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Domestic Bliss

How a North Dallas family created their own kid-proof, low-allergen, light-filled dream house. 
By Diane Carroll |

French doors from the family room and kitchen lead outside to a screened porch or covered terrace. “If you make outdoor spaces wide enough to be furnished like indoor rooms, then people will gravitate to them,” says architect Bruce Bernbaum, AIA.

DOMESTIC BLISS
photography by DANNY PIASSICK

When Marc and Wendy Stanley decided to build their dream house, it wasn’t because they needed a bigger home, but because they needed a bigger ball field. “The size of our house was okay, but there was hardly any yard,” Wendy says. “With three young children, we wanted a yard where we could play ball.”

A bigger yard may have been their call to action, but what the Stanleys were looking for was a place to fit their lifestyle. A place where their son Paul, who has asthma, could breathe more easily. Where daylight would fill each room, and windows and doors could be thrown open for cross breezes to drift through. Where family and friends could gather each holiday and all sit around one table. Where neighborhood kids could hang out, without the house looking the worse for it. “We know that kids will be kids,” Wendy says. “They’re just as likely to play ball indoors as out. So we wanted the house—and the furniture—to be completely kid-friendly. I didn’t want to cringe every time something spilled on the floor or one of the kids decided to crawl over the couch. And I didn’t want to spend hours and hours keeping the house clean.”

Sons Mikey and Paul do homework in the breakfast room, which is open to the kitchen on one side and the terrace on the other. Kids can access the wet bar’s built-in refrigerator, icemaker, and faucet with filtered water for poolside snacking. “Every kid in the neighborhood knows which faucet to go to for a drink of water,” says Wendy.

Breathable, natural linen bedding helps make the master bedroom a calm retreat.

Wendy had already picked out the location of their indestructible, easy-to-clean, low-allergen dream home: an oversized, vacant lot off a quiet cul-de-sac that was not far from their current home and just two houses away from where Marc grew up. “I jog every day, and I had run by this lot for years,” Wendy says. “I finally tracked down the owners, and a couple of months later, they sold it to us.”

The Stanleys approached the architectural team of Bruce Bernbaum, AIA, and Patricia Magadini, AIA, with their dream-house wish list, which included the request that their house be as open to the outdoors as possible, and the suggestion that they liked the style of houses found in the Texas Hill Country. Bruce says the Hill Country concept was a natural fit: “That style is all about an indoor/outdoor relationship. The houses usually have abundant natural light and porches that have the same importance as indoor rooms. It was a good starting point for determining how the Stanleys wanted to use the house.”

Architects Bruce and Patricia designed the house as two pods—one containing the public spaces (kitchen, living, and dining areas) and the other, more private pod housing the sleeping quarters. Playing off the Hill Country style, they designed an immense family room as the hub of the house. “The Stanleys didn’t want a formal living room; they wanted a family gathering space,” says Bruce. “But their family gatherings can range from five to 50 people, so scale was critical.” With a ceiling height of 15 feet and nearly two full walls of French doors topped by 2-foot transoms, the family room feels spacious and airy. The addition of structural wooden trusses and simple chandeliers prevents the room from feeling cavernous.

Designer David Cadwallader, ASID, whom the Stanleys tapped for his simple, classic interiors, kept the easy-living aspects of Hill Country style, but he added a bit of urban flavor to it. “Everything needed to fit the sensibility of the house,” David says. “It’s not modern or traditional; it’s timeless.”

In the family room, David arranged the furniture in functional groupings for conversation, for additional dining space, or just for watching TV. These groupings create walkways along the sides of the room, directing the flow of entertaining traffic.

From this family-room hub, activity radiates in all directions: a series of French doors open onto covered terraces; a large entryway leads into the breakfast room and kitchen, both with a view of the screened porch; and pocket doors open up to the dining room. The kitchen, family room, and dining area all have direct access to the terraces and the adjacent pool, garden, or play areas, creating a feeling of outdoor living even from inside the house.

