Walking through Architect George C.T. Woo’s “Symphony House” in University Park is like reading a good book, and one you can’t judge by its cover. That’s on purpose. Woo likes a good surprise as much as anyone. So he created a subtle façade that does very little to prepare you for having your proverbial socks knocked off the moment you enter the front door.
Woo is known for his work with I.M Pei on The Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center. He lived in this home at 3636 University Boulevard while working with Pei on the project. He founded his architectural firm, George C.T. Woo & Partners, in Dallas in 1986. Woo also worked on the design of Dallas City Hall and The Lipscomb House in Cedar Hill. His residential and commercial projects span the globe.
You can imagine the detail and craftsmanship an architect puts into their own home—it’s off the charts.
But let’s get back to the fact this house reads like a good book. It began life in 1936 as an original Charles Dilbeck design. The only thing that remains of that period however, is the signature cauldron Dilbeck put in his fireplaces. Let’s face it, no matter how fantastic a house may be, lifestyles and family needs change and houses must change along with them.
Enter the multi-talented Jacques Bunk Vroom, yes Nan Coulter and Jacques Vroom’s offspring, and his wife Anne Clayton Vroom. They fell head over heels for the house.
“It felt truly original, like we were in a special place from the moment we walked in the front door, Vroom said. “We wanted to embrace the Woo cohesion, while making the house more functional and warm.”
They also loved what is really the heart of this home. “The pool and backyard are really the featured room of the house,” Vroom said. “Nearly all the rooms look out onto it.”
Vroom also named the house — because every great house deserves a name.
“I sometimes call this The Symphony House, because of Mr. Woo’s relationship with I. M. Pei and because so many architects have been involved,” Vroom said. “To bring the house back together, we needed more than just a talented architect; we needed a conductor who understood all the architectural instruments used here. Who could be better at this than Frank Welch?”
Indeed. The Vrooms actually were friends with Welch and had asked him to have a look at it prior to their purchase. They never imagined he’d take on the project but once he saw it, Welch was hooked. Welch and Scott Marek, principal with Marek Architecture, spent the last two and a half years working with the Vrooms on the three story, 7,666-square-foot home.
“Frank was the design architect for this project,” Vroom said “Scott was integral throughout the process, working with Frank on the design and was on site so often to create and refine details. Whenever Frank retires, Scott’s hands will very capably carry that torch.”
This dream team didn’t just enhance Woo’s original design and intent, they went to town reconstructing and recrafting until every exacting detail was worked out to meet the family’s needs. Walls were removed to create an open plan living, breakfast, and kitchen area. Welch’s fantastic signature stick ceiling, in white oak, defines that family living area.
Huge amounts of built-in shelving were added. New front stairs were built with the same outer dimensions as the originals, but with deeper treads. Remember that exacting detail — it’s everywhere. Of course new electrical, and every sort of automation you can imagine, were installed. A new pool, decking, and bocce court were added. “And maybe 500 other things,” Vroom said.
Remember this is an open home, all lovely architectural grids and angles so sound quality was paramount. “We put in a huge amount of insulation,” Vroom said. Likening it to a car he noted it was “ … like the difference between closing the door on a Ford and a Rolls Royce … it just feels better.”
The home has four bedrooms, five bathrooms, one half bath, and four fireplaces. Yes, there’s an elevator, and it’s a state of the art elevator.
Caroline Summers, with Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s has this masterpiece listed for $4.95 million. “It’s one of the most unique modern homes I’ve seen anywhere, with every single bell and whistle you can imagine,” Summers said.
So where are the Vrooms off to? You’ll never believe it, but there are dream homes, and there are more dream homes. They’re off to another Frank Welch design that they’ve longed for. It just became available and there are new dreams to be dreamed and a new book to be written. We love a happy ending.