When one Dallas family was searching for a new place to call home, they came upon a recent build conceived by architect Paul Turney and builder Ben Coats—and knew right away that this would be their dream house. Purchasing the house midway through construction, the couple wanted to maintain its classic demeanor, yet with a twist. “The homeowners sought a timeless, clean and simple home,” says Coats, “but they also wanted something special for their family.”
An admirer of architecture that has stood the test of time, Coats set out to construct a dwelling that was elegant yet filled with charm. The builder had a reverence for the great Texas architects who created traditional houses based on the historical styles of Mediterranean, Georgian and Tudor homes and prized for their attention to understated detail and siting—counting Houston’s John Staub and Dallas’ Charles Dilbeck and Henry B. Thompson as influencers. The houses they designed in River Oaks and Park Cities indelibly defined what those neighborhoods came to be, and they’re the houses Coats wanted to live up to.
The choice of Turney as architect was well-considered: He has been a quiet presence in the city for decades, designing handsome homes that deftly rise to the high standards set by Dilbeck and Thompson. But the choice may have been fate, too. “At our first meeting I showed Paul photos of all the houses I liked,” Coats says. It turned out that Turney had created every one of them.
With an interesting twist on tradition the house began to take shape. “The homeowners wanted a classic Southern house,” says Coats, “but they didn’t want it to be exactly like every other dwelling on the block.” To answer their request, Turney designed a three-story house graciously framed by two pre-existing oaks; a third story with a guest suite is visible only from the back. The white-painted brick serves as a smooth backdrop to the simple stone headers and taupe colored shutters, which give the house a clean monochromatic scheme. “I’ve found that many people today want clean lines and open spaces,” says Turney, who enlivened the floor plan with a wide central hall dividing the dining room on the right from the living room and bar on the left. The bright white kitchen underscores Turney’s intentions. With Calacatta marble counters and backsplashes, gleaming back-painted glass walls, and an industrial-style vent hood, the room is a modern reprise of a more traditional family kitchen.
Turney then added statement-making flourishes, such as an outside gas lantern over the steel-framed front door. The door features a large grid pattern that amps up classic details elsewhere including the slate-hipped roof and Chippendale-style detailing on the second-floor balcony. Windows and doors overlook boxwood-rimmed gravel terraces devised by Marlin Landscape Systems principal Chase Schavrda and landscape designer Mat Hanus. “We played off the clean lines of the architecture,” Hanus says.
The family wanted to maximize the use of their front yard and create connections between the indoor and out. “I wanted to open up the house as much as possible,” says the architect, who made this possible with an abundance of glass. “Before air conditioning, houses had windows everywhere.” Turney revived that custom with a grand gesture, choosing floor-to-ceiling windows for the living and dining rooms. In the family room, accordion French doors fold back across the length of the room to merge the gathering space with an outside loggia.
Inside, designer Neal Stewart’s choices of furniture, fabrics and finishes ensured that every room in the house welcomed the entire family, including the dog. Stewart mixed family heirlooms with new fashion-forward pieces that offer color, then sparked both with vintage finds and durable fabrics. “This was a fun project because it was such a collaborative team effort,” Stewart says.
For the downstairs flooring, durable rift-sawn-oak planks are stained a dark chocolate tone. The color is a dramatic contrast to the courageous taupe-gold palette the wife was open to using. Stewart enriched the wife’s choice with moments of bronze and blue, inspired by a painting she purchased for the dining room. The space’s ceiling shimmers with a Sherwin-Williams metallic bronze hue, which is also repeated on paneling in the living room—a bold counterpoint to the otherwise relaxed setting.
Touches of blue add pops of color throughout as seen in the dining room seats, rattan barstools in the kitchen, a club chair in the living room and pillows in the family room. “The wife wanted the house to be casual but elegant,” Stewart says. “So we used fabrics that could handle an active family and kept the large upholstered pieces neutral. In their previous home, the wife had been using orange and tangerine, but she really loves blue and already had pieces in this color. It seemed natural to carry that hue throughout this home.”
Casual but elegant is exactly what Coats intended for this domicile, mixed with a few unexpected touches. “I don’t want any house I build to look like it came from a specific time period,” he says. Built to the scale and proportion of dwellings from another era, this house radiates the assurance of a time gone by. Even so, it’s very much of the here and now, a chic expression of family life today. For Coats, the reason is simple, stating, “classic is always in style.”