A Stately little home

Lust might be too strong a word; perhaps a healthy and robust interest would be more appropriate, though "healthy" might not be entirely accurate either. I don't even remember now when I first noticed it, but for several years I've been fascinated by a home on Mandell near Rice University and I find myself going by it whenever I'm in the area, you know, just to see what it's up to.


The home appears rather diminutive in scale but is actually quite a bit larger than it looks, which is a refreshing change from houses that attempt to do the opposite and look more grand than they really are. It seems to acknowledge it isn't as imposing in size as other homes but it still holds its head up proudly and walks with a certain "pep in its step" (well, I mean if it had feet and were mobile).

You might say it is as though the house maintains good posture, not to appear taller, but rather because it's just the right thing to do. This home goes about its business in the right way, never raising a fuss.

Though modest, the home is permitted one bit of regal indulgence: the crown it wears in the form of a cupola that gives it so much of its charm. Somewhat echoing the verticality of the cupola are its ''attendants", the urns perched atop the railing.

Apologies for the dark photograph, but I like the archway that connects the house to this little room that... well, I'm not sure what this room is. 

When I move into the home this will be my home office, even if I have to push the lawnmower to the corner or work around the washer and dryer, or whatever the actual use is for this little space. I would like to place my desk at that window so I can enjoy the manicured park-like front lawn, but for fun I might also stack precariously atop my desk a stool, trash can, and a box or two, and on my tippy-toes crane my neck to look out the ocular window, just because. 

The home was built in 1924. I'm beginning to realize that homes nearing 100 aren't as old as they used to be, if that makes sense. While it has a classic look this home does not seem like a "100-year old home" as I used to think of them. When I first became interested in studying homes a 100-year old home was a Victorian from the 1880s. The last 30+ years have gone by rather quickly.

During a drive-by a while back I saw that it had a For Rent sign in the front yard and I was tempted once again, as I've been with so many other homes, to call and pretend to be a prospective renter just so I could tour the home. I never feel right about doing this (well, except for that one time) so instead I checked to see if there was a listing for it on the internet. There was!

There were several photos posted, including interiors and rear elevations, and I was so excited to finally get additional views of the home I had only seen from the street. I'm hesitant to post the photos here. Sorry, you'll have to do your own internet stalking. It's obvious from the street (and was confirmed in the photos) that the second floor space has been carved out beneath sloped ceilings between the dormers, a feature I LOVE for its coziness, but I was disappointed to find that the second floor did not open up to the cupola above. I had always assumed the cupola brought natural light into the space but instead if there was ever an opening it had been closed and there was a simple ceiling-mounted light fixture where the opening should be. Drats. Similarly, I would hope that at night the cupola might be illuminated so that those passing by on the sidewalk or in the street may gaze upon its warm bright glow (or so that passing sea vessels might navigate the shoreline safely) but I've not seen that either.

Given my fixation with this home I have a heightened sensitivity toward homes of a similar design. I don't know if it's quite the same thing as deciding you're going to buy, say, a Chevy Cobalt and suddenly you see Cobalts on the road everywhere, but maybe it's similar? There is a home on Bellaire that must be related to this home, maybe as a younger cousin, as it was built 21 years later. It is very similar, yet there are differences.


The walls to the left and right of the front porch feature double windows, the columns are doubled and the spacing between them is different than the Mandell home, and the front door is to the left rather than centered. The cupola is very similar with a matching copper finial but it's a bit shorter than the Mandell home. The dormers are clad in vertical siding, while the Mandell home has horizontal siding. The Chippendale railing above the porch is very similar but lacks the urns. I wonder if it ever had them or if they were omitted during construction? This home has a bay on the side obstructed by the crepe myrtle, the Mandell home has no side bay.


At the Bellaire home there is no archway and no detached room (and no place to fall off one's desk while trying to look through an upper window) but there is a detached garage with access gained from the front drive rather than a rear alley.

A third example of the home is found in a book I have featuring the homes of the Park Cities in Dallas. This sketch is of the sales office which was built in 1924, the same year as the Mandell home. 


Other than being clad in siding rather than brick, and being flanked on both sides with small, detached rooms and archways, this home appears to be identical to the one on Mandell. The cupola is actually taller and its finial stretches even further heavenward but the home contains the same railing, urns, columns, dormer placement, and overall massing. The office was located on Preston but was torn down at some point. 

It might be possible that this home was one of many kit homes offered through mail order by Sears, Roebuck and Company, among others, in the first half of the 20th century but so far I have not found proof of that. It's not such a radically unique design that any similarity between various homes is proof that there is a connection, but I do think these three homes are close enough in their designs that some connection is likely. 

I hope the owners of the Mandell home don't mind that the photo of their residence is currently used as wallpaper on my phone, my laptop, and now appears here. I'm having a good bit of fun with this home as well as finding similar variations of it elsewhere. If there are additional examples I would love to know about them.

No, It's Okay, I'm an Architect

One of my favorite activities is to roam neighborhood streets, preferably the older tree-lined variety, looking at houses and I think the best way to do so is on foot or on a bicycle. There are various reasons for this, aside from the obvious exercise benefits. When walking or biking you get better views of the homes and can linger a little longer without worries of blocking the car behind you, and if a second peek is necessary it is far easier to spin around on a bike than in a car. Plus, for some reason I hate involving people's driveways in my 3-point turns.

Another benefit to walking and biking has to do with Picture Time. Let's say you spy a striped awning or a sculpted topiary or a "cherry-on-top" cupola that must be added to your photo library. If you are stopped in your car and taking a picture through the window (and if the homeowner happens to spot you) you are a potential Weirdo or some such other kind of potential domestic threat. If, however, you are on a bike or on foot, you might be an Architecture Enthusiast with an eye for good design! At least, that is what I hope anyway.

I sometimes feel uneasy standing outside someone's home taking pictures but I hope it is understood that I am doing so because I admire some aspect of the home.  It occurred to me that I might follow the lead of the utility company and don a fluorescent vest with "Architect" emblazoned across the back. That way if the homeowner sees me milling about out front they will know I am on Official Business documenting the architectural highlights of the city. Rather than feel uneasy that they are under surveillance the bright vest assures them that no, it's okay, I'm an architect.