This Dallas Home Weaves Together Traditional And Modern Design


Surface Interest in Dallas

Art drives the palette in a Dallas home that interweaves modern elements with traditional furnishings.

Simple Limestone with Traditional Roman Architecture Exterior and Tree

The simple limestone façade of this house, originally built by TAA Custom Homes, is underscored by linear window frames from Solara Iron Doors & Lighting. Designer Denise McGaha brought in concrete planters from Elegant Earth in Birmingham, Alabama, which are filled with plumbago. Armstrong Berger Landscape Architects developed the house’s remaining front and rear landscaping.

Carousel Horse Family Room with Gilded Table with Two Sofas

A circa-1800s carousel horse in the family room of a Dallas residence overlooks a Hickory Chair 1911 Collection sofa wearing Perennials fabric from David Sutherland. Nearby, Lee Jofa material covers Suzanne Kasler for Hickory Chair benches. Modern History’s Midtown cocktail table sits atop a Turkish rug from Renaissance Collection.

Dark Leaf Wallpaper Dining Room with Blue Chairs and Gallery Art Wall

An Innovations wallcovering lends texture in the dining room, where McGaha grouped works from Alan Barnes Fine Art and pieces from the homeowners’ collection in a salon style. An Ochre chandelier from David Sutherland hangs above a table formed with an Arcade Center base by Thomas Pheasant from Baker and a glass top by Fashion Glass & Mirror. Artistic Frame’s Ziegfield chairs wear Duralee fabric; the rug is from Truett Fine Carpets & Rugs.

Gold Frame Breakfast Area with Mirrored Wall and Banquette

A 19th-century French mirror layered over an antiqued mirror pane fabricated by Fashion Glass & Mirror is a dazzling focal point in the breakfast area. The Bistro banquette by Mariette Himes Gomez for Hickory Chair is clad in Perennials Swanky Platinum fabric from David Sutherland. Ilsa side chairs by Alexa Hampton for Hickory Chair—covered in Miles Redd for Schumacher material—pull up to a Saarinen table from Knoll with a gray marble top.

White Kitchen Cabinetry with Lantern Lighting and Runner Rug

The goal for the kitchen was twofold: to allow flexibility when entertaining and to create a comfortable and livable space where family and guests can gather. The runner is from Renaissance Collection.

Gray Master Bedroom with Two Wallcoverings and Arched Ceiling and Art

A mix of finishes and textures appears in the master bedroom, where coverings from David Sutherland include Phillip Jeffries’ Monte Carlo Nights on the walls and Platinum Leaf Blocks in Singapore on the vaulted ceiling, creating a dramatic evening glow. A painting from Alan Barnes Fine Art hangs above an existing bed; linens are Sferra. An existing coffee table tops a rug from Truett Fine Carpets & Rugs.

Fancy Chandelier Master Bathroom with Artwork and Dividing Wall

Artist Reza Samimi’s Woman with Candle, acquired in Europe by the wife’s grandfather, hangs on a glass wall separating the master bathroom tub from the shower. The existing chandelier, originally placed in the dining room, mimics the pattern in the rug from Renaissance Collection.

Light Gray Vanity Bathroom Mirror and Printed Wallcovering

For subtle visual interest, McGaha dressed the master bathroom walls in Lee Jofa’s Artisan Stripe in Dove Grey. Aerin for Visual Comfort & Co. Union Double Arm sconces flank the vanity.

Dallas Outdoor Rectangular Pool with White Outdoor Furniture and Urns

Mosaic tiles in shades of blue rim the backyard swimming pool designed and installed by Distinctive Pools, tying in with Emissary stools in the outdoor seating area. Janus et Cie outdoor furnishings complement the family room decor just inside. A concrete console from Currey & Company, at left, holds a pair of Italian urns from the homeowners’ collection.

Armed with paint swatches, designer Denise McGaha first visited Gail and Ron Berlin’s home in Dallas’ Park Cities area for only a color consultation. “The living room color wasn’t working,” she remembers. “It was pink, with a lavender cast.” All five samples she brought, however, clicked, as did personalities, and one thing led to another: a whole-house tweaking helmed by McGaha. 

