Josh and Hannah were brave enough to re-do their master suite on the DIY network's "Renovation Realities" show.

Josh and Hannah Ramsey were brave enough to re-do their master suite on the DIY network’s “Renovation Realities” show. They’ve decided that, while they love their East Kessler home, it’s time for them to simplify.

Josh and Hannah Ramsey have loved North Oak Cliff since they bought their first home just off of W. 8th Street in 2009. That was back when the Oak Cliff “Oh…” was almost a reflex when the Ramseys told their friends where they lived. It didn’t bother Josh and Hannah, though, as they felt right at home from the moment they moved in.

“Our house was a block from Bolsa, and we fell in love with the neighborhood, the amazing food, and the entrepreneurs making this place great,” Josh said. “We preemptively sold our home for a job relocation that fell through and then bought a home in Lake Highlands. It never felt like home, so we started house hunting and found a giant gem. It was way too big, but we saw the beauty here.”

Josh, a corporate director for Hilton Worldwide, and Hannah, a trauma nurse at Parkland, bought a 1946 neoclassical and set to work making it a place to raise a family. The home had already had a history of entertaining kids, as the previous owners of 15 years raised all six of their children there. Before that, Josh noted, the home housed nuns that volunteered at Methodist Dallas Medical Center.

“When marathon training a few years back, I remember running by this house thinking, ‘I’d sure love to live there one day,’ ” Josh mused. “We knew it was well loved and couldn’t believe the charm.”

But the home needed a lot of work.


DHA Property MapThere used to be a time when I decried “NIMBYism.” It seemed shallow for some people to object to city developments that would be good for several people just because it would impact a nearby homeowner.

That was before I bought my first home. Now, I’ll admit to having a few NIMBY moments of my own. Why? Because I bought a house, signed a mortgage, and even though I’m not trying to flip it or make money off of it, it’s still an investment I want to keep healthy. That means looking out for my home and my neighborhood.

I no longer see NIMBY as a pejorative. Instead, I see objecting as an step toward compromise and education, and I think that’s what the folks objecting to the expanded Dallas Housing Authority development in Oak Lawn are doing. They’re voicing opposition, and thereby taking a step toward compromise and education.

That’s the vibe I get from Alan Shaffer, a Clay Stapp & Co. agent who specializes in the area. In fact, Shaffer used to live directly across the street from the former DHA development that was razed to make room for the new one.

“I used to live directly across from this project years ago at Kings Quarters and saw first hand how run down the community was, the level of crime in the area (including a number of break ins at our gated community), drug busts nearby and even drug dealers living in our community,” Shaffer said in a letter to the zoning board. “I think enlarging this community and making it even more dense would be detrimental to the surrounding neighborhoods.”

I asked Shaffer what he thought of a smaller development in the area, one that better fit the scale of the site and neighborhood. Specifically, what kind of development would Shaffer welcome on the site? I was surprised by his response.

“I would like to see it more mixed with some units at market rates and some subsidized. I think then the community would have a better chance of being a good neighbor and would help keep out some of the bad element that can come with these projects,” Shaffer said. “It’s been public housing for years and I know we need it but I’d hate to see them make it so dense and reduce the parking. I don’t think that’s the right recipe for a good neighbor.”

It’s a sensitive subject, one that has commenters on blogs lobbing accusations of racism and classism at one another, but Shaffer poses a nuanced solution that DHA should try to adopt — a more integrated model that puts market-rate apartments next to subsidized housing.

Another issue is maintenance and upkeep, which nearby residents have brought up again and again as not just lax, but negligent. If the city wants to build a housing development that will become a part of the neighborhood, than it needs to adhere to the standards of the neighborhood, says Mike Harper, who, along with many other concerned neighbors, has launched a website.

“When I spoke to the management on the property about my concerns, there was little to no assurance of anything being done as she went on about how she had bigger issues to deal with,” Harper said in an email. “So I personally think that DHA needs to prove themselves to the community with their existing property before they add over 400 more units across the street.”

That doesn’t sound terribly unreasonable, to me. In fact, I think a “good neighbor” agreement, as the Rezoning DHA website puts it, is a great social contract between the new development and surrounding community.

On the flipside (and there is always a flipside), everyone needs to realize that while the 410 proposed units for the site would make this project the most dense public housing development in Dallas, it still doesn’t even come close to evening out the disparity of public housing developments in northern Dallas versus those located in the southern sector.

