From tired house to midcentury modern dream home in Bedford

The wood-paneled den, with its copper-clad fireplace, is filled with family heirlooms. Many of the mid-century pieces belonged to Jen’s mother; the more rustic artifacts came from her father’s family. The reproduction tulip chairs are from Burke, a Dallas manufacturer.Ross Hailey - rhailey@star-telegram.com

When Jen Cooper and her husband, John, were looking for a new house, they found one that was more than what they wanted. It was bigger and costlier, and had suffered an abundance of design abuse. Their desire was for a midcentury modern house — one of the single-story, flat-roof homes with lots of built-ins that had a brief run of popularity in the 1950s and ’60s.

What they found was a 6,000-square-foot house that was built in 1975. True, it was a one-story, flat-roofed home, but it was so large. There were only the two of them, and the house boasted five bedrooms, five full bathrooms, and multiple living and dining areas, plus three wet bars, a pool and a Japanese soaking room.

 

A front view of the Coopers’ spacious Bedford home shows the combination of late midcentury modern with a lacing of Asian influence.
A front view of the Coopers’ spacious Bedford home shows the combination of late midcentury modern with a lacing of Asian influence.Ross Hailey - rhailey@star-telegram.com

 

When it was new, it was quite a showplace for late midcentury style. Forty years later, a string of owners had left their marks of disregard. Stark black moldings on white walls that originally created a Mondrian-like grid were painted white, leaving viewers to wonder why the ghostly moldings crisscrossed the walls. Shiny, scraped hardwood floors and dark granite counters — current HGTV overkills — were added, and pleated flounces had been swagged over the floor-to-ceiling windows in the living room. Grass-cloth wall coverings had been partially ripped down or painted over. One of the most egregious additions was a French wedding cake of a fountain centered in the front yard.

Jen and John, both 34, were undaunted. They bought the house, eventually. It was such an anomaly in size and style for the Bedford area that it took ages to find appropriate comparables.

 

John and Jennifer Cooper
John and Jennifer CooperRoss Hailey - rhailey@star-telegram.com

 

The first thing they did was rip down the drapery flounces. Threads indicating their previous existence still dangle from high above. Walls were moved, and a family room that’s suitable for corralling the Coopers’ three large dogs was carved out of the old dining room.

Jen had been avidly collecting midcentury modern home accessories since she was in college, and this house would become a showcase for her collections. For years, her disposable income has gone to purchase artworks and period furniture. As she moved to San Antonio to attend law school, then Lubbock post-graduation, she continued her collecting habits, adding furniture as she could afford it and find it. Still, once she and her husband moved into the large house in Bedford, they were furniture-light.

 

The back yard includes a pool and a Japanese salt bath house.
The back yard includes a pool and a Japanese salt bath house.Ross Hailey - rhailey@star-telegram.com

 

Her family came to their rescue, handing off many pieces of age-appropriate furniture. Her mother had a house full of mid mod, and it all came Jen’s way. More heirlooms from other family members found their way onto the shelves and into the rooms. As she itemizes the pieces from her family, it would appear she is the only grandchild of four pairs of doting grandparents. Not so. She says she cleaned up after her siblings had their pick. As the oldest of the generation of grandchildren, she figures she ended up with many pieces purely because she had heard the stories or knew their background. Plus, she says her family is more inclined toward minimalism.

Vintage is Jen’s specialty. She’s been attracted to antique clothing since she was in high school, saying she’s always been inclined to visit the thrift stores instead of a mall. Even with a law degree, something she thought would aid her in business, Jen eschewed a traditional track and opened Vintage Tex, a clothing store on Grapevine’s Main Street that specializes in pre-1990s clothing. Her favorite finds are pieces from the ’40s and ’50s; with each passing year they get harder to find, a problem she encounters in locating pieces for her house. Many of the things in her home can be carbon-dated to the ’70s or early ’80s, later than the traditional midcentury modern purists are wont to go. But here is a trove of collectibles that haven’t hit the mainstream eBay buyers, pieces that aren’t slapped with the overused and often erroneous descriptive “Eames Style.”

 

Massive curved beams, reminiscent of a boat’s hull, and a copper clad fireplace wall dominate the Coopers’ living room. The furniture is a mix of mid-century pieces.
Massive curved beams, reminiscent of a boat’s hull, and a copper clad fireplace wall dominate the Coopers’ living room. The furniture is a mix of mid-century pieces.Ross Hailey - rhailey@star-telegram.com

 

Her family came to their rescue, handing off many pieces of age-appropriate furniture. Her mother had a house full of mid mod, and it all came Jen’s way. More heirlooms from other family members found their way onto the shelves and into the rooms. As she itemizes the pieces from her family, it would appear she is the only grandchild of four pairs of doting grandparents. Not so. She says she cleaned up after her siblings had their pick. As the oldest of the generation of grandchildren, she figures she ended up with many pieces purely because she had heard the stories or knew their background. Plus, she says her family is more inclined toward minimalism.

Vintage is Jen’s specialty. She’s been attracted to antique clothing since she was in high school, saying she’s always been inclined to visit the thrift stores instead of a mall. Even with a law degree, something she thought would aid her in business, Jen eschewed a traditional track and opened Vintage Tex, a clothing store on Grapevine’s Main Street that specializes in pre-1990s clothing. Her favorite finds are pieces from the ’40s and ’50s; with each passing year they get harder to find, a problem she encounters in locating pieces for her house. Many of the things in her home can be carbon-dated to the ’70s or early ’80s, later than the traditional midcentury modern purists are wont to go. But here is a trove of collectibles that haven’t hit the mainstream eBay buyers, pieces that aren’t slapped with the overused and often erroneous descriptive “Eames Style.”

 

The Asian rondel is a coffee table top that originally belonged to Jen’s grandmother but had become too fragile to stand on its own. It is paired with a midcentury modern chest that was rescued from the ignominy of a white and purple paint job and numerous stickers.
The Asian rondel is a coffee table top that originally belonged to Jen’s grandmother but had become too fragile to stand on its own. It is paired with a midcentury modern chest that was rescued from the ignominy of a white and purple paint job and numerous stickers.Ross Hailey - rhailey@star-telegram.com

 

Many of her pieces have been brought back to life with paint stripper and sandpaper. A chest that was painted purple and white was reclaimed and is now in her entry under a Japanese cocktail table top that has become wall art.

Artworks are dominating her most recent online searches, as there are plenty of blank wall spaces in the house. But once online, Jen confesses, it’s like going down a rabbit hole, one where she has found a community willing to share its knowledge. And while other collectors are willing to buy, sell or trade, she’d rather find her treasures “in the wild,” as the collectors call estate sales and junk shops that have underpriced collectibles.

Furnishing this expansive house will take time and many, many expeditions into the wild. Which is fine with the Coopers, as outings are often the way they celebrate special occasions. A Curtis Jere wall sculpture was found on Valentine’s Day, and that rare Bitossi group commemorates their first trip to Canton.

Oh, yes, for collectors, first trips to major collection centers are celebrated anniversaries.

Gaile Robinson is a Fort Worth freelance writer.

 

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