Manhattan Meets Monticello

A Fort Worth family returns home, infusing their Big Apple lifestyle into a modern Texas Vernacular.

When two native Texans decided to venture back home to Fort Worth after nearly 10 years in a 600-square-foot apartment in Manhattan, they had a ton of choices to make. Which neighborhood would they live in? Would they build or remodel? And how do they decide which tile, stain and fabric they should use? They wanted to manifest their unique style throughout their home but did not have design experience or a clue where to start. So many choices. 

Hesitant to leave a city they had fallen more in love with each year, they finally said a tearful, yet hopeful goodbye. “We started our home search right away and never really found anything that spoke to us. We weren't very imaginative about remodeling so that narrowed the options. We decided building would be the best choice,” homeowner Melanie Pate said. They settled on a lot on Dorothy Lane with a scenic front-yard view of the verdant Monticello Park.

So this beautiful, young couple brought Manhattan chic to Fort Worth with their growing family in mind. Their Realtor introduced them to builders NH Southern, a company started and run by Fort Worth-natives Trey Hardin and Wayne Noack. This allowed the Pates to make every detail their own, which at times overwhelmed them. But carefully picking a team, which also included Beckley Design Studio and architect Cody Henderson to build the house, disentangled the process.

“They understood our vision and came really highly recommended. They made a really difficult process actually enjoyable, and I looked forward to meetings with them every week,” Melanie said.

After months of “stalking” the local Beckley Design Studio, run by Rebecca Atkinson and Kelley Roberts, she knew they were the ones for the job. She loved the style they communicated on their social media accounts.

“Living in a 600-square-foot apartment in NYC for nine years meant we were starting from scratch on furniture, which was good and bad. Beckley was able to design for each room instead of having to work in existing furniture. It also meant it was a ton of work and planning in addition to picking out all of the selections and decisions on the build side.”

Melanie had a strong vision for what she wanted, which was a combination of contemporary clean lines and timeless materials with a Brooklyn bohemian style in accents, but she needed Beckley to make those ideas tangible.

“The house itself is contemporary. The furnishings are a mix of classic modern designs from the midcentury paired with contemporary pieces and a bit of bohemian mixed in,” Kelley Roberts, co-owner of Beckley, said.

The 4,600-square-foot home is a striking gesture of the homeowners’ personal style inside and out. They were resolute about it not being too stuffy or cold while still incorporating contemporary details with base colors of gray, cream and white. The exterior of the home features clear cedar, which means without apparent defects, and limestone hand cut to special lengths. And even though the home is large, each space feels usable and intimate. The warm statement pieces elate the eyes, yet the high ceilings and natural light bring an inviting formality of a distinguished structure. It brings to mind the words of famous French architect Abbot Suger, known for jaw-dropping Gothic cathedrals in the 12th century; “The noble work is bright, but, being nobly bright, the work should brighten the minds, allowing them to travel through the lights […] The dull mind rises to the truth through material things and is resurrected from its former submersion when the light is seen.”

The homeowners were able to bring in an eclectic mix of midcentury modern furniture without it looking too stark. A perfect example of this is in the open and combined kitchen, family room, bar and breakfast room. Beckley paired a modern Eero Saarinen Womb chair and ottoman with a teak and rattan chair. In this same room sits an on-trend custom acrylic table and a side table made of natural Chamcha wood from Thailand. Two ottomans perfectly slide out from underneath the acrylic coffee table to add extra seating if needed to create a full circle of guests to visit by the fireplace. But they also wanted the rooms to look collected.

“In an open space like this, you do need some continuity which you will find in the color black of the steel windows, which was used on the legs of the Eames counter stools and also the Womb chair,” Kelley said.

Melanie loves to cook and spend time with her family, so getting this room right was important to her. She planned out every cabinet and drawer to make sure she had the perfect amount of space for everything needed. She has a hideaway pantry with outlets for her coffee maker and mixers to keep them off the counters, yet allow easy access. Her spices are all in a shallow custom drawer where she can spot what she needs in an instant. “I wanted to be able to see the kids and backyard while I cook and feel like a part of the action and not banished to another room while I prepare a meal. I also love how the bar stools aren't all in a row to encourage conversation. The whole space is where we spend most of our time — me cooking, or watching a movie with my family, enjoying a fire in the fireplace, watching my daughter put on ballet performances. It's where we make a lot of our memories.”

This was also the favorite room for the designers to play with. They loved selecting and incorporating classic pieces in the house, such as the Saarinen table and Bertoia chairs with custom pink chair pads in the breakfast room, and the Eames counter stools around the large kitchen island made of marble they brought in from California.

