Archives for June 2010

Westbury, Houston

Our first home purchase was in Westbury, a post-war neighborhood in Houston, Texas.  A three-bedroom, two-bathroom ranch, our house was duplicated over and over throughout Westbury–an early example of the ubiquitous tract home.

Our first little rancher, how I loved you.

A typical street scene in Westbury.

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Not long after we moved in, we discovered the ruins of Westbury Square on West Bellfort; and it immediately became a thing of my dreams.  Developed by William J. Wortham, Jr., Westbury Square was the hub of the neighborhood in the 1960s and 70s with shops, restaurants, and theater–a forerunner of the new urban living such as Glenwood Park.   By the time I moved in, Home Depot had claimed a portion of the land and the remaining square had long fallen into disrepair, yet a few businesses remained.  I would often stop by one of the antique shops to catch the latest rumor of its revitalization.  There always seemed to be some buzz that someone was going to resurrect this old relic.  I stopped by this last February, and I’d venture to say that all hope is gone.

Those who grew up in Westbury during the Square’s heyday, have lots of good memories to share.

Click here for Westbury images from the golden years.

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Nearby at the corner of Chimney Rock and West Bellfort is the Westbury Centerette, another place I had hoped would be renewed.  Right now it is vacant save one laundromat at the very end.


You are an optimist if you don’t see the irony in this photo.

They still have soul, don’t they?

A Ranch Redo

I’m serving up a ranch B&A today.  I have a soft spot for mid-century ranch houses.

When we were househunting three years ago, I was one tough customer.  Picky, snobby, hard to please.  Yes, a dream client for a realtor.  But then I found this ranch that seemed to have all the important criteria we were looking for…except, uh, exterior beauty.  We figured since the layout worked and it had a nice backyard, we could give the lady a face lift down the road.  We didn’t want to spend a lot of money for major structural additions yet wanted to make the shoebox house as attractive as possible.

The after!  It is such a happier place to come home to.  I knew she could be pretty.

We broke the project down into small bite-size pieces and decided on improvements that would give the most architectural bang for the buck.  The stone patio first, then the garage, next the entry, and lastly the brick painted.  So worth every bit.

I hated the carport.  Ugly and not so safe.  Not to mention that the glass door there was the source of a very embarrassing breastfeeding episode with the UPS man.  The new garage helps to clean up the front view of the house.

I prefer not to have a garage in front of the house, but since we do, we’re making the best of it with a new trellis and decorative doors.  The hardware on the garage, while lovely on other homes, is a compromise on my part for the man (too busy for me).  And he didn’t want the house painted so dark.  Isn’t that what marriage is all about?

The posts on the entry echo the design on the garage trellis.  And we widened the width of white space around the new front door for a more graphic impact.  The lights are the Bradshaw sconces from Restoration Hardware.  The door is from Rogue Valley Doors.  I love, love, love the new front door.

We swapped out the iron flower window basket for a bolder white box and added beefier shutters.

Do you see the window ledge there under the bank of three windows?  All the window ledges are the original red brick–a little nod to the house’s past.

Oh, my, seeing the before photos again while writing this post confirms that the exterior transformation was a wise investment–not just monetarily but in my happiness.  The house was ugly!  And while it is still a shoebox, it is now a pretty shoebox.   In a time when it is harder to sell a house and move, I think it is more important than ever to embrace the small changes that can create a huge impact in your current home.

Click here for the paint colors we used on the exterior redo.

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Do you love or hate mid-century ranches?  Chances are you’ve lived in one at some point in your life, given the prevalence of ranches on the American landscape.  We are a [ranch] house divided here at TPH.  The mister vows that this is the last one we will ever live in while I find myself strangely connected to this style/history/ideal.