As many of us have been more confined to our quarters than usual over the past pandemic year, the domestic sphere has taken on a new importance. Though a heightened awareness of our own living rooms may not be the kind of enlightenment we were seeking during this time of enforced contemplation, hope is at hand. The homes tour—that particularly North American ritual in which archiphiles take yearly excursions to gaze longingly at other people’s living rooms—has gone global and, increasingly, virtual. Now, access to gorgeous light-filled post-and-beam interiors boasting Eames chairs and Jacobsen love seats is available with the click of a mouse.
Forward-thinking art museums, like Canada’s West Vancouver Art Museum—a treasure trove of vulnerable midcentury modernism that the beloved institution actively champions—are making their home tours entirely virtual. By way of an hour-long film , you can now take in highlights including the 1972 Paul Merrick house, a stunning exercise in organic architecture comprising 16 different levels. A canvas for shifting patterns of shadow and light, its indoor-outdoor aesthetic blurs boundaries in a through-the-looking-glass way. From the same vantage point, Arthur Erickson’s 1972 Eppich House 1 renders West Coast post-and-beam architecture in concrete, a material he once called “the marble of our time.” Erickson’s own home—a converted garage—and his stunning Japanese-inspired garden are open for in-person tours and will soon be available as part of livestreamed visits.
Farther south, in California, the Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center’s official tour, which includes the Albert Frey House II, nestled into the San Jacinto Mountains and overlooking the city and the Coachella Valley, is run via Julius Shulman–expert Michael Stern’s Modern Tour. A hybrid of virtual and actual, the museum tour offers a seven-minute video of the Frey House that is the next best thing to being there. For more intrepid travelers, in-person, socially distanced tours for the fully vaccinated also include William Cody’s Glass House, the elegant 1967 residence with wall-to-wall floor-to-ceiling glass, as well as the Frederick Loewe (the composer of musicals like My Fair Lady and Camelot) estate that grew from a small midcentury cabin into a modernist masterpiece.
Meanwhile, the Modern Architecture and Design Society, an Austin–and–NYC–based business established in 2010 by architectural photographer James Leasure, showcases homes across the U.S. both virtually and actually. Virtual events are a hybrid of prefilmed/photographed content and live interaction via a 360˚interactive model that takes global viewers through the homes and enables them to ask questions of the architects. Tours focus on both midcentury modernism as well as more contemporary designs.
Down Under there appears to be great enthusiasm for the homes tour, with a number of virtual and actual events available, according to various levels of lockdown in different states and territories. Though the Sydney Living Museum’s 1950 Rose Seidler house remains closed until further notice, and their tour of iconic homes has been postponed indefinitely with no virtual options currently available, historian Stuart Symons’s Modernist Adelaide has upcoming walking tours of important midcentury houses, with ample videography of both on his site.
In Melbourne, DIY tours of the stylish Beaumaris district are recommended, as are visits to Robin Boyd’s Walsh Street house. Luckily for the mouse clickers in their living rooms, there are the 2020 Virtual Open Houses, which represent the best of Australian contemporary new builds, additions, extensions, and heritage restorations.