If Norman Rockwell Were a Single Mom, He’d Buy This Storybook 1923 Lakewood Tudor

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In the not-too-distant future, I will write a book on how homes heal and nests nurture. I have many friends who, stung from later-life divorces, have found salvation in new home renovation — contracted out or even built with their own hands. There is nothing as fulfilling as ripping apart an old bathroom or kitchen, with several great whacks of the sledgehammer. The rooms — worn down, out-of-style, dysfunctional — turn out to be a lot like their former marriages. Re-creating a beautiful new space in the old structure gives them purpose, passion and a new lease, not to mention the self-satisfaction that comes when the project is complete. You move in and finally relax with a glass of wine and (hopefully) a new romantic interest.

But a house doesn’t have to be divorce therapy to nurture. It can also house a new beginning that comes through, say, a dual adoption and marriage.

For Dr. Jennifer Denning, 6918 Pasadena was the home she bought to raise her adopted daughter, to give her a storybook life.

She is the sixth owner of the Tudor-style home, whose primary owners lived in the tidy house for almost 30 years. Built in 1923, the home was first owned by Bernard and Jane B. Shields, Bernard being employed by WM Simpson & Sons. The home went to market from 1948 to 1950; it was sold and remodeled. Originally a three-bedroom one-story structure, subsequent owners knocked out walls and added a second story with dormers and tall ceilings, bathrooms, and more rooms in 2005.

But oh my, this story is about so much more than a home.

“If Norman Rockwell were a single working mom, this is the house he’d buy,” says Jennifer.

Dr. Denning is an OB-GYN who was single until March of this year. A little over six years ago, she was wrapping up her practice in Plano. She wanted more manageable work hours, all for the ultimate goal of becoming a mother. So Dr. Denning moved to Dallas and became a hospitalist. One day her (now former) business associate called: he had a patient, an 18-year old girl (a patient’s daughter) who was unexpectedly pregnant and wanted to arrange a private adoption. He thought they would be a good fit. Turns out they were perfect: four years ago last February, all seven pounds and four ounces of little Cora Jane changed everything when she became Dr. Denning’s daughter.

“Before I bought the Pasadena house, we lived in a Midcentury Modern of about 1,500 square feet on Shook Avenue,” says Jennifer. “The second I put my for sale sign up, my neighbors bought the home for one of their parents.”

And, she suspects, to keep out a McMansion. When she saw 6918 Pasadena, it was love at first site.

“There are a lot of Tudors around here, but this home has a distinct cottage feel and feels more M Streets,” says Jennifer. “It has a magical storybook feel to it, and I very, very much wanted that for my daughter.”

Jennifer says she loves to keep homes as they are intended to be.

“I love new builds, too, and Lakewood is now a mix of old and new, but I have a soft spot for these historical homes, especially as I am getting older, and now that I am married to a historian.” 

That historian is Geoff Smith, a history teacher with a 13-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. The two met online. The couple dated for several years. He was there when Cora and Jennifer celebrated her first birthday and a housewarming in their new home one month after moving in. It was the first time many friends and family had an opportunity to meet both Cora and Geoff under the loving wings of 6918 Pasadena Avenue.

“It was a perfect home for our family at that time: me, my daughter and our Nanny,” says Dr. Denning. 

Today, 6918 Pasadena is a four-bedroom house, with a fifth bedroom being a spacious over-the-garage quarters with full bath, which was perfect for her nanny or houseguests.

“The neighborhood is very family-centric,” says Dr. Denning. “Kids everywhere. When we moved in, one of the little boys in the neighborhood rang the doorbell and said, ‘hey do you have a kid, can they come out and play’?”

With her storybook home as a backdrop, Geoff eventually popped the question. And Geoff and Jennifer were married in a beautiful ceremony earlier this year that was centered around a second adoption: Geoff becoming Cora’s legal father.

“He popped the question, so I popped one back,” says Dr. Denning. 

Cora Denning had started calling Geoff “Dad,” so Jennifer asked if he wanted to become Cora’s father legally.

He said, “yeah!”

“Geoff wanted to adopt her formally, so I thought it would be so cool to have the same judge who helped me adopt her, complete this adoption,” says Jennifer. “It will make the story of her adoption come full circle when we explain all this to Cora later in her life.”

And then the same judge married Jennifer and Geoff.

That was in the morning on March 8. Everyone went back to 6918 Pasadena to dry happy tears, rest and refresh for Jennifer and Geoff’s wedding reception with friends and family that evening at Hotel St. Germaine.

You can kind of see why 6918 Pasadena is a home that makes you never want to leave it. Even Denning is having trouble saying goodbye.

There are a lot of beautiful memories in this house, she says, but her family has now grown and everyone needs more space.

“We are now all about work and kids, so we just love coming home and staying home,” says Dr. Denning. “We just want to find someone else looking for this kind of very special space.”

Alex Marler at Compass is marketing6918 Pasadena  for $1.075 million.

The English-style cottage was expertly taken to the studs, updated, and enlarged by W2 Studios, who took great care to maintain and maximize the home’s special 1923 charm and character. Modern luxuries were put in place spanning the full 3,060 square feet. The main house has four bedrooms and two full baths, plus one in the 337 square foot guest quarters over the two-car garage, which is not included in the square footage of the home. The home boasts rich hardwoods, radiant windows, custom-painted cabinetry in the kitchen, a farm sink, marble countertops, and top-of-the-line stainless appliances. The kitchen opens to the family room/den and breakfast room overlooking a lush green yard. The retreat upstairs is a spa-like custom master with oversized soaking tub, dual vanities, and walk-in closet.

 

 

 

 

Jennifer upgraded the landscaping significantly, redoing the old gravel drive as a living driveway, which helps with drainage and water run-off. She added new light fixtures, a security system, painted everything, and buried cable lines. The yard also has extensive exterior lighting. 

“There is tree lighting and walkway lighting on a timer,” says Jennifer. “The place looks like a Christmas tree at night time! 

The lot size is .16 of an acre, plenty for a play yard or pool. In fact, there are also plans drafted for a 25-foot long pool in the backyard. 

 

Ironically, it took a vintage Dallas home, itself having undergone multiple changes, that has given such sweet shelter to a single mother with a changing family. 

“This house is the story of family and change,” says Dr. Denning. “At one point, a lot of children were raised in this house, I don’t know how they did it, but they have all managed to add to the patina.”

I once had a Realtor describe a home to me as, “little fairies dancing,” meaning, the house was so perfect it could very well be a fairytale. Even fairytales change: The home as a nurturer of change can sometimes be a beautiful thing.

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Candy Evans

A real estate muckraker, Candy Evans is one of the nation’s leading real estate reporters. She is also the North Texas real estate editor for Forbes.com, CultureMap Dallas, Modern Luxury Dallas, & the Katy Trail Weekly. Candy has written for Joel Kotkin’s The New Geography, Inman Real Estate News, plus a host of national sites. Constantly breaking celebrity real estate news, she scooped former president George W. Bush's Dallas home in 2008. She is the founder and publisher of her signature CandysDirt.com, and SecondShelters.com, devoted to the vacation home market. Her verticals have won many awards, including Best Blog by the venerable National Association of Real Estate Editors, one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious journalism associations. Candy holds an active Texas real estate license but does not sell. She is on the Board of Directors of Braemar Hotels & Resorts (BHR).

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