By: Deb Cantrell
Three little boys in a three-story saltbox. What sounds like a nursery rhyme is a reality for Allisen and Kevin Prigel, who challenged Grace Mitchell to design a lighthearted family home inside their stately vintage house.
Built in 1926, this dignified saltbox colonial is a house of great stature and hand-hewn charm. From the street, its distinctive symmetry is regal and imposing.
But step inside the front door and the feeling lifts, striking a deft balance between classic elegance and modern living. Crafted with finesse by Mitchell, the design respects the house’s traditional character while creating a home where three young brothers (ages 2, 5, and 8) can play.
Crystal stemware is displayed – and so are Legos. Luxe textiles turn out to be washable. Impressive antiques are reupholstered with fun-loving fabrics. Outdoor greens and coastal blues evoke a leisurely personality. Décor with a youthful, feminine vibe flits from room to room, an affable companion for the majestic, masculine structure.
Fort Worth designer Grace Mitchell, author of the blog A Storied Style, has achieved an agile harmony between the home’s heirloom structure and its contemporary inhabitants.
“This is a very beautiful house with a slightly formal feel. We wanted to still honor that but make it a family home for three little boys running around. It is a heavier-feeling house, so we really tried to lighten it with furniture and fabrics. I wanted to get just the right feeling: family-friendly, happy, and light. Lived-in, but still with a hint of formality. It was challenging for sure, but I feel like we accomplished it.”
Mitchell understands from first-hand experience that livability is key when it comes to a home with several young children.
“I have four little kids of my own, so I’m good at making sure that things are washable. We have outdoor velvet on the sofa in the downstairs playroom by the kitchen, and the white sofas in the living room have slipcovers that can be pulled off. It’s beautiful – you’d never know that it’s outdoor fabric, but it is.”
Mitchell’s artistic approach begins by listening to the family’s story, watching them interact together and play. This unique story is the common thread of inspiration that runs throughout the home, infusing every room and each design.
Inspiration is evident from the entryway. Morning sunshine waltzes into the house through the front door’s beveled glass window and sidelights. The dance creates glowing scallops of light on the floor, mimicking the endless loops and swirls of the home’s twisted pine woodwork. Pocket doors of this Pinus contorta herald the entrances to the living room on the left and the dining room on the right – two alluring scenes that draw the eyes in opposite directions.
Formal yet fun, the dining room feels like a glass of Champagne. Centered around a reclaimed wood table from Restoration Hardware, the space exudes grandeur and grace – with just a wink of playfulness. Mitchell never forgets the fifth wall – the ceiling. Pinstriped wallpaper runs across the ceiling, a carefree topper for the crystal chandelier that somehow seems light, like it’s floating.
Rows of antique plates nestle together inside picture-frame molding, snug in their comfortable closeness. Windows fronted by giant fiddle-leaf fig trees gaze onto green lawns, while glossy rose curtains puddle on the floors like soft pink buttercream. Delicate china is proudly displayed, a medley of Allisen’s collection and family heirlooms.
Twelve chairs surround the table, upholstered with cheerful, bird-print backs and blue faux ostrich skin seats (easy cleaning for the kids). Sophisticated and joyful, they epitomize the style of the entire home. The room is one of Mitchell’s favorites:
“I love the dining room. It’s classically beautiful, but it still has a modern flair, which is just what Allisen said she wanted. She loves birds, and she often spoke about her great aunt’s home – a home that was very special to her. Her great aunt had many interesting things; her house felt so collected. I’ve tried to recall that warm feeling here, with little touches like the bird-print fabric and the plates.”
Gracing the corner of the room is a stunning bombe chest, unearthed by Mitchell in a Dallas warehouse. Refinished in gray and white lacquer and topped with a cool marble remnant, it feels up-to-the-minute fresh. A landscape painting hangs above, flaunting the family’s favorite hues: deep indigo, lime green, petal pink, burnished gold and sky blue. Custom-made by Dallas artist Lindsey Meyer, it marries all of the colors used throughout the home.
Breezy and almost beachy, the color scheme continues under an arched doorway through the kitchen, right into the sunny breakfast nook. This family hangout boasts the home’s most recently completed project, a grand window overlooking the backyard. Mitchell chose a window design that maintains the multi-paneled colonial style, but is sized up to a greater scale. With fewer lines to slice up the scenery, the pleasant outdoor view of blue skies and green grass can stream inside.
An ornate collection of Venetian mirrors lines the staircase to the second floor, another exquisite vintage showcase. Milk blue and amber glass doorknobs. Shimmering chandeliers. A luxurious, scroll-arm sofa and a bookcase with hammered-glass doors.
A glimpse inside the master bedroom reveals the serene, neutral tones of a sandy beach: driftwood, ocean foam, and frosted sea glass. Instantly calming, it’s the perfect shore to wash up on at the end of a day spent collecting seashells, exploring tide pools – or wrangling three energetic little boys.
The middle son sleeps in a bedroom across the hall, an imaginative hideaway of vivid greens and bold navy blues. We’ve left the beach behind now and have set sail on the seven seas. Mitchell rewired ship sconces salvaged from Round Top into reading lights for each bed, their cords camouflaged by seaweed-green nylon line. Wood and brass handles from an old boat adorn the twin closets’ antique blue doors, an amazing find from Fort Worth’s Old Home Supply.
Look up and the nautical theme continues, splashed across the ceiling in wavy watercolor blues and midshipman white. A friend of Mitchell’s created the wallpaper design, which was inspired by one of the boy’s watercolor paintings. The geometric pattern spills onto the bathroom ceiling, echoed below by hexagonal tiles from Bottega Design Gallery, gleaming white on the walls and midnight blue on the floor. A modern vanity that mimics an old pharmacy fixture is capped by a porthole-style mirror, one final salute to the seafaring sentiment.
Up another set of oak stairs is the third-floor retreat. This is no tiny crow’s nest. Situated under the peaked roof of the house, there’s plenty of soaring space for a pool table, kitchenette, media lounge, and craft closet chock-full of art supplies. Nearby, a bedroom’s barn door hangs off an ancient bracket. Painted little-boy blue, it’s a fitting gateway into the world of a baseball-loving, Lego brick-laying kid.
Returning to the ground floor, we finish our tour in the home’s palatial living room. It’s a dramatic, open expanse that stretches from the front windows all the way to the back patio.
“It’s a large area, and they wanted a lot of seating. I had to figure out how to make the room feel cozy yet retain a little bit of the formal element of the original design. I also wanted it to feel appropriate for a young family, with washable furniture and outdoor fabrics. The gorgeous white sofas are from Simple Things Furniture. We also tied in some antique pieces reupholstered in a fun fabric, which really helps to bring the space alive.”
Mitchell carved the parlor into three separate seating areas, bookended by two sets of leafy pewter lamps. The room is a treasure chest of one-of-a-kind antiques, including a 19th-century Recamier that has been recovered with a chic pattern of white and gray. Two pillows popping with vibrant green floral designs hold court at either end of the couch.
While incredibly polished and pretty, the living room still evokes a welcoming vibe that beckons you to sit down and relax. Stay a while, play a while. Find a comfortable seat on the sofa, and be a part of our story.
One word is repeated over and over as the designer walks through the home, pointing out special pieces and creative touches: love. It’s obvious that Mitchell has brought a great deal of love into her designs for this family home, and that she truly enjoyed working with the Prigel family. Elegant and classic, fresh and modern – it’s a charming backdrop where three little boys will launch the story of their lives.
| photography by Alex Lepe |
By: Deb Cantrell