Kim and Nevin Bannister were not supposed to renovate again.
Ever since they had overhauled their previous home in Lakewood, a project that took nearly a year to complete, Nevin was reluctant to delve into another gut job. When the commute to their children’s schools finally grew too tiresome in 2006, they decided to make the move to Preston Hollow. They bought a house that was meant to be a temporary residence until they found the perfect lot for new construction.
But Kim couldn’t help herself.
“I would spend the weekends looking online just for fun and going to open houses,” she says. “That’s what we did growing up—my mom loved to redo houses. I can’t tell you how many times I sat there with vinegar and water, spraying walls to help her scape off wallpaper.”
“There are hints everywhere in the house that are playful and happy.”
And then one weekend, Kim accidentally stumbled upon the perfect house. Located on a large lot—a must-have for their kids and dogs—the property was a four-bedroom, five-bath, 1950s-era stunner with great architectural lines, striking original features, and an open floorplan. For Kim, who grew up visiting her grandparents in San Diego and now summers with her own family in Malibu, the house possessed that coastal California charm she was looking for.
“There are hints everywhere in the house that are playful and happy.”Kim Bannister
“I saw the windows overlooking the backyard, and I loved the front door,” she remembers. “And we loved the lot and the openness of the floorplan. It reminded me of that Palm Springs/Palm Beach/happy vibe.”
To help ease her husband’s fears, they brought in builder Jim Reilly of Reilly Homes, who assured them they could make the changes they wanted within their budget. Jim introduced the couple to architect Craig Cowden, who collaborated with Kim even prior to closing on how to customize the house so that it worked for the family of four. The down-to-the-studs renovation began the day after the Bannisters closed on the house and lasted for seven months. What was once a garage lined in cedar shingles became a cozy, sun-soaked TV room. They created a hybrid laundry room/butler’s pantry with stainless steel countertops that can stand up to the kids’ art projects. The bedrooms were reconfigured, and the patio and pool both got facelifts.
With a strong sense of what she liked and an inherent eye for design, Kim decided to tackle the decor herself. She created a Pinterest board for each room and set to work selecting design materials, hardware, and furnishings. She had some old upholstered pieces recovered to better suit the new house, found some just-right vintage additions, and selected some unexpected new elements. Design “rules” often went out the window, like with the Urban Electric Co. light fixtures she wanted to hang over the kitchen island. “Everybody kept saying they were too big,” she remembers. “And I said, ‘We’re just going for it. I love them, they’re going to work, and they’re going to make me happy.’”
Having a house that evokes joy is important to Kim, who utilized some Kelly Wearstler fabrics and wallpaper (“She’s so fun and playful and happy.”) and the color yellow, which reminds her of her grandmother, who loved the sunshiny shade. In the powder bath, a customized Slim Aarons wallpaper called “Pool Gossip” reminds her of her parents, who were always entertaining friends when she was growing up.
“There are hints everywhere in the house that are playful and happy,” Kim says. “It’s OK to have a bad day, but you’ve got to come home and try to find the humor or the fun and just realize that there’s so much more to life than all that other stuff.”
Though her design confidence was mostly unshakable, there were times when she doubted herself. “I was picking out the marble for the fireplace in the front room, and I said to my husband, ‘What if I mess up on something?’ And he said, ‘The worst thing that can happen is we just have to redo it. You’ve got a great eye. Just have fun with it.’ Going into the project like that, having a supportive husband, was great.”
“We wanted a home that made you feel like you weren’t in Dallas, but California.”
She did finally enlist the help of a designer—her friend Jean Liu of Jean Liu Designs—to help her pick the right shade of white paint for the walls, which proved a much more challenging task than she imagined. That partnership evolved into some collaborating on carpets, wallpapers, and accents, as well. But for the most part, the project is completely personal to Kim and her family. Just as her mom had done with her, she made sure to involve her children—Sawyer, 13, and Ford, 11—in the process.
“We wanted a home that made you feel like you weren’t in Dallas, but California.”Nevin Bannister
“Each of the kids got to choose something they wanted to do in their rooms that was cool and special,” she says. “My son wanted a floating bed, and my daughter wanted the bubble chair. I’d pick out marbles and countertops and bring home pictures, give each child two options and say, ‘A or B?’ They got really into it. My daughter even got on Pinterest.”
What resulted is a house that is truly a reflection of the loving, tight-knit family who lives in it. Everything from the art on the walls to the accessories on the bookshelves has sentimental significance—whether it’s finds they picked up on their travels, family photographs, or a gift given to them by a loved one.
“I wanted the minute we walked through the door, in every single room, that there’s something that will trigger a memory of us being together,” Kim says.
Despite his initial hesitations, for his part, Nevin couldn’t be happier with the results. “We wanted a home that is great for spending time with friends and family as well as a home that made you feel like you weren’t in Dallas, but California,” he says. “What Kim did with the house, just like everything else she does, far exceeded my expectations.”