hey didn’t articulate a particular style when we first met,” designer Tiffany McKinzie recalls of her clients, Whitney and Bruce Laughlin, and the 1950s Fort Worth residence they were renovating, “but they definitely didn’t want cookie cutter.” With that in mind, she looked to the couple’s lives, travels and adoration of art and objects as influences for the furnishings. “Each of their belongings–from Asian prints to Turkish rugs–has a story behind it,” the designer says. “And they are all things I happen to love as well.”
Builder Brent Hull–well known for historical preservation and restoration–also embraced that simpatico spirit, bonding with Bruce “over a shared appreciation of craftsmanship and architectural integrity,” explains the husband, who admired Hull’s ability to labor over small details, particularly those that tell the story of a residence. The builder adds, “We are in an era in which homeowners care about things being well made, and this project really reflects that.”
With the French- and English-style exterior serving as a compass, one of Hull’s main goals was to create a more consistent narrative inside. “The home’s Park Hill neighborhood is cream of the crop, so this house was probably originally architect-designed–though we don’t know by whom,” says the builder, whose project manager was Brett Teague. But while the architecture on the outside fit with the neighborhood, its midcentury-ranch-house interior didn’t quite blend.
To the builder’s delight, the Laughlins were eager to not only restore the exterior but also gut the interior to create a modern flow and spaces more stylistically in line with the facade. As a result, relocating the kitchen better connected it to the living spaces, while directing to more of a French style allowed the team to “really play up the millwork,” Hull says. For instance, he points to the living room’s boiserie and a Louis XV-style Bleu Fleuri marble mantel–one of two antique mantels sourced by the husband, who took an active role in acquiring special pieces. The molding throughout also received an update, while the main stairway enjoyed its own redesign. With the help of residential designer Austin Bewley, Hull succeeded in giving the home the sense of architectural cohesion it needed. “The house you see from the outside is now the house you see while inside as well,” Hull says. “I’m really proud of that.”
McKinzie also took her cues from the architecture while melding new and custom pieces, vintage finds and furnishings from the Laughlins’ previous home–plus all those treasured artifacts. In many cases, a rug from the owners’ collection served as inspiration. “My husband collected rugs from places such as the Middle East and Central Asia during his 24 years of service as an officer in the Marines,” Whitney says. These include the Kashan rug in the living room, which McKinzie used to set the palette for the textiles before adding bold yet neutral statement pieces, like a pair of large white ceramic urns and a gold palm-shaped floor lamp.
Just off the living room is the family room, part of a two-story rear addition that also incorporated a second-floor study. “Keeping these areas authentic was important in order to ensure the add-on matched the style of the house while capturing the views with floor-to-ceiling windows,” McKinzie explains. The light-and-bright feel owed to the windows continues in the adjacent dining room, where the designer paired the couple’s existing dining set with an Isfahan rug Bruce purchased in Bahrain. “We also added built-in china cabinets with details relating to others in the house, like antique-style French hardware,” McKinzie says. Custom elements continue in the kitchen with a marble-topped, navy-blue island with gold trim.
McKinzie carried saturated colors such as cobalt, jade and coral into the upstairs guest rooms but stopped short in the master suite, where serene hues like lilac and greige prevail. “The intensity is very different than the rest of the house, because I wanted to create a place where Whitney could unwind,” she says. And while the master suite remains in its original location, there was room to pitch the ceiling in the master bathroom, which became one of the designer’s favorite spaces. “The Robert Kuo bronze tile from Ann Sacks on the vanity wall is just beautiful and set the tone for all the other selections,” she says. The tile pattern–called Chinois Hua, the Chinese word for “flower”–is echoed in the drapery fabric, Schumacher‘s Lotus Garden.
Now layered with meaning and memories, every room in the home is a destination, and nothing is so precious that the couple can’t kick up their feet and relax. “Brent’s ability to understand the home’s history and marry it to today while customizing it for the Laughlins was incredible,” McKinzie says. And while the perpetual travelers will likely continue to adjust the design with new treasures from around the world, “the home fits us perfectly,” Whitney says. “We are enjoying every detail in the craftsmanship and decor.”
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