From green shag carpeting to clean hardwood and curated art, this Dallas house has undergone some big changes to pay homage to its midcentury roots. Inspired by their own kitchen remodel, Michael Connolly and Gae Whitener transformed their Texas house into a Arts and Crafts–inspired space. The couple describes the upgrade as a “cyclonic event” that entirely changed the way they see their property. “After we did the kitchen, we now began to look at everything with an objective eye,” says Whitener.
at a Glance
Who lives here: Michael Connolly, Gae Whitener as well as their dogs, Banjo and Bobi
Size: Almost 2,000 square feet; 3 bedrooms, two baths
That’s interesting: George Bock designed and built the house for his family in 1964 using unorthodox construction tactics to make sure a good structure that would endure the test of time. “When workers go into the attic or cellar they’re baffled by all of the timber,” says Connolly.
Sarah Greenman: What caused you to believe that this was the right property for you?
Michael Connelly: The first thing that struck us were that the trees. It’s four adult live oaks on the property. And the kitchen was enormous.
Gae Whitener: We enjoyed the flow of the house.
Fire display: Tuesday Morning; blue upholstered seat and ottoman: Hickory Furniture Mart, reupholstered at Childress
SG: Tell me about your design aesthetic.
MC: Modern but not spartan. We Arts and Crafts people. A seminal event for us was attending the modernism display at the Kimball Art Museum. This is a crafts exhibition. We saw furniture, pottery, silverware etc.. And what we realized is that you can combine things from all different eras so long as it shares some similar features.
Leather recliner by Vladimir Kagan; Shade: eBay; pottery: Cost Plus World Market
Built-in cabinetry keeps the television and electronics from sight when not being used. The paint colour in the living area is a custom Benjamin Moore color inspired by Tea Leaves in the Martha Stewart line.
The open shelving above the corner piano was created to exhibit Whitener’s pottery collection. The built-in shelves are open to the skillet and permit light to pass through into the living room.
GW: From the skillet, I really love the bottom-up shades. They give you all of the light in addition to the privacy.
Dining seats: Cost Plus World Market; Shade: eBay; plate on wall: Pine Mills Pottery
In 2004, Connolly and Whitener took the plunge and remodeled their kitchen. Donna Guerra out of DG&A Interiors designed the remodel, and Pete Gleeson was the contractor.
MC: We had no idea what to do with kitchen. We would take long walks, and the subject of conversation was always “What are we going to do about that kitchen?”
GW: But Donna came in, and after just a couple of minutes in the space she suggested that we knock out a wall and proceed the doors.The very best light was out of a window in a little laundry area, and it is our skillet.
The glass backsplash has been inspired by a photograph Whitener watched in a magazine. Outlets were transferred to a strip concealed underneath the cabinets to preserve the clean, uninterrupted surface. The countertops are soapstone, and the handcrafted cabinets are alder wood that has been painted to look like walnut.
GW: Alder is softer and can get banged up, but since we don’t have kids it is no problem for us. And we saved a great deal of cash.
MC: and you’re going to notice that the cupboards are a constant piece of wood — the upper cabinets line up with the lower ones.
The painting above the dining table reminds Connolly and Whitener of artwork by modern American realist Janet Fish. Connolly obtained the painting for just $5 and has never found out that the artist is.
Rug: eBay; dining table, chairs, sideboard: Spectra Wood; Eames seats: Herman Miller
A massive part of poster artwork by Oklahoma artist Kate Rivers greets guests as they enter the dining area.
GW: It is a part of Kate’s nest Collection. As a gift to herself for finishing a marathon, she chose a trip to Italy. The inside of the nest is created from paper stubs, menus, maps and graphics from her excursion. We have been to many of the areas referenced in the art and believed it was calling to us.
SG: What is your favorite spot in the house?
MC: Lounging about the bar seats on a Saturday morning with the paper. Additionally, a secret source of pride for me is that the table involving the Eames chairs. It is a Connecticut River Valley dining table. No screws or nails are in this bit; it has stayed together without metal for almost 300 years now.
About 1949, my mom and dad had been furnishing their first apartment and went to an antique shop in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts. They bought the drop-leaf table and a number of different pieces for the then-large amount of 50. A couple days after they had transferred, they got a call from the owner of the shop. She offered to buy back the drop-leaf for its entire $50. My mom refused, and there was also a family heirloom born.
Connolly and Whitener were so delighted with their kitchen that they again consulted Donna Guerra for the remodel of the two baths. The hall bath is now a calm space wrapped in warm wood.
SG: Inform me about the TV in your bathroom.
GW: Is not it clear? I wanted to be able to see the game in the bathtub!
The master bath is a slick space that boasts a glass walk-in cupboard.
SG: What do you want to do next in your home?
GW: Reconfigure our bedroom. It requires an upgrade. We bought the dresser set years ago, and while it is perfectly good things, it just is not us anymore.
Among Whitener’s treasured particulars about the bathroom is a big drawer that pulls out to reveal a concealed laundry sorter. No more dirty clothes lying on the bathroom floor!
The backyard meanders around a tree to a stone terrace at the rear of the house. Four periwinkle deck seats add colour next to a spa and a container garden. Foliage from one of those older live oaks that originally drew the couple to their house can be seen within the fence.
Connolly and Whitener will be celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary in August 2012. Their house is a gorgeous reflection of the collaborative partnership.
SG: What is your advice to homeowners contemplating a remodel?
GW: Anticipate the whole house to become involved even if you’re just likely to remodel 1 room.
MC: And ask to see different homes that your contractor has worked. It will provide you a very good idea of the quality you can expect in your own house.
Do You Reside in an Arts and Crafts house? Discuss it with us!