Shed & Breakfast

By Vicki Mabrey

Jul 8, 2008 4:24pm

If only we all had the imagination and creativity of my friend (and former next-door-neighbor) Judy Whalen.  Judy is a photographer’s rep and her husband Jack Unruh is a Society of Illustrators Hall of Famer.  Between them, what an eye.  Their East Dallas house, made of Arkansas stone and filled with a fascinating selection of collectibles, is my favorite museum.         You gotta love the "not so big" house… This one is probably a bit over 2000 square feet… Even though Jack is an amazingly talented artist whose work appears in Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, National Geographic, Field and Stream, GQ,and a gazillion other publications, he leaves the decorating to Judy.  She can make everything from nothing.  Witness the "Shed & Breakfast" she created in their backyard. Sheds like these must be pretty common — my grandparents had one in their yard; it’s where my grandfather cleaned up after fishing trips and beat his buddies at dominoes.  This lovely little structure started as an eyesore about a hundred feet from Jack and Judy’s back door.   At one point, Judy even mused about tearing it down.  But then her creative gene kicked in — on a whim, she and a friend decided to knock down the ceiling — and look what they found up there.  (Not the chair and basket — just a latticework of wonderful rafters and a nice high ceiling.  She first painted it all white, and wound up renting it out for catalogue shoots.  (One photographer brought in sand, and the little shed doubled as a beach backdrop).  The property is now listed with a location scouting service — you might have seen it behind the accordion-playing lady in the York air conditioning commercials or maybe you bought Pergo based on their kitchen (which has dark oak floors, by the way).                                   But at some point, Judy thought, Why not a guest house?  Get the guests out of their Cowboy Room   and put them out back in their own little house.  The result is the best little "outhouse" in Texas.  And it didn’t cost a fortune.  Just a lot of imagination. By prowling the aisles of the Canton Flea Market to find the most unique, interesting, fun touches a human can imagine, Judy has created a space so comfortable it’s hard for guests to leave.  Recognize these?  They’re old calcified hose nozzles. And the nightstand?  A birdbath covered in glass… The towel holder?  Yep, the business end of an old rake.  Frankly, I’d rather stay in the Shed ‘n Breakfast than in Dallas’ finest hotels.  Unless, of course, you offered me a deal on the penthouse at the downtown Adolphus Hotel, with its fantastic view of the neon Mobil Pegasus.  Then I might have to take a night in each. 

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