Empty nesters Matt and Betsy Cooper were ready for a change of scenery. The couple—who had lived in Newport Beach, California, for 30 years—was pondering a cross-country move. Two of their three sons live in Dallas, and Matt was eager for a more central location due to his frequent business travel. “Of all the places we’ve traveled, and all the places [Matt] has offices, every time we’d go to Dallas, we’d always have so much fun. It felt like home,” Betsy says. So they bid farewell to the beach and headed for the Lone Star State.
After a short stint in a downtown high-rise, the couple enlisted the help of real estate agent Michelle Wood, who found the couple a house that was worthy of “forever home” status—on a street with mature trees, within walking distance of nearby shops and restaurants, and square footage that was cozy enough for the two of them, but big enough to entertain family. The house also came with an added bonus: a designer who lived next door.
Shortly after the Coopers closed on the house, Carla Fonts Hrncir, owner of design firm Dunbar Road, knocked on the door and welcomed the couple to the neighborhood. “I took her to lunch and said, ‘We are in over our heads. We’d love for you to help,’ ” Betsy remembers. A client relationship—and friendship—blossomed. Hrncir tapped designer Cristina Lyon (who also happens to be Hrncir’s daughter) to co-lead the project. They worked closely with builder Brad Bean of Bean Co. Homes and architect Drew Conserva of Conserva&studio to take the 3,151-square-foot home down to the studs.
I love that Betsy would say, ‘I love crusty things sometimes.’ It’s nice to add that in when it’s all bright and happy.Interior Designer, Cristina Lyon
When the Coopers purchased the 1936 Georgian Colonial in Northern Hills, a quaint subdivision in a quiet pocket just south of Highland Park, they’d planned on some renovations. But they didn’t expect a head-to-toe overhaul. As these projects tend to go, once demo started, they realized they had to redo almost everything, including plumbing and electrical. The couple embraced it as an opportunity to work with a blank canvas and to add architectural details, such as paneling in the entry way, arched doorways, and crown molding. They also tackled an extensive kitchen remodel. Before the reno, the L-shaped kitchen was smaller in size than the dining room. The team tore down walls, eliminated a pair of entry closets, and reimagined both spaces, reducing the size of the dining room while expanding the kitchen, leaving room for an oversized island that allowed for a perfect flow for entertaining.
As for the interiors, the Coopers came to the project with only a few pieces and a collection of art. It was an opportunity for the homeowners to freshen up their aesthetic. Hrncir and her team are known for mixing and matching vibrant colorways, bold patterns, and rich fabrics—so when they suggested color schemes for a few of the spaces, such a pink office, Betsy was a little timid at first. “I’m coming from California, where everything is beachy, neutral, and white,” she says.
But the designers worked with their client, stretching her comfort zone with a bold wallcovering here (like the Morris & Co. wallpaper in the study, inspired by Betsy’s English lineage) and a pop of color there (like the strong blueish gray in the dining room) to achieve a result that is “bright and happy—a mix of traditional with a touch of fresh, up-to-date pieces,” Hrncir says.
The new look represents a dramatic departure for the Coopers—but that’s exactly what they’d been searching for when they left California. “They helped me grow into a new aesthetic,” says Betsy of working with Hrncir and Lyon. “At first when I saw an unusual color or an unexpected pattern, it made me stop. Now I think it’s exciting.”
When Carla Fonts Hrncir started design firm Dunbar Road in 2016, her daughter Cristina Lyon was but a college student in Charleston, South Carolina, studying business. But when it was time for Lyon to graduate, she resisted the immediate urge to join her mom’s company, even though Dunbar Road was growing. Instead, she moved back to Dallas and worked in commercial real estate for a year and half. “But I just missed being creative,” she says. After Hrncir “begged her” to join the team, Lyon became an official employee two years ago.
At first when I saw an unusual color or an unexpected pattern, it made me stop. Now I think it’s exciting.Homeowner, Betsy Cooper
Lyon was off and running, taking the lead on projects like the Coopers’ home. With Lyon’s business background, her meticulous eye for detail balances out Hrncir’s natural creativity. “She gets both sides,” says Hrncir. “When I ask her a question, I immediately get an email back with all the details.” Their chemistry is apparent, too. They trade compliments and laughs, Lyon stepping in and finishing Hrncir’s sentences, and Hrncir affectionately lauding Lyon’s talent. They both share the same welcoming smile and sparkling eyes—and the same enthusiasm for working side by side. “We just have a lot of fun together,” Lyon says.