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Building a Contemporary Home that is Timeless
by Dr. Oneida Cramer

Near the corner of Mockingbird Lane and Chapel Hill Road is a new home that?s stopping traffic. Neighbors who walk through it come out inspired by its design, the work of architect Cliff Welch, A.I.A. and interior designer, Tina Syring. Just as unique is the home?s conception?a letter written by Saundra and Shawn Freeman, who is a graphics designer.

?I?ve always thought, if I were on the other side, how would I act,? Shawn said. ?Rather than say or send a picture in a magazine or any of the other things that?s typical for an architect to get, we just wanted to say?this is our family, this is how we live, and this is what?s important to us philosophically.?

?He gave me a lot of their big ideas,? Welch said. ?I was really excited how their desires for the home paralleled my own approach of design and architecture.? Welch and Freeman first met as business neighbors; then Freeman employed Welch to design several offices before he decided to expand the family bungalow, a decision he and Saundra made after the birth of their second boy. Remodeling would have added too much footage to the home. So, they opted to buy a house, which led to building the 4695 square foot, two-story regional modern home at 4765 Chapel Hill Road.

?We wanted to make sure we built a home that 50 to 100 years from now is still a home that people loved,? Shawn said. ?There are too many homes that go up in Dallas today?they?re not even designed to stay up more than 20 years?not designed to last. We looked at older homes, not because we liked that style. We liked being in a home that was built of a quality level that it has lasted 100 years.? Yet building a home in an older neighborhood presented a different set of concerns.

?A home that was in character with the neighborhood and in the times that the neighborhood was built, yet was modern, ? Shawn said. ?That was important to us. We wanted a modern home. But we didn?t want to build a white box, concrete structure that was out of character.?

Welch turned to the approach of architect Howard Meyer (1903-1988), designer of Sanger House (1937), Zale House (1939), Ben Lipshy House (1952), and Temple Emanu-El (1953-59), whose structures accommodated the Texas climate and included regional materials.

?We did a lot of research looking for the stones for the house, trying to figure out what was appropriate to this part of town and this part of the country rather than trying to find a regional stone that?s perhaps around White Rock Lake,? Welch said. ?We went back and looked at the building materials that were used in the 40?s and 50?s, when Dallas was really turning to a modern city. And the Tennessee crab orchard ledge stone was the stone used extensively from service stations to restaurants to high rises back then. It?s a very linear, very nice feel to it. Then we mixed that with a cream colored brick.? The stone runs through the whole interior of the house from end to end, where it actually forms the heart of the home, where the kitchen backs up to it, where the fireplace opens both to the living room and dining room. The stone piece goes upstairs where it also houses the fireplace in the master bedroom and continues through the roof to form the chimney.

?We want to take pleasure in our land and have our friends come over and enjoy it with us,? wrote the Freemans in the letter. ?We want to be protected from bugs but be exposed to cool breezes; we want the outside to come in.?

?Being able to take advantage of the lot to bring the outside into the house was important to us,? Shawn said. ?So, finding ways that blur that boundary between the inside and outside of the house was important to us because we like being outdoors. One of the great things about living in Dallas is, if you have a well designed structure and you have trees, there?s a tremendous number of days in the year when you can really enjoy the outside.? The two-storied screened-in back porch not only adds extra living space overlooking the creek, it brings fresh air ambiance to interior rooms through open windows and a doors, even a door to the second story master bedroom. Also blurring interior/exterior boundaries is the use of Tennessee crab orchard ledge stone for interior and exterior walls along with adjacent glass windowpanes that allow the visual connection to be observed. Even the interior has outdoor spaciousness for the home feels very tall with 11 to 12 feet ceilings on the first floor and a pitched standing seam metal roof up to 17 feet on the second floor. Consequently, going upstairs creates a sense of expanding space giving that ?tree house? effect Saundra feels.

?The other thing it?s got?I think we?ve gotten away from?on the front of the house is a second story balcony that runs the length of the house,? Welch said. ?One of the children?s bedrooms, the one that doesn?t open up to the screened porch, has access to the front balcony. The study off the master bedroom opens to the porch as well on the corner. So, you?ve got this really nice family room that?s outside, and it?s covered. You can look out over the neighborhood. Yet, a solid rail around the balcony gives it a sense of privacy.? And a large overhang blocks incoming rain, except during hard driving horizontal storms.

?We want our home to be uncluttered with obvious and clever spaces to put away our things and less obvious and even more clever spaces to hide away the things we need less often,? the letter goes on. Unusual are the long hallways that navigate around the perimeter of a low-ceilinged, walk-in closet within the larger dimensions of the master bedroom. At the entrance to the bedroom, the hallway directly ahead accesses the opening to the closet in the direction of the master bath. To the right of the entrance, the hallway leads into the bedroom, where the master bed rests against the closet wall, now converted into a headboard.

Outside, a carport, in lieu of a garage, creates additional unusual storage space with a covered breezeway between the carport and the house. In the breezeway is storage for bikes and other outdoor equipment, as well as planned space are two large translucent, Japanese-like screens to close off an area under a skylight and create a temporary greenhouse for housing plants during cold weather.

This regional modern architecture is worth a visit during the 25th Annual Lakewood Home Festival on Saturday Nov 3 (10 am- 5pm) and Sunday, Nov. 4 (noon ?5pm). For more information call 214-826-5962.

-by Dr. Oneida Cramer
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