Designer Tori Rubinson restores the spirit of this 1930s Colonial by layering modern touches with sentimental family heirlooms.

By Laura Kostelny
April 02, 2021
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1935 Colonial home exterior with off-white color scheme
Credit: David Tsay

Back in her days as a Texas Christian University student, Tori Rubinson added a nearby Fort Worth neighborhood to her regular running route. "It's just so charming. The streets are lined with homes built in the 1920s and 1930s," the designer and owner of Tori Rubinson Interiors says. "I always dreamed of living there." Years later, when she and her husband, Adam, were looking for a place to raise their three children, Rubinson knew exactly where to focus the search. The couple found a circa-1935 Colonial that needed more than a little help getting back to its roots. "The house had been added onto in 1980—a breakfast room, a family room, and two bedrooms. There were a lot of small spaces, which made it feel more like a maze than a house," she says.

So Rubinson led the charge to make the family homestead less dated and more comfortable with a full-on renovation. She opened up rooms to bring in more natural light, crafted a user-friendly layout, and replaced outdated finishes (farewell, old Formica!) with a modern blend of materials—all while still maintaining the home's original elegance. The result is timeless both inside and out, thanks to a crisp white backdrop and Rubinson's more-is-more approach to layering in eclectic artwork and graphic textiles with a smattering of antiques. "My goal for the exterior was that it look just as it had in 1935," she says. "But inside, I love to mix it up! When you add in all the layers, that's when it becomes interesting." Here's a glimpse at how she turned around this Texas cottage.

Keep It Classic

Rubinson chose exterior paint that preserved the original 1930s charm: Sherwin-Williams' Snowbound (SW 7004) and shutters in Sherwin-Williams' Anew Gray (SW 7030).

Entry with framed wallpaper panel
Credit: David Tsay

Get Smart About Your Art

When you fall in love with an expensive wallpaper or have a space that doesn't quite support wall-to-wall pattern like this entry, which opens directly to living and formal dining rooms, don't despair. Simply frame up a panel or two to create an on-budget, on-trend piece of art. An acrylic bench from Wayfair was recovered in pink velvet from Schumacher.

Living room with light colors
Credit: David Tsay

Choose High-Performance Fabrics

At first glance, the living room might not seem kid-friendly, but the sofas are covered in Thibaut Inside Out Performance Fabric, which can be bleached. A Bunny Williams' silver-leaf coffee table centers the family gathering space.

Formal dining room with white walls.
Credit: David Tsay

Bring In Heirlooms

Rubinson has fond memories of enjoying meals around her grandmother's table, and she eventually moved the Colonial-style set into her own dining room—with some necessary updates. The 1980s Ethan Allen chairs needed more than a little TLC, so the designer had them lacquered and re-covered for a more contemporary appearance. The massive tiered brass-and-white lacquer chandelier (from the Aerin collection by Visual Comfort) adds a hint of glamour to the serene space.

Small Sideboard with lamp and art in formal dining room
Credit: David Tsay

Find the Right White

"I love layering in beautiful textiles, art, and accessories as well as furniture with different finishes that all work together to add more dimension," says Rubinson. "But I also wanted my home to feel calm." Thanks to tranquil walls and ceilings painted in Sherwin-Williams' Alabaster (SW 7008) at 80%, the graphic touches really pop without being overwhelming.

White Kitchen with light wood island
Credit: David Tsay

Make the Kitchen a Family Hangout

Rubinson doubled the size of the kitchen during the renovation to make an airier and more functional room for their family, which includes three children, Sami, Ben, and John. She layered in texture amid the white walls and cabinets (both painted Sherwin-Williams' Alabaster, SW 7008, at 80%) with an island in white oak with a limewash finish and white oak floors. A paneled refrigerator and enamel-and-brass range in a faience finish make for appliances that are as pretty as they are practical. Acrylic barstools offer a casual spot to gather for breakfast. Open shelving gives Rubinson easy access to frequently used pieces like white dishes, serving platters, and glassware.

