David R. Williams is one of the state’s most renown architects, yet he designed very few homes in Dallas. A contemporary of O’Neil Ford — in fact, Ford’s brother actually worked on this home — Williams is known as the grandfather of Texas modern architecture. He created a handful of indigenous designs in Dallas that are perched ever so perfectly on Texas soils, knowing what role geography and proper siting has on a home as it grows and thrives.
Perhaps that comes from being born in the Texas Panhandle, in a sod home dugout between the Pease and Red Rivers. Largely self-educated, though he attended the University of Texas for four years, Williams frontier roots are evident in his work. He studied and built new homes in the late 1920’s and ’30s like the old buildings and houses of rural Texas, wanting to preserve the indigenous style and history.
After traveling to Europe to study the masters in the 1920’s, he returned to Dallas to blend Modernism in the Prairie-style homes du jour. Like Dilbeck, his inspiration came from Texas pioneer homes. His style included thick walls to maintain cooler room temperatures, shuttered windows, shaded patios, sleeping balconies or porches, and fireplaces. Homes constructed between the 1920s and 1930s are some of his best-known collections. He also loved the Texas Colonial, the central two-story brick building with an informal wing. He added shutters to block out heat, windows to circulate air, balconies, open beam ceilings, staircases and patios, frosting each home with a decorative motif.
1920 West Colorado in Stevens Park Estates was commissioned by the Lynch family in 1930. We believe it is the only documented Williams home in Oak Cliff/Kessler, though he built six other homes from Lakewood to Park Cities to Greenway Parks, which he is credited with conceiving. A naturist before his time, Williams conceived the greenbelts of Greenway and the wall for Loma Linda along Preston Road in University Park. In 1927 he was hired by Frank Neal Drane and J.P. Stephenson to design the plan for the upscale residential neighborhood Greenway Parks. Greenway is known as the first neighborhood in the state to incorporate pedestrian greenways.
1920 West Colorado is a Texas Colonial. It rests on a half acre of land, has a full-sized swimming pool, patio, porch connecting the garage to the house, downstairs bedroom, and laundry rooms. It is 3998 square feet, yet seems much larger. Conversely, the lot has a full acre feel — maybe it’s the foliage or thickly mature trees, but Williams sited the home perfectly to give a rich set-back feel while leaving a yard large enough for both a pool and several games of croquet.
But it is the interiors that beckon and break away from the regional modernism to warm regional farmhouse. It begins with a Dutch-style door framed by shutters that opens directly into a parlor. Not a huge or overpowering room, this one is for intimate gatherings and graced by a huge brick fireplace, surrounded by Lynn Ford’s hand-carved mantel and knotty pine bookshelves that are a collectors item unto themselves. The ceiling has beams running across it, Williams likely nod to the Texas mud hut. Windows are full floor to ceiling to let in maximum light with overhead eave protection.
To the left of the entrance is the library, coated in rich knotty wood with more shelves and cabinets and French doors leading to the east garden patio. Off of this room is a bathroom that the whole world needs to see: gleaming pink circa 1930’s era original tile that has been restored and preserved so well it looks brand new.
1920 West Colorado was built in 1930, but the current owner has been on an eight-year journey of restoration and remodeling to perfection And this is not just any owner: for many years the creative director of the Richards Group, Paul VonHeeder has spent every spare hour combing over cube and cubicles of his historic home. The lifts in the garage house his retro auto collection.
Paul completely maintained the historical aesthetic in every nook. And when it came to the rooms that count the most for being up-to-date, he went all out with the finest materials, fixtures and appliances.
I’m talking of the kitchen and baths, of course. Down a charming three oak steps in the living room, nestled in more of that knotty pine, is a little turn to the great room, a 15 by 25 space that has a beamed ceiling, tile floors, a Williams’ inspired fireplace and bookcase, and beautiful views of the pool, patio and grounds. This room even has a small wet bar in a charming serving closet. A dining room is on the east wing. The kitchen, on the west, is as modern as tomorrow, completely renovated and open to the family or great room.
But nodding back to history, there is a whimsical surprise: a new old design, dual fuel Aga stove, set into the original brick hearth.
About that Great room: it is large, airy, boasts high ceilings and beams, and is sited perfectly to catch the summer breeze from multiple windows. It has tile floors and a Williams inspired Rook fireplace. Beyond the kitchen is a charming tiled porch/garden room with a huge fireplace — only one of two added by Paul. You can watch the pool in here, stay warm with a fire on cold days, or pull a book from the bookcase with a cold beer from the wine closet. From this room you can enter the three-car garage (with lifts for up to six cars!) that is fully air conditioned. Or meander back to a first floor bedroom and bath, handy to have if you need to keep guests (or yourself!) on the first floor. Also makes a perfectly tucked-away office.
The second floor up a single flight of stairs boasts the large master suite with fireplace and incredible bathroom, including a huge soaking tub, shower for two, and stacking washer-dryer units. All three bedrooms are beautifully decorated. There are two secondary bedrooms on this second floor, with the other original/restored vintage bathroom, one bedroom boasting a Juliette balcony overlooking the gardens below. Beautiful oak floors are everywhere, complimented by an abundance of perfectly preserved trim.
About those gardens: the current homeowner maintains them and the home meticulously, and they are considered the pride of the neighborhood, even as 1920 Colorado is the pride of David Williams. So precise is Paul that he has had the ENTIRE house repainted and wood stained this spring.
The home is listed with David Griffin, David Griffin & Company Realtors, a division of Virginia Cook Realtors, at an unbelievable $1,100,000. David plans to have 1920 West Colorado open this weekend on Sunday from 3 to 5 pm and promise me you will go inside: this home is a vital part of Dallas architectural history!
And you simply MUST see those original bathrooms!