mayrath house

Ahead of the demolition of iconic Mayrath house at 10707 Lennox Lane, midcentury modern lovers will be given the opportunity to pick over the bones of the Truett A. Bishop-designed home. Once lauded as one of the most innovative homes in the country, it will soon be razed to make room for a new build on the 2.29 acre lot.

I’m a little gobsmacked. This style is only growing in popularity, with more and more of these structures being updated and remodeled by caring and clever craftsmen. It’s truly a sad day for Dallas.

“This is such a unique and historical house — they are going to have a heck of a time tearing that down … because my dad made things to last forever,” Anne Christian, one of Martin Mayrath’s children, told CandysDirt.com writer Leah Shafer.” He spared no expense to add all the wonderful touches to the house. The steel piers going down into the bedrock would be the most interesting part—I would think it would make the ground unstable [for a future home built there] to have them torn out.”
The Mayrath family in the grand entryway, late 1950s. Martin Mayrath made his fortune by inventing the grain auger. Photo: Preservation Dallas

The Mayrath family in the grand entryway, late 1950s. Martin Mayrath made his fortune by inventing the grain auger. Photo: Preservation Dallas

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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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Oak Cliff TudorNorth Oak Cliff is one of the most sought-after areas in the DFW housing market, which makes it hotter than a fur coat in July. Houses regularly go under contract in a matter of days, and prices have increased substantially over the past five years in many of its neighborhoods.

The list of reasons to love North Oak Cliff could be its own blog post, but here are a select few:

  • The huge array of houses, in a variety of architectural styles
  • Unusual topography—actual hills!—and mature trees
  • The kind of neighborhoods where people know the names of the kids two doors down, like Ravinia Heights, West Kessler, and Winnekta Heights
  • Walkable neighborhoods, like Bishop Arts and Trinity Groves
  • An abundance of older homes with character, stories, and distinct looks
  • Proximity to downtown Dallas, Uptown, and other central areas of the city
  • The sense of it being an “up-and-coming” area of Dallas, with charisma and energy

Because so many people have realized the charms of the area, finding a property for under $200K can be a challenge. But there are still neighborhoods in North Oak Cliff where’s that’s possible. Sunset Hill is one of them, where the 2-1 at 2752 Catherine St. is located, near Hampton and 12th Street.

This North Oak Cliff Tudor is 1,263 square feet, updated with a new kitchen, but still retaining wonderful vintage charm, like arched doorways and original light fixtures flanking the fireplace. It is newly listed by Matt Watson with Dallasy.com, LLC for $175,000.

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All photos courtesy Erik Schuessler

All photos courtesy Erik Schuessler

When Erik Schuessler first encountered the midcentury modern house at 1434 Bar Harbor Cir. in the Wynnewood Hills neighborhood of Oak Cliff, he fell in love with its potential and retro aesthetic. As he renovated the 4,600-square-foot beauty and learned more about it, he also grew fascinated by its history.

In its heyday, Bar Harbor Drive was known as “Pill Hill” because so many doctors lived on the street. The house’s original resident, Dr. John B. Chester, ran Parkland Hospital and later ventured out on his own with The Chester Clinic and Hospital.

Dallas Morning News society editor Ann Draper wrote a piece in the early 1960s on his wife, Charlotte Chester, which described the Bar Harbor house as “among the most unusual and elegant in Oak Cliff. An indoor swimming pool has been a favorite with large and small groups of guests, as have rooms in the living area, which lend themselves to any number. Set in a wooded area, the house is on the very edge of the Oak Cliff Country Club’s No. 2 green of the golf course.”

1434 Bar Harbor

Located near the intersection of W. Redbird Lane and S. Polk Street, south of Highway 67, the house was what Schuessler describes as “pretty beat up” when he purchased it in early 2012.

“You can tell it was designed so well, and the way it was built is head and shoulders above many other midcenturies I’ve seen, and newer properties,” Schuessler said. “You can look in every corner and see that it was thought out. I fell in love with the aesthetic of the house.”

And thus began a three-year renovation for Schuessler and his girlfriend Meredith Moore, with Schuessler as the general contractor, carefully overseeing every detail of the revamp. The goal was to bring the house back to its original glory and perhaps make it even better by updating key elements, like HVAC, pool equipment, and the roof.

He is selling the house himself—it is listed for $475,000, or around $100 a square foot—but the intent was never to flip the property. It was to restore it.

“I think most flips are terrifying—it’s a ‘beige-ification’ with beige walls, Berber carpets, boring, boring, boring, nothing original to the style of the house except for maybe a pillar or two,” he said. “I’ve had a couple of houses and I buy a place, I really get into it, live in for three to five years, then move on. I find myself enamored by a place or an area and I have to buy it.” Jump to read more and see photos!

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1410 Gray Oak Living

This listing from Diana Gonzalez of Kuper Sotheby’s International Realty out of San Antonio is making the rounds at HuffPo and Curbed. It’s an incredibly preserved 1970s mecca that will have you doing the “Time Warp.”

1410 Gray Oak Kitchen

Inside 1410 Grey Oak Dr. you’ll find swag lamps, wood paneling, and a kitchen that could be straight out of “The Brady Bunch.” This house will have you reaching for your bell bottoms and mock turtlenecks! It was also featured on one of my new favorite home decor blogs, Retro Renovation, who compared this home to the incredible sets of American Hustle.

1410 Gray Oak Formal

I totally agree with the folks at the Retro Renovation blog in that I hope this property is purchased by someone who doesn’t gut this amazing time capsule!

Does this bring back memories or what?

(Photos: San Antonio Board of Realtors via Realtor.com/Matthew Wingate)