“We’d been eyeing the place for 20 years and always said we would live there one day,” says the owner of a house perched high on a bluff above Fort Worth. With the deal finally sealed, she and her husband quickly assembled a crack team to handle the remodel, starting with interior designer Joseph Minton, who had worked with the couple on two previous homes. “Joe knew the architect, Ralph Duesing, and Ralph had worked with builder Brad Deering, so we immediately formed a great group that already knew us and how we live,” she says.
The trio also shared the couple’s enthusiasm for the merits of the 1960s solid brick and flat-roof ranch. Duesing was delighted with the home’s structure: “It’s a modern house that was built well in the first place,” says the architect. And Minton, who collaborated with associate Paula Lowes on the project, appreciated the workable framework. “The house had a great layout, expansive rooms and all these wonderfully tall ceilings,” he recalls.
There was immediate accord on what did need to change, beginning with the removal of a balcony that ran the length of the back of the house, totally obscuring the 7-acre property’s all-encompassing vistas of the Trinity River Valley below. “There was also no usable outdoor entertaining spaces,” says Duesing, who received thumbs ups all around for his decision to cantilever a deck off the rear of the lower level of the house to remedy that shortcoming.
The only problem with that plan, according to Deering? Total lack of access. “The original homeowners never brought the outside grade up, and the drop-off from the lower level was anywhere from 2 to 4 feet,” says the builder, who constructed a temporary retaining wall to create a flat spot from which to erect the ipe deck on its concrete and steel piers. “If you were to walk out from the original sliding doors, that first step would have been a big one!”
With the exterior needs addressed, the team set its sights on what was largely a cosmetic overhaul of the interiors. “The kitchen and master bedroom were badly neglected and needed some reworking, but the living room, dining room and study stayed intact,” says Duesing, who in response to his clients’ request for more light exchanged the existing smoked-glass windowpanes—“Very ’60s,” he notes—with clear energy-efficient glass. “The windows are like big paintings. They’re the strongest visual point in the whole house,” he adds.
The torch next passed to Minton, who knew instantly that most of the furnishings from his clients’ previous Arts and Crafts-style residence would be dwarfed by the new home’s expansive white walls and 11-foot-high ceilings. “So, we decided on very contemporary oversize upholstered pieces with lots of heavy white fabric on the sofas and benches,” says Minton, who divided the vast rectangular living room into two commodious sitting areas with the fireplace and an abstract painting by New York-based artist Corinne Jones as focal points.
Breaking up all the white are two bright yellow Richard Shapiro chairs— gifts from the owners’ children—and a colorful woven needlepoint bench with built-in bolsters. “It’s a fabulous geometric pattern in orange, pink, lavender, gold and taupe,” says Minton, who added throw pillows in the exact same Coraggio fabric to the sofas. A pair of wool-and-sisal rugs over the room’s ebonized white oak flooring further delineates the spaces.
Glossy black doors lead to the other main-level rooms, including the study, where the black-lacquered paneled walls continue the dark wood theme introduced in the living room. To brighten up the imposing backdrop, Minton placed an existing Victorian skirted sofa and a pair of similarly clad chairs that were reupholstered in red wool.
According to Minton, having worked with the homeowners and the architect on previous projects helped things run that much more smoothly, and the home’s good bones made everyone’s job easier. “It was a wonderful house 50 years ago,” he says, “but it just got better.”