When Manoj Gopalan and Marken Baker
set about to find a new house in late autumn 2008, the “dream home” had to meet certain criteria. Certainly, they wanted something aesthetically pleasing – who doesn’t? – but their quest was also focused on finding a place that would grow with the family, that would thrive as an entertainment hub and that would be rural in feel but still be located in the city.
As the pictures on these two pages show, the couple batted 1.000 with the Dalworthington Gardens dwelling that has been home to the couple the past eight years.
It’s also home to Manoj’s mother Bhanu Gopalan (half of the year) and to their sons Mahan (5) and Mahesh (9), so the family-friendly desire was met. The lot of them frequently play host to all manner of gatherings, so the entertainment box, likewise, was checked. And the location, amidst many beautiful trees and with ample yard space, helped Manoj and Marken complete “the perfect home for us” trifecta.
”It’s a nice neighborhood and community to raise our children,” says Manoj, who owns two engineering technology companies. “We loved the fact that it was close to Veterans Park and Lake Arlington. We loved the heavily wooded lots that were in the middle of the bustling center of Arlington.”
Adds Marken, a stay-at-home mom who was formerly a librarian at Tarrant County College: “We were searching for a home that would grow with us as our family grew. We are a three-generation household so we needed a home that would be fun for the kids, homey for us parents, and provide a retreat for my mother-in-law.”
As with most homes,
there are certain favorite spots here. For Manoj, it’s his office. “I love the beautiful wood- paneled bookcases and the large window looking out onto the trees,” he says. “As a busy executive I enjoy having a space where I can work effectively from home while still being close to my family.”
Marken’s list starts with two areas specifically:
“To me the heart of the home is the kitchen and great room area. It’s where I bake the kids’ birthday cakes and then watch them blow out the candles surrounded by their friends. It’s where we have marathon game-playing sessions at the kitchen table and cuddle up on the couch together during movie nights. It’s where every Valentine’s Day we set the table with special heart shaped dishes and cook breakfast for dinner together.”
Both Manoj and Marken appreciate the large backyard that is perfect for rambunctious children, as well as the seamless flow between the outdoor and indoor living spaces. “We host a lot of parties (Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Diwali and our children’s birthdays), and the home can comfortably accommodate 40-plus guests without feeling crowded,” Marken says.
She notes that both of her children’s rooms are special retreats for them. “We are an energetic and boisterous family,” she says. “I believe in in the philosophy of architect Susan Susanka, that every home needs quiet retreat spaces away from the home’s public areas. With input from my children I decorated the rooms in their favorite colors and interests.”
Mahan – the “bubbly” one who is fascinated by superheroes – got superhero bedding from Pottery Barn. Mahesh’s room was recently redecorated to reflect the fact that he is growing older and maturing. He now has a desk under his window so that he can study without distractions, as well as Pottery Barn Star Wars bedding and some retro-style space tourism posters from the artist Steve Thomas.
Design forethought extends elsewhere,
as well. “Our main concern when decorating is making sure that all of our friends and family feel at home and at ease when they’re here,” Marken says. “We’ve chosen furniture and decorative items that are cozy and can withstand two energetic boys but still provide the rustic elegant look we prefer. One of the many reasons we chose this home was because of the beautiful mature trees surrounding the home. We’ve chosen decor that highlights the views so that we can relax and watch the wildlife scampering through our gardens and trees.”
Manoj and Marken share more about their home
What are some other interior areas that have special stories?
Manoj: My favorite memory is making a gigantic leaf pile in the backyard in the fall and watching my kids jump in it. I remember fondly how beautiful the house looked during the rare snowstorms we’ve had and making snowmen with the kids.
Marken: My kids’ rooms are special retreats for them. We are an energetic and boisterous family. I believe in in the philosophy of architect Susan Susanka, that every home needs quiet retreat spaces away from the home’s public areas. With input from my children I decorated the rooms in their favorite colors and interests. My younger son Mahan is a very bubbly child who is fascinated by superheroes so I decorated his room in bright cheerful colors and added superhero bedding from Pottery Barn. I recently redecorated my older son’s room to reflect the fact that he is growing older and maturing. He has a desk under his window so that he can study without distractions. To reflect his love of science fiction and space exploration I added Pottery Barn Star Wars bedding and some retro style space tourism posters from the artist Steve Thomas.
Both my husband and I are passionate about reading and view one of the greatest gifts we can give our kids is a love of the written word. We placed large bookshelves in their rooms along cozy sofas where they can curl up with a good book. It’s worked. I can often find then enjoying some quiet time in their rooms by lounging on their sofas with something from their personal libraries.
Some of my fondest memories of the home involve celebrating the holidays here. Every Diwali (Hindu festival of lights in the fall) we host a special party for our friends and family. We decorate our home with special garlands and lots of candles and oil lamps. At dinner time we feast on special Indian food and sweets. After the sun sets we head outside to cover our front steps with candles and to light sparklers in the backyard. I love seeing a child’s face light up with sheer joy the first time they hold a sparkler and watch it glimmer.
One of my biggest surprises when we moved here was learning about Dalworthington Garden’s Department of Public Safety’s annual Christmas parade through the streets of the city with police car and firetruck lights blazing and Santa on the back of a fire truck. The first year we lived here we were startled when we heard the loud cacophony of sirens blaring on our street. We went to investigate and surprised to discover almost all of the city’s police officers and firefighter gathered at the end of street and children lining up to greet Santa. Now every year we invite a few families over for dinner and to greet Santa before he flies back to the North Pole to deliver toys.
Tell us a little about the dining arrangement the table with benches. How did that come about?
Manoj: The breakfast area isn’t just about food. It’s about family time. The kids enjoy the climbing up on the benches to play games and put together puzzles. It’s homey and rustic.
Marken: When we bought our first house one of the first pieces of furniture we purchased for it was this dining table, bench and chairs (World Market). We hosted our first Christmas around that table and watched Mahesh enjoy his first bite of turkey at that table. When we moved into our current home we thought the table and bench would be perfect in the breakfast nook. The table can withstand anything you can throw at it from messy finger painting sessions to kids making volcanoes out of clay during a dinosaur themed birthday party. Kids love cramming together onto the bench; the more the merrier. We also loved looking out the windows at the backyard so a few years ago we planted some Chinese pistache trees right outside the windows. The vibrant red the leaves turn in autumn is truly a sight to behold.
What about the exterior? What do you like most about the home when you step outside?
Manoj: I love barbecuing on the patio while watching my kids play in the pool and swinging. I enjoy hanging out with my friends in front of the fireplace while enjoying the fresh Texas breeze.
Marken: At our previous home we could only enjoy the backyard during those brief moments of perfect weather during fall and spring. There was no shade or breeze to keep you cool during hot Texas summers nor any way to stay warm during the chilly winter nights. One of the first things that drew us to this house was the backyard. We are outdoorsy people and could imagine ourselves spending time out there year round. The pool is where my older son learn to swim and the play set is where I saw my younger son go down a slide solo for the first time. We’ve roasted marshmallows in the fireplace during family backyard camp outs and taught our sons how to throw a football in on the lawn. Every July 4th we celebrate the founding our our country by decorating the backyard’s iron fence with bunting and inviting our nearest and dearest over for an epic cookout and swim party.
Describe what the home means to you in a sentence or two.
Manoj: My home is a nice retreat from a busy city and a busy life. It’s a home where I can enjoy entertaining my family and friends and make them feel welcome.
Marken: My home brings my family together. It’s where we build lasting memories and connect with one another.