Inner-city living space dominates this year's Architecture Tour
Sean and Michelle Cobb’s Cottage District home was practically aglow, with expansive windows and the pale decor seeming to draw in the sunlight — but the windows offered so much more: sweeping views of a cityscape that’s rapidly changing.
“Oh, the views. At night, that’s like a million-dollar view,” Michelle said at the Cobbs’ "Urban Beach House" at 819 NW 7, one of seven homes and businesses on the 18th annual AIA Central Oklahoma Architecture Tour, from noon to 5 p.m. April 13.
The American Institute of Architects Central Oklahoma Chapter organizes the tour. Advance tickets are $20 each and can be purchased at aiacoc.org, where a tour brochure is available for download. Tickets are $25 on tour day and can be purchased at any stop on the tour. Booties will be required at some sites to protect the floors.
This year’s tour centers largely on the city’s core. Along with the Urban Beach House, it includes the Price Residence, 511 N Dewey Ave.; 701 Hudson condos, 701 Hudson Ave.; LEVEL Urban Apartments, 123 NE 2; Mosiac Apartments, 321 N Oklahoma Ave.; the Cottage Series homes in the Wheeler District, 900 Pedaler’s Lane; and the Orthodontic Arts Building, 421 NW 10, Suite 201-E.
AIA Central Oklahoma goes through a nomination and vetting process to select stops for each year’s tour, so some years the locations may be concentrated in certain areas and some years they’re not, said Melissa Hunt, executive director. This year, they just happened to all be in the center of the city, she said.
“All the homes have to be designed or renovated by architects, which makes it a littler unique from other home tours,” she said. “We want to show the community what having an architect involved in the project does.”
Fitzsimmons Architects designed the Cobbs’ home, and company President Brian Fitzsimmons is both a neighbor and a friend. That proved to be convenient as they planned the home.
“I knew everything would need to be aligned,” Fitzsimmons said, referring to Sean Cobb’s preference for visual elements in the home. One example: The kitchen cabinets are built at the same level as the nearby staircase railings.
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“I like things to be perfectly placed,” Sean Cobb said with a shrug.
The Cobb home, like the other homes along their block, is perched atop a steep incline with the main living area and pool on the second-floor deck well above street level, ensuring privacy.
The Cobbs were living in Edmond when they crossed paths with Fitzsimmons, and, inspired by his work and home in the Cottage District, they began discussing the idea of moving here about five years ago.
“We’d looked all around and didn’t want a typical home,” Sean Cobb said.
Fitzsimmons showed them the lot they ultimately built on, though they hesitated initially. The area was just beginning to shrug off decades of neglect and decay, plus Michelle Cobb worried about their daughters.
“At the time, our youngest was in third grade,” she said. “I thought: Where is she going to ride her bike? Who is she going to play with?”
Then the Cobbs attended a neighborhood get-together where she discovered the family across the street from the property they were considering buying had a girl that age, and another girl lived around the corner. She asked one girl how she liked living in the neighborhood.
The girl’s answer: “You know, I really love it down here.”
So do the Cobbs now. They finally moved into their home two years ago, but Michelle Cobb said they’ve acquired much more than a new home.
“We spend so much time with our neighbors,” she said. They regularly gather at one anothers’ homes and even vacation together. “We have the best time. They’re like family to us. It’s rare, but isn’t that what you want out of your neighborhood?”