You know this home, you’ve probably almost crashed your S65 into the Porsch at the corner of Turtle Creek and Avondale as you ooohhed and aaahhed over 4001 Turtle Creek. That is the shockingly white, exquisitely redone 1920’s Mediterranean beauty with the blue-tiled roof.
And yep, it’s on the market! But NOT in MLS.
Just under 7000 square feet, built in the early 1920s, designer Susan Baten added a master and a den, turned the foyer into a music room, doubling the size of the former home. It took three and a half years to transform the place from decrepit to dynamo. As Dallas Morning News editor Christopher Wynn wrote:
Crisp white stucco walls rise to meet a crown of aqua tiles. A lion’s head fountain once again splashes in the front courtyard’s reflecting pool. Gleaming windows reveal peek-a-boo views inside a white lacquer wonderland inhabited by leggy chairs and modern art. This place stops traffic.
Now she’s on the market, (but, again, NOT in MLS) with agent to the stars Mark Godson, who splits his time betwixt Palm Springs Cali and Dallas. Mark tells me he has priced the home European style: nothing set in stone, but in the region of $4.1 million to $4.3, definitely northwards of $4 million.
Ha! Let the bidding begin!
In 2007, the house was a tear down listed by Eleanor Mowery Sheets, remember her? Years of disrepair had led to an interior mess: peeling paint, a hole in the kitchen ceiling, Lord knows what else. Susan Baten and her husband, Greg, intervened, because they had seen it from afar, like most people driving on Turtle Creek Blvd. And they like to take in house orphans.
“I always thought it looked worthy, it just needed a little help,” she says.
Others thought she should let it be, let CPS or the wrecking ball take over. But Wynn called Baten a “serial renovator”. She renovated a pink stucco on University Boulevard to resemble her fave LA haunt, the Beverly Hills Hotel. She and Greg also have a vacation home in Palm Springs, which is mid-century modern mecca and going gangbusters as a second home hot spot. That’s where Baten told Wynn she is stockpiling Saarinen Womb chairs and Tulip tables, and a pair of lamps once owned by Nancy Sinatra.
‘Course, 4001 Turtle Creek is circa 1920’s, when glam reigned supreme.
Replacing the home’s crumbling red Spanish roof with aqua tiles was at the top of Baten’s want list, wrote Wynn; Baten heard from the contractor, “we hope you like blue”; Baten told her husband, Greg: “This is going to look like the pancake house.”
Might be a good idea to keep your sunglasses on once you walk inside: the interior is dipped in Benjamin Moore’s “Decorators White.” Baten worked with Highland Park’s Veritas Developers Group to accentuate the high ceilings, a step-down living room, handsome moldings. The small, choppy rooms were reconfigured for smoother flow, and a rear addition of a sprawling den and upstairs master suite were added on. I want the recipe for those new wide-plank hardwood floors: “Chocolate Lab – not black, not brown, but chocolate Lab.”
Oh, the art! It doesn’t come with the house, at least not at this price, but Wynn writes that Baten measured for paintings when the house was still a construction zone, calling upon her friend and art adviser, Kenneth Craighead, co-owner of Craighead Green Gallery. Kenneth is one of the best art consultants and galleries in town and I also buy from him. As he says, Susan Baten worked the furnishings and accessories around later as background to the art. The floral photos on Plexiglas in the living room are by Sibylle Bauer. There is a large encaustic abstract by Brad Ellis in the dining room of dots. This sounds almost like the Nasher/Museum Tower relationship: Craighead “studied the piece in the room at different times of day to make sure it looked as spectacular during coffee at 7 a.m. as it did during candlelight dinner at 7 p.m.” Dallas artisan Brad Oldham, brother of designer Todd’s, created the dining “bird’s nest table” for Baten, and also created three smiling round faces just outside the breakfast-room window, a concrete sculpture he says was inspired by a “melodic mass of cypress tree roots” he’d seen jutting from the ground near Fair Park. Those are the “worm men”. Ask Mark if they go with the house — they are adorable!
Do check out Wynn’s piece on Baten and 4001 Turtle Creek, if you subscribe. The story of how she decorates — starting at age 21 with a chair she bought for $1 — is my cup of tea. She mixes tree-stump tables from West Elm (sprayed white) with French side chairs and palm-tree torchieres. The blue and white is, in my design book, to die for. There is nothing, nothing blue and white will not fix — no amount of depression or angst. She mixes Jonathan Adler with flea market bamboo garden furniture, everything lacquered white.
“If you stand still long enough, she’ll lacquer you,” her husband Greg warns.
Before I leave, I must tell you about one of the home’s most dramatic architectural features: the grand staircase’s wrought-iron railings, salvaged from a 1920s Pittsburgh home and signed by artisan Hyman Blum. His work is in the Louvre. Baten found them on a fluke at Nick Brock Antiques. I mean, who finds antique iron spindles for a staircase that fit? When the iron spindles arrived in buckets, there were exactly enough to reassemble the railing on site.