You know how you can’t judge a book by its cover? You could say the same thing about houses. In our Highland Park, Dallas neighborhood, people aren’t afraid to make bold design choices. A home’s exterior may look French Provincial, but you could open the front door to find striking modern interiors.
When I saw our house, I knew exactly what I wanted the inside to be. I was inspired by the formality and romance of its colonial architecture, and I wanted the interior to have that same feeling—and to remain authentic to the 1920s era when it was built.
If you’re a designer or a home enthusiast, remodeling an old home can feel like a rite of passage. That was true for me. Before we bought this home, I’d remodeled a house from the ’80s. We’d also built a home from the ground up. In many ways, though, restoring a 100-plus-year-old home is the ultimate project—so much heart and soul goes into it, especially when it’s your forever home.
While I wanted our home to feel formal, and my style is definitely rooted in traditional, I’m not afraid of using architectural detail, color, and pattern to infuse a fresh take on a classic style—I call it “traditional with a twist.”
Here’s how I’m using that style to guide our Highland Park renovation:
Let the architecture speak for itself. My design aesthetic has always been informed by my travels. When I was a college student, I chose to study in France. It was a formative time for me, and I like that this home had a lot of French inspiration, including the original iron railing on the facade and the old interior doors, and fireplaces. I imagine in the 1920s, the molding was grand, but I think over the years, as with many grand old houses, the owners gradually got rid of a lot of it. We’ve salvaged what we can, and we’re using plaster to create those fine details. We’re also adding a lot of dentil molding and multiple pieces of crown molding to replicate the ornate style of the 1920s.
Set the tone with color. People who’ve followed along from the beginning of my career might remember my first collections began in punchy, bright colors. Over the years, my tastes have evolved into a softer palette and I’ve become known for my signature combination of blush pink and French blue. However in this house, while I still want the colors to be soft and feminine—rooted in this concept of complementary tones and palettes—I’m using deeper tones and adding in lots of greens and purples.
Use textiles to layer textures and patterns. I created my textile line when we were living abroad, and I was inspired by patterns and textures from other cultures and the different countries where we lived—London, Dubai, and Hong Kong. I began to blend florals and chinoiserie that give a room personality and character.
Add a sense of playfulness with furnishings. Living in small apartments overseas, we only had access to modern furniture. So when we came back to the United States and rented an old penthouse in Rittenhouse Square, Pennsylvania, I felt free to expand, literally. I fell in love with pieces that were meaningful and special. I scoured Craigslist, eBay, and local antique shops for unique furniture. I found a Queen Anne-style table for my office desk, and a Regency dining room set. I still love to play around with mixing different styles of furniture, and am thrilled to have the space to do this in our home.
Be intentional with the landscaping. Just as we’re designing interiors that reflect our home’s formal architecture by preserving its original detail, we want to keep and celebrate our lot’s mature trees. We imagine a lawn that feels manicured, with sculptural boxwoods, but punctuated with arches and romantic perennials, like wandering wisteria. The home’s landscaping can be as an important design feature as its interior—it provides the first impression of the home and sets the design tone and style.
Keep it functional and flexible. In Texas, garages are often separate from homes, but we wanted to add an enclosed breezeway. With five kids, I needed that space to be a functional mudroom—an essential ingredient for a modern home. We’ll design it to be useful, complete with locker storage, but we’re also making it lovely with Paris Ceramics tile and elevated cabinetry. We’ll spend so much time here, and I want it to be filled with light and beauty.
Now that we’ve established a framework for the architecture and the design aesthetic, we’re ready to dive into the details! Join me next month in the heart of our home as we explore how to bring an early 1900s, small maids’ kitchen into the modern age.
This is part two in our Along for the Revival series with Caitlin Wilson. Get caught up with the rest of the series here.