Family is everything to Amy and Mike Zicarelli. But back in the early 2000s, their extended family wasn’t all that interested in making the drive out to Frisco, where the couple lived at the time. “We were always coming down to Dallas,” says Amy with a laugh. The constant trips down south were made a little sweeter by the detour they made past their “someday” home—an English manor perfectly perched on a hill at the end of an amazing winding street in Preston Hollow. “We fell in love with it,” Amy recalls.
A few years later, Mike and Amy had grown their own family with son Luke and daughter Lyla, and they were ready to cut down on the road trips. Their timing couldn’t have been any better: Their beloved house on the hill was on the market. “It was kind of a huge opportunity,” Amy says. “The seller needed to move fast, so we made an offer, and we got lucky.”
Even dream homes need a facelift now and again, and the circa-1990s, four-bedroom, seven-bathroom manse was no exception. But the couple was determined to add upgrades without undermining the home’s inherent charm. The best way to do that? Hire the original architect, Wilson Fuqua. “He’s such a visionary, and his attention to detail is so inspiring. The paneling, the way the doors shut—there are so many things that are unique to this home. We knew if we were going to make changes, we had to have him involved,” explains Amy.
Twelve years later, Luke and Lyla were teenagers, and the house was due for another refresh. In order to open things up and make room for growing kids (with growing guest lists), the Zicarellis once again enlisted the help of Fuqua, along with Kari LaRusch, studio director and lead designer at Morgan Farrow Interiors. “Our initial goal was to make the kitchen, breakfast area, and keeping room way more functional,” says LaRusch. “Because it was a more traditional home, everything was originally very separate. Amy wanted one big space where she could cook, the kids could do homework, and they could all just be together.” (“It was the one spot my husband said, ‘No television,’ ” adds Amy with a laugh.)
“It’s all those original details that bring the warmth.”—Homeowner Amy Zicarelli
With Fuqua’s guidance, the team set about removing an elevator, moving major walls, and adding steel beams. But the changes to “The Manor,” as LaRusch calls it, went beyond the structural. “At the time, you did not walk into home and think that a young, cute, fun family lived there,” she says. “There was all this heavy drapery that puddled and lots of heavy faux finishes. It was just so dark—it didn’t reflect them at all.”
To remedy that, LaRusch took pains to maintain the timeless details the Zicarellis loved (wood and brick lattice floors; millwork and paneling; masonry on fireplace facades) while ditching the Old World decor. Faux finishes and stenciled patterns were swapped out for large-scale graphic wallpapers. Contemporary artwork came in to contrast to the more traditional trimmings. Heavy furniture was given the heave-ho in favor of more human-scale pieces that are both functional and fun. “This home is all about livable luxury,” LaRusch says. “Our goal was to create something that feels a little unique—it’s traditional with a bit of an edge.”
One project has led to another; in the last four years, LaRusch has helped transform almost every square inch. But the Zicarellis appreciate that the changes remain in concert with the original architecture. “We always loved the bones of this house, but we needed certain spaces to grow with our family,” muses Amy. “Sometimes when you’re in the middle of a remodel, you think, ‘We should have just torn it down.’ But it’s all those original details that bring the warmth.”
A Place of Healing
Good design can provide comfort when life throws you curveballs.
Amy Zicarelli needed a refuge when she was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in 2022—just four months after her beloved mother died from breast cancer. The fight for Amy’s life included 20 rounds of chemotherapy, loads of infusions, countless medications, and every ounce of her energy. To help make sense of her battle, she launched a Facebook blog—called Positively Triple Negative—and has been astounded by the response. “It has resulted in calls and emails from all over the country and started so many conversations,” she says. “I have made some really phenomenal new friends—and sadly, I’ve lost some along the way. Today, I’m continuing to learn. Now, it’s about handling life after treatment and living life to its fullest. What we think is such a bad day, it really is such a gift.”
Amy says her home was a big part of her recovery plan—although the spaces that became her sanctuaries surprised her. Take the dining room. Before she was sick, the sophisticated space was used mainly for special occasions. During chemo, it became the go-to place for family dinners. “Mike and the kids would set the table, and we’d all wear our pajamas or shorts and T-shirts,” Amy says. “It was our way of doing something different.” And the cabana, which used to be the perfect party venue for after-tennis drinks, became a place of rest when Amy needed it most.
“Sometimes, you make decisions to make changes that turn out to accommodate your family’s needs in ways you can’t even imagine,” she explains. “That’s what Kari [LaRusch] and Wilson [Fuqua] have always been good at: They channel where you’ll spend the most time and make it extra special.”