mayrath house

Original Geneva cabinets are just one of the Midcentury Modern wonders in the iconic Mayrath house, located at 10707 Lennox Ln. in Northwest Dallas near the Straight Lane estates.

For all of its progress toward becoming a world-class city, Dallas still has a lot to learn about the value of historic architecture.

We are tear-down happy. The list of demolished Dallas buildings with significant historic and architectural value would go on for pages. But here are a few recent examples:

We might have another situation happening now. The Mayrath house at 10707 Lennox Ln. is a Midcentury Modern gem. It was designed by Dallas architect and homebuilder Truett A. Bishop in 1956, and is largely unchanged since then.

Photo: Michael Amonett

Photo: Michael Amonett

A Dallas Times Herald article from Sept. 23, 1957, titled Not a Splinter of Wood Used In Outstanding Home in Dallas, describes the Mayrath House like this:

Wood, the most frequently used material in homes, is completely shunned in the home of one Dallas family. There isn’t so much as a splinter of wood in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Martin Mayrath, 10707 Lennox Lane…Built on columns of steel, the two story house is constructed with aluminum, glass, concrete and Austin stone. It may look like a country club at first glance, but it is a luxury home—one that probably is not equaled in the vast Southwest.

In terms of architectural value, this Northwest Dallas home near Royal Lane and Inwood Road is priceless. But it was listed Jan. 18 by Sharon Quist with Dave Perry-Miller Real Estate for $2.5 million, which is just the lot value.

That means the iconic Mayrath house and all its Midcentury significance is likely to face the wrecking ball, probably replaced by another generic McMansion or faux château.

When discussing this possible fate for the Mayrath house, a friend commented, “That is so Dallas.” But it doesn’t have to be. This home is worth saving.

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Kim Armstrong's office in Little Forest Hills was once the dilapidated home of a hoarder. Instead of tearing it down, Armstrong painstakingly renovated the cottage.

Kim Armstrong’s office in Little Forest Hills was once the dilapidated home of a hoarder. Instead of tearing it down, Armstrong painstakingly renovated the cottage.

By Kim Armstrong
Interior Designer, Kim Armstrong Interior Design

As an interior designer I’m a huge proponent of renovations versus tear downs. I’m not only a renovator for my own home and office, but some of my favorite design projects come from renovations and not new builds. This is a topic that is close to my heart, so if you are considering what to do with your home, and if you feel that your home can’t meet the needs of your current lifestyle, I say don’t give up on it so quickly. Your home can become the comfortable charmer you desire. The option to renovate can provide far greater benefits than you ever imagined.

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Perhaps the new sign of fully recovered economy should be a McMansion? Or maybe our economy would be better judged by the size of the middle class?

In 2010, while we were still trying to figure out what went wrong with the federal stimulus and which bank was to blame for it all (answer: none of them, or all of them, or just Bear Stearns, depending on your perspective), Time wrote a piece on Aug. 20 entitled “The End of a Housing Era: McMansions Losing Their Luster.” The brief article starts with this interesting bit:

“New research delves into a harsh reality — with tough economic times in the background, large residences are no longer a given.”

I am pretty sure that large residences were never really a “given.” Still, let’s move on:

“Trulia.com’s 2010 American Dream survey notes that from 1950 to 2004, the average size of an American home jumped from from 983 square feet to 2,349 square feet.

But according a July 2010 Trulia-Harris interactive survey, that figure is poised to drop for the first time in six decades. Among individuals polled, only nine percent were looking in the McMansion range: a house covering at least 3,000 square feet, built in proximity to other palaces. In contrast, 64 percent of those polled were looking for dream homes of 800-2,600 square feet.”

Now, 800 to 2,600 square feet is by no means a small range, and even at the low end, 800 square feet is a far cry from a trendy “tiny home.” But, houses were getting smaller, Time said, and the economy wasn’t nearly as forgiving as it was in 2004.

But in a piece in the New York Times this weekend entitled “McMansions Are Making a Comeback,” we see the sprawling suburban home holding fast to the ropes, giving it the old college try, and truly pulling off a Rocky-esque revival.

“When the housing bubble burst in 2007, there was a glut of unsold inventory on the market, and the size of newly built homes began to shrink. In both 2008 and 2009, Census Bureau figures show, the median size of a new home was smaller than it had been the previous year. It seemed that after more than a decade of swelling domiciles, the McMansion era was over. But that conclusion may have been premature.

In 2010, homes starting growing again. By last year, the size of the median new single-family home hit a record high of 2,306 square feet, surpassing the peak of 2007. And new homes have been getting more expensive, too. The median price reached $279,300 in April this year, or about 6 percent higher than the pre-recession peak of $262,600, set in March 2007. The numbers are not adjusted for inflation.”

But how are people buying these homes, if the economy is, as the article in the NYT claims, “weak”? NAHB’s Rose Quint says that people who can get a loan, an altogether evaporating pool of Americans, are fueling the numbers behind home sales.

“People who are less affluent and have less robust employment histories have been shut out of the new home market. As a result, the characteristics of new homes are being skewed to people who can obtain credit and put down large down payments, typically wealthier buyers.”

So, what do you glean from all this? Is it that the economy is recovering and housing is reaching a natural equilibrium? Or is it that the size of homes skews toward the wealthy, which means fewer people are able to buy homes due to a shrinking middle class?