Higher Ground


A Highland Park family’s search for clean lines and less clutter leads them to a Turtle Creek high-rise.

Last summer we moved 10 minutes, three miles, and seven stories straight up. We left a 75-year-old home in the Park Cities, complete with pool and backhouse, for the Rienzi on Fairmount Street. Moving from a home with ample storage to an elegant apartment building meant that we’d have to pare down a bit. Longtime family friend Eleanor Mowery-Sheets calls this phenomenon, which she says she sees quite often, “smartsizing.” Whatever it’s called, we’ve finally learned the universal truth about possessions: they expand into the space allocated, and then, quietly, expand again. I had no clue how much “stuff” we’d collected over the years.

Now, we weren’t ordinary absent-minded stashers, we were organized. We’d moved around the country 13 times in 22 years, believing all the while that if we kept everything we saved and collected organized (labeled, filed, shelved, boxed, or binned) we were, well, good to go. Shadowing us through the years were a baby grand piano no one played, 11 sofas, eight uncomfortable dining room chairs we’ve never liked, a 10-foot Welsh dresser perfect for displaying my holiday plates, a 9-foot French armoire for showcasing the good china, and who-knows-how-many place settings.

Right behind them in the moving truck was the crate of pictures chronicling our family history. It was becoming quite a challenge to see the people under glass with all of the frames squeezed together on tabletops. Then there were the containers labeled “grandchildren.” (I couldn’t throw out our girls’ belongings, so I passed them on to their future offspring. I thought I was saving space!) Somewhere, sometime, to somebody I must have casually mentioned a fondness for rabbits. Soon, several ceramic rabbits multiplied into an expensive porcelain collection that was quickly gaining ground on my frame-laden tabletops.

Our lives were further complicated by too much technology. Around 5,000 square feet, our home had five televisions, five phone lines, four computers, two DVD players, three VCRs, AOL, MSN, DSL, a 300-disc CD player, a fax machine, and innumerable remote controls. In our family of four, only one person knew how to watch TV and listen to music at the same time.

Once we’d made the decision to move, except for people, everything was carefully scrutinized as we began to edit deeply. (Our dog Perky was happy to hear that she’d made the cut.) We called in the professionals to liquefy. Ronda Ross Hooks and her Help Me Ronda estate-sale troupe merchandized and sold the items we’d decided to part with.

Finally, we were free to move to the Rienzi. Our new home is in a beautiful 1-year-old, 8-story high-rise on the edge of Reverchon Park. It feels like a small European hotel. We wanted both children, whether they were off at college or not, to have their own bedroom. On the seventh floor, we found two, two-bedroom apartments at the end of one hall. Think corner lot. The Rienzi maintenance crew conjoined the apartments by taking down a common wall, creating a very spacious master bedroom. The original doors to each apartment were removed and the openings closed off, and a new doorway was created, giving us a gracious entry, a magnificent 45-foot living/dining/sitting area, a family room, three bedrooms, four bathrooms, two powder rooms, and serious closets.

Although the apartment is about the same size as our previous place, it feels more spacious because our view extends for miles. From our family room we watch the sun rise over Baylor Hospital during breakfast, and while lounging in the living room we can see the sun melting into Fort Worth. Who needs window treatments?

To blur the distinction between inside and out, we copied the colors of the Texas sky, the variegated greens of Reverchon Park, and the stone of downtown. Before we moved out of the house, an upholsterer picked up the pieces to be urban-outfitted and delivered them back to our new Uptown address dressed in tranquil green, chocolate brown, cream, and powder blue. Every room is washed with paint colors selected from the top of the sample cards and then diluted by mixing equal parts of pigment and white paint. Our previous homes made strong visual statements with bold color schemes, but this house succeeds with subtlety. Really, it was amazing to see how quickly the harmony came together.

Maybe the hardest part of leaving our old house was leaving three young members of a Popsicle Patrol who stopped by to snack and visit nearly every day. After them, I miss my garden the most.

But the action outside my windows gives me much wider margins. Now, I listen to music from a three-disc CD player and watch Pegasus twirl on his Magnolia dance floor. As I look at the Crescent, the Stoneleigh, Fountain Place, and American Airlines Center, lit up and blooming in the Dallas skyline, I am at home.

Tips for a successful sale from the
experts at Help Me Ronda.

Consider every inch of your house and yard. If you think you might be willing to part with something, let the estate-sale operator know so
it can be priced.

There is a buyer for everything. We know of one homeowner who sold the Mondo grass out
of her garden!

Point out what is not for sale. Some items may be listed as part of the fixtures included when your home was sold.

Be careful to remove any assets, jewelry, mementos, etc. in hidden drawers or old cigar boxes.

Mark linens, curtains, bedspreads, and coverlets by size for easier pricing and selling.

Waiting lines may form around your home. Be sure to advise neighbors of the impending flurry.

Get out of the house during the sale. For some, it is hard to hear the squabbles and negotiations over former possessions.

 From DHome and Garden, March/April '03   p.82-87