Emily Post would have been happy here. The gatekeeper of good taste—she authored many books on etiquette and wrote a popular column on sophistication—would have appreciated the refinement of the place, a graceful one-story townhouse by a glistening lake in North Dallas. Outside, it has the air of a modernist little château, built in the 1980s of St. Joe brick under a squat mansard roof. Inside? Pale blues, pale greens, and gracious spaces galore. Nothing screams. Rooms are rightly scaled and aligned with each other just so. The formal dining room is used with frequency. It’s so genteel.
Homeowners Tamra and Jesse Heath knew whom to call when they moved here: their son, an architect, and his husband, an interior designer. Daniel Heath works for classicist architect Larry Boerder. Josh Pickering works for himself, as the principal of Pickering House. The couple is back in Dallas after several years in New York, where Heath worked for Peter Pennoyer Architects, also a classicist firm, and where Pickering designed
“We like a classical space—but an edited classical space.”Josh Pickering
for Bunny Williams, one of the country’s most revered traditional decorators. For being young men, the two are clearly older souls: Heath draws and paints classical scenes and buildings; Pickering’s Instagram account, @joshuappickering, is peppered with pediments, columns, and carvings. Their own Turtle Creek digs? Antiqued-mirror walls and travertine—not the usual way to go in a midcentury high-rise. “We both like a classical space,” says the soft-spoken Pickering, “but an edited classical space.”
For Heath’s parents’ townhouse, that was precisely the plan. The Heaths were gifted the home from Tamra’s father, Dallas architect Jack Wood, who worked for greats Howard Meyer and George Dahl before striking out on his own. It was Wood who developed the enclave where the Heaths live today:
Willowgate, 10 leafy acres with almost 30 low-slung townhouses, arranged around four small lakes. (See sidebar on page 91.) The Heaths moved to their intimate, two-bedroom abode from a five-bedroom house with some challenges in tow: making the 1984 house work for today, paring down their possessions, and “mixing two generations of furniture with the new,” Jesse says of his and Tamra’s own things plus pieces from Tamra’s parents. While their son went to work on the shell—carving new spaces from old, creating better flow, adding dashes of formality and symmetry—their son-in-law went to work on the decoration. Pickering enlivened the couple’s quietly traditional furnishings with “a little French Deco here and there.”
Exhibit A: In the living room, he pulled a plump sofa and chairs up to a delicately scaled French coffee table that he got from an apartment in tony Sutton Place in New York. He also reimagined favorite pieces. In the dining room, he had floral linen slipcovers made for a set of cherished cane-back chairs. In the clubby den, he lined an inherited hutch with dark-orange suede, a nod to Jesse’s alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin. Upgrades abound in the structure, too, from the installation of elegant, bronze-finish windows from England to the living room’s solid marble fireplace mantel from the famous Plaza Hotel. Pickering says he and his partner had a mantra for the project, their first collaboration: “Up the quality, down the size.” That went for the new kitchen, too, kept cozy rather than large. Pickering likes that it makes his parents-in-law eat virtually every meal in the dining room, where some of their son’s watercolor works hang and a beloved chandelier original to the house dangles overhead. Says the old soul, all of 28: “It’s just more civilized.”