When Southern California architect Patrick Mikusky informally presented his Golden State vision for a new home in Herron-Morton to the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission, the staff told him not to get his hopes up. “White plaster, flat roof, floor-to-ceiling glass—they said it won’t fly,” Patrick recalls with a laugh. Undeterred, he and his wife, Jenni, strolled through the neighborhood and reimagined how their design could blend more appropriately into the context of the surroundings without losing the clean lines and contemporary aesthetic they desired. The commission approved, and the couple didn’t have to abandon their California dreamin’ to transform a vacant lot on North New Jersey Street into an extraordinary home.
The pair met in a San Diego architecture firm. They clicked immediately and soon discovered a shared sense of style, including bright colors, modern finishes, and statement pieces. When Jenni was pregnant with their daughter, the Mikuskys moved to Indiana (Jenni is from here) to be closer to family. They renovated a townhome in Chatham Arch and quickly fell for the area, taking walks on Mass Ave and admiring the modern homes going up nearby. Once their son was born, the family of four needed more space and decided to tackle their own build, with Patrick serving as both the architect and project manager. Though his background is in architecture, he now works in project management for Simon Property Group, so taking on a task of this scale did not seem daunting. They also had a clear goal. “We went into the process with the thought that what we’re trying to do is improve the neighborhood, with a house that promotes connectivity and visibility and has that interaction with the community,” he says.
Their unusually narrow lot—part of it had been an alley that was vacated by the city—meant square footage needed to be used in the most efficient way possible. “We realized we needed to go vertical to get the amount of backyard square footage that we wanted and have a big area for the kids to play,” Patrick says. The yard has apple, peach, and Asian pear trees, and the kids are proud to point out the difference between basil and cilantro in raised beds.
To fit in with the historical context of the neighborhood, the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission’s primary requirement was a gabled roof. Patrick’s redesign devised a creative cantilevered solution for this stipulation that satisfied the commission and gave a nod to other contemporary architecture on the street. Although the home looks extremely modern, it uses the same materials and forms as its neighbors, in a 21st-century way. The exterior’s finishing touch was cedar siding, set horizonally like other siding in the area, but left unstained as a nod to Southern California style. Patrick sourced it from Wisconsin because most local offerings contain knots and character and wouldn’t have aligned with the clean, contemporary aesthetic.
Several elements were crucial to the manifestation of the Mikuskys’ vision for their home. The space needed to be bright and airy—which they achieved with floor-to-ceiling windows on each level—but they took it a step further by installing sliding-panel doors across the front and back of the house. When they’re open, the first floor transforms into an unimpeded space, front to back, with a cross breeze and sounds from the street. Horns honking, jackhammers pounding, and sirens whirring play as the chorus of the family’s urban soundtrack. The din isn’t for everyone, but the couple loves it and actually misses it when they’re away.
Herron-Morton residents are fond of porch parties, and many of its residents are young families. Once the kids go to sleep, the adults frequently congregate and share wine on someone’s stoop. In the summer, the Mikuskys often host “unplanned Sunday dinners” for their neighborhood friends—lively grill-outs with yard games for the kids. With the front and back walls erased, the inviting flow creates one large entertaining space. “We consider the front porch to be the entire first floor, from the front deck steps to the back deck steps,” Patrick says. “The walls physically and visually disappear.”
For the fun-loving family, it was essential for the space to radiate joy. What better way to ensure unbridled happiness than to install an indoor swing and a graffiti wall? The graffiti is the work of local artist Nick Smith, whom the couple saw at the opening of the IMA’s graffiti exhibit in 2017. “We’d wanted a graffiti wall forever,” Jenni says. “We gave him the dimensions and the color palette, and then he had free rein.”
The swing was a surprise for their daughter, who’d been apprehensive about moving to the new house. It’s attached to one of the home’s main support beams for stability, and the kids are glued to it whenever they have to be indoors. “After dinner, we’ll turn on music really loud and have a dance party, and the kids will pretend they’re pirates or do tricks on the swing. It was money well spent,” Jenni says.
By keeping all the interior walls white, it draws the focus to the vibrant—and carefully selected—decor and artwork. “We didn’t want to have a sterile home,” Patrick says. Jenni’s discerning eye always seems to find the perfect piece, even if it means sitting on a yearlong wait list, like for the wall hanging that she spotted in a window display at Free People that now resides in their daughter’s room. Examples of the couple’s individual talents are sprinkled throughout, too. Jenni made a tasseled, 6-foot-wide woven wall hanging in only four nights, while Patrick built a surfboard-style bench and his daughter London’s toy box, using a CNC router to etch the skyline of her namesake city into the white oak.
Jenni describes their decor as a bit “here and there” because they have found little treasures in different places—from their days as newlyweds perusing the Rose Bowl Flea Market (they found a lighted version of the LOVE sculpture at the IMA, where they were married, and it’s now on the dining room wall) to a hip shop called Pigment that she frequents on their trips back to California to visit Patrick’s family. One item that always sparks joy is a neon heart-shaped light in their daughter’s room that can be seen as they approach the house from the streets of Herron-Morton in the evening. It lets them know they’re almost home.