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Filling an Indoor Swimming Pool makes a Great Room for Entertaining
by Dr. Oneida Cramer

Nobody in the Robert and Jan Crandall household walks on the white carpeting in the dining room behind the foyer screen. For white carpet outlines the area where a pool of water once stood under the dining room marble floor.

?My traffic pattern?I will always walk around that water,? said Jan remembering the many times she stood at the front door greeting guests with an adamant warning not to stop walking until after crossing the bridge. Still, an occasional guest would accidentally step into the water. In fact, the first person falling in the water did so only three days after the Crandalls moved into the house in December 1991. On seeing a white horse drawn carriage pull up outside the glass front door, Robert?s mother rushed to grab her camera on the dining table and plunged into the water. But at about two feet deep, the pool did not pose a hazard.

At the opposite end of the 100-foot expansive room was an oval shaped pool with a lion?s head fountain and a deeper volume of water for swimming, something the original owner, Mrs. Graf, reportedly did every day.

?In 1997, we discovered that the pools were leaking and discoloring the marble floor,? Robert said. ?First, we tried to stop it from leaking and could not. So, we closed off the draining pools and poured concrete. Then we tore out the entire marble flooring downstairs and replaced with Carerra marble, which was what the house was originally built with.?

?Mr. (Edward Durell) Stone was very interested in the whole mix of grays and browns,? Jan said. So restoration, in keeping with what Edward Durell Stone would do to take care of the problem, became a major consideration in choosing the original marble processing?Danby Vermont Imperial Marble, cut and polished in Italy. Today, the former swimming pool area is walk space that comfortably seated 104 guests at a dinner party, according to Jan. In fact, that space accommodated the recently held American Institute of Architects (A.I.A.) Dallas house tour focusing on the home?s architectural history.

It took the collective efforts of architect Edward Durell Stone, landscape architect Thomas D. Church, interior designer T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings, and builder Chester Ingram to create the house of 1956. After designing the United States Embassy in New Delhi in 1954 and replacing the front fa?ade of his own brownstone home in New York with glass and a terrazzo grille in 1955, Stone drafted the more than 10,000 square foot, 3-story home in Dallas?his only Texas structure. Then in 1958, Stone created the original design of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., which concludes a few of the many structures Stone built in his life (1902-1978).

In the Dallas residence are elements of classic Greek architecture peristyle and Mediterranean village protected space, for instance the large central corridor space, the massive surround of windows, and a decorative exterior grille added for privacy. Stone didn?t like hallways; instead he built glass doors, glass walls, and recessed entrances. Robsjohns-Gibbins expanded on Stone?s ideas with his own hand carved arabesque mahogany screens.

?When we did the floor, we had to take the screens down?we totally redid them,? Jan said. ?We couldn?t get over how we missed the screens in the space. When it was empty, it just looked huge. And when they brought the screens back, and they put the first screen up, I knew that this house really needed those screens. This was more than dividing space. The space needed something to divide it.?

?With the rooms empty?they?re wonderfully proportioned,? said Jan. ?I thought we were going to muck it up with furniture. I was so pleased when we were able to bring the original furniture back. This is the best furniture I?ve ever seen pictured in this house.? Fortunately, almost all the furniture originally designed for the house is here and in good condition.

On the other hand, the house had deteriorated terribly by the time the Crandalls purchased it, according to Robert. The wiring and plumbing didn?t work; the ceiling leaked. Restoration involved the entire building including all new thermal pane windows, a rebuilt elevator, and a raised, low profile roof with clear, story windows for the pavilion outside the second story master bedroom suite. Skylights also went in the roof directly over dome skylights in the pavilion floor that opened on the first floor.

Initially, the house was built without stairs although the plans had included a stairwell. But Mrs. Graf nixed the stairs for an elevator. So the circular staircase was added sometime before the Crandalls bought the house.

?I woke up at 2 o?clock in the morning,? Jan said. ?I know what?s wrong. That stairway?it?s got to be backwards?that?s the only thing that makes real sense.? By 4 o?clock, she had spread out the original plans and saw that, indeed, the stairs were backwards?a situation they corrected.

?The house is as close to being a brand new house as it can be for a building that was built in 1957,? Robert said. ?What we tried to do was restore the house to exactly the way it was built.? Needless to say, they fought to keep the pool under the dining room.

?I could crawl underneath?in the beginning they tied me because they thought I would faint under there?and I would wait,? Jan said. ?And as the pool was filling, I?d say ?don?t drip?don?t drip?. And then, the water would get to a certain point, and it would drip again. So, we?d turn off the hoses and empty it and go back at it again. During 1998-2000, while eliminating the pools, they also reinforced the pier and beam system with steel beans as well as excavated and replaced the drainage system.

Jan got into restoring the original Church landscaping even transplanting all but the last four holly bushes, herself. Other projects also included redoing two driveways and landscape lighting, designed and installed by John Watson.

Consequently, through the windows there comes a sense of serenity from the cloistered courtyards. Yet, deep inside the palatial expanse of the home?s central corridor, where light can penetrate from many sides and reverberate in the bright reflective shiny marble and the delicate curving geometries, there still emerges a place of quiet peace.

-by Dr. Oneida Cramer
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