It’s natural: Building an old house, a new life

“Let’s see” are usually the last famous words that precede the purchase of a house. So when the owner’s husband suggested they visit a house three doors down, she knew exactly what was going to happen.

“We really had no plans to move. We were going to do some renovations,” she says of their old home, which sits on a quaint, semicircular street in East Dallas. But in what wouldn’t surprise her, after “just looking”, they bought the house. “We loved the amazing trees and the way the light works in the house,” she says. “Each room has this wonderful connection with the outdoors.”

The ranch-style home has over 8,000 square feet of bone-perfect, and the lush, tree-lined grounds offer beautiful views of White Rock Lake. But the original owner had lived there since the house was built in 1964, so the house needed a total refresh.

In the office, grasscloth wallpaper on the ceiling and on the walls adds texture and interest. The owner is Swiss, so Phillips-Greco selected furniture from Swiss designers for his office, including the swivel chair and vintage sofas from Sede. The coffee table, which is a heritage piece, has a center column that flips up to reveal space to house cocktail glasses and carafes.
Molly Culver

The couple have assembled a team that could fit out the aging property down to the timbers and rebuild it into a family home. Alongside Corpus Christi-based designer Leslie Phillips-Greco of Round table design inc., who had previously designed the house for the owner’s brother, they brought in Forrest Branam (then th+a Architects, now with ModStudio) and constructor Greg Bender to collaborate on the project.

Early in the design process, the team’s priority was to honor the home’s unique layout, which revolves around three courtyards, a delicate task that required thinking outside the box. “We have reduced the structure to its essential features, and rather than returning with hallways like those originally used, we have provided a sequence of well-defined and unique spaces that flow seamlessly between and around the course,” Branam explains. To do this, they installed pocket doors in strategic places to close the rooms to make them more intimate, or reopen them to be part of a larger, connected space. As you walk through the house, each room becomes more playful, with the colorful children’s bedrooms in the background.

Comfort zone

Designer Leslie Phillips-Greco was tasked with designing a child- and pet-proof home that was both comfortable and refined. Here are his tips for achieving the perfect balance.

  • Materials Matter

  • To mix together

  • Be personal

Think: limestone, white oak, copper and grasscloth. “We like to take a more organic approach when designing spaces, using natural materials that are warm and comfortable,” explains the designer.

Don’t be afraid to style a contemporary piece – say a side table or lighting – with traditional furniture so the whole room doesn’t feel too formal. “We like to mix antiques and vintage with more modern looks to create an eclectic vibe,” she says.

A home always seems more accessible when the personality of the family shines through. “We bring in elements that connect their personalities, aesthetic design, hobbies and interests,” says Phillips-Greco. For this owner, that meant bringing his love of photography and books into the design by way of woodwork shelving and clean white walls.

The family also had another major request: to house their vast collection of books. “I’m a bookworm, I read all the time,” says the owner. The team designed white oak shelving that pops up throughout the home, in the master suite’s office, playroom and living room, as well as in the kitchen. “One of the key design elements is the millwork,” says Phillips-Greco. “It is so beautiful.”

Other must-haves included clean white walls to showcase the couple’s photography collection, a large great room for family entertaining, and utilitarian spaces like an office and craft room. It also had to be comfortable and livable for their bustling comings and goings. “The house approach needed to be a bit more organic in nature,” says Phillips-Greco. “It shouldn’t have been that difficult.” From a design perspective, this has resulted in natural elements, such as white oak and limestone floors, copper details that patina over time, and grasscloth wallcoverings that blend beautifully with family heirlooms, vintage pieces and modern eclectic furniture.

In the kitchen, special details like Dekton countertops, a custom copper hood, and stunning dovetail cabinets fit right in with the hustle and bustle. Nothing in the house is too precious except the memories created there. “You can tell it’s used and it’s flawed. You can see water rings. Children do their homework here. They spill syrup here,” the owner says. “This is our home. I couldn’t have dreamed of it and couldn’t be happier.


Interior design by
Round table design inc.

Architecture by
th+a Architects

Renovation by
Greg Bender Custom Homes

Styled by
Jenny O’Connor

Flowers by
Haile Wossen