Home of Dreams 2016

French Comfort on a Texas Hillside


The 2016 Home of Dreams, evocative of the warm, cozy spaces of a French country home, is built for entertaining – guests or just yourself – on a quiet, wooded hillside in Keller. This spectacular home is open for touring through Sept. 18. Purchase tickets online or at the door. Touring proceeds goes to a Wish with Wings.

| photography by Alex Lepe |


The 2016 Home of Dreams Fort Worth, Texas magazine’s first in what will be an annual series that showcases the best of what the burgeoning region’s builders and tradespeople have to offer – is built for entertaining.

Deploying the popular transitional style favored for its clean lines and big open layouts, the 7,169-square-foot Keller home’s Great Room sweeps into the kitchen, formal dining room, wine room, bar, and breakfast banquette, and out onto the covered patio through a set of 11x18 collapsible glass Fleetwood USA doors. The kitchen has a double-island and serving bar. It doesn’t have an oven; a double oven is in the second prep kitchen off of the main one.

Multiple outdoor living spaces - a hallmark of custom builders Betty Baker and Mark Johnson of Southlake’s Veranda Designer Homes – extend the Home of Dreams’ party footprint and surround a backyard pool built into a hillside and accented by a pergola on the leafy and wooded .89-acre site in the Cielo development. Baker and Johnson are building all of the 10 homes in the intimate Cielo, a gated community developed by Patrick and Karen Weber on the bucolic two-lane North Pearson Lane, but only five minutes to Texas 114 and its access to Southlake’s shopping and restaurants, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, and the Alliance Corridor.

“It’s just a gorgeous piece of property,” Baker says. “I have been driving by it for years. I have always loved it.”

The Home of Dreams is ready for a party. The game room has its own bar apart from the one in the Great Room and a serving window that opens onto a covered outdoor cooking patio with built-in grill. A bedroom off the game room flows onto another pergola-covered patio that juts into the backyard and can serve as a pool cabana or guest or in-law suite. The outdoor spaces are linked by paths demarcated by unimposing stone walls. Thirty-five feet of retractable screens from Southwest Shade Solutions protect the spaces and provide privacy. Not to be left out of the party, the upstairs, which has three of the home’s five bedrooms, sports its own open media and game space.

“There are so many destinations for entertaining,” Baker says. “People can circulate.”

And not all of the entertaining has to include guests. The rich master bath includes a 2,500-pound charcoal granite tub and its own private, pergola-covered courtyard. The tub sits next to a big window that provides an owner’s-only view of a fenced, secret garden. Light dances through the trees and window and skitters across the room’s marble floor.

The Home of Dreams is listed at $2.39 million by agent Dona Robinson of Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s. The home will be open Aug. 6 for tours, with proceeds from ticket prices going to a Wish With Wings, which provides wishes for ill children.

The Home of Dreams is the latest custom home in Northeast Tarrant from Baker and Johnson. Baker, an interior designer and decorator, went into business as a builder in 2005. She and Johnson, a craftsman who fabricated several pieces for the Home of Dreams, have been building in Westlake, Southlake, Keller, and Colleyville, and Veranda has appeared regularly on D Home magazine’s best builders lists for years. In 2012, Veranda received four ARC Awards for its homes in a sister development in Keller.

Floor plans in Cielo begin at 4,000 square feet and start at $1.2 million. The Webers broke what was a 10-acre site formerly owned by a baseball player into the 10 wooded lots. Why the name Cielo? The trees are like being in heaven, Baker says.

Jamie Linn Architectural Design of Ponder, a longtime Veranda collaborator, drew up the plans. Baker and Johnson went with transitional – the continued move from heavy Old World styles to clean lines and brighter colors – “with a little softness” and French direction, Baker says. “A little more romantic, a little classier.” The 2016 Home of Dreams is thus evocative of a French country home, tucked beneath trees, expansive yet warm and cozy, full of turns and surprises.

Cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago have made the full move away from old style, while the more conservative Texas is still in transition, Baker says. “It’s harder to move Texas out of the Old World, but furniture has been pushing us that way for a long time,” she says. At the Dallas market, “there’s only a couple showrooms that represent those Old World looks.”

Veranda also is the interior designer and decorator on this year’s Home of Dreams, and it purchased all of the Home of Dreams’ furnishings and accessories, including several commissioned furniture and art pieces. Baker made the purchases through a company she uses to offer full build-design-decorate services to her clients. “It’s my background; that’s what I love to do,” she says.

Builder’s Inspiration: Kim Kardashian

Home of Dreams’ color palette is neutral, full of creams, grays and blacks. The transitional and European influences show up in everything from tile and stone selections, to window treatments, wallpaper, fabrics, fixtures, and furniture. Where old style might have called for heavy draperies, for one, transitional brought simple textured fabric window shades into the Home of Dreams.

The entryway’s ellipse-shaped stairwell to the second floor – laid out by Johnson – is a mix of Austin White and Granbury Stone; Granbury Stone also is what Baker and Johnson used on the home’s exterior. The stairs are hand-scraped and stained white oak, which Baker and Johnson put in throughout the house, except where there’s tile. The stairwell was the first piece of the Home of Dreams design.

“That’s a classic French feel,” says Baker, who didn’t have to go far for inspiration. She co-opted the design from pictures of Kim Kardashian’s home on the internet. Soon after the start of framing this spring, Johnson could be found on the floor of the Home of Dreams, drawing the ellipse template.

“This is Kim Kardashian’s stairwell, and I just wanted it,” Baker says, showing the picture on her cell phone and asking the magazine’s writer to modulate her effusiveness. “That was the start of the house, right there.”

The ellipse is on display throughout the Home of Dreams, in the arbors that frame the wooden-gated motor court, the gates themselves, entries to the four-car garage, front door, decorative stone walls lining walkways, and pergolas. “We took the design to the elevation, to make it all feel a little more soft,” Baker says.

The French and European influences are on great display in the Great Room and master bedroom, but the design team mixed up the looks. The living room has an unimposing Earthcore/Isokern masonry fireplace, built on site, with its stone chimney running all the way through the roof. “It’s classic, clean, and yet not hard contemporary,” Baker says.

For the furnishings in the Great Room, “we wanted a timeless appeal with a modern feel,” Andrea Lambert, an interior designer and Veranda’s lead designer, says. The case goods – two sofas and two wingback chairs – are more traditional. But the group went for transitional in fabrics, patterns, lamps, pillows, other accessories, and art work.

Tub Comes in by Crane

The master bath is the focal point of the multi-room master suite, which includes the bedroom, exterior courtyard, bath, connecting foyer, and dressing room. A study adjoins the dressing room, connects to the grand entryway, and has a separate entry from the front porch.

A crane brought the tub, which costs $16,000 at retail, to the bathroom window during construction, and Johnson devised a pulley system to pull it into the room and set it down.

Reve Bleu marble, known for its rich whites and blue hues, can be found throughout the master suite. In the bath, Baker and Johnson used it in the walk-in shower, and on the floor, wainscot wall in the water closet, and countertop of the double vanity. Polished nickel fixtures and coffee bar with refrigerator round the room out.

A gigantic walk-in closet includes a full-length, three-way mirror that hides jewelry compartments and a 16-drawer vanity with Reve Bleu countertop. And a foyer between the bedroom and bath includes an exit into the private courtyard and buffer between the two rooms. “I wanted it to feel like a luxury spa,” Baker says of the bathroom.

Baker and Johnson designed the bedroom, which exits onto the rear porch, and the Great Room with vaulted ceilings and the same big fir beams for the French look. The bedroom’s finishes mix antique with what Baker calls “very updated traditional.”

“I wanted a little more romantic edge to it,” she says. “It’s the most traditional room in the house.”

