By Laura Samuel Meyn
Photos by Katie Nixon
A blend of vintage charm and modern style transforms a classic house into one happy home.
Old trees, a broad stretch of front porch and a sense of history — empty nesters Karen and Stan Preece were drawn to the 1930 bungalow in Fort Worth’s Arlington Heights neighborhood for the simple pleasures they’d longed for while living in a high-rise condo. “We missed the connection to a neighborhood,” Karen says about the home where they’d raised their children before moving downtown. “We also wanted to step out on the porch and hear birds singing and cicadas in the evenings. We wanted to garden and relish the seasonal changes.”
The home, just under 1,700 square feet, appeared to be in good shape when the Preeces purchased it in 2017. They called interiordesigner Lisa Teakell, a friend from the couple’s ballroom dancing circle, to help plan a renovation. Teakell created a drawing of the home, and designed the kitchen, two bathrooms, a lighting plan and a furniture plan before bringing in Gearheart Construction to get started on the project. But things came to a halt when construction superintendent Steve Walker fell through the kitchen floor. He’d discovered, the hard way, unexpected issues with the joists resulting from a remodel before the Preeces’ purchase of the home. Once proper bracing went in, leaks were fixed, windows were installed, wiring updates were completed and new siding and insulation went up, it was time to get back to the fun side of the renovation.
Teakell worked toward a colorful merging of the couple’s furnishings and art — some traditional, some modern — with new pieces. “It was so important to use my knowledge of their fun personalities. I wanted to bring their styles to the forefront,” says Teakell. “We wanted to acknowledge the age of this cute 1930s bungalow and add some modern character — and have them be able to entertain a crowd in their small space.”
Inside the front door, the living room is centered on a fireplace fitted with a petite coal basket-style gas insert that Karen purchased in England. Above the original mantel, Teakell installed an antiqued frameless mirror running all the way up to the vintage crown molding, to add height and to reflect light. Overhead, a large copper-tone light fixture, which Karen jokingly calls “the mothership,” anchors the space as a gathering place.
The lively Schumacher fabric on the window shades, an iconic dragon and floral print reimagined in tones of orange, blue and green, is repeated on upholstered benches and pillows to set the home’s color palette. The fabric’s pale aqua background is echoed by the wall paint, Sherwin-Williams Rainwashed, which is used throughout most of the home.
The furniture layout required some magic to seat plenty of people while still allowing an easy flow of guests through the home’s entertaining areas. Teakell persuaded Karen to forgo a bulky sofa in favor of a quartet of midcentury modern-style chairs upholstered in a fresh celadon green; the designer grouped them facing each other for conversation, separating each pair with a slim side table picked up at an antiques store and painted green. A recent gathering showed the wisdom in the flexible plan — with benches, an ottoman and dining chairs pulled in, 16 people fit into the room easily — and the four upholstered chairs are light enough to move out of the way when guests feel like dancing.
To create more openness, Teakell removed some cheap built-ins that separated the living room from the dining room. Adding a pilaster on either side of the opening provides a visual separation between spaces. Pulled up to the oval dining table are six midcentury Heywood-Wakefield Dog Bone chairs. The rectangular chandelier offers a modern counterpoint to the vintage notes, while a Persian-style rug adds a traditional pattern in updated colors. Floor-to-ceiling celadon drapes lend soft elegance; on the opposite wall is a freestanding bar where, when hosting a gathering, Karen mixes up her specialty: Moscow Mules.
The pale aqua walls and crisp white trim continue from the dining room into the kitchen but, underfoot, the flooring changes from the refinished oak floors to a whimsical blue, green and white basket-weave pattern of vinyl composition tiles, a linoleum-look product with a retro vibe. White cabinetry is glass-fronted up top, allowing illuminated display of everything from colorful Fiestaware to glass objets d’art. The blue-and-white glass subway tile backsplash keeps color in play, while the contemporary countertop, a slab made from marble mixed with oyster shells and recycled glass, lends flashes of greens and blues. The island provides plenty of work space and houses a microwave and wine fridge tucked below.
Functionality is key to the space’s success. A double oven is handy around the holidays, when the couple’s grown children and both sides of the family typically visit. “I love my kitchen as the heart of the home,” says Karen. “We already see ourselves making cookies with grandchildren!” To the left of the refrigerator, custom cabinets with doors that recess hide a stacked washer-dryer unit.
A “keeping room” off the kitchen provides a second, more casual living space that makes use of some of the Preeces’ furnishings from condo life — a loveseat, a pair of swivel chairs, an orange leather ottoman and a TV. Teakell added pillows in the Schumacher chinoiserie print and a celadon green area rug to tie the room in with the rest of the house. On the wall above the loveseat hangs a graphic abstract piece surrounded by four whimsical cartoon works dear to the couple, including one depicting Cinderella and her prince on the dance floor. A new glass back door with sidelights maximizes natural light in the space and leads to an enlarged deck graced with a hot tub, perfect for soaking in after the couple’s dance classes.
The private areas of the home include two bedrooms and two bathrooms. The master suite was too bright for the Preeces, so Teakell made the unusual decision to remove a pair of windows from behind the bed, allowing for an upholstered navy blue headboard with nailhead trim. The designer picked up a pair of shapely, artfully glazed lamps from a consignment store and had the metal portions refinished. Patterned pillows echo shades of blue repeated throughout the space, including in the master bath, where indigo cabinetry and a marble-look countertop offer a timeless yet updated look. The standing shower is the practical option most mornings, but the bathroom’s centerpiece is a 5-foot-long clawfoot soaking tub painted indigo on the outside.
The hall bath similarly straddles period-perfect attributes and modern amenities, with a petite clawfoot tub and the original medicine cabinet mated with a slab of modern countertop and the addition of built-in storage.
In the hallway, original shiplap had been exposed when the Preeces bought the house. “We loved seeing the shiplap in the walls — good, solid, sturdy bones,” says Karen. But both she and Teakell agreed on the next step: “I covered it back up with drywall because shiplap shouldn’t show,” Teakell says with a laugh.
The reimagined house is happily imbued with the cozy neighborhood feel the couple wanted. “Now we have wind in the trees, birds and squirrels, and neighborhood children going by on tricycles,” says Karen. “Lisa took our rather eclectic selection of favorite things and managed to use them in the project while still honoring the home’s history.”