For builder Robert Elliott, helping new clients construct a home in Dallas’ University Park neighborhood began with a meeting in the house where they currently lived. “Sitting down with a client in their home and allowing them to explain their goals, how they live and what their priorities are is important for a new property,” he says. “You learn a lot about their style and taste, and they can communicate what they really like—or don’t like.” The clients, a couple with three young children, had solid ideas for their new home, and had even drawn up an elevation plan inspired by travels, houses they admired, and photos they’d taken of details such as windows, arches and overhangs. “The first thing that stood out was that they were very humble,” recalls Elliott. “They wanted their residence to be sophisticated yet subtle and to maximize the outdoor spaces for their children.”
While the homeowners had a good idea about the elevation plan, Elliott called on residential designer Brent Slocum to address the interior architecture. “Brent was so great about helping with the inside,” the wife explains. “We told him our needs—that we love to entertain and wanted flow and no dead-end rooms—and he put it on paper for us.” Of particular note, Slocum and the homeowners agreed to locate the home’s main stairway away from the front door, which they set off to one side rather than in the center. “We didn’t want to walk in to a staircase,” says the wife. “We wanted the entry to function more as a room than a hall.” Handling the design of the interiors herself, with the influence of friends and the good fortune of “being surrounded by people with really good taste,” she says, the wife chose dramatic checkerboard flooring for the space and covered the walls with wallpaper depicting a landscape scene.
Throughout the home, a juxtaposition between traditional and modern elements abounds. For example, a grand enclosed loggia, encompassing a series of living, lounging and casual dining areas, features traditional arched windows with steel frames. “We wanted to find a balance between traditional and modern,” says Elliott. “From a construction standpoint, this achieved it just perfectly.” Likewise, the interiors reflect the wife’s overall objective of combining antiques with contemporary artwork, with eye- catching vignettes that include a blue mohair sofa paired with a lacquered Asian table and an 18th-century Italian mirror in the living room. “We wanted an eclectic feel of mixing old and new while striking a balance of having fine things and making it warm and comfortable,” says the wife. “It was a constantly changing process.”
A key section of the home is the bright, open kitchen with a multipurpose family room attached. Since the homeowners like to entertain and tend to congregate in these areas, it was important that they be not just comfortable but also easy to maintain. This was achieved, in part, with a custom-designed cabinet and island system featuring white-glass countertops that “are easy to clean and don’t stain like marble,” says the wife. “I had white marble in my previous house and wanted something clean and lower maintenance.”
Each of these main living spaces easily accesses various outdoor areas. In partnership with the wife, the task of designing the exteriors in a manner suited to the home’s aesthetic fell to landscape designer Laura Tyson. “There were a lot of different functions that we needed to achieve,” says Tyson, who worked with landscape installer Nick Malinowski of Outdoor Concepts. In addition to a small courtyard off the kitchen with a container garden for growing flowers and vegetables, the outdoor spaces include living and dining areas, and a generous backyard with a swimming pool and surrounding lawn where the homeowners’ children can play. Tyson added terra-cotta brick to the side courtyard—important visually because it’s the owners’ main entrance and is visible from the street—to warm it up and complement the white stucco walls. “I braided together these different zones of the outdoor areas by choosing a palette and staying true to it throughout,” she says.
Malinowski worked with Tyson to, among other things, enable the construction of outdoor terraces, coordinate irrigation and handle excavation for the pool, the axis of which was changed last minute to increase the area around the pool. “We had a lot of creative insight from everybody involved,” he says of the project. “Bringing it to life within city codes was tricky.” With a few tweaks to the original landscape drawings along the way, Malinowski was able to help everything fall into place.
Reflecting on the success of the project, Elliott praises the wife, who truly appreciated the efforts of the entire team. “She got everyone to bond and work with her, and it was all done with taste and class,” he says. For the wife, the feeling is mutual. “We had an incredible team,” she says. “They made the whole process so enjoyable.”
— Linda Hayes