This family room also has a much-coveted and distinctive indoor-outdoor space. The immense, yet light steel doors open up onto a covered outdoor living area complete with 12-foot mosquito nets that roll out of the stone ceiling, creating three transparent walls. This allows the homeowners to entertain in both spaces without the pesky mosquitos or flies Texas can host in warmer months. This theme of bringing the inside out and outside in continues at the home’s entrance. Next to the front door are the same 11-foot, floor-to-ceiling steel and glass doors that open their formal dining room onto their front lawn, which looks across the full width of Monticello Park to homes on Dorothy Lane South. 

Also in this formal area, the Texas-sourced limestone on the home’s exterior was brought inside on the fireplace and extends up to the top of the 11-foot ceilings, again, a procession from the outside in. Sheer window treatments soften the typically harsh Texas natural light radiating through steel-framed, floor-to-ceiling doors and windows, creating an ethereal glow in all the rooms.

Hardin, with builders NH Southern, said the project was exciting for them because of how unique the design plans are to Fort Worth, while still being sensitive to the historical neighborhood of Monticello where they brought their dream home to life.
“They chose a Texas Vernacular theme for the house,” Hardin said. “It was cool that we were using materials that come from Texas — the stone, wood beams and timber.”

The original home that would have been on that lot was built in the 1920s, and Hardin said the homeowners thoughtfully incorporated a lot of elements to the house that would have been there before, “like the select rift- and quarter-sawn white oak wood flooring, old-style wooden supply vents, and millwork design. You want to try to keep some semblance of the historic value of the older homes in the neighborhood. In that sense it keeps it timeless.”

And they did all of that with an “Empire State of Mind,” bringing New York-chic into their Texas vernacular.

Entering the home… Walking into the front foyer, an open floor plan immediately takes the eye to the formal dining and living rooms to a striking walnut slab-top dining table with hand-carved-edge detail on acrylic plinth legs, designed by ModShop that seats 10 people. The icing is the French-blue velvet chairs surrounding the masterpiece. 

Then the eye wanders to the formal living area just beyond the dining table to a sofa covered in light gray linen with a brass trim at the base and brass leg details. The back of the couch faces the dining room, so Beckley chose one with a rounded back to create interest. The brass accents are mixed with wood to warm the area, which is situated around a fireplace complete with a herringbone-patterned brick within.

Opposite the gray sofa are two pale pink chairs with brass legs. Accent pillows with changing patterns of black and white thoughtfully rest on each chair and either side of the sofa. These bring out the black-and-white colors in the black lacquered, faux-horn painted coffee table. This area is framed with a vintage rug that brings all the colors together —  soft grays, pale pinks, creams and whites.

In the background a bold painting by Otis Huband delights the eyes with vibrant and unusual colors like moss greens, creamy whites, and golden yellows that echo the brass accents throughout the home. The homeowners’ nascent artwork collection adds pops of color and detail to the vast white walls.

Around the corner and back into the front foyer is one of Melanie’s favorite rooms — the powder room just off the front foyer. She selected a tie-dye pattern wallpaper by Eskayel. The custom, walnut sink cabinet adds warmth. It was designed to look like a piece of freestanding furniture with satin brass rectangular ring pulls mounted to the center of the doors. This is something Beckley also did with the built-ins in the family room off the kitchen so they did not look like a continuation of the kitchen cabinetry. Also in this powder room is something spotted in closets and the bathrooms throughout the house — large and charming statement chandeliers.

Moving upstairs where the pale gray-stained white oak floors continue from throughout the downstairs is the inviting and warm master suite. Walls are covered in a pale taupe grasscloth to add to the easeful environment in the room. A 9-by-12-foot custom-made, diamond-patterned ivory rug with matching leather trim also softens the room. Beckley Design Studio’s workroom made the custom bed with royal blue velvet for interest and sumptuous comfort.

In the master bathroom, Beckley designed a cool contrasting accent wall with gray 2-inch octagonal tiles behind the freestanding bathtub. The tiles on both the floors and the shower are plank-style limestone pieces that show off the grain of the stone, which gives the effect of wood. Because of all the different patterns, they kept the countertops a pure and clean limestone.

The more permanent features in this house, like the tile, flooring, walls and built-ins, are classic, neutral and timeless, yet add interest, and serve as a perfect canvas for the boho-chic accents, which can easily be changed with time as the trends change.
The home has the grandeur and timelessness of a museum. Yet unexpected design decisions and a keen attention to details and livability make it a home.