Couple Embraces Time-Capsule Living in Historic Glenbrook Valley
by Whitney Radley
Lenora Hartley was just 10 years old when she acquired her first piece of vintage furniture, an enamel-topped kitchen table that belonged to her great-grandmother. This sparked a lifelong hobby: Throughout college in Oklahoma, during a stint in New York City and in the five years that she has lived in Houston, she has scoured antique stores, estate sales and family members’ garages for furniture, dishes and decor to add to her collection of home wares from a bygone era.
Today, all of these pieces have found a fitting home in the three-bedroom Glenbrook Valley mid-century modest that she and her husband, Andy, share with their 2-year-old son, Theodore, and a 12-year-old cat. Even before Lenora and Andy set eyes on the property, they resolved to keep the house as true to the original as possible.
“The couple was looking for a well-priced home with mid-century character that had not been ‘remuddled’ by flippers who strip the original features,” says realtor Robert Searcy, who worked with the Hartleys during their search. “Like many young buyers, they wanted a short commute with the character of an older home and established neighborhood.”
Lenora and Andy found both in Glenbrook Valley, which they discovered by chance on a drive from William P. Hobby Airport to their apartment in The Galleria area.
Glenbrook Valley, situated only eight miles southeast of downtown Houston, is the city’s closest-in post-World War II neighborhood and the nation’s largest designated postwar historic district. Built between 1953 and 1962, the planned community was designed by landscape architects Hare and Hare for developer Fred McManus with the intent to showcase state-of-the-art architecture and home innovation.
“Quality rather than quantity has been stressed in every aspect of this compact, well-designed home,” touts a listing in the Greater Houston Builder’s Association “Parade of Homes” brochure. (The property, designed by E. Kelly Gaffney and built by D.D. Hutchison, was featured on the prominent tour in 1956.) When the Hartleys purchased the home from its original owners in September 2015, the home still had good bones, but it had suffered several decades of well-intentioned upgrades and a few years of neglect.
The couple returned the property to its original charm in just a year — with help from family and a few friends, a small budget and an infant underfoot. Nights, weekends and naptimes were spent ripping up carpet and linoleum flooring, refinishing hardwoods, laying new kitchen tile, stripping cabinets and painting inside and out.
TIME CAPSULE HOME
The result is a living time capsule. Everything from the pink bathroom tiles to the green linen Formica kitchen countertops to the original retractable brass light fixture above the dining table looks much as they did when the home was built in the ’50s. The couple even repainted the exterior the original seafoam green, which Lenora uncovered by chipping through layers of paint on the doorframes.
When the Hartleys couldn’t directly replace a finish or fixture, they found contemporary designs that echoed the styles of the time. A bathroom vanity light purchased from Amazon looks almost just like the original. After an Internet search for similar dining area wallpaper was unsuccessful, they settled on a retro textured wallpaper that they painted “Optimistic Orange.”
Nostalgic touches throughout nod to the home’s past as well as the history of the young family that now inhabits it. A vintage dumbbell found in the yard adds a touch of humor to the built-in brick planter that wraps around the front porch. Lenora and Andy’s bedroom set was built by her great-grandfather.
Back issues of “Muscle Power” magazine and old Pam Am brochures, left behind by the original owner, hang in the home office and entry hall. Above the enamel-topped table that kickstarted Lenora’s collection is a framed photo of her mother and uncle dining at the very same table.
When it came to the remodel, the biggest and least-expected challenge cropped up outside: The Hartleys discovered an unsalvageable concrete patio in their backyard, hidden under years of weeds. In the end, Andy busted up almost 14 tons of concrete, then tilled and leveled the yard, brought in topsoil and sod and finally built a wooden deck where the original patio stood.
Today it’s the picture-perfect place to spend an afternoon while enjoying a Bomb Pop and watching the planes take off and land. With a lovingly restored home and warm, welcoming neighbors, it’s easy to pretend you have stepped back into a more modest time.
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