This house on Central doesn't shout, "Look at me!" and yet, when you do cast a glance its way, you notice immediately how well composed it is and how simple but strong its detailing. It was designed in 1916 by the architectural firm of Walk Jones and Max Furbringer, who worked together from 1904 to 1935, the peak of Midtown's construction boom.
Jones and Furbringer designed nine schools, including Snowden and Peabody. Some of their major residential designs include Beverly Hall at Central and Willett, the Junior League headquarters at Central and Highland, and the Norfleet house off Walnut Grove.
This house is a departure from their usual classically inspired residential work, perhaps at the request of the original owner, who might have wanted something new and modern. It is a bold, large-scale Craftsman bungalow. The entry is tucked into the side of a porch entered via the porte cochère, a design device used a time or two by Frank Lloyd Wright. A broad brick walk elegantly follows the curving drive from street to entry.
The front porch was enclosed at some point. Stealing the porch to create an overscale entry hall diminishes the arrival sequence and robs the house of the deep, shady south-facing veranda that originally addressed the street so well. Should a new owner decide to restore the house to its original and splendid composition, it is documented in photographs.
The porch and porte cochère are ornamented with heavy box-piers, clad, as is the whole house, in shingles. (Furbringer's own house on Forrest is also shingled but in a Colonial Revival mode.) Similarly detailed brackets support the deep roof overhangs. A large, triple-windowed dormer is the other major architectural element on the street side.
The entry places you at one corner of the large living room with a seating area uninterrupted by traffic flow. The fireplace wall is paneled and has bookcases flanking the chimney breast. The original trim in the living and dining rooms and the staircase and the linen cabinets in the rear hall are all still stained red gum. This local wood with the richness of mahogany was much prized for trim in Midtown houses but has often been lost to paint.
The large rear hall with its grand staircase is a surprise in a bungalow, but it simplified the recent completion of the attic for use as a spacious family/media room. A full bath and fourth bedroom were also added up here.
Downstairs are three original bedrooms and two baths. Closets are all walk-in, also unusual in a bungalow. But obviously Jones and Furbringer included finer detailing because this was a custom-designed house.
The dining room is generously scaled with triple windows on one side for ample natural light. A butler's pantry and a walk-in pantry separate the dining room and the kitchen. With a rear door from a sun porch, a hall door, a pantry door, and the door to the dining room, the kitchen is cut up and difficult to lay out. Removing the pantries would add a third more area and eliminate one door. This would give more space within which to create the eminently serviceable kitchen this graciously understated house deserves.
Approximately 4,450 square feet
4 bedrooms, 3 baths
Realtor: Hobson Co., 761-1622
Agent: Deborah Mays, 312-2939