It was wonderful incorporating this family’s meaningful pieces,” says designer Jason James Jones of a project he and co-designer Philip Thomas Vanderford completed for repeat Dallas clients. “There’s something reassuring about age, history and depth,” Vanderford adds. “With so much technology these days, seeing an 18th-century table is refreshing.” It was also a natural direction for the wife, who met her husband at Ole Miss and grew up in a Nacogdoches home reminiscent of New Orleans, with wrought-iron details and an oak tree in the yard. True to their roots, the couple purchased a lot on the mature oak-lined streets of University Park, where they envisioned “a unique and distinctly Southern house with a bit of formality and fun,” the wife says. Joined by architect Thomas R. Stewart and managing partner C. Donavan Stewart, as well as builder Robby Skinner, Vanderford and Jones delivered just that.
The entry’s black-and-white checkerboard flooring and grand staircase are the first signals something is unique about this residence. “The pink wallpaper was an early decision,” adds Jones, referencing the chinoiserie print the duo selected for walls visible in the living and dining rooms, which flank the entry. While the pattern has roots in the 18th century, its lively color feels updated–and, for an edge, the designers only papered the dining room’s focal walls. A pair of custom chandeliers by Thomas Grant underscores the established classic yet fresh aesthetic while tying the two rooms together. “It’s really something special for our client–clean and current but with a sense of history with antique Venetian flowers,” Jones says of the statement lighting.
Stepping away from the feminine spaces at the front of the residence, the designers set about carving out masculine areas for the husband. “Since we definitely created something for her,” Vanderford notes, “we also wanted to make places for him.” So in the family room, they shifted the color palette to blues and oranges, still incorporating chinoiserie elements, as in the table lamps, but anchoring the room with more generously scaled furniture, a classic Eames lounge chair and ottoman, and the wife’s family piano–a 1907 Mason & Hamlin her parents purchased in the 1970s. Above the black marble fireplace hangs a painting attributed to the circle of English portraitist Sir Thomas Lawrence. “I thought it added formality,” says the wife, whose contributions throughout the home also included Gérard Isirdi prints from a birthday trip to Provence and a selection of geodes and rocks found on the couple’s honeymoon in South Africa and Zambia. “We encouraged our client to pick things that spoke to her,” says Vanderford. “Choose things you love and that tell a story.”
But perhaps one of the most memorable stories from this collaboration is that of the nursery design. While the wife, who was pregnant at the time the project began, chose not to learn in advance the gender of her third child, the designers were told early in the process in order to create the appropriate environment. While trusted with the secret, they did have several weak moments, including one lunch with the wife during which Jones almost revealed the surprise. “He gave away the wrong gender somehow and she was convinced she was having a boy,” laughs Vanderford. However, a charming little girl’s room was stealthily prepared ahead of the baby’s arrival–and not only did the move-in date fall on the day after she was born, but the designers are also now her godparents.
The new baby’s parents and siblings were also provided with meaningful sanctuaries as well. Her brother sleeps in a nearby room in their maternal grandfather’s childhood bed while her sister’s space features a Chivasso butterfly textile brought from the family’s former home. “We repurposed a lot of good fabrics from the previous house,” notes Vanderford. Meanwhile, the luxurious master suite features separate sitting rooms, bathrooms and closets. “The willow wallpaper provides a dramatic backdrop that adds richness to the couple’s space,” Vanderford says of the Brunschwig & Fils design, which creates a continuum with the formal rooms downstairs.
Both upstairs and downstairs, the interiors truly showcase the best of then and now, as if the house were built in the 1920s and evolved over time. “Guests don’t know if the home is old or new,” says Vanderford, “and that is the best compliment.” Jones is quick to agree: “This house is an example of how you can take classical elements and lots of family pieces and still have a fresh, current feel.”