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Arts & Craftedby Rebecca Sherman | Photos by Stephen Karlisch | Modern Luxury Interiors Texas magazine | April 12, 2012
For Tom Fagadau, an independent oil and gas producer in Dallas, buying and renovating his Greenway Parks house was never about how big, how much or even how the changes he made would affect its resale. At 3,400 square feet, the residence is modest, given the city’s reputation for erecting flashy McMansions. “I was looking for a gem, but something understated,” he says. “Every inch was important, but size wasn’t. The whole purpose was not to build a palace, but to build a work of art.”
A bespoke piece of sculpture it is. The 1940s former plain brick abode, gutted and masterfully reimagined by interior designer Allen Kirsch and contractor George Gerlach, is now clad in Pennsylvania bluestone and fitted with handmade, solid walnut windows and doors. Walls, ceilings, closets and cabinets are paneled in riff-cut white oak, and the floors are planked walnut. No detail was too inconsequential for Fagadau’s time and attention. Luxurious white gold Bisazza tiles line the pool, which he studied at various times of day and night before pronouncing their shimmer suitable to produce the desired ambience. “Every little inch was meticulously gone over,” he says.
If he was confident of the jewel box he envisioned, it was in part because Fagadau had previously hired Kirsch to design his apartment in New York. The two were in sync. “He liked the finishes we’d done there, and the feeling of the Dallas house sprung from that,” says Kirsch. “We were just finishing the apartment in New York when he put an offer on the house and called me to come see it. We talked a lot about what the house needed to be—he was recently divorced with two teen-age daughters, and it was going to be just for him, with an occasional guest.”
The 150-acre Greenway Parks enclave, between the Dallas North Tollway and Inwood Road, bordered by Mockingbird Lane on the south and University Boulevard to the north, is unusual for its series of eight open, yet private greenbelts, around which small-to-mid-sized homes are clustered. It’s also a conservation district. “I wanted to buy there because it’s restricted, and nobody could knock down a house on the other side and build some mansion,” says Fagadau, who purchased the house in 2006. Renovations lasted two years, with the owner on-site for at least two hours every day. “It became an art project, really,” he says.
The redesign of the house took full advantage of the surrounding natural beauty. Says Fagadau: “The whole concept of the house was to create long vistas with unobstructed views. The family room only had one small window, but now, it’s the epicenter of the house, and you can see out on three sides and across the greenbelt. It’s a peninsula of light.” Three bedrooms were turned into a small library, a master bedroom and a large dressing room that opens onto a courtyard and fountain. A one-bedroom house is an unexpected commodity, yet, when Fagadau’s daughters visit there’s plenty of room. Separate guest quarters were built over the garage, and the library holds a hide-a-bed. “I could have added more bedrooms, but this house wasn’t built for resale,” says Fagadau.
Kirsch borrowed from a modern master when conceiving the overall theme of the house. “From the very beginning, I envisioned a Frank Lloyd Wright Asian feel, very horizontal, very Fallingwater,” with rich natural materials that warm an otherwise sleek and precise design, he says. The landscaping, designed by Kevin Clark of Naud Burnett & Partners, includes several small Asian-inspired courtyards. “The outside was just as important as the inside,” says Fagadau. “I entertain a fair amount, mostly smaller gatherings, and this house is perfect for that.” Throughout the house, pocket doors that glide invisibly into the walls provide a feeling of openness. “Part of my inspiration was the minimalist towers that Mies van der Rohe did in Chicago on Lake Michigan which have no doors at all,” says Kirsch. “Here, every door is a pocket so it can disappear, even in the powder room. The illusion is that the whole house is a wide open space.”
The exquisite backdrop is a finely crafted palette for Fagadau’s collection of modern art, most of which was purchased specifically for the house with the help of art brokers Chris Byrne and Becky Bruder. The collection includes works by Chuck Close, Damien Hirst, Robert Motherwell, Cindy Sherman, Frank Stella and Andy Warhol. “My art is essentially like the house—there’s a lot of geometry to it,” he says.
The furnishings are a mix of modern classics, custom-designed pieces and antiques. “We coordinated on the colors, but I left most of that up to Allen and his good taste,” says Fagadau. In the living room, custom sofas flank a large 150-year-old Chinese daybed that serves as a coffee table. For the family room, Fagadau commissioned New York sculptor Jeffrey Brosk to create a pair of cocktail tables in solid cherry and walnut. In the dining room, Kirsch designed a wall-hung buffet that is lit from underneath so that its honey onyx top glows. An iconic red Womb chair and ottoman by Knoll punctuate the library. Upholstery in softest leathers, wools and velvets in rich cocoas, matte golds and buttercreams make all the rooms elegantly approachable. “The wonderful thing about this house is how elegant and proportionate it is,” says Fagadau. “You don’t have to build the largest structure in the neighborhood to make it the most beautiful.”