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Highland Park

A Designer’s Frothy Retreat in Highland Park

Mary Beth Wagner transforms a dated '90s house into an open, colorful family home.
By Allison Hatfield |
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Nathan Schroder

A Designer’s Frothy Retreat in Highland Park

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Mary Beth and John Wagner lived in their custom University Park home just five years before they launched a remodel of a corner-lot house within walking distance of Highland Park Village. They liked the house built just for them, but they missed their former neighborhood and they both really love a project.

John spotted the residence on Edmondson Avenue for sale while driving by one day. It took several visits for the couple to envision how they could make the 1990s house work for their family of five. “It required a complete redo,” says Mary Beth, who is a principal at Avrea Wagner, an interior design firm she formed with fellow designer Ashley Avrea Cathey in 2009. “Every surface was touched. We moved doors, removed doors, added doors, added windows, moved walls, removed walls. The space was here, but we completely reconfigured it. We really opened everything up.”

To rework the home for herself and John; their 13-year-old twins, Will and Reese; and their 10- year-old daughter, Georgia, Mary Beth enlisted the help of a few people with whom she’s worked for years in her interiors business. Architect Christy Blumenfeld lent her seasoned eye to the plans, and Hudson Construction Group’s Blake Evenson, along with architectural consultant Curtis Burlbaw, executed the job.

“It’s perfect for us. We use every space.”

Mary Beth Wagner, Homeowner & Interior Designer

It took a little over a year to remodel the house, the interior of which was dark, heavy, and very traditional. “You walked in and there were eight rows of fluted columns in a brick entranceway. Tall dentil crown molding was everywhere,” Mary Beth says, gesturing toward the crisp, clean corners where walls and ceiling now meet. The then-two-story house (now three) also had an elevator, a guest room with little light over the attached garage, and second-floor patio without a hint of privacy.

The elevator was removed entirely, and on the second floor, a master closet became a TV room at the top of the stairs. The once-awkward guest room was transformed into a loft-like playroom by replacing a wall with a railing that opened it to the rest of the house and adding windows.

living room mary beth wagner

The massive patio at the back of the house was enclosed and divided into a sitting area off the master bedroom and a fourth bedroom with a bath. Removal of a hallway coffee bar made way for a staircase to the spacious attic unused by the home’s former owners. Now it’s a third-floor living space with a small guest room, an office, and a home gym.

Mary Beth also used lots of boldly patterned wallpaper throughout the home—a signature of her work. “Wallpaper is always a good way to add layers of color,” she says. “I also love grass cloth for texture. I think they make rooms more interesting.”

The remodel bumped the house’s square footage from 4,000 to 6,800 and gave it a fresh, relaxed, lived-in feel. “It’s perfect for us,” Mary Beth says. “We use every space.” 

Mary Beth’s Bests

Being a seasoned interior designer, Mary Beth Wagner has developed her own go-to resources in town. In the spirit of our Best of Big D issue, we asked her to share a few of her favorites.


Interiors by Avrea Wagner
Renovations by Hudson Construction Group
Styling by Jenny O’Connor
Floral by Haile Wossen

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