Why do we buy a house? It’s not entirely about location and price. It’s because it feels right. This Winnetka Heights airplane bungalow felt exactly right to Karen and Barry French. But there were challenges, to be sure.
Over the years, the French family had lived in Finland, England, Texas, and New Mexico. When Barry’s company offered up a few different locations in the United States as their next stop, they chose Dallas.
They were living in a 200-year-old townhome in London when they began looking. Karen and Barry flew into town, determined to find a home in two days. Their Realtor at the time knew she needed reinforcements to make this hunt go smoothly, so they called on the award-wining designers, Russ Peters and Bill Cates, who own Peters Cates Design. They joined the search team to help with visualizing a finished product. Their firm not only designs and builds homes, but they also furnish them. Talk about one-stop shopping! Bill told me Barry and Karen had googled “Groovy, cool, up-and-coming neighborhoods in Dallas.” Of course, Winnetka Heights popped up!
“We drove around, and when we saw Winnetka Heights and the front porch culture with everyone out chatting together, it just felt right,” Karen said. The French family also wanted a historic home. “We come from the east coast, we love history, architecture, and design and wanted to honor that,” Karen said.
They also owned a historic home in Santa Fe, so they had an idea of what they were facing in terms of renovation.
Or so they thought.
A Diamond in The Desuetude
Although Winnetka Heights is now a historic district, not everything is picture-perfect yet. “Some of the homes here have been to war and back,” Bill said. In the 1920s, the neighborhood was advertised as “Dallas’ Ideal Suburb.” It was ideal for a long time, and thankfully it’s almost ideal again. However, many unworthy additions and renovations took place over the years that still await remedies.
Barry walked down the street on that two-day home search and saw an empty house with no sign, but it had a lockbox. After a few calls, they got inside this Winnetka Heights airplane bungalow.
“There’s a great word for what we saw,” Bill said. “Its desuetude. Think Tara after the Civil War. It means it has fallen into a state of disuse and disrepair. It had been chopped up into apartments at one point with a wall and bathroom added that should not have been. But, we all saw there was potential.”
Now, remember Barry and Karen had to go back to London. So, this Winnetka Heights airplane bungalow restoration and renovation project began with meetings via FaceTime. However, they knew they were in good hands.
“When you meet someone, you know in two minutes this is the right fit,” Karen said. “Bill and Russ were fantastic. We’d Skype or FaceTime, and occasionally we flew in.”
Eventually, they came back to Santa Fe to be closer to the project.
The Quirks of Working Within a Historic District
Russ and Bill quickly learned the nuances of working in a historic district.
“It was challenging,” Karen said. “We had to redo the foundation and could not expand because we’re on a corner in the historic district. We wanted more space, so we kept problem- solving.”
That included completely lifting the house to rebuild the foundation.
“Bois d’Arc stumps were supporting it,” Bill said. “About 55 percent weren’t even touching it.”
“The mission statement for the house was warm and inviting yet lean and clean,” Bill said.
This lovely Winnetka Heights airplane bungalow took a little over a year to go through what Bill and Russ term a complete face and body lift. They were keen on being architecturally appropriate. The French family had spent a great deal of time in Finland and have a great contemporary art collection. Karen wanted a very functional space, that was calm and peaceful. The interior look is clean, modern, fresh, very livable, and, yes, fun!
The historic preservation regulations did allow for some additions to the Winnetka Heights airplane bungalow. A large screened porch was added off the kitchen as well as a gorgeous pool. The original one-car garage was rebuilt using the same styling and siding as the 1920s. A carriage house had been added above the garage sometime in the 1950s, and that was completely rebuilt. Upstairs you’ll now find a beautiful studio apartment complete with Murphy beds for visits from two of their three kids that are currently in Vietnam and New York. But the first floor of the carriage house takes the proverbial cake. In addition to the newly built garage and carport, Russ and Bill designed an art studio for the French’s son, Charlie. You may know the name, Charlie French, if not you need to because Charlie is quite the artist.
This 3,081-square-foot, three-bedroom, four-bathroom Winnetka Heights airplane bungalow has been a great home for the French family, but they are headed back across the pond.
“It’s always hard to say goodbye to a home,” Karen said. “It’s so lovely and comfortable, and we’ve made such amazing memories here.”
Bill Cates summed it up beautifully:
“Collaborating with very creative people who are eager to learn what great design could do for them, people that are keen to have a house that serves them well, it the best we can ask for. We love how this house anchors that corner of Winnetka Heights. We think it’s an aspirational home now because it serves to showcase what is possible.”
These Winnetka Heights airplane bungalows are hard to find, and one like this, that is move-in-ready, is rare, so if you are in the market, give Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s listing agent Michael Mahon a call for a tour of 319 Edgefield Avenue. At only $995,000, it’s an excellent opportunity to be in a wonderful neighborhood and make some more amazing memories!