Ask most talented design professionals how they approach a project, and they'll likely tell you that their first commitment is to the client. Whether they are working on a single room or creating an entire home from the ground up, they base their aesthetic decisions on careful consideration of the client's lifestyle, the project's location and, of course, the budget.
It's this approach that has made architect Mike Barnes and interior experts Kay Crinkelmeyer, Brad Alford and Harriette Gachman among the most sought-after professionals by homeowners from Keller to Kenya.
And that's what makes their personal spaces so amazing -- they are free to pour their entire creative spirits into designing the rooms of their dreams. Of course, they still have to work around location, lifestyle and, yes, budget. But the way they have chosen to showcase their favorite things in their favorite rooms is both heartfelt and fabulous.
Mike Barnes, architect
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Mike Barnes didn't just design his family's vacation home on Possum Kingdom Lake, he built it with the help of his wife and two sons. "We all pitched in -- it was a family affair," he says of the structure that they erected in the mid-1980s and have been working on ever since. "We keep adding to it and redoing it, adding artwork, repainting rooms."
The home is rooted in redwood that Barnes salvaged from a Benbrook Lake fishing barge that was closing down. Using the reclaimed wood lent an authenticity and warmth to the structure, Barnes says. "I like to get character into houses, and the most effective materials are often hand-hewn," he says. Plus, it was low maintenance and gave him the "lodge-y type look" that he was looking for with the two-bedroom, two-bath home. Here, you'll find Barnes -- and often 10 or 15 others, depending on the weekend -- relaxing in the main room. It's a generously sized space with a vaulted ceiling that is part living room, part kitchen and part bar, but to Barnes, it's all paradise.
For starters, there is the lake -- easily visible through 9-foot-tall glass windows that line the far side of the room. These windows "make the room," he says, noting that it is easy to see out, but thanks to the surrounding trees, boaters on the lake can't see in. At night, tiny white lights Barnes has strung in the trees create a relaxed, haciendalike atmosphere.
Then there's the overall feel of the interior, which Barnes likens to a beach resort in Mexico or the Caribbean. Most of the furniture in the room, including a dining set and armchairs, is vintage rattan. "We bought it all for $200 from a lady in Weatherford who had stored it for years," Barnes says, but he didn't stop there. He had each piece re-stained, had all the bamboo re-strung and chose new fabric for the cushions. He selected a tropical-print Sunbrella fabric that is fade-proof, waterproof and also pet-proof -- the family has four Labrador retrievers.
Art and accent pieces reflect the beachside vibe. There's a vintage Hawaiian surfboard hanging above the windows, a Christmas gift two years ago from one of Barnes' sons. The hula girl lamp was an impulse purchase at a surf shop in Santa Cruz, Calif. A giant "Bahama Bob's Coastal Bar & Grill" sign posted on one of the walls is the real deal -- Barnes bought it from a bar in Port Aransas that was going out of business.
Over the years, Barnes says, he has enlisted his friends and his sons' friends to work on the house and add to the property. "We did it together," he says. "Of course, it was over time, but it was a real labor of love."
The Barnes home survived the recent fires at Possum Kingdom, and for that Barnes is truly grateful.
"All of the features and beauty of this 'oasis' would not be here without the wonderful volunteer fire and police personnel who contributed their time and lives to fight the PK Complex fires," he says, "We feel truly blessed to be a part of this outstanding community."
Kay Crinkelmeyer, interior decorator
It has been about three years since Kay Crinkelmeyer finished designing and building her dream home in Keller, and there's still not a thing about it she would change. Especially the entry hall. "The one thing I always said I'd do when I built a house for myself was have an entry that was grand, and for the size of my house, this entry is grand," she says. The most architecturally significant feature of the space -- and Crinkelmeyer's favorite part -- is its magnificent barrel-vault ceiling, which is completely covered with mosaic tile. Crinkelmeyer worked with Southlake-based home designer Jon Bolton to make sure that it was completed to her specifications.
Crinkelmeyer chose natural stone mosaic tile in part because of the color palette. "I wanted what I call 'nature's colors' -- the browns and greens," she says. These colors, along with terra cottas and beiges, fit the Italianate feeling that she wanted her home to convey. Also capturing the Italian spirit is a painting of a window on the far end of the foyer. "There's a window at one end, so I wanted a window at the other end, but of course I couldn't because the wall was in the middle of the house," she says with a laugh. So she called on one of her favorite artisans, Amy Orgain of Southlake, to create a window like the one Crinkelmeyer had seen in an old painting. Orgain also glazed the walls in the room, imparting "a sense of age without forcing it -- it looks like it just became that way over the years," Crinkelmeyer says. Hand-scraped wooden floors and wrought-iron chandeliers also add to the room's feeling of timelessness.
