HOW TO MAKE A COLONIAL HOUSE CRACKLE - FD LUXE
BY CHRISTOPHER WYNN
April 29, 2013 - The house looks like a decades-old mansion that has been painstakingly restored. The bricks are coated in crisp white paint, the wood shutters are glossy black and fastened with iron ties and an elegant brick-paved walkway leads to the front porch, itself lined with stately columns.
Scarlett O’Hara would not feel out of place here.
But this is North Dallas, not Margaret Mitchell’s Georgia — and this storybook Colonial Revival is just four years old.
Call the lady of the house a romantic. She wanted a home that reminded her of the charming old structures she grew up in around Highland Park and Bluffview, “before all of the tearing down started,” she says.
Her attention to detail was obsessive. After finding the perfect lot, the wife and her husband hired a series of architects, then heavily tweaked and massaged the plans to finally build exactly what they wanted. Dallas designer Peggy Schutze was looped in to advise the couple on the early finish-out. One example? They obsessively studied homes on historic Swiss Avenue so that the millwork throughout the house felt authentic. The plan worked: Elegant transoms top the entrances to formal rooms; a richly paneled archway adds heft and drama in the hallway; and beadboard clads the kitchen ceiling for an air of casual warmth. (The homeowners swear by their trim carpenter, Juan Morales.) And the precise nods to the past don’t stop there. The grand foyer is lined with a black-and-white checkerboard of marble tiles that recalls “old bank lobbies,” says the wife. The couple even resisted a more modern floor plan, so that the house feels suitably old. Some may gasp: The kitchen is not an open concept and does not connect to a sprawling family room. The bedrooms are all upstairs, leaving the downstairs entirely devoted to gracious public rooms, as it would’ve been in a period mansion.
But therein lies the conundrum of this house. Yes, the couple highly values tradition, even in furnishings — Grandmother’s dining set, for example, whose inclusion here was non-negotiable — but they also love modernist furniture and already had an impressive collection of contemporary art. “We needed somebody who could make it all work,” says the wife.
Cue decorator Jody Hagan, still fresh from her collaboration with real-estate powerhouse Claire Dewar, whose own 1920s Dutch Colonial in Greenway Parks crackles with contemporary photography and furniture. Hagan says the couple had excellent taste but needed guidance. “Even though we did it all at once,” she says, “the goal was to make it look like it was collected over the years.” To wit, each room is composed in layers in which opposites attract. Hagan fearlessly placed a pair of taut, stainless-steel Barcelona chairs, upholstered in aqua leather, opposite a plump, skirted sofa piled high with Fortuny floral pillows. The breakfast room is equally eclectic: Ornate Swedish dining chairs encircle — and enliven — a simplistic oval Saarinen table. This push-pull happens all over the house’s 9,000 square feet.
The art adds another level of tension to the scheme. Talley Dunn, owner of the eponymous contemporary-art gallery, is a longtime friend of the wife and has advised the couple for years. Their collection ranges from oil paintings by Texas artist David Bates to a riveting, gridded Chuck Close self-portrait, hung within the living-room fire- place’s traditionally paneled surround. Another Close piece, a haunting, photorealistic painting of composer Philip Glass, hangs at the top of the spindled stairs. Two works by American minimalist master Richard Serra hang above an Italian Deco buffet in the dining room. “I think when you see great collections, you see the personality of the collector coming out,” says Dunn, noting that the couple’s pieces are occasionally loaned for museum exhibitions. She says they collect what they respond to both visually and intellectually — and what they truly love. “It’s eclectic and there is humor, but there is seriousness in it, too.”
You could say the same about everything inside this unconventional Colonial. Hagan describes the elegantly mixed-up result thusly: “The rooms feel decorated, but they don’t look decorated.” She pauses, and then adds, laughing, “I don’t like things to really match.”
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