On February 26, 2009, an unoccupied, circa-1960 house at Las Vegas’ McNeil Estates exploded and caught fire. The force of the explosion blew concrete blocks from the front wall onto the street. Neighbors said that the rooftop air-conditioning unit was found on the next block. Fire investigators suspected arson. A chain-link fence went up around the property, and, mired in investigations, insurance claims and a change of ownership, it remained untouched for one year, then another. If the old house looked ripe for anything, it was a teardown.
Meanwhile, in 2011, Shanna and Ian Anderson decided they needed more space than their Summerlin home could give them. Ian, the president of Henriksen Butler Nevada (the Herman Miller dealer at Holsum Lofts) and Shanna, the vice president of sales for contract furnishings manufacturer Leland International, wanted to find a place with style—and one upon which they could imprint their design sensibilities. “We didn’t want to stay in Summerlin,” Shanna says. “Every house looks the same. Very vanilla. It’s like Pleasantville.”
Intrigued by the prospect of becoming urban pioneers, the couple searched in the McNeil neighborhood Downtown, developed in the 1950s and known for its big lots, mature shade trees and variety of architectural styles. The dream property they found wasn’t just an empty lot or a fixer-upper. It was quite literally a wreck, a neighborhood eyesore.
“I pulled up to the house, saw this insane, burnt-down, charred remnant of a house and was gearing up to say no way,” recalls architect Craig Palacios, who was tapped to do the renovation. “Ian met me there and said, ‘I know, don’t say a word. Just follow me.’”
The two men crawled into the abandoned house through a back window and walked through the wreckage. “All the drywall had burned away,” Palacios says. “You could see through the whole house. I took one look and said, ‘Yeah, dude, I’ll totally do this project.’”
Collaborating with builder Trinity Haven Development, Palacios sketched out an H-shaped floor plan that followed the home’s existing foundation, placing bedrooms in one wing and the great room/kitchen in the other. He expanded the original 1,900-square-foot plan by 800 feet, adding a TV room behind the master suite and Shanna’s office (which doubles as guest quarters), as well as a bathroom and laundry off the great room. The original carport became the garage.
Part of the task was to transform the house while respecting its roots. “We didn’t want to build a two-story McMansion in this one-story neighborhood,” Ian says. “We wanted the house to be modest and respectful of the area.”
Palacios, in turn, made it a priority to stay true to the original house and the midcentury-modern style of the neighborhood. He raised and angled the roofline, adding a sense of volume to the interior and capturing morning light with clerestory windows. Toward the street, the home is serenely modern, giving away nothing except an interplay of wood fencing, honed block cladding and smooth, gray-blue stucco walls.
Inside, window walls and doors open to courtyards and the backyard, flooding the interior with light. Porcelain tile flooring and deeply hued walnut millwork provide a backdrop for the Andersons’ collection of classic, mid-century furniture, lighting and modern artwork, including pieces by Ian’s father, Arizona artist Michael Anderson.
Since moving into the house on Valentine’s Day, the Andersons have come to love the lifestyle their home affords. Mornings, the couple and their children—Ryder, 3, and Sloan, 1—hang out in the airy kitchen and great room. Ian drives less than five minutes to work, and Shanna works from her bright home office. Weekends, the house is usually filled with family and friends, who come for barbecues and pool parties in the grassy backyard.
“This house is really great for family and for entertaining,” Ian says. “I’ve met more of my neighbors here in a few months than in 12 years in Summerlin. We don’t find many reasons to leave Downtown these days.”