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Home & Garden

Perfect Pairing in University Park

A mother and daughter make the rules in a serene and stylish townhome.
By Laura Kostelny |
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Perfect Pairing in University Park

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Wanda Gierhart was in search of light.

It was 2011, and she and real estate agent Allie Beth Allman had looked at what felt like hundreds of homes. “Everything in Texas is a tad dark for me,” Wanda explains. “I could have bought something and made it work, but I didn’t have the energy at that point. New job, newly divorced, and a single parent—that’s not a lot of time for a redo.”

When they finally found a traditional-style townhome in University Park, Wanda immediately knew she had found the perfect place. “I walked in and said, ‘Oh my God. It’s light and bright.’ I made an offer later that day—it was the first day it was on the market,” she says.

Wanda originally hails from South Dakota, and she’s lived in some very metropolitan cities including San Francisco, Chicago, and London. And then there’s her job—she’s the chief marketing officer at Neiman Marcus—so she needed a space that reflected her taste and interests. “I’ve always tended to favor the modern,” she says. “I just really love the midcentury—not the cold, severe modern. I like clean lines.”

“I like a mix. I’ve always been someone who likes combining something old with something new.”

Wanda Gierhart
So between that inclination and a former position at Design Within Reach, Wanda had a lot of furniture that wasn’t quite right for a place that was more Mediterranean than modern. “The scale was all wrong,” she says. “I have very tall ceilings. I needed to merge in a little more traditional to create a mix. I like a mix. I’ve always been someone who likes combining something old with something new.” She called in designers Jan Jones and Lisa Martensen to help bridge some of the modern pieces with the more traditional architecture, as well as bring in some new items. “We helped figure out what worked and what didn’t,” Lisa says.

The process was truly collaborative. “We had a great working relationship,” Wanda says. “Jan and Lisa are funny. Sometimes I call them the Odd Couple. They kind of argue with one another, but it really works. They challenge one another. And they’re very direct, which I really appreciate.”

They set about choosing furniture that would stay, replacing the “horrible” builder-grade fixtures, hanging drapes, and selecting new pieces. Finding items such as the coffee table brought back shades of the house hunt. “They kept showing me photos—I must have looked at hundreds. They kept saying, ‘You’re the only client who won’t pick a coffee table.’ But we ended up choosing a few iterations and piecing something together to create something custom,” Wanda says. But that’s the way she prefers to work. “I like the process. My job is half creative and half analytical.” 

Jan and Lisa made it their mission to convert Wanda to some of their decorative ways. “She didn’t really care for lamps and mirrors, which Jan and I love. But when we brought in the goatskin cabinet and lamp and mirror, she ended up really liking that,” Lisa says. Wanda says the same went for the screen in her master suite. “Normally, I’m not a screen person—I like things that have use—but they convinced me that I needed it. They told me that it reflects light—that’s its use.”

“I really love my bedroom. It’s an envelope—a cocoon. I can go in there to relax.”

Wanda Gierhart
Just as specific as Wanda is about her wants and needs, so too was Celese, her now 12-year-old daughter. “She knew what she wanted. And we took three trips to the Decorative Center to find just the right coral for the fabrics,” Jan says. Wanda laughs about the color challenges. “Jan and Lisa said, ‘She’s more demanding than our other clients.’ We needed to go through piles and piles of fabrics to find things that worked together.”

Jan and Lisa are thrilled with the results. “She’s a bright little girl who has strong opinions. She was probably 10 at the time!” Jan says. “It is a really, really fun room.” Lisa agrees: “You gotta love Celese’s room. It’s over-the-top glamour.”

Wanda is also very happy with her own bedroom. “I practically saved my room for last. Good mother—princess got hers first,” she says with a laugh. “I really love it. It’s an envelope—a cocoon. I can go in there to relax.” It also has a very large closet—a prerequisite for someone who works at Neiman Marcus. “Closet organization: That was the biggest lesson from this move. Next time, it’s the first thing I do,” she says.

The house is almost done—the team is transforming a bedroom into a gym—and Wanda has no plans to leave. “I’ve lived all over, but I love Dallas. I love my neighbors,” she says. “My daughter is out of school for the summer, and I got a call from someone who saw her riding her bike on Mockingbird. Then another friend called to tell me they saw her at lunch at Mi Cocina. It’s built-in neighborhood watch.”