With interiors and exteriors perfectly in tune with southwest influences, our Dallas idea house celebrates casual elegance in grand style.
Walker's Bluff

Your home should be your castle. Not merely bricks and mortar or wood and stone, it should be more like a sanctuary, one with heart and soul as well as comforting elements. Perched on one of the highest points in suburban Dallas, Walker's Bluff is at a crossroads between formality and the adventurous spirit of the Southwest. The house, situated in the community of Castle Hills, takes full advantage of the style and resources of the area. A reflection of old and new, the contrast of materials makes a dramatic statement.

Mix of Materials
Residential designer Rick Gary's mission was to capture innovative architectural and design details. As a result, rooms are defined more by unusual elements and accents rather than by size.

For the facade, builder Michael Marlowe and his team incorporated a water table of stone. Above this, they added tumbled modular brick with rough mortar joints to create an aged appearance. The plan also called for an arched portico framed by Tuscan columns.

Upon entering the house, you see how designer Julie Palmacci successfully combined diverse styles, time periods, materials, and patterns to create a surprising harmony. "The house exudes comfort because of a multitude of natural textures and sophisticated fabrics," Julie says.

Come On In
Standing inside the house, there is a sense of casual comfort mixed with an air of formality. Many of the living areas can be seen from the foyer.

"We designed a strong entry axis with a view all the way through to the windows at the rear of the house," Rick says. "The clear line of sight really catches your eye."

"Stained trim and painted doors throughout, except in the library, are atypical," Julie notes. "The contrast gives a different look, and the dark finish hides scuff marks."

For the staircase, Julie created an artistic masterpiece with hand-painted risers. The look was inspired by a design from an old Scandinavian church. Even though this is an intricate pattern, you can use a simple stencil to create a look to coordinate with your decor.

A Place To Read
The study, with its 15-foot-tall coffered ceiling and stained bookshelves that cover one wall, relays a feeling of establishment. "We paneled the walls to give the room a sense of permanence," Michael explains.

Julie incorporated a rustic look in this room. The leather furnishings and hand-carved pine desk remind visitors of Texas ranches in the 1920s and 1930s. The architectural design brings in light with a wall of square clerestory windows above already tall windows.

Right off the study is a bath that includes a hidden shower. To continue the natural theme, stacked stones form a pedestal base for the dark oak vanity surround with copper sink. The space is punctuated by a mirror framed with naturally shed antlers.

Family Space
Like the kitchen and breakfast room which connect to it, the family room is enveloped in natural light. "I have to credit Michael and his team for suggesting the cedar beams for the barrel-vault ceiling. The wood draws your eye up to the curved window," Rick says.

Furnishings covered in leather and neutral-toned fabrics fill the comfortable space. Julie used an abundance of pillows and trims to add color. A mixture of ornate items and simple accent pieces, including a wrought iron fireplace screen, carved table, and silk drapery panels in subtle shades of green and gold, collaborate effortlessly for an unexpected look.

Instead of the typical arrangement of artwork, Julie hung an oversize painting in front of the windows and drapery panels. She then used a simple wooden bowl and iron sconces to decorate the space above the mantel.

Classic Table Setting With a Twist
Located just to the left of the foyer, the dining room is enveloped in timeless furnishings and filled with texture and color. Julie used traditional wainscot paneling along the walls but called for it to be raised higher than the standard 36 inches. "The walls and wainscot are painted the same color. We used flat latex on top and a satin enamel on the bottom. To create a feeling of depth, we then glazed the wood on the bottom," she says. "Because it spans the entire room, this feature provides space to decoratively display simple plates." Fixed French doors, softened by flowing draperies, bring in natural light that balances the tones of the room.

The colors of nature are reflected in the decor's greens, blues, and woody browns. Julie incorporated warmth with coral and gold accessories. The space is grounded with an antique reproduction dining table, accompanied by carved chairs with striped cushions in a flat-weave velvet. Reproduction wall sconces complement a pewter-and-gold-finished wrought iron chandelier.

A Real Living Area
The kitchen is at the heart of the home. Together with the family and breakfast rooms, it creates one large, family-friendly room.

Prominently featured at the center of the kitchen is a large island, painted in an almost black matte finish. This workspace provides a strong visual focus and a functional gathering point. Practical and stylish low barstools offer seating with cowhide cushions painted in zebra stripes.

"The multifunctional island, with two sinks (one for washing dishes and one for cleaning vegetables), allows for a continuous traffic flow, so the three independent rooms work together. This is particularly important for entertaining," Rick explains.

The kitchen, like the rest of the house, forms a mosaic of different materials and textures. The design team wanted to create an old-world environment with a built-in cooking hearth surrounded in stone, tile, woods, and other elements.

Above the ovens and as a backsplash, a tumbled marble, ceramic, and carved-tile wall adds contrast to the wooden cabinetry, which has basket-weave doors and drawers as well as pewter hardware.

The kitchen contains a multitude of great ideas for your own home. Consider mixing tiles and metals in the backsplash as Julie did. Or use unique materials as your budget permits. Finally, if you entertain a great deal, install two ranges side by side for additional burners and two ovens.

