Los Angeles interior designer Sarah Chavez laughs when she recalls the first time she and her design partner, Marina Mizruh, laid eyes on the house they’d been enlisted to renovate for clients relocating from the chic Hollywood Hills to Dallas’ upscale Williamsburg neighborhood.
“We have a reputation for clean lines,” she says of their studio, Chimera Interiors. “When we saw it, we thought, ‘Oh, that’s a switch.’ It was a beautiful, traditional Regencystyle house, but it was formal and dated, and not like our clients at all. But [then] we thought it would be really nice to get out of our comfort level in terms of the architecture there and to bring their personality into it.”
The designers’ relationship with the clients, a well-traveled, young professional couple Chavez playfully refers to as “Gypset,” with European modernist taste and a significant art collection, helped immensely. “After organizing their L.A. house from soup to nuts, we’d broken each other in,” she says. “We knew what they needed.”
Working long-distance with James Hammel of Alair Homes Dallas (formerly JRH Design + Build in Carrollton), organizing weekly meetings and flying to Dallas for inspections, the duo implemented the design program of the six-bedroom, 6,300-square-foot home. “The plan was to modernize it while still respecting its original architecture,” says Mizruh. “We wanted a graphic element in every key area of the house. It was an architectural intervention.”
The concept is evident from the impressive entry hall, which with its newly installed, dynamic black-and-white Bianco Carrara and Nero Marquina marble floors and dramatic, art museum-like quality, makes a statement when the doors open. The entry offers the first glimpse of the clients’ contemporary art collection, for which placement was a key consideration throughout the home.
For the layered white-onwhite kitchen, a main gathering place, kitchen designer Andrea Russo paired a modern Italian Dada by Molteni cabinet system (installed by workers brought over from Italy) with striking veined marble on a waterfall- edge island. Adjoining the kitchen, a casual breakfast room features an Eero Saarinen pedestal table matched with Eames armchairs.
Open and bright, with views to the surrounding greenery, the dining room features a linear B&B Italia dining table, one of the many significant furniture pieces retained from the clients’ house in Los Angeles (some had an even longer legacy from a previous home in Zurich). Above it hangs an antique Venetian glass chandelier they discovered on their honeymoon. “That fixture was a guiding piece,” says Chavez. “We took it straight out of the box and had to hang it piece by piece.” Wood flooring in the kitchen and dining areas was striped and refinished to resemble natural white oak.
A departure for the designers is the home’s amply sized sun-room, inspired by Hotel Emma in San Antonio. “Sunrooms are not common in L.A.,” says Chavez. “But it was fun to do and it’s become everyone’s favorite room.” There, the existing Saltillo tile flooring was ripped out and replaced with a “super graphic” porcelain floor from the Hydraulic Collection by Apavisa. A pair of velvet B&B Italia chaise lounges anchor the space, which also has a fireplace with a fanciful surround the designers had painted black and inset with a fire element that resembles “tongues of fire” when lit. Collected items, such as a grouping of pictures on the wall above the fireplace, tell of the owners’ travels.
For the main living room, Chavez and Mizruh kept the clients’ penchant for entertaining in mind, balancing modern furnishings with playful accent pieces, such as hide rugs and Navajo pillows, for a bit of a Southwest “urban cowboy” look. They gave the master bedroom a more peaceful, seductive, five-star hotel feel, with a smoky lavender-gray palette that’s “neither too masculine nor too feminine.”
In the end, the project flowed seamlessly. “We brought it up to their taste level and gave them a new ride in the house that fits them much better,” says Chavez. “They are totally excited about their new adventures in Dallas lifestyle.”
Linda Hayes, a freelance writer from Aspen, Colorado, specializes in architecture, design and the luxury lifestyle. Her articles have appeared in publications including Luxe, Hawaiian Style and Elle Decor.