Designer helps Fort Worth couple update a 1925 cottage

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The 1925 vintage cottage, clad in red brick with original hardwood floors and wide front porch, was exactly what they’d hoped to find. Never mind that they’d hoped to find it in Fairmount or in Ryan Place, historic neighborhoods on Fort Worth’s burgeoning south side.

But this house, on a tree-lined street in Berkeley Place, is minutes from those other neighborhoods and only about two miles from Fort Worth’s energized downtown. There are a couple of eateries within walking distance and Forest Park is a short jog or bike ride away.

One look and Chase Medling, 31, knew that this house, across from an elementary school and complete with some updates as well as the original two-room, one-bath detached guest house out back, was a real find. His wife, Jackie, 30, didn’t take much convincing.

“Most houses in this area don’t even go on the market,” she says.

Sold on the location, the floor plan and that porch, the Medlings jumped from their rented digs into homeownership, and they haven’t looked back. They are part of the leading edge of a wave of millennials who are fast becoming an economic force and a demographic that home builders and sellers nationwide are studying.

Some are eyeing new suburban homes with enviable amenities, but others, like the Medlings, are drawn to homes with a history and tried-and-true neighborhoods that radiate a feeling of permanence.

“I love the charm and warmth of older homes,” Jackie Medling says. “All of the little details have a story. And there is something so unique about living in an older home and continuing to upkeep that story in your own unique way.”

But signing the papers on this 1,800-plus-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bath bungalow was only the first step in making the place their home.

“We always knew once we moved into a house and stopped renting that we would start from scratch and design it exactly how we wanted,” Jackie Medling says.

So they moved into their new house with little more than some bar stools, a coffee table and a few odds and ends. They were eager to put their own stamp on their first home, but where to start?

For the interior appointments and furnishings to match their dream, this busy couple would have to make dozens of choices. He is an attorney with a downtown firm. She is in advertising. Who had time to find the things they’d need? They could have been overwhelmed. The project might have stalled indefinitely, but Jackie Medling wouldn’t let that happen.

“I knew that I needed someone to guide me during the process, or I would never do it,” she says.

For help, they turned to Jackie’s longtime college friend, Mackenzie Page Zwick, also 30, owner of Mackenzie Page Interiors. “I’ve always loved her personal style,” Jackie says of her friend.

Trusting completely that Zwick could create the sophisticated, eclectic home they imagined, the Medlings gave her plenty of creative room, and they couldn’t be more pleased with the results.

“It’s like my clients know they want to go to dinner. I’m the concierge guiding them to the right restaurant,” Zwick says.

Zwick says she never met an antique she didn’t like. But truth be told, her enthusiasm for old things with “character” extends not only to furniture with a silky patina, but also to quaint houses and furniture finds from more recent years.

She doesn’t naturally gravitate toward the shabby chic and nostalgic vibe of rustic farmhouse interiors so popular on television just now. Of course, she can create that look for a client, but Zwick says she is drawn to the idea of giving old things new life.

Better yet, she always has one eye on the budget.

Zwick is not a fan of new furniture. “Vintage is cost effective,” she says. “Often, new stuff is a reproduction without the quality. I prefer the real deal.”

And so, she introduced plenty of vintage pieces into the Medling house: a sofa updated with new fabric, a travertine and chrome console in the living room, bedside tables newly lacquered a soft aqua color.

Dedicated to going where she must to create interiors as unique and individual as her clients, she shops the Dallas design district, haunts estate sales and uses other sources, too. Jackie and Chase Medling were along for the adventure when Zwick went to get a sofa that she found on Craigslist.

Reupholstered in a vibrant teal fabric and accessorized with one-of-a-kind hand-embroidered pillows from Uzbekistan, it now anchors the living room’s conversation area, where walls are saturated a deep cobalt blue and the trim and ceiling are white.

Vintage club chairs, outfitted with new bases to lift them high enough to accommodate Chase Medling’s 6-foot-5 frame, got new life with a Duralee fabric.

Beyond the living room, a cozy sitting room is the Medlings’ favorite place to watch TV and unwind. Surely this was the original dining room, but like many millennials, the Medlings say they’ll entertain with casual cocktail buffets, not sit-down dinners.

A soft pewter color on the sitting room walls is a soothing transition from the bold color in the living room and ties this space to the kitchen, where cabinets were painted a rich, deep charcoal. Granite counter tops were ripped out and replaced with a white Carrera marble with soft gray streaks, making this space perfectly on point for the newest trend.

The kitchen floor is a durable porcelain tile in a black and white hexagon pattern that might have been original to the house but isn’t.

The sitting room couch was custom-made, but the rug with a classic Greek key design is of the inside/outside variety. In fact, spills can be sprayed away with the water hose.

Across the hall, the master bedroom is painted a deep teal color, but the library is the big surprise with black walls and trim and lots of custom shelving. Zwick calls it “moody and manly.” A custom-made couch upholstered in dark olive-green faux leather was designed to snuggle into a space between and beneath all those shelves.

Chase Medling is so pleased with this space, he vows never to give it up. “It’s not going to be a guest room,” he says. In fact, they’re still working on the guest room, Zwick says.

Furnishing the house has been a journey of discovery and one the Medlings would not have taken without their friend.

“I know what I like, but I wouldn’t have known where to go for these things,” Jackie says. “I’d have ended up at Pottery Barn.”

Zwick laughs.

“Almost all my clients have great taste,” she says. “What they don’t have is time and sources.”