Dallas Architecture Forum

Keynote speaker Leo Marmol is an expert on the Kaufmann House by Richard Neutra in Palm Springs, considered one of the most important residences of the 20th century. Photo: David Glomb

If you swoon over Frank Sinatra’s style, and you marvel over Mad Men‘s Midcentury Modern, then you won’t want to miss the next Dallas Design Symposium, presented by the Dallas Architecture Forum.

Titled Modernism, the focus of the symposium is the best of Midcentury Modern architecture and design. It will be held Oct. 4 from 2 – 5 p.m. at the Nasher Sculpture Center.

Keynote speaker Leo Marmol, FAIA, is one of the world’s leading authorities in the restoration of iconic Midcentury Modern and International Style residences, including the 1946 Kaufmann House by Richard Neutra in Palm Springs, and restorations of works by Cliff May, Rudolph Schindler, John Lautner, Minoru Yamasaki, and E. Stewart Williams. Marmol will overview his firm’s landmark restoration projects, as well as discuss how the firm integrates Midcentury design elements into their new construction and pre-fab projects, producing award-winning residences.

Dallas Architecture Forum

An interior photo of the Kaufmann House in Palm Springs. Photo: David Glomb

Also speaking at the symposium is Sidney Williams, curator of the Palm Springs Art Museum.  Her father-in-law, E. Stewart Williams, designed Frank Sinatra’s famous Twin Palms residence in Palm Springs, his first residential commission. She will share inside stories about Twin Palms, the homes of other movie stars, and the design history of the area.

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midcentury renovationmidcentury renovationI’ve known Rebecca Nolen since our high school days at Ursuline Academy of Dallas. Even back then, her design aesthetic was refined—she had the best-looking bedroom of anyone I knew. She also offered me Welsh rarebit as a snack when I came over to study one afternoon, far more sophisticated than the Little Debbie Star Crunch Cosmic Snacks I was used to eating after school.

The subsequent years only improved her taste, as evidenced by the discerning midcentury renovation of the Lake Highlands home she and her husband Richard bought in 2005.

“We had visited a number of houses we loved over the years—the Eames house in Los Angeles and a Neutra house in Palm Springs, especially—and those gave us a good idea of how we want to live,” said Richard. “The Eames house looks almost like a child’s toy from the outside with its red and blue panels, but it’s filled with treasures from Charles and Ray’s travels around the world. They really lived there; it wasn’t a sterile monument to design. That’s what we’re going for.”

When Rebecca and Richard purchased “the ranchette” in 2005, it was dated and drab, but with potential: corner lot on a quarter acre, 1,341 square feet, three bedrooms, and a big kitchen and backyard.

“Honestly, we only looked at about three houses, and this was the first one,” said Rebecca. “It had a lot of problems—it was pretty much a dump, with torn up carpeting, ratty wallpaper, broken fiberglass shower enclosures, and an HVAC system that was falling apart. But it was filled with light and the kitchen was enormous. Something about it felt right. And it didn’t have a popcorn ceiling, which still ranks among my worst nightmares.”

The work they’ve done over the years is nothing short of spectacular. They took a boring, blah house and added major midcentury personality, elegant style, and thoughtful design.

“We have neighbors who get what we’re doing and raise the bar themselves—there are some serious midcentury modern remodels that are giving us great ideas,” Rebecca said. “Our next-door neighbors even went midcentury modern last summer with an outdoor update. They bought oversized aluminum house numbers, replaced their brass lantern with a giant globe pendant, and used a quirky chartreuse paint color for their trim.”

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