At a time in life when most people prefer to downsize, Dallas couple Chris and Genny Mantzuranis chose to do just the opposite. While they had contemplated renovating their previous family abode of more than 20 years, the couple knew deep down that building a sizable new forever home from the ground up would better suit their needs. “We envisioned a comfortable and classic house where we could have our grown children and grandkids over,” recalls Genny. “We began to realize this would require starting fresh.” And when Genny happened serendipitously upon the perfect empty lot, everything seemed to naturally lead them toward moving forward with new construction.
The couple first turned to builder Christopher Dauwe and residential designer Charles A. Isreal, who developed the drawings for a country French-style home that could accommodate family get-togethers while still being perfectly cozy for two. “We learned how we live while in our previous house,” says Genny, noting things like a casual eat-in kitchen made far more sense for them than a formal dining room. Rounding out the team, interior designer Margaret Chambers—who recommended architect Richard Drummond Davis for refining details like the entry ceiling and door, cabinetry and wine room—applauded her clients’ originality and sense of adventure. “It’s about time personality came back into design,” she says buoyantly. “I want to see more creativity, collecting, craftsmanship—things that inspire me. I’ll never do another house just like this, and that’s what satisfies the artist inside me.”
To help hone plans for the interiors, Chambers and the owners perused hundreds of inspiration photos. “We had to pare it down and think about who they are now,” Chambers explains. Seeking a fresh take on French interiors with clean lines and a selection of antiques, they scrapped original plans for using all existing furnishings and instead brought in mostly new finds, with only five or so pieces making the move. One of the keepers—a treasured abstract painting inherited from Genny’s aunt—found a prominent place in the entry and inspired the home’s entire color palette. Working with her senior interior designer Allen Keith, Chambers cleverly wove the heirloom’s aqua, terra-cotta and gold shades throughout the main spaces. Watery blues accent a music room adjacent to the entry, for example, while earthy shades dominate in a nearby office showcasing a ceiling clad in Kelly Wearstler wallpaper. Similar soft rust and sandy hues carry into a living room housing antiques for a sense of timelessness along with recliners for ensured comfort. “Nothing’s shiny or flashy—it’s all about warmth,” explains Chambers, whose use of durable fabrics obliged not just the couple’s love of comfort but also their golden retrievers.
Perhaps the most fitting space of all for this gregarious, family-oriented couple is the spacious kitchen, which features double ranges, a generous island and a long eat-in dining table that can seat 10 per the owners’ request. Chris’ family had immigrated from Greece, after all, making it easy to imagine the boisterous, joyful scenes from My Big Fat Greek Wedding playing out in this spectacularly vaulted space. And to get the most out of it, Chambers brought in specialist Helene Terry. “Kitchen designers know how to install products so that they really function,” Chambers explains. “She made it easy.”
Elsewhere, care was taken to carve out more intimate places and make the home conducive for the couple long-term. For example, a morning room just off the kitchen serves as a quiet sitting area, a guest suite located on the first floor could easily become a second main bedroom, and a large game room has its own bar. Meanwhile, Chambers returned to gentle aqua hues for a restful main bedroom retreat that includes a conversation nook and writing desk, while bringing in modern elements like natural stone bedside lamps to “help keep the space from being too predictable,” Chambers explains.
Unpredictability has served these homeowners well. “It’s not often a couple in retirement builds a dream home that’s so current and on such a large scale,” Chambers notes. “However, they always wanted a custom build, and at this point in their lives they could really enjoy the process.” And the result not only reflects the owners’ tastes but also earned their children and grandchildren’s stamp of approval. “We wanted them to love this house,” says Chris. “I thought we were living in our dream house all those years before, but this is it.”