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.