To say designer Cynthia Collins and her client began on the same page would be an understatement. In early discussions about a new home in Dallas for the client and her husband, “We had a lot of the same ideas,” says Collins, “and were reading each other from the beginning.” They came to one of their first meetings toting similar color and fabric choices and had “both clipped several of the same photos from magazines,” recalls the wife. Kismet also seemed to be at play when, during a meeting with architect David Stocker, Collins showed him photos of houses she liked. “He pointed to one and said, ‘That’s one of my projects,’ ” she remembers. Add to the mix builder Clay Snelling, landscape architect Bill Bauer of The Garden Design Studio and landscape installer Britt Johnson of Britton & Associates, and the stage was set.
Architecturally, the clients envisioned a smaller yet brighter and airier house blending contemporary and traditional elements. “We wanted a lot of light,” says the wife. “We also wanted to downsize and have everything we need to live on the first floor.” Stocker, working with associate Philip Pitzer, opted for a contemporary riff on classic Georgian architecture. “Often with Georgian architecture, you get a kind of a box with layers creating a dark middle,” he explains. “This home is kind of a stretched Georgian, so you can see through fairly easily.” Stocker relied on a restrained palette, choosing slate for the roof and painted brick for the exterior, another nod in the Georgian direction. The brick provides subtle texture, allowing shadow to play across the façade. In keeping with the home’s pared-down classicism, simple columns flank the entrance. “Stripping them down brought us to more contemporary detailing,” he says. “Sometimes mixing elements can make it seem like they are duking it out. You have to find a commonality to them.”
The graceful balance struck by the architecture yielded ideal conditions for similar interiors. “The house reads more contemporary, helping give the couple’s art more of an edge and making the timeless pieces look fresher,” says Collins, “but the traditional moldings and mantels suit the antiques.” Coming from a more traditional house, the homeowners were ready for a little bit more fun. To achieve this, Collins repurposed much of the family’s existing furniture—in addition to incorporating new finds and custom pieces—including reupholstering a pair of custom chairs in the living room in a bold chinoiserie pattern that echoes the wife’s Rose Medallion china collection. Collins and her senior design associate, Rachel Richardson, also mixed in vintage pieces from the 1940s through the ’70s. “Sometimes it takes a combination of periods to achieve the right mix,” notes Collins. In the entrance hall, for example, the designer paired a ’40s Italian glass-and-brass piece she discovered in Paris with an antique Oushak carpet that lends visual heft to the space with its strong colors.
An appealing tension between old and new also exists in the kitchen, where a beamed ceiling plays off cabinetry inlaid with stainless steel. “We started with a very flat-front design, but using the inlay meant we could have more interest and detailing,” Collins says. This posed a new challenge for Snelling. “It’s always fun to do something you’ve never done,” he says. The undertaking included two separate subcontractors as well as a meticulous paint job. Also tricky were the corner windows in the kitchen, study and master bathroom, which required extra structural support. “The outside corner of a house has a large structural load, and to have a window in this area requires structural steel beams and columns,” Snelling explains.
The home sits on more than an acre of land, so perfecting the landscape was paramount. “Sometimes just a few moves can make the difference, but those can be lost on a big lot,” says Bauer, who worked to ensure the scale of the gardens was appropriate for the size of the lot and devised an entry sequence leading from the front of the property to the front door. “It’s an open green space that’s inviting and easy to walk through,” he says. The back is equally simplistic, although the dual-level pool with a waterfall element provides a dramatic focal point. For the plantings, white knockout roses and azaleas punctuate the intense greens of the boxwood, hawthorn, magnolias and hollies. Johnson adds, “The homeowners wanted a landscape that is low-maintenance, clean and contemporary.”
With a landscape ideal for the family’s dogs and a home scaled to perfection for the couple, the wife marvels at the ease with which everything came together. “The whole team was incredible,” she says. “David listened, and Cynthia knew exactly what I wanted. We have sunshine in the front. We’ve got the loggia in the back. And the light is incredible. It really is a feel-good home.” And it’s not surprising that a project that began with a series of coincidences and a meeting of design minds resulted in a home impeccably suited to its owners. As they say, some things are just meant to be.
Styling by Jenny O’Connor and Halie Woosen
—Lisa Bingham Dewart