After the birth of their first child, a young Houston couple knew the time had come for them to move. Living in a smaller garden home, they felt the need to look for something a bit more substantial to accommodate their growing family. “We needed a more adult home and began to think about practical things like school systems, a yard and more space for entertaining,” says the wife. An element of sentimentality also factored into the push for a change, with the husband wanting to return to the lush part of Houston that reminded him of his happy childhood. The couple’s search ended with a French-style residence fronted by a semicircular drive and majestic magnolia trees. Built in the late 1990s and originally designed by Sullivan, Henry, Oggero & Associates, the two-story house with flanking one-story wings perfectly suited the couple’s needs.
To help create an interior that lived up to the home’s elegant architecture, the couple enlisted designer Julie Dodson, whose imaginative interpretations of European flair have generated a fan base of admirers. “I love to design in the French style, but in fun and fresh ways,” says Dodson of her signature style and chic portfolio of work that attracted the couple’s attention. Adds the wife: “It’s very dramatic but in a quiet way.” In the beginning, the couple expressed their goal of simply just wanting to replace the floors, although a new paint job would also be in order. Dodson went to work swapping out the scored-concrete flooring downstairs with smoked-French-oak planks that “lend a sense of history and old-world French charm to the house,” she says. Turning her attention to the paint, Dodson concocted a plan to “use white throughout but to inject it with pops of blue, coral and lilac, using black as an accent,” she says. The result is a breezy, up-to-date vibe that reflects the couple’s aesthetic. “They’re really cool people,” Dodson says, referring to the music-loving pair who are big Led Zeppelin buffs.
These updates, however, had the unexpected effect of the couple reassessing their original goal. “That’s when things started to snowball,” says the wife. Dodson adds: “They saw how fresh the house was starting to look, but were also seeing how things like the older oiled-brass doorknobs weren’t matching the crisp white walls and new floors.” The homeowners realized that if they wanted to make significant changes, now was the time. Dodson was ready for the challenge, assuming the role of project manager in addition to designer. “Ultimately, nothing in this house was untouched,” she says. Even the clients’ furniture had to go. “We decided to get rid of everything and start over,” says the wife.
Dodson set the stage in the foyer with a console from Cuff Home in Los Angeles, a B Kelley Antiques mirror from the Marburger Farm Antique Show and stools from Edit. In the kitchen, the design overhaul included installing custom antiqued cabinetry and granite countertops and punching out a niche in a wall, where Dodson nudged in a blue-painted cabinet from Joyce Horn Antiques. She also took the necessary steps to make the eating and living spaces at the back of the house family-friendly for everyone, dogs included. The designer selected an off-white indoor-outdoor fabric for the skirted benches at the breakfast table, for example, and covered a white sofa in the family room in indoor-outdoor fabric, as well—in the event one of the family’s two Labrador retrievers chooses to use it as a napping spot.
Accommodating the homeowners’ request for a more adult home, Dodson rose to the occasion in the formal living and dining rooms. “I envisioned the living room as a place where my clients can entertain and sit with friends for an after-dinner cocktail,” Dodson says. She anchored the area with a hand-knotted antique rug and accessorized the space with pink and lilac pillows to reflect the dreamy hues in a painting just opposite; light emanates from silver lamps on white-lacquered side tables. “I think of lighting as jewelry for a home,” says Dodson, who also added gold lamps to the dining room, which she visualized as a Parisian circus. “I upholstered the walls in linen to create a tent-like feeling,” she explains. Overhead, the designer swathed the ceiling in a shimmery striped-silk fabric.
Color also invigorates the master bedroom, which Dodson made plush with lavender cotton-velvet upholstery on the chairs and a white tufted-twill headboard. She then hung antique pink-and-lavender screens on the wall and cushioned the floor with wall-to-wall white carpet to create a serene space that serves as a quintessential retreat, but with a little extra oomph.
Throughout their home, this Houston couple has indeed come a long way from their original goal, and they are enjoying a colorful transformation that enhances their lives and matches their playful personality. “We were willing to try new things,” the wife says. “Now, our home feels very light and clean and has a more sophisticated look, which is exactly what we needed now that we have a family.”