A certain art collector in Fort Worth has a secret. When he makes the trek to Dallas to shop for his famous clients, his travel route is always the same. He drives up Central Expressway to Spring Valley and turns into what looks like a residential driveway adorned with a sign that says Valley House Gallery. Valley House, known for its 19th- and 20th-century American and European offerings and founded in the mid-1950s by artist Donald Stanley Vogel, is one of the top fine art galleries in the city.
Just behind the gallery is the Donald Vogel-designed residence. Built in the 1950s, it functioned as a studio and gallery, as well as a home for his family of four. Donald was inspired by the work of the Impressionists he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, and the two-story walls of windows throughout the house showcase his fascination with the use of light.
Vogel’s son Kevin and Kevin’s wife, Cheryl, live there now, but little has changed in the 2,500-square-foot space. The house remains a notable example of midcentury architecture. In fact, Dallas architects often drop by for inspiration for their designs. Although the kitchen and bathrooms have been updated, some items are original, such as the paneling in the master bedroom. Well, almost. “In 1963, we had 24 inches of water in the house. This wood paneling had to be replaced, but it was replicated exactly,” Kevin says. “The console in the bedroom was originally in the dining room, and the original cork ceilings that you see in the guest bedroom have been replaced with tongue-and-groove ceilings with fir beams.”
The greenhouse just off the bedroom, which connects the master bath, was also part of the original design. “The shower and soaking tub were added later obviously,” Kevin says. “But the shoji screens, the layout, and all the fixtures are original.” The main attraction of the room is something a little surprising. “The one thing that every single person comments on in this house is the wall-mounted towel rack in the bathroom. Just last week, a prominent architect and design team came over, and they were definitely studying the rack. I’m looking for a copy to show up very soon in a new home design,” he says. In addition to the ingenious towel rack, the room also offers a great place to display Cheryl’s growing orchid collection. The dramatic living room—with its front and back two-story windows overlooking the sculpture garden—doesn’t require much in the way of furniture. Two original Vladimir Kagan sofas reupholstered in blue velvet provide seating in front of the corner fireplace. A gleaming black grand piano was the centerpiece for a recent concert the Vogels hosted for the Goethe Society. A Thai musician figure, priceless art on the walls, a large round dining table, and comfy black leather chairs complete the room. It’s the ideal setting for private parties.
The room that once functioned as Donald’s studio is now a family room, and it’s home to books stacked in every conceivable location. One great wall boasts a floor-to-ceiling screen. Raise the screen, and bins and bins of over-scale paintings are revealed. The image of the multicolored canvases in varying sizes is impressive. “We sort of ran out of room in the gallery, so this is where we store much of our permanent collection,” Cheryl says. But not everything in the bins is “art”—at least not in the canvas sense. There is also a movie projector used to show full-screen movies on the blank wall opposite the bins. “We watch a movie every single night—from foreign films to action films like Kung Fu Hustle,” Cheryl says. “We are just so overrun with books that our designer and friend Robyn Menter suggested we build a wall of bookshelves on that blank wall. But then where would we have our own private theater?”
The wonders of the property continue outside, with the four-acre garden originally created by award-winning landscape architect Clarence Roy in 1959. Although the grounds are not available to rent for private events, artists are always welcome to sketch in the gardens. Not an artist? No problem. Anyone looking for a little inspiration is welcome.