Spend some time talking to Oak Cliff restaurateur Joey Shashy, and you know he’s the kind of guy who can’t sit still for a minute. Down time? Not a part of his personal or business lexicon.
So when you visit Shashy’s mid-century modern home on Kessler Lake, you’re not surprised that it’s a masterwork of thoughtful restoration. You don’t lift an eyebrow when you see firsthand that the founder and original owner of the popular Uncle Julio’s chain left no detail to chance when it came to updating the 7,000-square-foot home, considered by many area designers to be one of the city’s architecturally significant homes.
After meeting Shashy, what does strike you is that, for a man devoted to shaking things up, he is almost slavishly mindful of keeping his house true to its early 60s roots. “When I first saw the house in November 1999, it had such good bones, I knew we could do something special here,” Shashy recalls, “but, from the beginning, this was more about restoring than remodeling. I wanted to keep the house’s natural feel. I wanted to keep the look and colors of the 60s. I wanted it to look and feel like the mid-century home it was designed to be.”
Back to the Future
With restoration as his goal, the intrepid Shashy, one of the original partners in Oak Cliff’s Kessler Woods Court, began calling in architects, hoping to breathe life into his vision as quickly and inexpensively as possible. “When I closed, I thought it would probably take three months…some paint….no more than $250,000 or so. I planned to live here throughout the process,” he explains.
He hired Dallas architect Patrick Hammers to handle the architectural needs for the project and got to work. But by the time the 51-year-old investor, now hard at work on a new restaurant concept with business and life partner Kyle Pitts, had called in his third design firm for a consultation, he knew the project was picking up steam.
“On paper, we didn’t realize how extensive the design was,” he admits. “Being honest, it kind of got out of hand.” Two years and an order-of-magnitude shift in budget later, Shashy had breathed stunning new life into the home, aided by Dallas design firm Morrison Seifert Murphy. “We had two other designers look at the house, but their ideas just didn’t line up,” he says. “The first wanted to do a gut renovation and keep it all new. The second wanted a mod look — black everything, chrome. I called Susan Seifert, and she pretty much hit the nail on the head.”
Rules of renovation
Shashy, who quickly calls your attention to details like the Ann Sacks glass subway tiles that line the home’s updated, professional kitchen with no small modicum of pride, claims his requirements of Seifert were minimal. “I was a very easy client,” he states. “Really. I only had a few requirements. First, it had to be comfortable. Second, I had to be able to sit on every piece of furniture before I bought it — which pretty much ruled out custom-built furniture. And third, at least one of the couches had to fit two people side by side so they could both lie comfortably and watch TV.”
And so began the venture of remodeling and design. Both Shashy, the longtime president of the board of Oak Cliff’s The Kessler School, and Seifert agreed that the home’s spaces were “pretty wonderful” as they were, so they left the layout as they found it. Their first order of business was updating the home’s electrical, mechanical and lighting systems. That handled, they turned their attention to the home’s original wood paneling and moldings.
“The wood is such a big design element here, we decided to add interest with the architectural woods,” he enthuses. “They had them washed down to reveal the original color, and then we matched that color throughout.” Sounds easy, right? Think again. “That was, by far, the biggest part of this project. Craftsmanship on the wood took more than a year — and I lived here throughout it.”
After two years and an undisclosed amount of money passed, it was time to begin work on the home’s exterior — and Shashy, again, turned to the experts. “I knew from previous development work that Naud Burnett was considered to be the best landscape designer in Dallas in the 50s and 60s, so I asked him to take on the project,” relates Shashy, who is also a partner in top Dallas gym Performance Playground on Cole Avenue. “Naud came, and he said he thought Lambert Landscaping Co. had done the original job.”
Before work on the landscaping began, Shashy called in an irrigation firm to make repairs to the existing sprinkler system. An older man arrived, and did a double-take when he pulled up in front of the house. “He told me, ‘I worked on this house when I was 21 years old. I know where everything is,’ and he did, too. I asked him who had done the original landscaping back then, and he told me Naud Burnett.” Laughing, Shashy called Burnett back. “I told him, ‘Hey, this sprinkler guy says you did the original landscape,’ and he laughs and says, ‘You know, after I left there, I thought it was familiar.’ So, in the end, Naud got to do the house twice.” Five years after the project, Shashy clearly loves the house. “What’s not to love?” he muses. “It’s like living in a palace. We were totally successful. Our whole concept was taking this house back to the 60s, and we definitely achieved it.”