Little Mexico is a neighborhood of 1,200 sf to 1,600 sf houses built in the 1920s to the 1950s, located just west of Highland Park and fashionable Oak Lawn. The Medrano political dynasty created a voice for the Latino community and in many cases provided the housing for the Latino community as the largest property owner in this historic neighborhood.
Ron Wommack, who early in his career worked with two great architects, Frank Welch and Bud Oglesby, has been decorated with many AIA and TSA honor and merit awards for modern residences he has designed for his clients.
Ron Wommack was his own client on this modern home. I am always fascinated when an architect designs his own home. In this situation the only possible push back on the design comes from the person designing the home. Internal arguments must be ferocious. If an attorney who represents himself has a fool for a client, what is an architect who designs a home for himself? Well, in this case, a brilliant client.
Just as an investor might take a greater risk with their own money than they would for a client, an architect can take greater risk with the location, size and design of his own home, in this case a modern home in an obscure historic neighborhood.
Most important, an architect may be willing to spend a greater percentage of the total budget on design fees. On most contemporary residential projects an architectural fee is going to be somewhere between 10% – 20% of the total cost of the home. On a 1,600 sf home designed by a top architect, the design fee might be 30% – 50% of the total cost of the home. In this case, the client can’t grumble about the architectural fees because he is paying himself.
Ron Wommack chose a 50’ x 125’ corner lot on the corner of Douglas and Sylvester for the site of his own modern home in Clifton Place. The 1,600 sf house is separated from a detached 700 sf garage, but the design does not hide the garage, but makes it an integral part of the visual appeal of the home. The alignment of the home creates a linear garden with a transparent wall capturing the garden, and a concrete block wall on the Sylvester frontage defining the edge of the garden. The bath, closet and pantry are contained in one walled element, allowing the home to be essentially one large space with concrete floors and 11’4” ceilings. The house is constructed of 6’ concrete slab on piers, steel columns and wide flange beams with wood framing.
Ron Wommack designed a home in the spirit of the neighborhood. It is precisely in scale with the 50 to 80 year old homes around it. The garage is detached, as are most of the original neighborhood garages, and the hardy plank is white to relate to the other neighborhood structures. A deep front overhang and sunscreen reflect the front porches of the 1920s bungalows. The façade of 12” concrete blocks is a simple flat surface reflecting the simple facades of 1950s homes.
While this modern home reinterprets the honest and modestly priced homes of the 20th century and blends into the neighborhood, it is also designed to occupy its own space and recede from the neighborhood, eventually engulfed by a mature garden.
Sometimes I think of small houses as I think of small Mexican villages. The smaller the village, the larger the festival. I am convinced that often the smaller the house the larger the garden.
I recommend you drive by 2401 Douglas and enjoy this architect’s venture into a neighborhood most of us never notice. You will see contemporary architectural themes expressed that are consistent with Ron Wommack’s award winning work done in the city and the country. But here you will see it in a fresh way.