Home is where the Hardhat is

The postcard mailed from a real estate agent depicted an old aerial photograph of Kessler Park. Wendy Walker thought nothing of it at first, but as she looked closely at the card, she noticed something.

 

“I said, ‘Hey there’s our house,’” she says.

 

The 1926 two-story house she and her husband, Mark, bought on Lausanne a few years ago is one of the oldest houses in the neighborhood. At least, that’s true according to the postcard, which shows their house standing amid a few others and looking naked for a lack of trees.

 

The Walkers were living in a 1,500-square-foot house in Kessler Plaza when they decided to buy the older house, which was the last on the block to be renovated.

 

The family of five chose it because they wanted a bigger house, and they decided it would be less expensive to renovate a house than to buy one already updated.

 

Plus, they liked the idea of remaking the house the way they wanted it.

 

“You hate to buy a house that’s already done and then have to redo everything because you don’t like it,” Mark Walker says.

 

The foyer, with its built-in bookcase and dramatic staircase, sold them on the house.

 

Not much had been changed since 1926, except for bathrooms that had been updated in the ’50s and ’80s.

 

As work began, they found layers of strange wallpaper. They pulled up carpet from the floors and stairs. Every surface in the home had to be refinished, but the Walkers kept the original wood floors and built-ins. The original floor plan wasn’t changed except for a small porch they converted to a mudroom.

 

They liked the look of the home’s vintage, wavy glass windows, but they were not energy efficient. So the designer convinced the Walkers to replace all the windows in the house except for those in the front. They sought out replacement windows that closely matched the originals.

 

“We wanted to preserve the original flavor of the house,” Mark says.

 

Architect Trey Bartosh redesigned the eat-in island kitchen. It houses the air conditioner and a fridge shallower than standard models. Countertops are staggered to break up the 12 feet of soapstone along one wall, and the island is perfectly measured to give just enough space on both sides.

 

“We squeezed every inch out of this kitchen,” Mark says.

 

He chose part of the kitchen’s white cabinetry from a magazine, and Wendy picked another part from a design showroom. They widened a window and painted the walls iris purple, which makes for a simple, cheery kitchen.

 

Wendy is a professional organizer who likes bright colors and clean lines. But the most expensive parts of the renovation are the ones that aren’t as fun: All of the plumbing and electrical had to be replaced, they added central heat and air, and they buried the power lines.

 

“None of that makes the house look any better, but you have to have it,” Wendy says.

 

The ground floor has a tiny half-bath that had to be gutted and redesigned, and the home had only one full bathroom upstairs. The Walkers tried to figure a place to put another full bath, but in the end, they decided against it.

 

“We couldn’t bring ourselves to do it because it’s such a great floor plan,” Mark says.

 

So the whole family shares one upstairs bathroom, but it is designed to accommodate them all. It was Wendy’s idea to design a barber-shop-style bathroom with two sinks and mirrors, and three “stations” with cabinets, drawers and counters. They incorporated the lighted barber’s pole that Mark and Wendy bought in an antique shop when they were first married.

 

“It works well for high traffic,” she says of the bathroom’s layout.

 

The Walkers reused all of the home’s original doors, although some had to be flipped or widened. And they used all the original doorknobs and hinges. Wendy took all of the whimsical light globes from the children’s rooms — one room had a Boy Scouts theme with a compass light — and reused them in their closets.

 

Wendy grew up in Oak Cliff, and when she was a child, her parents spent more than eight years renovating their Winnetka Heights house. The Walkers’ renovation took only 10 months, but Wendy says it’s the perfect home for her family.

 

“I’ve grown up in old houses,” she says. “You keep as much as you can while still making it feel modern and comfortable.”


Click to see before/after photos.

 


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  • Nancy Beesley Kemp

    This does sound like the Beesley house where I grew up. It is so good to know that it is in good hands and being enjoyed by a family. My family has fond memories of living there.

  • Peggy van Wunnik

    I think this was my friend Betsy Beesley’s house – you’ve done a beautiful job with it.