For most, the AIA Dallas Tour of Homes is where the nosy and the appreciative can explore some of the best Dallas residential architecture, as chosen by the architects. But for those architects whose projects are chosen, the weekend is a culmination of years of work.
VeuxDeux* Design’s Leslie Nepveux was elated when she found out she made the American Institute of Architects tour. She’s worked in residential for nearly a decade, but her selected historic restoration project is a bit unusual for the tour. Her project is a craftsman, and, in the past, the tour has featured predominantly modern homes.
The six homes on this year’s tour span the gamut, both in terms of location and style. There are a couple of Preston Hollow homes, a Junius Heights bungalow, an East Dallas charmer, and a Far North Dallas property. There’s something style-wise for everyone, from modern to transitional to historic renovations. If you like the sort of modern homes common on AIA tours, stop into Marc McCollom Architect’s Bent Trail house. If you’re interested in universal design and green practices, try AMDG Studio’s Bobbitt Drive ranch. If you want a travel-inspired mid-century modern, wander through Maestri Studio’s Patrick Drive project.
Nepveux hopes the tour will show the public the importance of hiring an architect, whether you’re building a new home or remodeling your current one. “There’s value in hiring an architect,” she says, “even if you’re just moving around a few walls, or renovating your kitchen in an old house.”
We chatted with Nepveux and Christi Luter of Janson Luter, which also has a house featured this year, about the tour and how they built their featured homes.
The city of Dallas’ Landmark Commission knows Nepveux’s name. Ever since the architect started her firm, VeuxDeux Design, six years ago, she’s built a reputation as someone who can get a historic preservation project past the review board. She estimates she’s submitted around 35 projects to the commission over the years. The key is to follow the guidelines, she says. Attempting to interpret the rules will get you stuck in the bureaucratic slog.
Some projects, though, can be a tougher sell. Like her Dumont Street project in Junius Heights, which is featured on this year’s tour. The current owners wanted to expand the 1,621-square-foot house, but they didn’t want to lose their backyard. Their only option was to build up. But historic district guidelines are rigid, Nepveux says, and there are extra rules for corner lots like this one. She could only add a second story on the back half of the home, and she had to submit extra renderings to the commission to prove the addition “wouldn’t have a negative impact on the neighborhood’s look.”
Eventually, the project received approval, and construction lasted about a year. Before they did anything, they had to fix the foundation. “It was sitting there, but not tied down, so it could have blown away in the last 100 years, but it hadn’t,” Nepveux says. They hired a moving company to literally lift the house so they could pour new and extra piers to secure the building to the ground. “Now, it will stay in place.”
Like many older East Dallas homes, the bungalow had been converted to a run-of-the-mill duplex at some point. “It’s a very typical little craftsman house and there was no craftsman detail left,” she says. Nepveux and the homeowner were determined to inject character back into the house.
She transformed the original shiplap into built-in bookshelves. She found old bricks under the house and used those to rebuild the front porch column. The team built a new fireplace and hutch, and they installed period-appropriate light fixtures, crown molding, and tiles. They repaired and re-installed the original windows. And they added 795 square feet with the new addition.
Nepveux loves historic projects like this, where she can keep the home’s integrity intact, while also making it livable and useful for today’s lifestyle. She hopes that by being on the AIA tour, the bungalow can show people the value of living in a smaller, historic house.
“I think that people don’t think that historic homes can provide them with everything they need today,” she says. “And I think this home proves that it can.”
Home Tour Advice
Luter and Nepveux give their tips on how to best enjoy the weekend.
Think about Your Shoe Situation.
You’ll be walking around a ton, so you want to wear comfortable footwear. But, Nepveux says, each house will require you to walk barefoot or put surgical booties over your shoes. So, she recommends visitors don “tennis shoes or something that you can slip off and on easily.”
Make a Plan.
While you have two days to see all six homes, the houses are spread all over town, so make a plan ahead of time, Luter says. “I do not like backtracking, so I look at the map and figure out the best flow to get to the houses.”
Don’t Skip a House.
It can be easy to pick and choose which houses you want to visit based on your own tastes. But, Luter and Nepveux both encourage visitors to keep an open mind to the possibilities. “All the houses are a little different,” Luter says. “And I think those are exciting things because you can actually experience different styles.”
When architects Christi Luter and Jenna Janson started their two-woman residential design firm, Janson Luter, in April 2018, the transition was relatively smooth. They made connections in the industry beforehand, getting co-signs from architects like Dan Shipley, and there were clients willing to take a risk with the new team.
Take their house on Grassmere Lane, which is also featured on this year’s tour. It was one of their first projects, and Shipley recommended them for the job. The homeowners “wanted to have a family home, but they also appreciated design and architecture,” Luter says. They wanted to create something special that would stand out on the University Park block.
The project was tricky. The house sat on a narrow corner lot, so it took some problem solving to work out the size. And they had a strict budget. Janson and Luter went through several three dimensional renditions of the house, with various material combinations, before settling on details like St. Joe brick and fiber cement boards instead of typical wood siding. While some would call the resulting house “transitional” (Luter is not not a huge fan of the term), she would describe the project as leaning “a little more modern with classical shapes,” like the gabled roof and the simple color palette.
Modern architecture comes with its own set of challenges, she says. These modern-style homes might look simpler—cleaner lines, less ornamentation—but that means “it’s actually way more complicated to build to build because you don’t have room for error,” Luter says. You have to be precise with modern, while in traditional, you can cover things up with details like molding and baseboards. And the budget almost always goes up on a modern build, Luter says. “That’s because it’s just harder to build.”
Despite those challenges, the house, which was completed in 2020, was a fun build. The home builder was great, Luter says, and incredibly detail oriented. They also worked with an interior designer, landscape architect, and an art consultant. Plus, Janson and Luter became close with the homeowners, which made asking them if they could submit the project to AIA easier. “They’ve been great supporters of us,” Luter says. “They are excited about the home, which is exciting for us.”
While Luter says their firm doesn’t have one specific architecture style, she and Janson submitted this house to AIA because it felt representative of their body of work. They’re thrilled to show it off on the tour, especially because they’re still a young firm. Also, Luter says, they get emotionally attached to their projects, and it’s exciting to allow the general public and their friends and family explore it. “We worked hard on this,” Luter says, and now everyone they love will get to experience it.
Get Your Tickets
The self-guided AIA Dallas Tour of Homes is open 10 a.m.–5 p.m. October 28–29. General admission tickets are $50 through October 22. Starting October 23, tickets are $60. A premiere party ticket, which includes admission to the tour, is $125.
*We mistakenly misspelled VeuxDeux Design on first reference. This has been corrected.