Helen Thompson
Helen Thompson
In PrintIn StyleIn BooksIn MediaIn the KnowIn House


When a couple–both are involved in the Dallas fashion industry–starting looking for a new house, they went to great lengths. So much so that they ended up in far north Dallas, lured there by a pocket of Modernist houses in a pastoral setting. The one they liked: a 1700-square-foot number that needed an extreme makeover. Red and black lacquer on the cabinetry, mirrored walls, spaghetti-string ceiling finishes, and lava rock walls obscured the elegant simplicity underneath. The pair called in architect Bentley Tibbs to rid the two-bedroom house of the excess, and to make it into a haute couture version of its former self. The result? Virtuoso attention to detail results in a big statement.

Photos by Charles Davis Smith

The stuccoed house’s layout is simple and “really works,” says Tibbs. Living room, dining room, and kitchen are in the glassed-in middle section; a bedroom and bath are at either end. Tibbs added the wall and concrete bridge to create separation from the street and provide a sense of approach.

The quarter-sawn white oak ceiling and archway floats over a water feature and bridge–visual distractions are at a minimum, and even the pivoting front door is devoid of hardware.

The designing couple did their own landscape as well as the interiors. Tibbs created spaces where landscaping and furniture could be seen to best effect by raising the ceiling 18 inches in the mid-section of the house to 9 1/2 feet. An expanse of window walls replaced sliding glass doors front and back.

“The driving idea in this house,” says architect Tibbs, “is that everything is very tight and fits perfectly, like a little puzzle.”  There was a limited list of details, and they are subtle: the quarter-inch space at the top and bottom of the cabinet in the living room that accommodates the fireplace and hides storage and the television is similar to a couture seam on a garment. Although barely visible, it defines the homeowners’ aesthetic.

“Everything within the ‘glass box’ that makes up the center of the house,” says Tibbs, “has been treated with precision: the casework becomes an object in the bigger room, which is left unadorned and seamless–no baseboards, no crown moulding, no hardware.”

The four-by-four terrazzo slab floors are original to the house. The kitchen is contained by flanking quarter-sawn white oak cabinets–one harbors the television in the living room; the other contains a coat closet and a television in the dining room.

A long central hallway runs across the back of the house, connecting the master suite to the guest room beyond. Spaces are generous, and the master bedroom has its own study.

Quarter-sawn white oak, white sheetrock ceilings, and discreetly hidden closets keep things peaceful.

Glass sliding doors in the master bath open on to the back yard, which is reflected to full effect in the mirrors above the double sinks.

View of the master bath from the other end, with original rock wall, sunken tub, and terrazzo tile.

The guest bedroom is decorated in neutrals–all door openings extend nearly to the ceiling, which affords a sense of spaciousness to the compact house.

The guest bathroom is a study in the imaginative use of square and linear shapes.

The pool is original to the house; Bentley Tibbs added the oak-sheathed cubes in back of the house for storage and mechanical.


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