“It reminds me of my grandparent’s house, with the tire swing, the big yard and trees,” says decorative artist Jeri Wakefield, walking along the edge of the tennis court at her Lake Highlands home.
Indeed, Jeri and her attorney husband, Steve, had in mind future visits from their own grandchild, Lincoln, when they bought the property several years ago. Still like newlyweds, the two had met through a singles tennis group; Jeri’s two sons from a previous marriage, Peter and Jeremy, are grown and out of the house: one at the University of North Texas, and the other working for Belo and married to “my wonderful daughter-in-law Linnea” (and parents of the prized new grandbaby).
“It was very stressful, moving out of the house where I raised my boys,” says Jeri, smiling and sentimental at the same time. “I lost a lot of weight.”
Although she realized it would be fulfilling to create a new home with Steve, one thing Jeri wasn’t willing to change was neighborhoods. A Lake Highlands resident for more than 25 years, she managed to find something promising for sale in a corner of the neighborhood that had once been part of the Caruth Estate. Indeed, the name of the street – Woodbridge – is derived from an old original wooden bridge nearby.
“It’s a friendly neighborhood, like so much of Lake Highlands,” Jeri says.
Now mind you, the home on Woodbridge wasn’t exactly “love at first sight.” Heavy draperies, outdated floor coverings and “awful” kitchens and bathrooms were distractions – but the couple saw the possibilities in the spacious structure with the ample windows and large rooms.
Not to mention the tennis court. And the guest house just waiting to be turned into Jeri’s studio.
Large rooms also were hot buttons.
Jeri is a devotee of other artists and needed walls to display her treasures. From a signed Picasso poster to Dali sketches to massive carved wooden supports salvaged from European castles, to her latest passion – two stunning Matt Lamb oils carefully positioned and lighted – Jeri only asks that her art collection be evocative and striking in hue or texture: “I love color.”
As for her own art…”They call me the ‘Bag Lady of the Lake.’” laughs Jeri, referring to her habit of picking up driftwood at White Rock Lake to use for her rustic crosses and angels.
“I get passionate when I find a special place, I can look up from working on it, and it’s one in the morning.”
Jeri established her studio, “Neat Old Stuff,” with partner Nancy Vuckovich, after a trip to Colorado inspired the friends to begin creating pieces adapted from natural materials.
Frequent travel is another Wakefield hallmark. Every Christmas, they journey to Mexico and collect religious and native folk art, now displayed throughout the home: retalbas on the antique hutch, whimsical pieces in the quiet den that leads to the back yard, figurines flanking the warm family portrait… “turns out we were posing in poison ivy.” And there’s Steve’s rocker, of course.
“Steve is like the rocker of the world,” Jeri says.
“I have a rocker at the office, too,” says Steve, walking into his home having come from the latter locale. “I have a habit of even rocking on my heels when I’m thinking – even judges tell me… .”
Jeri laughs: “Honey, I’ve seen you do it myself in court.”
“It helps me relax and think when I’m tense. I guess I’ve done that ever since I was a kid,” he says. “That and having a fan blow on me when I’m sleeping. If I just have my rocker and my fan… .”
And a tennis court and a creative wife and a new grandkid to make funny faces at.
Matt Lamb paintings: II Sisters Gallery, 214-744-6385
Tony Bass painting: Southwest Gallery, 972-960-8935
Faux finish on walls: Sanders Studios, 972-233-1777
Decorative crosses, angels and shared art:
Neat Old Stuff, 972-234-9966
Pottery: Sue Cobb, 214-348-8761