Informal Dining
Completely open to the kitchen, the breakfast room features abundant windows and views of the rear covered patio and Texas plains beyond. "The furnishings combine color, textures, and period styles," Julie says. "A 54-inch round table that is painted black makes a commanding statement and anchors the bright space." Keep in mind that a dark piece is often necessary to emphasize a light-filled room.

Swedish-style painted chairs with cushions surround the table. Julie coordinated the blue trim on the chair arms with patterns on the cushions. As an affordable alternative, the natural linen drapery panels she used are merely decorative, not for hiding the view.

Have a Glass of Wine
Just beyond the butler's pantry, the wine room is walled in brick with a decorative iron door that features a grapevine pattern. It mimics a cellar feel by using the same tumbled brick as on the exterior of the house. Along with floor-to-ceiling custom-built wine racks, it could also serve as additional pantry space, if needed.

Set Apart for Seclusion
To take advantage of the view, the master suite is located at the rear of the house, tucked at the end of a hallway. Julie enhanced the space with richly designed chenille draperies. Because arched windows are difficult to treat, she used straight rods above the side windows and placed six knobs above the curved window to hold the fabric. European art pieces contrast and complement an antique secretary and wrought iron headboard.

Bath Built for Privacy
The master bath functions as a retreat, draped in soothing shades of green and earth-toned browns. It features two vanities on opposite sides of the room, separated by a soaking tub framed with columns.

"The shower and tub areas, in the room's center, have decorative tile similar to the effect of wainscot in the dining room," Julie says. Coordinating tile also covers the tub surround. A unique point of interest in the shower is the built-in shelves.

One vanity, set off by an arch above, supports a decorative frame propped up against the wall mirror. The other vanity showcases an interesting design trick: The light fixture mounted on the mirror is upside down, allowing space for a display shelf.

"The master bath opens to a walk-in closet with laundry room access," says Rick. "This provides an exit through the mudroom to the garage."

Stay in Comfort
Soft and graceful, the guestroom reflects timeless style with its shades of caramel, coffee, café au lait, and gold. Luxury prevails with the antique bed and hand-printed cotton duvet. Also featured is an oversize chair in a rich caramel-colored fabric with gray trim. Julie used shells, plates, and ornate frames as decorative touches.

Tiered Plant Stand Project
Our plant stand has three shelves that step up and back, allowing you to elevate your potted plants.

Detailed plans and step-by-step instructions for building this piece are available for $4. To order send a self-addressed, stamped (with two first-class, letter-rate stamps), business-size envelope to Tiered Plant Stand Project, P.O. Box 523, Birmingham, AL 35201. Please enclose a check for $4 payable to Southern Living Projects. Allow six to eight weeks for delivery.

Center for Learning
Located adjacent to the stairs on the second floor landing is an area that features two generous side-by-side work areas with ample room for computers and supplies, flanked by built-in bookshelves. Natural coconut grass floor mats serve as an alternative to the conventional cork bulletin board. A flea market find is hung between the desks; it is highlighted by a simple sconce.

Just for Fun
A popular trend throughout the South is a room set aside strictly for entertainment. Referred to as a media or game room, this one was designed with generous space, natural light, and a small beverage center.

Although the room is stylish and sophisticated, furniture and fabric choices were selected to be functional as well. "I continued the textured theme here," Julie says. "Heavy burlap draperies hang along an iron rod that spans three walls. A casual green denim sofa hides spills, while a variety of kilim pillows brings a punch of color.

Perfect for a Girl
As a little girl's room should be, this one is painted with flower-power detailing. Apple green and bright pink linens in plaids and other patterns cover the white four-poster bed. Striped and floral accents show you how to mix patterns successfully.

Perhaps one of the most clever ideas in the house is the playhouse fashioned from unused space behind the knee wall to the right of the bed. This fully furnished, hand-painted area brings a bit of the garden indoors.

"There is value in taking the time to plan a function for otherwise wasted spaces. Here, we reclaimed an unused area by creating a neat little playhouse. For boys, it could be a cool fort," Michael says.

Pretty in Pink
The adjoining bath shares space with the guestroom and includes separate vanities that reflect the color palettes and styles of each room. For a smooth transition, Julie incorporated the more subdued hues of yellow and tan in the decorative tile that frames the vanities; both feature a ceramic rope design, one in yellow and the other in almond

Bright and Fun Hangout
This room's jewel-tone color combination, various ceiling heights, and bright fabrics create a terrific spot for a teen. An appealing detail is the light-filled window reading nook with triangular cutout shelving and storage drawers underneath.

The connecting bath has lemon-splashed walls that are accented by framed pieces of colorful antique needlework fabric on walls.

Welcoming Outdoors
Stepping outside, the deck in back leads to a sloping yard. In the garden, the multicolored flowers, combined with the scents of gardenias and roses, invite you to sit awhile.

"The design reminds me of an English garden," says Karen Smith, who is the general manager of Garden Design Landscaping Builder. "We wanted a yard people could use and enjoy."

"It is whimsical with different textures and colors," says Debra Gray, who worked as the design manager for the project. "Our intention was to create an outdoor room." Flagstone steps lead to a bench and aggregate concrete squares with grass growing in between.