and sometimes my friends would tease me that my house looked like a post office!” says Sam Ferris. “The privilege of growing up in this house impacted the way I see the world.”

Since the passing of their parents, the Ferris children have preserved their legacy by fixing the house up, preserving it and documenting the story of the house on a website called Spokane MidCentury. They attained historic landmark status in Spokane, which will preserve the integrity of the architecture. It is one of only two modern houses locally to achieve this status. They are also applying for National Landmark Status for the home.

“The house and yard are too big for any of us, so we are ready to pass it on,” says Ferris. “It was such a gift to have this house in the family for so long; we want to leave it in great condition for an active family to enjoy.”

The Ferrises were the first store to carry work by artist Harold Balazs who created the bronze sculptural piece on the left. Balazs went on to do many large public art projects and is just one example of the couples’ passion for nurturing designers. “Balazs was kind enough to come by the house late last year and re-attach 2 pieces of the screen.  My parents enjoyed having parties and well . . . these things happen,” says Ferris. “HB is in his eighties now but still has very happy memories of the people who believed in him as a gifted artist in his early twenties.”

Ferris’s parents were pioneers whose tastes were influential all over the Northwest, and their children have done an exquisite job of paying tribute to them via their care for this home. “The house is timeless, and so is the positive energy my parents sent out to the world in their life’s work,” he says. Thanks so much to Sam Ferris for sharing all this positive energy with us!

Photography by J. Craig Sweat Photography Inc.

About Becky:
Hi, I'm Becky. I live in Atlanta. Besides acting as the Editorial Director here on Hatch, you can find me talking design over at Houzz. Make me happy — leave a comment!

About Becky

has written 1620 post in this blog.

Hi, I'm Becky. I live in Atlanta. Besides acting as the Editorial Director here on Hatch, you can find me talking design over at Houzz. Make me happy — leave a comment!



  1. Rose says:

    July 26th, 2012 at 7:41 am (#)

    I’ve been in Spokane less than a decade so for me Joel Ferris calls to mind Ferris High School. I had no idea of the man or story behind the name. This house is amazing. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Charles says:

    July 30th, 2012 at 12:05 pm (#)

    I’m curious how many square feet this house is. By looking at the outside it doesn’t look that big, but the wide angle lenses used in side make it look huge. Certainly a nice place though.

  3. Jenny Steelquist says:

    July 31st, 2012 at 8:33 am (#)

    I live in Washington state, so the Spokane home caught my attention. It is a beauty. Next time we are in Eastern Washington, we’ll try a drive-by look.

    You might also be interested in a former home, another midcentury beauty, that now houses an art museum dedicated to modern art on the other side of the state, in Port Angeles.

    The home was designed by Paul Hayden Kirk and built in 1951. Its circular form takes the best advantage of its site atop a hill with sweeping views of the city, harbor, Strait of Juan de Fuca, and in the distance, Victoria, British Colombia, Canada.

    The gift of former newspaper owner, Esther Webster, includes 5 acres of woods that bloom with art installed through the “Art Outside” program.

    The Port Angeles Fine Arts Center has been valiantly bringing modern art thoughtfully to the community and school children for more than 25 years. As a teacher I have brought hundreds of high school art students to exhibits that truly changed their outlook and opened their minds to design and art, in this small working class town in the upper left hand corner of the country.


  4. Becky says:

    August 2nd, 2012 at 5:46 am (#)

    Hi Rose, yes, the school is related; Sam Ferris says “Joel E. Ferris High School was actually named after the Uncle of Joel E. Ferris, ll. Both men were very involved in Spokane civic affairs. It was Uncle Joel who gave the property the house sits on to his nephew (my father).”

    Charles, I am not sure but I do know that several additions were added as their needs changed. I believe the blog has a plan on it that can give you a better idea.

    Jenny, thanks so much, I am off to go check out your links!


  5. Becky says:

    August 2nd, 2012 at 5:47 am (#)

    Oops Charles, I just realized I had another email from Sam Ferris in my box regarding the size:

    Answer = 2,641 square feet on the ground floor + 1,344 square feet in the basement

  6. Alex Biggs says:

    January 15th, 2013 at 8:01 pm (#)

    Ferris House

    I have been in this house many times. The location is very secluded on the famous Spokane South Hill and the home is unique and wonderfully designed. Very fortunate for any one who might have opportunity to purchase this home. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Monica says:

    June 14th, 2014 at 8:04 pm (#)

    Reminds me of our Hollingsworth home. We are in vancouver B.C.


  8. Magic Lantern Theatre says:

    July 30th, 2014 at 7:26 pm (#)

    Good heavens, thank you so much for posting this! It’s going to be so helpful when I am thinking about going to Magic Lantern Theatre in Spokane! I am from Vancouver so I am not familiar with Spokane. Next time I visit my family will be much better! Marvelous!

Leave a Response