In honor of National Preservation Month, Preservation Dallas will present awards to standout structures on May 31. This year’s list includes the Cupaioli House—the midcentury-modern home of late fashion designer Edward Cupaioli and his family. D Home spoke with current owner Greg Nieberding and designer/builder Murray Woodall.
What first attracted you to the Cupaioli house?
GN: One of my friends, who also loves midcentury-modern homes, saw this listing and came to me and said, “‘You need this house.” I’ve always loved midcentury things. I was born in 1957, and my father drove cars that are now classics, and my mom had furniture from that time. There are a lot of great things from that era, and it was a really good time in my life.
Did you know that you wanted to preserve the original architecture and design?
GN: Absolutely. There’s a running joke in Dallas that people buy houses and tear them down to build something new. There are all kinds of styles that have been completely torn down instead of just being updated, and it’s really sad. I knew, especially with the location of this house in Preston Hollow, that it was a true candidate to be torn down and rebuilt, and I couldn’t let that happen.
How much of the Cupaiolis’ touches are still integrated in the home?
GN: We kept some of the original furniture. In every step of the preservation process, we asked ourselves, “What would the Cupaiolis think about this?” We kept the architect’s original plans next to us while restoring the house. We ’ve had the Cupaioli children, who grew up in this house, over twice now.
How important is this house in educating the community?
GN: Incredibly so. Our side of the street has all one-story ranches that are original. Everyone was grateful that we didn’t tear this house down to build a two-story house. It’s so expensive to properly heat and cool the giant ones. A one-story, midcentury home was ahead of its time, and now people are realizing that it just makes way more sense to live in these kinds of houses.
MW: I agree. In the 20th century, the one-story home was to architecture as jazz was to music. Nowadays, there are so many people who want to build what I call “starter castles”—some families have checklists and want giant rooms and tall ceilings, but it’s important to keep the energy of the house intact.
Any major design additions?
MW: We didn’t really add anything. We wanted to preserve it while also seeing how far we could bring it into the 21st century. We kept the original metal cabinets.
GN: The house had an original tar and gravel roof, but that created major leaks, so we redid that. We changed the cabinetry in the major bathroom, but kept the same original style. We also created a new master bath. We used Wilsonart for the countertops in the kitchen.
What is the most important aspect of the home?
MW: Honestly, that it’s still intact, that we could update the house and correct things and still keep the essence of the home.
Why the Asian design?
GN: In the 1950s, there were Asian influences in both fashion and decor. Architects and designers liked the simple, clean lines of Asian design. Mr. Cupaioli was big in the fashion world; his clothes were featured in Neiman Marcus. Edward was born in Italy, and Mrs. Cupaioli was Scottish, so I think he had an international worldview and wasn’t afraid to play around with different styles.
How does this house reflect the mission of Preservation Dallas?
GN: Preservation Dallas encourages people to keep the sites able to be used. They aren’t just about blocking developers from doing their thing. They’re not standing in the way of progress; they’re enhancing progress. You can take a historic building and update it, and then live and work in it. You don’t have to sacrifice for convenience. I know this sounds silly, but we have water pressure like you wouldn’t believe. We didn’t have to sacrifice that to preserve the history of the house.
MW: It’s about preserving what the original intent was. I’m honored to have been a part of what Preservation Dallas does. They work to educate and to make things happen, and if this inspires people to do the same thing, then we’ve all achieved our goal.
To see the full list of honorees, visit preservationdallas.org.