If there was ever a time to tackle a home improvement project, it was 2020. As the stay-at-home order stretched on, the D Home editorial team took a closer look at our own interiors. If these were the only spaces we could occupy, we thought, let’s make them feel like sanctuaries. So, we adopted houseplants, cleaned out closets, rearranged furniture, and painted walls. We found quiet corners to set up makeshift offices and lugged our equipment into the garage to create home gyms. We knew you, our readers, were reimagining your homes in the very same ways. Such an unconventional year inspired unconventional content, from a modified version of our 10 Most Beautiful Homes package to a feature on a photographer’s shelter-in-place portrait series. Here, our editorial team looks back at our favorite stories from 2020.
Executive Editor, D Home and D Weddings
I was out on maternity leave when this beautiful issue was produced, so I can take absolutely no credit. But the work that went into our first-ever preservation issue—and the mission of the people who have put their blood, sweat, and tears into their historic homes, is close to our hearts.
Wow, just wow. Gorgeous, yes. But the attention to detail interior designer Matt Mazur took in restoring his historic Fort Worth home is what got me. (The man custom fabricated brass air vent covers, for crying out loud!) Matt recently joined one of our favorite local design firms, Sees Design. He’s certainly one to watch.
Right around the time the world was going into a frenzied lockdown, it was my time to scout our annual list of the city’s most beautiful homes. Except nothing was normal this year. We ended up cutting the July/August issue, in which that story typically appears, for budgetary reasons, so it was decided that we would run it in D instead. And celebrating beautiful mansions felt, well, wrong given the state of the economy. Fortunately, we’d tossed around the idea of changing to “charming” homes this year anyway, as the team responsible for scouting Dallas neighborhoods felt we’d scoured the market pretty clean. So charming it was.
Having not left my house in several weeks at that point, it felt so good to get in my car, windows down (remember the perfectly crisp spring mornings at the start of quarantine?) and cruise around town, safely, finding the gosh-darn-cutest houses in all of Dallas. The stories behind the houses were so rich, and the homeowners so proud, that we knew we’d hit on something good. We loved it so much and got such a great response, in fact, that we plan to revisit “charming” homes again in 2021.
The best journalism holds a mirror up to the world, and this was certainly a reflection of the times. A beautiful, photo-driven story about one family’s time sheltering in place. Chris Plavidal (a professional photographer, lovely human, and frequent contributor to D Home) and his wife Penny shared a peek inside their lives through their snapshots of their time at home. As parents to older kids with often busy schedules, they relished the time together—eating dinner around the dinner table every night, streaming dance workouts, and creating beautiful memories. If only my time in quarantine looked this picture perfect!
What I love most about my job is learning about people through the spaces they live in. Every piece of furniture, every paint color, and every detail says something about you. I’ve especially enjoyed the groups of creative young tastemakers that we shined a spotlight on last year and again in our November/December 2020 issue. Plus, who doesn’t love looking at holiday décor? (Especially when it’s a pink Christmas tree exploding with pastel florals, like Adam and Alicia Rico’s?)
For D Weddings, I’ll only submit one:
During the height of the George Floyd protests and the Black Lives Matter movement, I had the pleasure of talking to Lizzie Cochran and Chris McElrath. Not only are they great people and both UTSW medical residents, but are, as you may notice, an interracial couple. Their wedding is probably my favorite we’ve ever run, not only because it’s beautiful and different and sounded like a blast to attend (it was held at a summer camp over a long weekend), but because they really understood what a wedding is supposed to be about: not just a marriage of two people, but two families.
Over the course of three days, living among each other in cabins, eating and drinking together, and celebrating together, these two families became one unit. Chris and Lizzie say friendships formed that weekend between people they would’ve never expected, many of whom keep in touch still to this day. It reminded me of one of my favorite movies, Rachel Getting Married. The gorgeously unconventional at-home wedding, between a Black man and White woman, plays out almost in real time, to the point that you feel like you’re an invited guest.
During the reception toasts, the groom’s mother says, “We are one, all of us—and this is how it is in heaven.” Chris and Lizzie aren’t trying to make a political statement through their relationship; they’re just two people who fell in love. But it was so refreshing and hopeful in light of everything that was—is still—going on to be reminded that love perseveres, over racial disparity, over COVID wedding shutdowns…over everything.
Online Associate Editor
With The Front Steps Project, photographer Julia Newman offered quick, five-minute photoshoots to Dallasites. She asked them to “come as they are,” and the resulting images are delightfully authentic. “I had families barefoot, kids in swimsuits, parents with a beer or a glass of wine,” said Newman. In lieu of payment, she asked her subjects to donate to the North Texas Food Bank. By June, The Front Steps Project had raised $25,000. Even after the shelter-in-place order dissolved, Newman’s images are poignant reminders of the happier moments from an abnormal season of life.
For the first time in Cutest Pets history, a cat took home the Editors’ Choice crown. “Boots the Wonder Cat” has an especially colorful backstory–the Manx survived Hurricane Harvey and now spends his days sailing, walking on a leash, and converting cat skeptics with his sociable demeanor. Bourbon, our canine Readers’ Choice winner, is equally charismatic–he loves to hike and knows dozens of tricks. Sure, a Cutest Pets post isn’t hard-hitting journalism, but if there was ever a time to lean into feel-good news, it was 2020.
Back in February, we took our readers inside The Gaston, a tiny bed-and-breakfast in East Dallas. The 100-year-old home was lovingly restored by the Gibson family, and each guest room included salvaged treasures like a State Fair carousel seat turned into a porch swing. Sadly, like most small businesses–especially those in the travel industry–The Gaston was hit hard by COVID-19. Their website and Instagram are now defunct, indicating a closure that may be permanent. We’ll cross our fingers that this gem of a B&B will make a triumphant return in 2021; for now, take a spin through our gallery to admire its interior.
In the early days of summer, I stumbled upon a local company called DFW Backyard Mansions. Mansions, indeed–these impeccably built playhouses have modern amenities like electricity, working windows, wood floors, and heating systems. Intrigued, I gave the company a call. As it turns out, DFW Backyard Mansions is a one-man operation. David Verret, a North Dallas father and recent retiree, lovingly designs and builds every single structure by hand. Scroll through the post gallery to check out his playhouse portfolio.
When the shelter-in-place order took effect in March, many of us developed a newfound appreciation for our backyards and patios. Tara L. Paige started a Facebook group, Black Women Who Love Outdoor Living Spaces, envisioning a place for her family, friends, and friends of friends to convene and share patio inspiration. Instead, the group exploded, and it’s now a community of over 200,000 Black women worldwide. The members’ outdoor living spaces are refuges from the stresses of daily life, but the group itself is a safe space, too–especially in a year fraught with racial unrest. “We support one another, love one another, and help each other create something beautiful,” says Paige. She’s one to watch; her own line of outdoor wares, called The Patio Chic, will launch next year.