Livingston Bandemer/Mirsky Home Tour

Livingston Bandemer/Mirsky Home Tour

August 14th at 1 PM, 2 PM, and 3 PM. This is one of several homes designed by architect James Livingston in the Arbor Hills neighborhood. It is newly restored by John and Renate Mirsky and recently featured on a tour during the national Docomomo convention, which explored modern architecture in the Detroit area. Tickets can be purchased at


When John and Renate Mirsky were searching for a new home, they were not specifically looking for a mid-century modern one, but “spotting the listing in an emailing, I immediately recognized that the house fulfilled all of our priority wants,” remembers John. Their wish list included large windows to let in the sun, an open floor plan, and room for a garden.

The home was built in 1956 for William and Mary Bandemer. William was vice president of King Seeley and a Republican city council member from 1960-1964. Before marriage, Mary had been secretary to long-time mayor William Brown. The house was designed by James Livingston, who at the same time did one next door for Mary’s older sister, Margaret, and her husband Paul Greene. The two houses share a driveway and are both MCM but are quite different, although they share some traits like cove lighting and the same woodwork inside.

When Livingston designed the Mirskys’ house he was in his mid-thirties and moonlighting from his day job working for architect Walter Anicka. Joining with Bob Chase, another Anika employee, they worked evenings and weekends on their own projects. According to Chase, Livingston was the driving force, making the initial contacts and finding out what the clients wanted. Livingston clearly didn’t do cookie cutter houses, as reflected by the two sisters’ houses, but his designs were always modern. “All of Livingston’s houses were contemporary, with lots of daylight. He did nothing old-fashioned, he wouldn’t waste his time,” says Chase, adding “It was a lot of fun working with him, he was so imaginative.” Livingston went on to start his own firm and work on larger projects including the Bell Tower Hotel, Webers, Lawton school, and Maynard house. He is best remembered as the architect of Lurie Terrace, a pioneering project to house active seniors.

John and Renate moved in the summer of 2015 after spending a year and a half working on the house. They kept the original materials whenever possible or, if not, by using compatible replacements. They refinished all the woodwork and cleaned the metal hardware used throughout the house which often entailed taking things apart. Keeping an open feeling they have furnished the house with MCM furniture such as Herman Miller, Saarinen, and Eames. At the same time as meticulously keeping the Mid Century Modern ambience,they have made the house more energy efficient with a geothermal furnace, tripled glazed windows, andinsulation above the ceiling and in the crawl space.

Enthusiastic gardeners, they are using the original landscape plans by Edward Eichstadt, a Detroit-based landscaper whose projects included Cranbrook, the GM Tech Center and the basic plan for U-M Botanical Gardens, as a basis for future changes. The land sloping down to Hill Street is a natural area, perennial gardens and raised bed vegetable gardens are on the side, and fruit trees in front.