An artist’s house is the perfect palette for her vibrant works.

Posted Wednesday, Oct. 02, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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It’s easy to drive past this unpretentious contemporary home on Fort Worth’s west side and never see it. Surrounded by vintage houses and attention-grabbing new construction on highly prized infill lots, this 3,200-square-foot home seems an unassuming neighbor. Dark green stucco walls blend into the landscape and the shade, somehow sheltering it from curious eyes.

There is no porch and no front door visible from the street.

Only a solid metal gate at the end of a new concrete walkway and the dry stack chimney of hackett stone, moss rock and painted desert sandstone hint at the sleek sanctuary that has replaced the 1920s-era house that once occupied this 50-by-150-foot lot.

The gate is flanked by a doorbell button and a mail drop. It swings on a pivot hinge and serves as the front door, opening onto a grassy courtyard that might as well be a spacious vestibule, because there is no other foyer.

Homeowner Leigh Ann Williams Hickey, 42, answers the bell balancing, barefoot, on one of several stepping stones that lead from the gate to the first of three sliding-glass doors that open onto the courtyard. She wears one tiny silver toe ring, and her toenails are painted a deep orange. Her signature wave of rhinestones sparkles on the nails of her big toes.

A teacher at the Art Institute of Fort Worth and a Fulbright scholar who has studied in Mexico, she had lived in the original home that once occupied this lot for almost a decade when she wed Denton Hickey in late 2009.

“The plans for this house were a wedding gift from my sister-in-law, Lauren Williams. She’s an architect in California,” says Hickey, leading the way into the large 27-by-50-foot main room that holds a generous sitting area with cast stone fireplace, a spacious dining area and a big kitchen with an eye-grabbing backsplash of colorful art glass that she fashioned and she and her husband installed.

A master suite, laundry room with entrance to a three-bay garage and a powder room also are on the ground floor.

Upstairs there are two bedrooms, a bath, a study area, a studio and a small sitting area with access to a spacious balcony.

“It’s a very original house, but a very simple plan, very clean. There are a lot of straight lines here,” says builder John Askew of John Askew Homes.

The house serves as a showcase for Hickey’s art, with plenty of room for her new family, which includes not only a husband, but two teenagers who are in and out through the school year.

Her 14-year-old stepdaughter, Brylee, made some of the glass tiles for the unusual kitchen backsplash, but color in the kitchen was confined to this bright mosaic.

“We had so much fun making this,” says Hickey, running a finger over the glass.

Cabinets are knotty alder kept a natural color, and the countertops are cast concrete.

“It’s only a little more expensive than granite, and I love it,” she says.

In the dining area, the red acrylic chairs that surround the long rosewood dining table echo the bright red tiles in the kitchen backsplash. Host and hostess chairs are upholstered in a colorful contemporary flower print.

The ceiling above the kitchen and dining area is about 10 feet, but soars to 18 feet at its peak above the sitting area.

Gray leather sofas and two plum-colored occasional chairs, all by Moroni from By Design in Arlington, surround the fireplace. Some of Hickey’s art fills the walls.

“I go to concerts and take pictures. ... My inspiration is music and vibrations,” she says and explains she likes to paint using oil on canvas or wood.

Two large contemporary pieces in shades of purple hang in the living room and are painted on hollow-core doors. Other works, including a self-portrait, take more wall space. Two of her lighted sculptures made from handmade paper are displayed in the upstairs sitting area.

“She has such great artwork; we knew her art would be the focal point of the space, so we kept everything to a minimum,” says designer Jennifer Gilmer, who works with the builder and helped with finishes and other details.

“We kept the walls light for a good background ... and we didn’t use moldings or casings around the doors or windows. We used bull-nosed Sheetrock to finish those openings,” says Gilmer.

Lightly scraped 3 1/4-inch red oak floors stained a coffee brown tie the space together.

The roof is made of composition shingles, but each of the sliding doors is capped by a small overhang clad in metal standing seam material, offering protection from the weather and adding a little bling to the simple courtyard.

“This house is unique,” says Askew. “Most people would have painted the wall around the courtyard, but she wanted it left concrete colored. It’s a very artistic house; simple, clean, very open. It’s a great palette for her art.”

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