Designer Sofia Joelsson has worked with this Dallas-based homeowner on residences all around the country since mutual friends introduced them 10 years ago. All that time he had his heart set on the Highland Park neighborhood where they drove together dozens of times, searching for a property that would afford lots of natural light. So, the day he called the Miami Beach-based office of her SoJo Design, saying he’d found it and asking if she’d look at the floor plan, she was sure he was joking. But a foundation had just been poured on his “dream lot” by Chuck Stephenson, of Plano’s Stephenson Custom Builders, for a Tuscan-inspired spec home designed by his firm in collaboration with Dallas architect Richard Davis. With Joelsson’s blessing, the customization process began.
Joelsson describes the homeowner, who parlayed success in oil into music, Hollywood movies and economic development, as easygoing, with an innate sense of hospitality and showmanship—traits that inspired the estate’s overall design. She envisioned iconic, masculine luxury with a clean, weightless edge—a world-class destination for him and his globetrotting business partners to work and to nurture their creativity. “He is all about comfort,” says Joelsson. “We wanted down-to-earth elegance that was comfortable enough to invite all his friends and colleagues, lounge and move around the rooms easily.”
The scale of the interior volumes is a refreshing surprise in this private, suburban setting, especially considering the lot’s relatively modest footprint. Uninterrupted limestone flooring flows throughout the piazza, living room, grand foyer and more than 700 square feet of covered porches. When the large French doors are open, 15-foot drapes sway between the living room and central courtyard. The piazza exudes a lavish modernism that recalls the luxury hotels of Las Vegas and South Beach. “It’s sophisticated, for adults,” says Joelsson, pointing to a cabana, whirlpool and sun bed, which faces a waterfall movie screen, cocktail bar with pizza oven, and a conversation area built around a fire pit.
Large ceiling beams and solid walnut doors echo the home’s Tuscan style. Hand-scraped walnut floors laid in a variety of patterns add the perfect level of detail to the sizable rooms. Davis says every item—mantels, mouldings, the custom palmette motif for the grand stair, privacy alcoves buffering private and public areas, and a triple-vaulted ceiling in the master suite wing—received Joelsson’s blessing. “The idea was to achieve elegant simplicity,” says Davis.
In the study and dining room, the carefully curated furniture is sparsely arranged to draw attention to the pieces’ magnificent silhouettes, thereby exuding a sense of drama and expectation. Sensuous leather, cashmere, silk and wax finishes add inviting softness. Walnut paneling makes the billiards room’s 20-foot ceiling feel more intimate and is the perfect foil for antique candelabra. Joelsson discovered the vintage European billiard table in worn condition in New York. Its authenticity and character made it a must-have, so she acquired it and had it refurbished.
“I wish I had another project just like this!” exclaims Stephenson, who says he enjoyed collaborating with Joelsson not only for her great personality, but because the relationship resulted in aesthetic and material innovations, like the beautiful wood and tile floor design of the master bathroom.
Joelsson returns the compliment, and also credits the homeowner’s faith in them and in their ingenuity. “When he trusts people, he lets them do their jobs and does not micromanage, which can kill a lot of creativity,” she says, adding that the fire pit, where he now enjoys sharing stories and roasting marshmallows, has become one of his favorite places. “He’s a gentleman,” Joelsson reflects. “There is an ease about him that makes people want to talk with him and open up, whether they’re a waiter—or a movie star.” And the house often has the same effect.