In the Uptown area, this one project is only one of two DHA projects in one of the most dense areas of the city, with the glut falling to East Dallas, West Dallas, South Dallas, Oak Cliff, and Southeast Dallas. So while it would stand to reason to add more low-income housing to the Uptown/Oak Lawn/Cedar Springs area, they shouldn’t all be in one place, and they shouldn’t eschew the parking and maintenance standards the rest of the area holds.

Attempts to contact Dallas Housing Authority director Mary Ann Russ for this story were not returned.

Most people, when they think of Oak Lawn and Uptown, they think of condos and apartments and tiny, tiny living spaces. That’s not always the case! Did you know that there are tons of beautiful historic properties in the Oak Lawn area? Our Thursday Three Hundred is one such property with an amazing kitchen.

Ringing in at close to 3,000 square feet, this three bedroom, three and a half bath Victorian is an absolute historical treasure with some very modern amenities. Located at 3206 Knight Street, this home is marketed by the incredible, incomparable, and just plain adorable Alan Shaffer of Clay Stapp + Co.

There are so many details to this home that you will just fall in love with, like the planked wall in the living room, the amazing Art Deco wallpaper in the powder room, the herringbone inlay at the eat-in bar that separates the kitchen and living areas, and the beautiful front porch — a great place to sip a beverage and greet your neighbors and revelers. This home is priced at $385,000, and considering its location — between Hall and Cedar Springs in the hottest part of the Gayborhood — I think that’s a great price.

You’re also going to love this kitchen, with its Turkish tile backsplash, Corian countertops, Thermador range, and ample storage. Tons of light filters in through the two huge windows above the sink, and just next door is a generously sized bar with mini fridge and glassware storage.

The master bedroom is a good size, but the listing doesn’t have any photos of the master bath, which I always think is a bummer. There’s plenty enough eye candy throughout the rest of the house, though!

The only thing that I would change about this house are the multiple floor-to-ceiling mirrors that are supposed to make spaces feel bigger but actually do more to confuse the eye. One surrounds the fireplace in the formal living area, which would benefit from some artful tile and a cool mantle. Maybe duplicating the herringbone pattern in the kitchen.

In any case, this home is just gorgeous, and it will delight any buyer who loves history, color, and contemporary sensibilities along with a killer location!


Shaffer calls his chicken coop "Palais du Poulets"

Clay Stapp & Co. Realtor Alan Shaffer and his partner had heard tons of buzz about backyard chicken keeping making a comeback before they decided to take the plunge. Of course, both Shaffer and his partner, Juan Barreto, had grown up with family birds.

“My grandparents, great grandparents, and later our family took over their flock as they got older,” Shaffer said. “Juan also had a flock growing up in Puerto Rico.”

So it was no big leap to build their own coop in their Kessler Plaza backyard.

Shaffer's backyard has a vegetable garden, a goldfish pond, a rain barrel, and, of course, a chicken coop.

“We just wanted to go greener,” Shaffer said. ” We use the droppings in our compost pile, which feeds our garden. We feed the chickens the excess greens and veggies from the garden.”

Shaffer said they found the plans for Palais du Poulet on The coop and run, which they built and finished themselves, is pretty amazing. Talk about giving the girls a worthy roost: Cedar shingles, plenty of natural light via hand-cut windows, and top it all of with a coat of Martha Stewart “Barn Red!” Shaffer then literally topped it all off with a chicken weathervane! So classy!

With the chicken coop in place, they just kept getting greener and greener!

“We also put in a rain barrel which we use to water the garden,” Shaffer said. “We put in an apple tree, fig trees, raised bed garden plots and a fish pond — that one’s just for pleasure, not eating the fish!”

Right now, Shaffer — aka The Condo Guy — has five Silver Laced Wyandottes. The chickens are a heritage breed, which has been around since the 1870s. They are truly great birds with wonderful personalities. I should know — I used to have a Golden Laced Wyandotte hen named Effa Manley.

Shaffer has five Silver Laced Wyandotte hens.

“Fresh eggs are amazing,” Shaffer said. “They are so much better than the store-bought ones.  The hens are fun to watch and just have around.”

They don’t keep the girls cooped up all the time, Shaffer said. But when they’re out in the yard, Alan and Juan have to keep a close eye on them.

“They can mess up the garden in a hurry, as Juan found out one day when he left them out overnight while I was out of town,” Shaffer mused. “They had full run of the yard for a couple of hours before going to roost.  He had a mess to clean up before I got home!”

I guess some people still think of chicken keeping as a low-brow country exploit. For instance, in the Park Cities, it’s strictly verboten. But as I see it, Shaffer’s gorgeous coop and beautiful birds can be an asset to a neighborhood.

What do you think?