“We designed the house so that, as you walk through, you not only see other spaces, but you also see outside,” says Bruce. “From a pragmatic standpoint, it means adults inside can always keep an eye on kids outside. From a design perspective, it means you have more natural daylight.” It may seem like common sense, but Bruce notes that people often overlook the importance of natural light. “In any space other than a media room, the more natural light, the better you feel,” he says.

Multiple pairs of French doors on two sides of the living room lead outside to covered terraces.

All this access to the outside also meant that dust and dirt would end up inside, which left David with the challenge of combining beauty and practicality to create the ultimate easy-cleaning house. Drawing on his background in restaurant and hotel design and years of experience designing elegant homes, he chose durable yet attractive materials that would complement the Stanleys’ lifestyle. Wendy is thrilled with the result: “I can just about hose down most of the surfaces and fabrics in the house—it’s that easy.”

Throughout the main living areas, wooden floors withstand not only normal wear and tear but also the abuse of everything from high heels to rollerblades. (Kids will be kids, after all.) After a quick sweeping or mopping, they look fabulous. David used carpet, which traps dirt, dust, and other allergens, sparingly, usually to anchor seating areas. He chose nylon-loop pile carpeting because “it doesn’t stain, doesn’t release carpet fibers, and can be vacuumed clean.”

Since the covered terraces help block direct sunlight, most of the windows and French doors are unadorned. In the dining room, David added casement curtains of linen (a natural fiber with an open weave) to add warmth to the space with minimal dust accumulation. In the rooms where privacy was an issue, he added sheer, easy-to-clean, nylon shades that recess into a valance to provide unobstructed daylight.

Bruce and Patricia designed the sleeping quarters in the two-story, private-space pod as retreats. Downstairs, the master suite is its own hub for healthy living: Marc’s home office, the reading nook, an exercise room (with separate access to the pool and spa), and the master bath all connect to the bedroom.

In the children’s areas upstairs, the design team kept the inevitable television and computer out of the bedrooms by installing a media center in an open space just off the stairway. Even the children’s slumber-party guests have custom-designed sleeping quarters in an oversized window seat that accommodates two twin-sized mattresses.

If daily life at the Stanleys’ is any indication, their new home has easily met the healthy—and happy—lifestyle challenge. “We just had an impromptu party of 50 people or so to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday,” says Wendy. “We’ve hosted several elementary school PTA meetings. When school ended, we had a kids’ party out back—complete with soccer goals and volleyball nets. And we did have a family game of baseball in the backyard yesterday.”

elegant, durable, and easy to clean

An active, young family, with allergies and asthma, that loves to entertain. Could there be a bigger design challenge? Designer David Cadwallader, ASID, made sure each material or piece of furniture fit the Stanleys’ lifestyle before it gained a place in their home.

<Years of experience in restaurant and hotel design taught designer David Cadwallader which fabrics can best endure daily use. Here, David mixes tightly woven, wool petit-point upholstery with a striped seat cushion and pillow of synthetic nylon raffia.

>Wooden floors made of a blend of hickory and pecan stand up to heavy traffic, add warmth to the room, and are easy to clean. The natural-fiber, worsted wool rug has a tight weave for easy vacuuming, plus a durable leather binding.

<Local artisan Melissa Armstrong applied an integral-dye, hand-textured plaster treatment to the walls and then buffed them with wax for a smooth, easy-to-clean finish. With natural fibers and an open weave, the simple curtains can be easily vacuumed or taken down for cleaning.

>Kitchen chairs are often the most heavily used seats in the house. Made of Zephtron nylon, these barstools can take food spills or wet bathing suits and still look great.

<Seamless granite countertops eliminate ugly grout lines that usually stain over time. The under-mounted

kitchen sink makes cleaning countertops easy. The wet-bar faucet supplies filtered drinking water, while the hot-water tap stays in the cooking area for safety.

>Glass tiles from Ann Sacks enliven the kitchen; in the heavy-use area behind the cooktop, David installed an easily cleaned slab of granite as a backsplash.

 

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