Bill West wasn’t looking for a house to remodel when he and partner Martín Guerra decided to move to Oak Cliff 11 years ago. But one found him. “This was my third remodel, so I didn’t really want to do it,” West says.
The 1950s ranch house in the Elmwood neighborhood didn’t even have a for-sale sign, but when the home’s original owner met Bill and Martín, she knew they would buy it, with its dark wood paneling and awkward floor plan. And she was right, says Guerra: “There’s actually very little of the original house left.”
West, a self-taught carpenter and jack-of-all renovation trades who also restores vintage cars, knocked down walls, refinished floors, added cabinets and installed lighting. He built a patio one weekend while Guerra was on a trip. He’s created a new landscape design, erected a shed made to look like a cottage and built an outdoor fountain from an elephantine flowerpot. And he does it all himself. “Somehow, I just figure it out,” he says.
Most of us can’t do what West does, which is what makes him one of the stars of the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League’s annual home tour this month. This year, the tour is focusing on do-it-yourselfers and homeowners who have contracted renovations great and small. The city’s largest home tour usually spotlights the grand mansions of Kessler Park and the Victorian and Craftsman-style homes of Winnetka Heights. There is sure to be a taste of that on this year’s tour, but the league mostly is focusing on “what you can do,” says Vicki Fitzgerald, one of the tour’s organizers.
“We took into consideration the economy, and we are featuring a wide variety of smaller homes,” she says. “We want to show that you can have an amazing house that doesn’t have to be big.”
Take Patrick Hobbs, a mail carrier whose 1949 Austin stone house in the Beckley Wood neighborhood has fewer than 1,300 square feet. It has just one bathroom and two small bedrooms, but it has a big shady yard where his dog can play, and his informal living and dining rooms have become a vortex for neighbors.
“It’s small enough that it’s easy to keep clean,” he says. “But in a way, it’s surprisingly big. I can have a neighborhood association meeting here, and everyone gets so comfortable that they usually all stay and watch a movie.”
Hobbs’s house didn’t need major renovations, but he’s done some remodeling himself and hired pros for the rest, such as adding glass-tile backsplashes in the kitchen, accenting cabinets with crown molding and reinventing the fireplace with grey slate.
He’s most excited that the tour for the first time will spotlight Beckley Wood, a surprising sanctuary of old trees and charming cottages, pocketed between Interstate 35 and a housing project. “It’s a destination neighborhood,” he says. “When I was buying my house, my real estate agent told me there were no (comparative sales numbers) because nobody ever sells.”
Old Oak Cliff Conservation League Home Tour
When/ Oct. 10-11
Buy tickets/ at ooccl.com