Tour stops capture our neighborhood’s character

Lake Highlands never really latched on to the McMansion trend.

It’s not that we didn’t build. We did. And big, in some cases.

But barring a few exceptions, Lake Highlands seems to have avoided those obtrusively excessive footprints and specimens of uninspired architecture and cost-cutting construction that have caused problems in other parts of Dallas.

The Berta family home on Shoreview — one of four open to tourists Friday, Dec. 3, during the Lake Highlands Women’s League Holiday in the Highlands Home Tour — is an inspired example of construction, expansion and remodeling that complements rather than upsets the neighborhood mojo.

Tucked into a cul-de-sac, it’s all-windows, or at least that’s the impression a visitor might get. With the sun setting on an overcast day, the light emanating from within the home casts a warm glow around its little corner of the world. Somehow, the 5,765-square-footer with its football-field-sized backyard manages to feel cozy — an adjective typically applied to humbler dwellings but nonetheless fitting.

It was that yard that really hooked the Bertas, says Tracey Berta, wife of Karl and mom to three boys — Koyt, 3; Jake, 8; and Addison, 10. Passing through her wide-open, wood-floored entryway, she stops at a spot “where the garage used to start”, and looks out over the back porch to a vast expanse of green space.

“We actually used to live across the street, and we were making plans to expand our home that, because our family was growing, was busting at the seams,” Tracey Berta says. “I knew something was going on over here, so I came over to check it out.”

It turned out that local Realtor Jan Stell was remodeling the home with plans to sell. The curious couple asked to see the plans and the layout.

“We wanted to get ideas for our own plans,” Berta says. “Looking at them, I was like, ‘yeah, I want that!’”

One glance at the yard, and they knew they had to have it. The remodeling and expansion was well underway when the Bertas bought it from Stell, and in the final stages they worked closely with the builder to make it their own. The footprint of the home hasn’t changed since it originally was built, but the garage has been transformed into a living room, and most notably, a second floor has been constructed and includes three bedrooms, a bathroom, a playroom and a game room (yes, playroom and game room are two separate entities) and a second laundry room.

“As a mom, it is really nice having that upstairs laundry room,” Berta says.

The master bedroom downstairs now has a lofted ceiling, and the upstairs does not extend above it, which presumably makes for quieter nights. The roomy nature of the layout makes for good acoustics throughout the house.

“I don’t mind that,” Berta says. She likes to be able to hear her boys.

The holiday home tour offers three more equally impressive stops, and also includes a market and luncheon. The event serves as the Women’s League’s major fundraiser, and the profits go toward community improvement and scholarship money for Lake Highlands students, organizers say.

“Last year, approximately $170,000 was disbursed from the league for local student scholarships and community projects,” notes publicity chair Cheryl Zreet.

If you’ve ever attended the league’s springtime ceremony in which the students are awarded their scholarships, you will see how rewarding this event is, Berta says. It’s not easy making a home with three young boys tour-ready, but for this, she says, “it’s worth it.”