Sunday, July 11, 2010

Wayne Grubb and "The Brown Trail House"

Does the name Wayne Grubb ring a bell? I mentioned him in a previous post, the one about the fantastic pink enamel kitchen appliances. As cool as the appliances are, the real story turned out to be Wayne -- a local genius who in 1957 designed and built the home the appliances came from, this googie-licious house on Brown Trail in Hurst. The bad news: It is NOT on the market. The good news: The fourth generation of this WWII veteran's family lives there, and I'm told they've adhered to MCM style.

Wayne, who was also a philosopher and inventor, worked as a general contractor on large custom homes in North Texas until his death, in 1997. His daughter, a graphic artist named Revis Grubb Plemmons, has been extremely generous with text and photos so that I can share information about her father and the fantastic house she grew up in. "Inspired by the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, especially Fallingwater, my dad used various woods and crabstone to give the house an organic ambience," she says. I'd never heard of crabstone before, but it apparently has gorgeous coloration and texture.

The house also wreaked havoc with visitors' internal compasses: There are no square rooms in the 2,600-square-foot house except for the two bathrooms. "Dad told me that he would decide the square footage for a room, start with conventional right-angled shapes, then skew the shape," Revis says, recalling that it wasn't uncommon for people to forget which way the street was after stepping 15 or 20 feet into the house. The house is as dazzling and disorienting, says one of Wayne's bios, as a philosophy discussion with the man himself.

Wayne, a native of Bangs, Texas, had tinkered with objects ever since he was able to walk. His earnings from "Solar Windows," which he invented and patented, enabled him to build the house. The design featured screens and movable panes, which could be opened to various degrees to control airflow. They can still be seen in homes and businesses throughout Dallas-Fort Worth. Revis says she remembers her dad bringing home the prototype to the family's tiny duplex apartment in Fort Worth when she was about 4. (Later, Wayne invented a machine that automated the task of prepping doors for hanging. It's been estimated that at one time, 85% of all doors produced worldwide were cut on his machinery.)

People started talking about "the Brown Trail House." It wasn't unusual for strangers to pull into the driveway and get out of their car to look around, Revis says. Once, her mother opened the front door and sort of jokingly offered the visitors a tour, which they immediately took her up on! Photos that Revis sent me include these images of the interior, taken in 1959. Oh yum. Wanna take a tour, too? Let's go, kids! (This is a baby Sputnik light fixture in the living room.)

At left is the living room. When you look at touches like this divider, you can really see what a labor of love the home was.

Just off the living room is the dining room. Looks like grass-cloth wallpaper, which looks so smart and is so hot again. (On a TV redesign show a couple of years ago, I watched as designer Kenneth Brown suggested grass-cloth wallpaper to a well-heeled couple, who recoiled in horror -- bet they'd like a do-over on that one ...)

The kitchen is so stream-lined. Really well-done. Wayne designed special cabinets for maximum efficiency. The upper cabinets operate on a weights and pulley system. The lower area conceals drawers and cabinets. Many of the drawers and cabinets have spring-open catches.

And, of course, there are those fantastic pink enamel appliances.

At the back of the house is the den, which sported a long, low, lovely custom sofa. The Scandinavian look of the sofa along with the natural elements of the plants and all the stone ... good lord, what's not to love??
Behind the curtains are doors leading to the patio. The tray ceiling is really something special.
(Cool bottles -- and great chair!)

Isn't this the kind of image we conjure when we think about a tall stacked stone fireplace in a really fabulous, well-designed midcentury ranch house?
Lucky children!