Fairyland in the Samis Cabana
The magic of the outdoors
Photos by Don Risi
The charming Tudor-style house had always been a point of interest for Karen Samis. Even as a child, she and her friends would sneak into the garden and explore the grounds. “All of the neighborhood kids called it ‘fairyland,’” Samis recalls with a smile. “But we were terrified of being caught, because rumor had it the woman who lived there was really scary!”
Years passed and Samis grew up, but she never quite forgot the magical “fairyland” house in Nichols Hills. She and her husband were living in Dallas in the late ’70s when the house came on the market.
“We loved the property,” she says, “and it had a lot of special details. I was especially attracted to the copper downspouts; they have crescent moons and stars on them. There is also a beautiful brick side garden with a frog fountain that Tommy Roberts did in the late 1950s. He was a great landscape designer and architect, and left his mark on our property.”
The house was built in 1927, and sits on a little more than an acre of land. According to Samis and the history she has learned, it was built to help promote the new area of Oklahoma City called Nichols Hills.
“Chester Davis and G.A. Nichols built the house, and Mr. Davis lived there for a while,” Samis says. “Later, it was sold to the proprietors of the old Meadow Gold Milk, and I have been told the dairy farm was in the lot behind us. That couple who owned the house must have been really fun, because there are wooden posts in the basement where their friends carved their names and dates of great parties that took place in the house.
“There are OU-Texas football scores for several years,” she adds. “And references to several friends who fought in World War II. It is so fun to look at these columns that were signed by my parents’ friends, who were in their early 20s at the time.”
As the cold, gray winter days fade, the Samis home and garden come alive with the bright pastel colors of spring. “There is a lot of trial and error in our yard,” she says. “Spring bulbs simply do not happen. We planted 300 crocuses one year – and got to enjoy two of them. The squirrels really had a feast. And they love tulip bulbs, also. The only summer planting we really do is in the front; we also plant about 600 caladiums throughout the yard, and fortunately the squirrels are not interested in them.”
Just to the east of the house, a couple of stone bridges lead to the lower garden that Samis and her friends used to call the “fairyland,” which maintains a natural feel.
“We have added trees and maintained a lot of the stonework,” Samis says. “It is basically the same as when I was a child. It is not formal by any means, but still requires a lot of maintenance. Although our yard is obviously private, there have been two weddings in the lower garden that we just happened to notice taking place from our kitchen window.”
The home has undergone several renovations necessitating changes to the landscape through the years, most recently relocating the pool and building an outdoor living space.
“We love the outdoor room, and with the fireplace and heaters, we can use it most of the year,” she says. “We also included a wood oven, which is great for pizzas and roasting chickens. It is a great entertainment space for family and friends.”
The Samis home and garden have an elegant look and feel, and the occupants make sure their guests always feel welcome. The mature elm trees and bald cypress offer welcoming shade, while tinkling fountains provide a soothing ambiance.
“Our lower garden is cooler in the summer, and so quiet — it is a beautiful place in our yard that feels like a real getaway,” Samis says. “There is a wishing well that is great fun for our grandchildren, and of course, the Easter bunny always visits in the spring. Our garden is a lot of work, but there is not a more beautiful place to entertain on a warm spring evening.”