Barney Vincelette has lived his Futuro House in Houston, DE
for over 40 years and over those years he has carried out all manner of work associated with his home all designed to be in keeping with the "essence of Futuro".
Recently he emailed us with some information about his custom sound system and his intent to make himself available to assist in such an endeavor for other Futuro owners should they be interested. There are photos below; as for the story we thought rather than try to paraphrase Barney it would be most appropriate to let Barney speak for himself by simply inserting the story here exactly as Barney relayed it to us:
"In the mid 1970's when I contacted Mr Fruchter of Casa 2 Corporation to buy a Futuro house, and when Futuro house manufacturing plants were shutting down, the Futuro was being sold as either a shell with flooring, heating, and air conditioning, or a fully furnished model. Eventually the fully furnished model was offered with a built-in stereo system.
When I finally bought a Futuro, none were being built anymore so Mr. Fruchter referred me to his Delaware dealer, Joe Hudson. The one I bought was a rental property which was fully furnished without a built-in stereo.
There are two approaches to owning a Futuro.
The first, which we should esteem, is as a piece of history which is restored for museum piece history to match the original configuration frozen in the technology of the 1960's. We should all support those curators who perform this public service.
The second is to keep the timeless design of this house of the future and improve such things as heating and air conditioning with advances in technology. We must recognize that a first prototype or a first generation can be improved upon and perfected as can any masterpiece. When Mahler published his Second Symphony in 1889 he continued to revise and perfect it until 1910. I think Matti Suuronen would approve of improving the Futuro as new technologies become available.
This is why I replaced the cable and motor system in the retractable stairs with something simpler and better, why I replaced the chimney with an acrylic dome to end heat loss and rain leakage and the impracticality of the indoor fire pod. This is why I replaced the obsolete and inefficient electric heat and duct-work with a Geothermal system which cut winter heating bills to less than 1/3 of what they had been.
If a Futuro is to have a stereo, I think it should have a sound system appropriate thereto. Like anything else in so radical a piece of architecture there is no need to restrain the kind of sound system to what would be accepted in a normal contemporary house. Sound systems and home theaters change as technology advances so an original built-in stereo system will not be the same as one from the 1960's.
After having to quit my teaching job at a university far enough away from my home that I had to rent an apartment, and a bad boss who was trying to get e to go into debt by not allowing me to choose my own hotel or apartment to use during the work week and wanting me to sell my Futuro and relocate, I am now living on social security and odd jobs. Before I quit I started designing and building a new sound system which I think is appropriately Wagnerian in style for my Futuro. At a fraction of a percent of the $350,000 price of the WAVAC 833A stereo system I built what I think is a more musical sounding system which uses the 833A radio station transmitting tube to drive inefficient but very pure sounding Magnepan speakers. It took me almost a year to perfect it and I am attaching pictures of it.
I hope it might be possible to be commissioned by someone who would like to have such a stereo amplifier to custom build one for them. But it would take almost $2000 in parts and it would take me two months to build it. I would want to be paid something comparable to what I was paid before I lost much of my take-home pay to what amounted to a legal loophole method of wage theft for the labor of building it. Thus, I would want $15,000 to build something which I think outclasses the $350,000 stereo for reasons I will go over in the unlikely event I run into someone who would be interested.
I would also guide anyone who wanted to build it him/herself after spending enough time with such a person making certain he/she would know how to safely deal with the 1000 Volts which powers the 833A vacuum tubes. Additionally, for anyone who would like to go through with this, either hiring me to build it or for a lower hourly fee to be agreed upon in advance, guide a DIY person I would want to have that person visit me in person to audition the one I built to make certain of something in which I have confidence; such a stereo sounds more spectacular than anything they have ever heard before.
What I am attempting is a long shot and I am getting help from my first flight training student to earn a pilot license and I want to treat anyone I work with fair. I am open to guidance in this possible enterprise.
We considered putting in a bid on the unit; while we dream of owning our own Futuro realistically we are unlikely to ever be in a position to realize that dream. More realistically we are planning to, at some point, turn one room in our home into a sort of "Futuro Room" and we figured the Chair/Bed unit would be a cool "center piece." Even at the low end of the estimate we would have been stretching it and in the end we decided not to bid and it turned out the low end of the estimate would not have made it anyway; the unit sold for €4,500.
Full auction details are now available online. The unit is Lot #38
and advance registration of bids is now open. The estimate is listed as €3,000 to €4,000.
On 060314 German art auction house Quittenbaum
will auction an original Futuro House Chair/Bed Unit. The full details of the auction are not yet on the auctioneers website but the unit will be a lot in Auction 115A "Scandinavian Design
"; full details are expected to be online 051014. We are told that around €3,000 will be the price estimate for this lot.
So if you need to replace a Chair/Bed unit now is your chance. Perhaps you are restoring a Futuro and need to fabricate units but have no plans; this could be an original example to work from. Perhaps you are like us and collect Futuro memorabilia and might want to add this authentic item to your collection (we would love to but at that price we am not too sure it is for us; will have to wait and watch the auction). In any case, whatever the reason if you are interested in an original Futuro Chair/Bed Unit this will likely be one of the few chances that come along to own one short of purchasing an entire Futuro House.
The images below of the item being auctioned are courtesy of Quittenbaum
Dr. Barney Vincelette is the owner of the Houston Futuro
and has actually lived in his Futuro for some 36 years (at the time of writing - since 1977).
While there have been some remarkable restorations of Futuros (notably at the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
in the Netherlands and at the WeeGee Exhibition Center
in Espoo, Finland) there are probably few who have the practical experience of dealing with the day to day maintenance and repair of a functional, lived in, Futuro House that Barney does.
, recently posted to YouTube by Barney, is the first entry in this new section of the Resources page devoted to some of the practical issues of owning a Futuro House. In time hopefully this will grow into a useful reference for those who are fortunate enough to own a Futuro (perhaps even one day myself though it is hard to see how that would ever come about given the likely cost of purchasing, relocating and refurbishing a Futuro House but we can all dream).
Barney's video "Customizing Your Futuro House" talks to three different customization/repair projects for a Futuro House:
- Installing a 16" acrylic bubble dome skylight in place of the chimney.
- Setting up a new winch system for raising and lowering the steps.
- Paint to protect the gel coat from ultra-violet light..
Barney Vincelette, owner and resident of the Houston Futuro
has lived in his Futuro House for well in excess of thirty years and so has a wealth of experience in dealing with maintenance issues. Barney wrote to us recently to share this advice on windows for anyone restoring or maintaining a Futuro House.
"Some American Futuro houses came with double glass windows with about 1/4" sealed space between them. These windows were designed to improve insulation, but unfortunately they sooner or later lost their seal and dew condensed between the panes of glass so Joe Hudson replaced the windows in his Futuro with single pane.
While I do not have access to sophisticated heat loss measuring equipment, I cut some Plexiglass windows that with a little care can be fitted inside the glass windows in the rubber mounts to improve heat loss. Plexiglass seems to have less thermal conductivity than glass so I think this is a good way to improve the overall insulation of a Futuro house. Also, it is easy to remove it to clean windows.
The best place I know to buy it is E Street Plastics in Texas. They have the best prices, better than any local prices you are likely to find and more choices. I suggest 1/8" thick but 1/4" is not out of the question. Also you can get it tinted or any color you want if you would like some of the windows to be green, blue, red, or any of the fluorescent options they have.