Home office with Murphy bed
Credit: David Tsay

Carve Out a Workspace

The home office doubles as a guest room thanks to a few clever tricks, like the bed from Murphy Wall-Beds Hardware Inc. The V-groove ceiling is painted in Sherwin-Williams' Alabaster (SW 7008) at 80%, the walls are covered in a grass cloth by Schumacher, and a framed pencil sketch of a horse adds a finishing touch.

Main bedroom with light pinks and blues
Credit: David Tsay

Bask in Reflected Glory

Two large mirrored nightstands bring sparkle to the refined main retreat without taking away from the delicate details of the Turkish suzani quilt and custom Belgrave-style headboard in mauve velvet from Kravet. "The nightstands offer tons of storage, but because they're mirrored, they don't feel super heavy in the room," says Rubinson. "They're truly spectacular." The walls are painted in Benjamin Moore's Wickham Gray (HC-171), and the trim is in Sherwin-Williams' Alabaster (SW 7008) at 80%. Rubinson found the pressed hydrangeas (her favorite bloom) on Etsy's Garden Galleries and had them custom framed.

Main bathroom with soaker tub and vanity sink
Credit: David Tsay

Imagine Creative Workarounds

In the main bath, it's all business on the bottom half of the walls with cool marble tile, but up top, it's pure fun with Schumacher's Acanthus Stripe paper. "I don't often wallpaper a bath to the floor because of water-splash issues, but adding a wainscot of tile solves the problem," she says.

Pink bedroom with open shelves and desk
Credit: David Tsay

Lead with a Signature Color

When it came time to decorate her kids' rooms, Rubinson consulted them on their likes and dislikes. Inspired by daughter Sami's love for pink and penchant for macaron cookies, she created a sweet confection of a space with walls painted Farrow & Ball's Pink Ground (No. 202), a fluffy Turkish Oushak from The Rug Girl, a treasure-filled bookcase/desk from Crate & Barrel, and a whimsical hanging chair.

Boy's bedroom with bunkbeds and wood wallpaper
Credit: David Tsay

Play Up Personality

Rubinson brought the outdoors into her son Ben's bedroom with Woods Wallpaper by Anthropologie and a vintage poster from the Masters Tournament. The bunks are dressed in monogrammed bedding from Pottery Barn. Coordinating striped baskets store superhero figurines, walkie-talkies, and other toys.

Kids Playroom with built in blue shelving
Credit: David Tsay

Make Room for Fun

The upstairs playroom is filled with color and pattern thanks to bright blue built-ins (Farrow & Ball Stiffkey Blue No. 281 and Green Blue No. 84) and China Seas Melong Batik wallpaper by Quadrille. A sleeper sofa from West Elm provides a comfy spot for movie viewing, while a Tulip table and rattan chairs from Bungalow 5 are the ideal setting for game nights.

Laundry Room with stacked washer and dryer and shelving
Built in desk and window bench
Left: Credit: David Tsay
Right: Credit: David Tsay

Add Whimsey to Workspaces

With a family of five, a load of laundry is always in progress. "Why not make a room you spend so much time in fun?" asks Rubinson. One side of the room is dedicated to laundry with a farmhouse sink, washer and dryer, and cabinets galore; the other side is a lady-like office thanks to a window seat covered in Duralee fabric, a built-in desk, and walls papered in Thibaut's Bamboo Lace. "I organize, plan, pay bills—and sometimes hide from the kids–here," she adds. Walls are Benjamin Moore's Wickham Gray (HC-171) and trim in Sherwin-Williams' Alabaster (SW 7008) at 80%.

Outdoor patio with seating
Credit: David Tsay

Take the Lounging Outside

Tori and Adam are proud alumni of Texas Christian University, and their home is conveniently located just a block away from campus. When they can't make it to weekend sporting events in person, they watch games from the comfort of their outdoor living room, which boasts a fireplace, television, and comfortable outdoor-friendly furniture from Serena & Lily for everyone to enjoy.