A massive glass and iron display case covers nearly the entire wall of the space. She filled its shelves with pottery like the kind she fell in love with during a trip to Italy. She researched the pottery when she returned home and found it was available through a vendor at the Dallas Trade Mart, so that's exactly where she went to purchase it for her home -- and for the homes of many of her clients, too. Although everything in the entry hall -- and throughout the entire house -- is new, Crinkelmeyer says that she has been working with similar styles for years, adapting them to best suit each client. "I have been doing this for 30 years now, and I have seen it all and done it all," she says. "I wanted to put everything I loved into this house, and I got most of it in there."
Brad Alford, interior designer
Everything has a story in Brad Alford's home, including the house itself. It is one of a pair built for two sisters in the early 1950s at the end of a no-outlet street in the River Crest neighborhood of Fort Worth, Alford says. He and John Forestner bought it nearly seven years ago, and a few years ago renovated the first floor, turning a tangle of small rooms into a single living space that Alford says is his favorite in the home.
He has good reason. The room is filled with wonderful things, including important works of art, unique objets and classic midcentury modern furniture. Some of it they have had for years, like the Yamaha grand piano, and a few pieces they bought specifically for the space. One of the most recent acquisitions is a foursome of Le Corbusier lounge chairs grouped in front of the fireplace in the center of the wide room. The chairs make a lovely conversation space, complemented by a wall clad in rift-cut white oak. Before the remodel, the fireplace was just a simple structure stuck in the corner of the living room. When the walls came down, its positioning in the room was a bit awkward, so Forestner suggested adding extra panels, giving it additional width to move it more toward the center of the room.
Another seating area is stationed on the side of the room closest to the front door. There, a curious little table sits between two low chairs upholstered in cornflower blue silk velvet. It's painted to resemble a Venetian palazzo, and Alford knows nothing about it -- "I found it in a junk shop in Arlington," he says with a laugh. Further proving that Alford is no design snob: Another side table sitting an arm's length away from a Lichtenstein can trace its provenance back to a Fort Worth-area Target.
On the opposite side of the room, behind the piano, a chest-high bookcase spans the entire wall, housing colorful art and design books and serving as display space for many of Alford's small bronze pieces. Alford loves them all, but two are significant. One is a bust Alford says was modeled after Farrah Fawcett -- a former student at the University of Texas at Austin -- by renowned sculptor Charles Umlauf, who was a professor there. There's also an elongated torso by noted cubist Alexander Archipenko. Alford's particularly proud of this piece because he nabbed it on eBay for $275.
The living room is constantly evolving, Alford says, as he keeps his eyes out for amazing finds. There are, however, two items that Alford intended specifically for the room that must remain in storage for now: rugs. One of Alford's older dogs has a health condition that requires floors to be easy-to-clean, and that's fine by Alford. This is, after all, a room meant for living, and this is the story of his life.
Harriette Gachman, interior designer
"Always a work in progress" is how Harriette Gachman describes her light-filled living room, the focal point of the Westover Hills home that she and her husband designed and built in 1985. Indeed, the space has changed considerably over the years, reflecting their travels and changing tastes. "I am always updating, always editing," she admits.
For example, Gachman once had, hanging on the prime wall space above her sofa, a series of four Andy Warhol lithographs, but she decided to sell them to buy a single oversize work at the urging of a renowned art dealer. The dealer assured Gachman at the time that the artist -- Frank Stella -- was going to be big, and the investment would be worth it.
Yet there are some things in the space that are constants, like the porcelain duck on the coffee table. "The duck belonged to my mother, who was an antiques collector," she says. Gachman is also a fan of Asian design, and she has always had elements of chinoiserie somewhere in the room, from smaller, decorative pieces to the giant celadon urn sitting before the far windows. And plants are always present, she says, because they add warmth to a room.
Gachman says the room has always worked perfectly for entertaining, which is what they intended when they designed the open space, which features a centrally located wet bar.
Also evident in the room: Gachman's resourcefulness. When her silk-covered armchairs began looking dated, she simply re-covered them, adding spunk to the look by using three different upholstery patterns, all in a more casual linen blend. She was able to add a game table to her space by finding one that folded up into a small sideboard. And the coffee table in front of the couch? It's a one-of-a-kind piece that she made by joining two unused benches she felt were too unique to let go. She topped it with glass, and on top of that, she placed an orchid, art books and pieces from her glass collection. "I don't like clutter," she says, smiling, as she looks around her living room, "but I love so many things."