A Tour of the Butterfly House in Jacksonville, Florida
Before we moved to Michigan, we briefly looked at homes in Northern Florida. Jacksonville and the surrounding area has a lot of affordable and interesting mid-century properties, but one in particular immediately caught our eye. The Butterfly House, designed by architect Bob Broward, was one of those truly incredible homes that you're instinctively drawn to. We toured the home in 2015 when it was first on the market, but it ultimately wasn't to be. We followed the sale of the house and were thrilled to learn that it ended up in the hands of someone who would restore it to its original beauty.
The Butterfly House was built in 1957 for the Jacksonville Parade of Homes. Located in Arlington, the structure's iconic inward sloping roofs quickly earned the home its nickname. After years of neglect, by 2015 the home was in rough shape. Fortunately, it is now in wonderful condition after a thorough restoration by its new owner.
In the last two years, we've been lucky enough to visit the Butterfly House a few more times. Each visit brings new developments in the restoration. The new owner, Kathryn, took on this enormous project in stride. She is also generous with her time and stories about the property. Kathryn was kind enough to answer a few questions about the Butterfly House and her time restoring it.
Q: What attracted you to the house?
A: I didn’t know I would be attracted to the house until I walked down the long entrance and saw how the house exploded. My cousin thought I needed a project and sent me a link to the home's listing on Zillow. Mostly intrigued by the photo of the fireplace in the living room, I called a friend who was a realtor and asked if I could see the house… just out of curiosity. I found it hard to believe something like that was in that neighborhood. The entire house was like nothing I’d ever seen before and it grabbed my soul.
Q: What did the renovation process consist of?
A: The whole house. The structure did not have a functioning bathroom or kitchen. It needed a new roof, plumbing, electrical, etc. Oddly, about the only thing it didn’t need was HVAC work. We did 3 bathrooms, the kitchen, laundry room, the roof. The kitchen was the room most “intact” as far as cabinets, oven, etc. It didn’t work, but all the pieces were there. We had hired Richard Mead, owner RTM Custom Carpentry, who suggested that I obtain the original plans so we could restore the home as Broward had built it.
Q: What was the biggest challenge of the renovation? Any surprises?
A: The biggest challenge was the roof. The home had suffered major water damage and the roof was not maintained properly over the years. The majority of the inspection was done from the inside out as the construction of the roof is comprised of 3” X 6” double tongue and groove cedar planking. The planking is covered with rolled composite roofing material. Couldn’t really “peel” it back to inspect from the outside. Soooo…. It looked really good from underneath. When Reliant Roofing started the roof reno and peeled the old material off it was a completely different story. Chunks of the roof disintegrated and it was a mess. Richard saved the day again and made custom planks for the guys at Reliant Roofing to use. It was at this point that we also discovered that major portions of the beams needed to be replaced.
Q: What is your favorite room/feature of the house?
A: Seriously? Depends on the time of day… where the light is, how it comes through the skylights and windows. I truly find everything about the house fascinating. Above all I am thrilled every time I hear a rain drop because this means we get to watch that fabulous Broward water feature. It’s truly mesmerizing.
Q: Any advice for people interested in taking on a similar mid-century modern home restoration project?
A: Find a contractor that shares your vision. Richard “got” me, I believe it was as much a labor of love for him as it was for us. Also, If I were to ever do this again, I would look for a home that has as many original features as possible. I would look for unrenovated bathrooms/kitchen, original light features, etc.
Thank you, Kathryn, for sharing your story with us! Also a big thank you to Sean Brunson, who toured the Butterfly House with us in 2017 and who took these photos. Find him on Instagram at brunson_design.
I was so taken by this fantastic home that after walking though it for the first time, I created a 3D model of it, as well as several renderings. The gallery below includes three of them.
Be sure to follow the journey on Kathryn's Facebook page, "Restoring the Butterfly House".
If anyone is interested in an incredible MCM home that's in this exact neighborhood in Jacksonville, there is currently a post and beam home for sale just a few streets away from the Butterfly House. You'll find it listed in last week's Mid-Century Modern For Sale post.