Midcentury Rescue

Help these midcentury purists save prized kitchen cabinets from Dallas teardown

Midcentury purists save prized kitchen cabinets from Dallas teardown

Midcentury stainless steel cabinets at 6469 Sondra Ln. in Dallas
The original stainless steel cabinets have been restored and repainted. Photo courtesy of Coldwell Banker

A new cache of midcentury stainless steel cabinets has surfaced, from a Dallas house that's about to be mowed down. The home, at 6469 Sondra Dr., has a unique history — so noteworthy that it was written up both by the Dallas Times Herald and in the January 13, 1947 issue of Life magazine.

The home was built for R.B. "Pete" Boatwright, a disabled veteran who was paralyzed from the waist down while fighting in World War II. Friends from Dallas rallied to create a residence that could accommodate someone in a wheelchair. That meant ramps, lowered shelves, extra-wide doors, and automated switches — all features that, in these open-floorplan times, feel surprisingly modern.

When the house was built in the 1940s, the area around Mockingbird Lane and Abrams Road was still unsettled. To the east, it was nothing but farmland. Even when current owners Mark McCollom and Tracy Wallace bought the house in 1993, the East Dallas neighborhood near White Rock Lake was still relatively low-key. But property values have since soared.

As owners pass away, many homes from the '40s and '50s are changing hands, with untold treasures lost or overlooked. When Wallace and McCollom decided it was time to downsize, they sought out a buyer who would keep the house as is.

But not unlike the Mayrath House, no one with that kind of money wanted their kind of house. Their house is now under contract, with a buyer who will divide the lot and rebuild. Some new homes in the neighborhood have sold for more than $1 million.

McCollom and Wallace took their stewardship of the property seriously. They kept the original features, from the pink bathroom sink to the cute eat-in counter in the kitchen. They hung on to the porcelain double drainboard sink that came with the house — very prized these days, according to MCM expert blog RetroRenovation.com — and added period-era black-and-white tiles on the floor. Their O'Keefe & Merritt stove was in Wallace's family.

They were especially attentive to the cabinets, a handsome steel set by Morton, noted for their heavy-duty curving drawers. Their set includes half a dozen bottom cabinets and four upper wall-mounted cabinets with frosted glass doors. They replaced the countertops — which were crumbling, probably originally linoleum — with a clean black Formica and took the cabinets to a body shop to have them restored.

"We knew someone who had his own body shop and he painted them in Chrysler white," Tracy says. "He did an amazing job. After we got them back, there was a little scratch, and he gave us a little lecture. It was funny."

The set is still in excellent condition, fully functional, with a few eccentricities. The glass door on one cabinet needs to be slid carefully. The silverware drawer, which they have loaded with a pirate's chest of flatware, bows slightly under the weight. But moving them would be a cinch. The top cabinets are attached to a simple bracket, and the bottoms, not attached at all.

The closing date is August 22, and the couple would like to find a buyer for the cabinets before then. The money is secondary to the satisfaction of finding them a new home. "We excluded them from the contract hoping we might find someone who wants them," Tracy says. "We'd hate to see them end up in a landfill."