The walls of interior designer Tori Rubinson’s Fort Worth residence may be elaborately trimmed or lacquered to a high sheen, but it is, first and foremost, a throw-the-pillows-on-the-floor kind of place. “It is beautiful yet approachable,” she says. “When we entertain, we want guests to feel comfortable—not as though their kids can’t run through the house.”
For Rubinson and her husband, Adam, entertaining doesn’t just mean intimate dinners with a few friends. It means charity and church events for more than 80 guests. So when they set about designing their new home in the Colonial Hills neighborhood, the couple asked architect Skip Blake for generously sized rooms following a traditional, Southern Colonial floor plan, with formal spaces at the front and family-friendly rooms wrapping around a pool at the back. “We told him, ‘We don’t want to focus on square footage; we want to focus on how we’ll really use different spaces,’ ” Rubinson recalls. More specifically, she continues, “Adam wanted a dining table wide enough to have a lavish spread and still have room for place settings.” An adjacent prep kitchen is also equipped to accommodate caterers on party nights—or the family’s children on cozy cookie-baking afternoons. And the long living room opens to the pool terrace via three sets of French doors, facilitating easy indoor-outdoor entertaining.
Though each room’s footprint is grand, “we didn’t do two-story ceilings,” Blake notes. “There’s none of that cavernous feeling that was so prevalent in decades past.” Emphasizing the intimacy, Rubinson adorned the ceilings with elaborate moldings—with assistance from designer Andrew Howard, whose services were a surprise anniversary gift from Adam. The approach yielded dramatic results, including seven-layer coffers in the living room and a complementary design for the lower kitchen ceiling. For the breakfast room, Rubinson enlisted Accents of France’s Philippe Le Manach to help design treillage panels covering the walls and a portion of the ceiling. “It’s a detail that’s been part of the architecture of France for centuries,” Rubinson explains, “but I wanted to do something different and placed an ivory grass cloth behind the trellis for textural interest.”
The trellis is painted Rubinson’s signature color, Farrow & Ball’s Light Blue No.22, which falls on the pale end of a spectrum of blues used throughout, from the main bedroom’s periwinkle walls to the game room’s navy-on-aqua beamed ceilings. “I’m drawn to coastal colors and think they’re very calming,” Rubinson explains. “Life is chaotic, so having serene hues is important to me.” But there’s a place for drama, too. From their seats at a custom mahogany table, for example, dinner guests enjoy a tantalizing glimpse of the butler’s pantry’s deep-blue lacquered cabinets. “It took about three months to complete,” Rubinson says of the finish. “It was sand and paint, sand and paint, until it was as reflective as glass.”
Antiques sourced from Round Top to Paris add to the glamour. The breakfast room’s chandelier is a find from a French village. The dining room’s Venetian mirror hangs above a marble-topped, Louis XVI-style sideboard displaying Rubinson’s grandmother’s china. Viewed from across a room, new upholstered furnishings exude a similar air of refined elegance. Up close, however, each piece invites relaxation, from the dining room’s scalloped, velvet-covered seats to the living room’s mohair sofa. “The main goals were to keep the home feeling fresh and new while incorporating beautiful antiques that I loved,” Rubinson notes. Meanwhile, textiles often serve as the starting point for her compositions, like the floral pillow fabric sparking the living room’s palette of blues, corals and chartreuse greens, or the main bedroom’s feminine hydrangea print, its hues extending to the grass-cloth walls and the adjacent bathroom’s marble-mosaic floors. “I love when a home transitions well from room to room,” Rubinson says. “There are a lot of colors and textures, but they all work together seamlessly.”
At the project’s outset, the Rubinsons decided to incorporate an old marble mantel from the property’s original residence. Originally built for a room with 8-foot ceilings, the ornate piece required both an extended base—fabricated with help from builder Douglas Brooks—and confident decorating to merge its ornate character with the living room’s slipcovered furnishings and abaca rug. And this, it seems, is where Rubinson shines. “I love a mix of modern and traditional elements,” she says. “The beauty of this house is in that marriage of old and new.”