When the couple spotted the house, they knew it was The One. There it was—at the top of a hill—beckoning them. But it took a while for the people who lived inside to realize they were standing in the way of true love.

Eventually though, fate intervened and the house went on the market. The couple rushed over—during an ice storm—to see. “We slipped and slid, and wound up in front of the house, our Southern Colonial,” laughs the current owner, some 30 years later. “It’s funny that someone from Connecticut would want to live in a Southern Colonial.”

“In 48 hours, we owned it,” her husband, a Texan, says. “Sight unseen.”

“Of course, we knew it would be grand,” his wife explains.

tokalong_2 The large canvas adds instant splash to the back porch, enclosed with glass doors and lined with a mirror. A pair of late-17th-century Chinese lacquered armchairs from New York’s Coconut Company, The Ashanti stool from Joel Cooner Gallery, and zebra rug from John Gregory Studio catch the eye with geometry and texture. A Zulu hat, set on a stand, draws the eye upward. photography by Danny Piassick

“It wasn’t,” he laughs.

The entry hall bore no resemblance to Tara’s. Despite its gracious perch on the lush and winding Tokalon Drive, the interior floor plan was hardly dramatic. And the color scheme had to be dealt with immediately: Everything was yellow. And underneath yellow, there was pink.

“I remember thinking, first, that I had lost my mind,” smiles the male half of the couple.
“Then, I thought, is there anything I can do to make it saleable so we could get out of it?”

tokalong_3 A stretch of living room wall offers dimensional perfection for Helen Frankenthaler’s Sneaky Pete. photography by Danny Piassick

The evolution of this home is the story of its inhabitants, a sharp and witty pair, engaged in the world, the city, their neighborhood in a complete and generous way. They volunteer time to assorted social and educational causes. They jump into what life offers—whether kayaking across White Rock Lake, studying piano at SMU, or representing clients at the three-office law firm that bears their name.

After recovering from the purchase, the couple went about living in the house, a 73-year-old, 4,000-square-foot rectangle. In the 1980s, with two small children underfoot, they began to renovate, extending the house in the back and adding about 2,000 square feet of living space. Seizing upon the traditionalist dictate of  “flowers, pattern, and more flowers,” they created a Ralph Lauren dreamscape of draperies, wallpaper, and plentiful antiques.

Their philosophy: “If you can put seven things on a table, why put five?”

tokalong_4 A second dining room in the back of the house is wrapped in felt wallcovering from Stark and imbued with natural northern light. Midcentury art deco-style lacquered eggshell chairs are natural foils for the dining table. An Ingo Maurer light fixture from Scott + Cooner—“all construction paper, if you can you believe it,” says the owner—hangs above. photography by Danny Piassick

Eventually, the nest emptied, and the couple thought about selling. They began gathering information, and they took three Lakewood house tours. “These homes were owned by people my own age, and there was no fabric, no wallpaper. It was about paint and texture,” the homeowner says. “When you look at that dusty rose, you think, ‘Those old people.’ Our flowers were like that.”

They decided to stay put. But they wanted to change the scenery. Drastically.

Enter Louise Kemp. “These are modern, active involved people,” says the designer and co-owner of Mary Faulkner Interiors. “They are ageless, and they needed the house to feel the same way.”

First, Kemp lifted the forest green carpet off the front staircase. Then, she stripped the yellow and red Clarence House floral fabric from the adjacent wall. The elimination process spread from room to room, with only choice pieces of furniture saved. The remainder sits in a warehouse—it’s not entirely gone.

tokalong_5 Large canvases dominate the home, including the guest bedroom. White linens, Roman shades in Manuel Canovas Soliman fabric, and Great Plains Timber textiles on the custom chair and ottoman from John Gregory Studio contrast ink-splashed walls. A Holly Hunt Blondeau side table from George Cameron Nash Showroom and Brancusi table provide shape and color. photography by Danny Piassick

The house has become a 21st-century version of its former self, kept current with muted tones on the walls and upholstery, a blending of soft contemporary furnishings with a mix of antique and primitive accents, in a fusion of textures. “If furniture is kept simple, then interesting pieces highlight the room. They are the jewelry,” Kemp says.

Downstairs, Kemp redesigned the living and breakfast rooms, the kitchen, and the former porch—now home to quirky modern finds. Where blue-and-white bouquet-filled wallpaper once held visual command, now rich browns complement custom white cabinetry. A Helen Frankenthaler painting the couple bought from art dealer Kristy Stubbs influenced the color palette and anchors a growing collection of contemporary art. 

tokalong_6 The Tokalon home’s exterior. photography by Danny Piassick

Up the staircase, the master bedroom, with its 30-foot year-round porch, is an elegant study in comfort. One guest bedroom is cast in black and white. The other is now a sitting/television room, with a cushy couch, stainless steel wainscoting, and subdued lighting. The Jack-and-Jill bathroom that connected the rooms has been transformed into two stunning spaces, one in black granite, the other in green-toned mosaic glass. “I like to create a place to come home to that is tranquil, that makes you feel good,” Kemp says. “These clients were spending a lot of time after Katrina in New Orleans, where they have an office, so I wanted for them to enter a calm when they came through the door.”

“It feels like a New York hotel in the 1930s. I like to say I have entered my Armani stage,” the owner says from a creamy tufted bench. “We couldn’t quite leave this place, and it’s sounding as if we’ll be here forever.”