On the Market: A Charming Storybook in Belle Isle

text by Lynne Rostochil.  Photos of house for sale by Lynne Rostochil; all others credited below

Although mid-century modern is my favorite style, I have to say that my heart skips a beat or two every time I drive by a house that looks like it came straight out of a Grimms’ fairy tale.  These whimsical homes — dubbed Storybooks in honor of those unsettling childhood books of dark woods, witches, and a dwarf or seven — are chock full of old world charm and character.

The Storybook trend began, fittingly enough, in the land of fantasy — Hollywood.  Charlie Chaplin may have unwittingly started the whole movement when, in 1917, he built his own movie studio in the Storybook style in a quiet orange grove on what is now bustling N. LaBrea.

charlie chaplin

(Big Orange Landmarks)

Within a few years, Storybooks were popping up all over L.A., with the most iconic example, the gloriously outlandish Spandena House, being constructed in Beverly Hills in 1921:

storybook house ca


Just as the style began to decline in popularity along the West Coast in the early 1930s, a somewhat more subdued variation became trendy here in Oklahoma City around the same time in such neighborhoods as Gatewood, Linwood, and Shepherd:

storybook houses shepherd neighborhood


By the beginning of WWII, however, the style’s popularity had begun to wane in the Sooner State, too.  It wasn’t until the mid-’50s that a modified version of the charming cottages made a resurgence here in the Metro thanks to the husband-and-wife design-and-build team of Luke and Dorothy Rodgers:

rodgers luke dorothy building site april 1957 nw 56th

(OPUBCO collection at The History Center)

Dorothy designed homes that were filled with charming Storybook details and Luke built them.  One neighborhood where they produced some of their most eye catching designs was in Wileman Belle Isle — this is one of my favorites that sold very quickly a couple of years ago:

storybook house belle isle

(Alan and Heather Davis)

Another grand example is for sale right now.  In addition, several modified Storybooks dot the neighborhood landscape and one has just come on the market on one of the neighborhood’s best streets, NW 56th, that was surely designed and built by the Rodgers duo:


 Cute, cute!

This split level packs a lot of charm in its 2,500 square feet.  Just look at this wrought ironed entry and you’ll see what I mean:




Definitely the perfect place to make a grand entrance … or maybe even an even better exit a la Bette Davis in “All About Eve”!

Off of the entry is the huge but somehow still comfy and cozy living room:


Yes, that’s original peg flooring you see and it’s in great shape, too:


Like this room?  Well, you haven’t seen the best part yet … a true fairy tale fireplace!


I can envision roasting marshmallows, walnuts, or maybe an errant child or two (as the Grimm Brothers would surely do) in this dreamy Storybook confection.  What a space!


The charm continues in the dining room, which is right off the living space:


I’m always a sucker for a barn door like my non-warted grandma used to have, and there are two of them in this house — one off the dining room and another off of the kitchen:


The barn doors open to a very sweet and beautifully terraced backyard that appears to be completely free of boiling cauldrons and angry giants:


Here’s the back of the house and the large outdoor patio:


Love the detail of the bottom of the roof, don’t you?  Back inside and off of the dining room is a very roomy kitchen with a built-in desk/hutch:



This room might need a little love, but it’s HUGE and has a lot of potential, I think.  What the kitchen lacks in fun and whimsy is definitely made up for in the amazing and all-original peachy pink bathrooms that are much less Storybook and way more fun ’50s.  I so LOVE this one but have to tell you that I had trouble with the light in this room with my camera and my photos do not do this incredible space justice at all:



I’ve never seen these tiles patterned this way, have you?  So nice!


And how perfectly delightful are these sweet petal-y things that you used to see on mirrors all of the time?


Yes, everything in this bathroom is original, including the flooring and countertop … and it’s all in really good shape, too!


An added bonus is the built-in seating nook in case you want to take a break from primping to enjoy the space in all of its pink glory.


The nice sized master bedroom is on the other side of the bathroom:


On the second level of the home is an office/playroom/library with some pretty great bookshelves …


… and another pink bathroom!




How great is that tub?

The bathroom also serves the third bedroom on the front of the house:


Go out of the bedroom and you’re back on that great Bette Davis, who some thought was about as nice as a Grimm witch, landing:


Check out those beams:


Now that’s some great Storybook charm, which continues outside in front, with a brick-lined stairway leading to the driveway:


And a hilltop view of the neighborhood:


Enticing Storybook details are everyone on the front of the house — I mean, look at that rounded brick and the cute slanted roof line anchored by the chimney.  So welcoming!


Even the original outdoor lights carry on the charm of the Storybook style:


This solidly built and very well maintained home is for sale for the first time in nearly four decades and is looking for a new caretaker who will appreciate all of its irresistible charm.  If you think that’s you, contact realtor Brenda Craiger for a tour — 919-9125.  Asking price is $340,000.


Here’s another view of the house showing off all of its Storybook fun:


(Oklahoma County Tax Assessor)

Finally, to learn more about Storybook houses, I highly recommend Storybook Style: America’s Whimsical Homes of the Twenties by Arrol Gellner. As for Storybooks in OKC, we are working on a Mod Blog about them and also one about the careers of Luke and Dorothy Rodgers and will post them soon.