Temple—In a historic neighborhood that’s surprisingly a stone’s throw from interstate 35, sits a dead-end street with a few typical looking house from the late 50’s; but one of these old homes will bring you back to a bygone era when laminate was king.
Our tour was led by Grace Jeffers, an expert on the material many used to lament but not anymore.
“I actually wrote my master’s thesis on decorative plastic laminate from 1947 to 1964…Which some consider the golden age of laminate,” she explained, “that’s when it was new and it was very expensive, really a prestige material.”
When she first came across this historic home full of the facade she was familiar with, she was flabbergasted.
“So I literally walked in… the back door, looked at the kitchen and my jaw dropped because, according to the Smithsonian, I was the expert and everything in this house predated all of my research by at least five years,” she said, “so I knew this house was super important.”
Built by Ralph Wilson, the founder of WilsonArt, this home was his private residence, a model home for his laminate company, and a test lab for his latest creations. That’s why Wilsonart bought and restored the home back to its original glory in 1997.
“To have a perfect encapsulation of the late 50s, early 60s, you are hard-pressed to find that,” said Grace.
Although the house seems dated now, in its time, it was so innovative it impacted future styles.
“So one of the more popular details in the house is the happy kitchen… It looks a lot like the Brady Bunch, doesn’t it? And yet, it predates the Brady Bunch,” she said.
Things that are the norm in today’s homes were groundbreaking when built back in 1959.
“This is where you are seeing certain details that had never been seen before in architecture…One is the very first kitchen island in the state of Texas… The second is the all-laminate clad cabinetry. Now, you and I are like, ‘Oh, I see this in every doctor’s office, every dental office, every school,’ but it had not been done before,” said Grace.
It’s been said the colors effect people’s moods and in here you can test that theory.
“They come in here, they see the colors…And actually, there are designers that are now designing more colorful kitchens because they’ve seen this house,” she explained.
The theme continues in the bathroom.
“One of people’s favorite details in the house is the pink bathroom,” she commented, “and you really see that he was experimenting with some very new things. This is one of the first sunken tubs in the state of Texas.”
One can only imagine how far out this house was in the late 50’s, but in all her years of researching the reaches of design, Grace believes this style could have only been done in the Lone Star State.
“This was made in the spirit of Texas, and we’re going to maintain this and keep this going. And I really feel like that this house encapsulates that energy and that spirit. But it happened here in Texas because so many people had that ‘can do, let’s innovate’ spirit.”
So if you’re looking for a laminate lair that still looks like the day is was laid down, the Wilson House is the home of your dreams on The Texas Bucket List.
Grace confirms, “It’s a perfect time capsule of a moment in history.”