The residence had originally attracted the Berlins—empty nesters with three grown children and eight grandchildren— with its neoclassical architecture, setback siting on the lot and framing with 75-year-old oak trees. However, the couple were seeking a balance between her newfound modern preferences and his longstanding traditional tendencies while creating a backdrop for their collection of fine art and antiques. The home they found had many elaborate elements that just needed to be simplified and streamlined to fit their aesthetic. “There was nothing missing as much as it was a little overdone,” Gail says.

Their trust in McGaha’s vision led to key decisions that pleasantly surprised the couple, producing some outstanding design elements throughout. In the living room, for instance, the elaborate dimensional plaster ceiling originally featured a dark stain, forming a visually heavy canopy. “I was going to take down the whole ceiling,” Gail recalls. “Denise talked us into painting it a lighter shade, in the same color as the walls, because she liked the design and texture.” To complement the ceiling update, McGaha also replaced the room’s original white-marble mantel—detailed with urns, emerald cabochons and gold accents—with an elegant substitute from her Denise McGaha for Materials Marketing collection. “I chose black Nero marble to create balance with the multiple windows in the space and to weight the plasterwork ceiling,” the designer explains. 

Across the foyer and into the dining room, attention turned to the walls. Mirrored fretwork came down in favor of more sedate paneled wainscoting, and the designer added a wallcovering in a charcoal-hued leaf-pattern wood veneer, creating a rich textural backdrop. Likewise, McGaha planned a salon-style grouping for some of the Berlins’ exquisite traditional paintings in various sizes and themes, all unified by carved gilt frames. The arrangement was an adventure for the clients, who had previously opted for gallery-style displays of their fine art. “We were uncertain it would allow each painting its own authenticity,” Gail remembers. “However, Denise said, ‘Trust me. We’ll hang them, and if you don’t like it we’ll change it.’ ” McGaha laid out the grid in just 20 minutes, the design more than pleasing her clients. “I’d never seen anyone arrange art like that,” the wife says. “When we saw the result, we were captivated.” 

McGaha’s idea to hang a 19th-century French gilt mirror on an antiqued mirror pane on a wall in the breakfast area also required some friendly persuasion. “I was reluctant,” Gail admits. However, the clients once again trusted their designer, whose risk-taking paid o . “The change made a huge di erence,” the wife says of the double-mirror feature, which now serves as a dramatic focal point within view of the front entrance. A similarly unorthodox suggestion involved placing a piece of art above the oval tub in the master bathroom. “The rug, seating and art make the space feel more like a bathing room,” McGaha explains. The art installation itself—on a glass wall separating the bath and the shower space—proved challenging. However, through the owners’ company, Berlin Interests—which handled construction on this project post-purchase—the team successfully hung the painting using a special wire- cable system. 

Other changes, although less unorthodox, were equally impactful. In the kitchen, McGaha added wood doors to previously all-glass upper cabinets to conceal storage, leaving glass for emphasis on the cabinets near the range. She also painted the island base a soft blush shade, a subtle but effective relief from the all-white cabinetry. Elsewhere—namely in a powder room just off the kitchen as well as in the master bedroom—McGaha artfully integrated wallcoverings for textural interest and pattern. “My design aesthetic involves multiple layers in spaces,” she says, “and I love to start with wallpaper.” 

When it came to furnishings, “Gail wanted classic, clean lines and more architectural pieces that could blend with important antiques in their collection,” McGaha says. Seating throughout, such as the family room sofa in smooth velvet, has simple lines while accommodating heavy use. Even antique pieces seem refreshed and updated in the context of their new modernized surroundings. “The homeowners want guests to feel at ease,” the designer says, noting the couple appreciate quality and detail but find beauty in the understated. 

The Berlins gained their grandchildren’s offcial stamp of approval after tackling the backyard. Now, with a pool area and landscaping, Gail enjoys filling the home with fresh flower cuttings while “the grandkids frequently enjoy the hot tub,” she says. “That’s just the way it’s supposed to be.” With her home complete and McGaha’s paint swatches led away, Gail is working her way through another set of colors: She has taken up watercolor painting. “I thought I would try to learn, and I have a good time with it,” she says. “Color is mesmerizing.” 

Elaine Markoutsas