Photo: Lisa Romerein
Sometimes there's nothing really wrong with a house except that its decor hasn't kept pace with the changing lives of those who inhabit it. Such was the case with this Spanish Revival home in Dallas, a handsome stucco villa with dark wood detailing and graceful banks of arched windows. Its owner had purchased it when he was a bachelor, so when he recently married, he and his wife decided to redecorate the home as a couple.
"The house was more traditional before," says interior designer Kirsten Fitzgibbons, who was called in to update the decor, along with her sister and design partner, Kelli Ford. "Muted gold was the pervasive color. They wanted us to sharpen it up—make it cleaner, more eclectic, and contemporary."
Based in Dallas and New York, this stellar sister act has been creating beautiful interiors for 20 years and counting. Their comfortable, well-edited rooms crackle with fresh color and pattern. "Our mother was an interior designer and always included us in her projects," Kirsten explains. "When I was 10, my bedroom was high-gloss chocolate brown, which I chose and painted myself—a mess but effective. Kelli's bedroom was lime green. To this day, she loves bright color."
In this Dallas house, the sisters retained some existing furniture while completely transforming the mood of every room. They redid walls in ivory Venetian plaster and added carpets and upholstery in lively geometric patterns. They also spread bursts of clear, forceful color throughout—black, royal blue, orange, red, and yellow. "We kept the walls light and breezy to maintain an open, airy feeling," says Kirsten. "It contrasts dramatically with the bright colors of art and textiles, creating a crisp and lively atmosphere."
Changing the environment immediately upped the impact of the clients' art collection. Pieces throughout the home depict cowboys and horses, indicating the homeowners' interest in all things Western. "They also have a beautiful collection of spurs and love leather. What Texan wouldn't?" Kelli says.
To make sure the house would have one extremely soothing, traditional space, Kirsten and Kelli steered the study in a calm, classic direction that is also comfortable. An overscale windowpane check covers the sofa piled with pillows depicting cacti and coyotes.
In the dining room, though, Kelli and Kirsten went for a bit of glamour. They kept the couple's dining table and chairs but reupholstered the chairs in black and added a punchy striped carpet to inject some drama into the room. A bronze horse sculpture by artist Tom Corbin acts as a centerpiece.
In the living room, new furniture added comfort and contemporary style. Most of the upholstered pieces were made to Kelli and Kirsten's specifications, including the blue-black sofa covered in heavenly alpaca wool. "We love very deep navy blue," says Kirsten. Known for the distinctive way they combine fabrics and trims, Kirsten and Kelli say they like to "stripe up upholstery," and in the living room, they did just that with extra-wide striped trim wrapped over the arms and down the sides of the chairs. It looks fresh, imaginative, and fearlessly custom. Distinctive coffee tables of their own design are another signature touch. A square, chunky one in the living room is wrapped in silver metallic leather and studded with nail heads. They've used the same basic design for other clients and made it in colors from navy to hot pink. "You have to be somewhat careful with it," Kirsten concedes, "but you could make it with pleather so it would be more forgiving of wet water glasses."
The owners love to entertain outside, and this home lends itself well to such parties. The house wraps around a roomy courtyard with rusticated-limestone walls, a pool, a sitting area, and an outdoor dining room. The existing iron and wicker furniture stayed, but to liven things up, they simply changed out cushions and pillows, using a grouping of fabrics by John Robshaw Textiles to compose a collage of happy color and interesting ethnic pattern.
When the decorating was all done, Kirsten and Kelli had not only sharpened the couple's home but had also raised its chic quotient exponentially. "We loved melding two people's lives together—some of her things with some of his things—adding to them, changing them, and making them fit together in an edgier, more upbeat way," says Kelli. "We brightened their surroundings to reflect their exciting new life together. That may sound a little like a Harlequin romance, but it's true!"