Sometimes the phrase ‘family friendly’ can sound boring, but that doesn’t have to be the case,” interior designer Erin Sander says. “It’s possible to inject color and pattern without sacrificing durability, while also designing an enduring home that reflects your true personality and style.” So, when a young Dallas family asked Sander to help flesh out the design of their new residence, she knew exactly where to look for inspiration: their trips to Central America. “We wanted the heart of this home to radiate the warmth we found throughout our travels,” the husband adds. “Our hope was for the house to say, ‘Come, stay for a bit and enjoy.’ ”
The couple, who have three children, began their wish list with a pool featuring a two-story waterslide. Architects Robbie Fusch and Mike Schotte responded with an overall design brought to life by the clients’ longtime friend, builder Jon David Smith. “They wanted a transitional style with a terra-cotta tile roof, which gave the front façade a lot of character,” Fusch says. “I love the British Arts and Crafts movement and there’s an Edwin Lutyens influence here as well—but the back is more open and contemporary.” The house essentially wraps around a pool occupying the entire backyard for a resort-like effect. “This was never going to be an English garden,” the architect adds. “They wanted something more fun.”
That lively spirit continues inside, where Sander realized colorful spaces designed to welcome visitors. “These clients have an open-door policy and needed rooms large enough to host gatherings without seeming ostentatious or precious,” she explains. “Everything needed to be approachable.” Her cues came from images shared by the homeowners, as well as her own travels to their beloved Central America. “I called to mind the people, cultures and colors,” she notes. But when she and the couple found a photograph by Dallas artist Carolyn Brown of a vegetable market in Guatemala, “It really pulled everything together,” she says of the work that now hangs in the breakfast room. “It really captured the brightness and vibrancy we were seeking.”
At the core of the home is the kitchen, which centers on a deep-purple range. “The commitment to plum came early,” Sander remembers, “and we decided on the rest of the palette after that.” Adjoining the space is the family’s main living area, which features a large fireplace and built-in seat where the wife especially enjoys curling up. Here, Sander paired cream-colored sofas with a set of blue armchairs that swivel toward the kitchen. Nearby are the wife’s sitting room, a cheery spot with a pair of green-velvet chairs; a mudroom featuring a built-in kennel for the family dog; and a walk-through pantry leading to the bright and airy dining room. The designer gave the latter a playful vibe with a boldly patterned rug and a chandelier that “looks like a floating garden above the table,” she describes.
But perhaps the biggest “wow” moments come from the husband’s office and the couple’s bedroom suite. The former is a double-height space with a sweeping staircase to a mezzanine, where the client keeps memorabilia. “Because he works from home, the office needed to be a place for hosting meetings with colleagues,” notes Sander, who created various seating areas for both larger and smaller groups, and utilized armchairs throughout that can pivot or move easily within the space. “There’s still a lot of color in the office, but we went for more muted jewel tones,” she continues. Meanwhile, in the couple’s bedroom, the designer washed the plaster walls and ceiling with blue “to play up the architecture,” she describes. “It feels like a cocoon.”
In the kids’ game room, Sander created an almost tropical feel and placed a custom neon sign that reads “Come as you are” above the pool table. It’s a fitting message for a home built for fun. Just outside are four patio areas—sitting and dining arrangements, a bar and two swinging chairs—abutting the pool, a layout devised with landscape designer Tal Thevenot. “It’s all about entertaining,” Sander says. “These clients have such incredible generosity, and they wanted this home to be a place for everyone to gather. It’s a house that opens its arms to people.”