The 2016 Home of Dreams makes ample use of wallpaper, making a comeback after years in design exile. “It’s one way we can create interest,” with color and patterns, Baker says. She put it into the master bedroom, bath and foyer, formal dining room and game room. The master bedroom, for one, features the woven look of charcoal grasscloth paper, and the foyer, a damask print.

The study, like the rest of the house, offers up a mix of looks. The walls are in charcoal, but light from fenestration facing the street and front porch fills the room to its 16-foot ceiling. Baker also designed the built-in credenza and cabinetry to show off a painting she commissioned from Southlake artist Deanna Kienast, who touts herself as having “no rules, no boundaries.” Kienast did the 48x72 modern piece in contrasting yellows, reds, blues, purples and turquoises.

The Home of Dreams, which features several other works from Kienast, also shows off numerous other pieces Baker commissioned from artists Melissa McKean, Steve Taff, Susan Hanson, Lois Thompson, Kimberly Loveland, Sandra Feazel, Blakely Bering, Susan Eddings, Carmen Menza, Brent Foreman, and Dennis Smith.

“You can really say the house is very eclectic,” Baker says.

No Oven in Kitchen? Over There

A key piece of the Home of Dreams’ entertainment hub is in the double kitchens. In putting in two, Baker and Johnson wanted to give the owner a place for food prep while leaving the main kitchen clear for entertaining. “It gives you a showplace kitchen, but leaves you a place for really doing the dirty work,” Baker says.

The main kitchen, which combines with the Great Room, formal dining area and bar, and breakfast banquette to form a massive interior living space connected easily by the open floor plan, color palette, uniform flooring and complementary finishes, has two 36-inch panel-front refrigerator-freezer units, six-burner 48-inch gas cooktop, built-in microwave, dishwasher, farmhouse sink, and cabinets topped with granite and marble. Johnson built the vent hood and sent it out for its dark laminate covering and brass fabrication.

The Kitchen Source, the cabinet provider for the main kitchen and bar, chose a simple layout for the kitchen and clean lines for the cabinets, consistent with the house, Amber Paulk, associate designer, says. “We zoned it into cooking, cleaning, storage,” she says. Cabinet amenities include pocket spice racks, soft-closing rollouts in the drawers, full-extension rollouts in the base cabinets, and recycle centers.

The bar includes a glass-front, climate-controlled wine room, with a stone rear wall, racks for 100 bottles and ample space for more cases. The dining room, which has French doors onto the front porch, is fully transitional. The design team fitted it with a traditional, classic fluted apron-front table, modern copper metallic head chairs, and hickory white side chairs. The breakfast banquette includes a built-in custom bench made by The Scarlett Poppy, which also made the draperies, headboards, pillows, and bedding. The Home of Dreams design team chose a simple, six-light iron Visual Comfort chandelier and monogrammed slipcover chairs.

The catering kitchen, separated by walk-in pantry from the main kitchen, performs quadruple duty, also serving as mudroom, downstairs laundry (the upstairs has its own), and dog center. It has a double oven, refrigerator-freezer, and dishwasher. The dog center has a shower with the inscription “Paws for a Shower” in the wall tile and a bright red tile floor with inlaid images of puppy paws. The adjacent cabinetry has a built-in food bin and space for a mat, where the pooch may choose to lounge when she’s not hanging with her humans. An exterior door leads to a fenced dog run.

Just off of the kitchens is the Home of Dreams’ man cave. For the Home of Dreams showing, the designers set it up with a 75-inch flat panel, sectional sofa, pool table and six-seat poker table. But the room pivots off of the bar’s onyx countertop and its black and gold hues.

“The room was designed around this onyx,” Lambert, the lead designer, says. The wallpaper and gray leather chairs for the game table matched. And “the black cabinets from the kitchen flowed into here.” The room’s window coverings are tweed Roman shades with a gray leather cornice. The wall in the striking game room powder room has square charcoal limestone tiles with mirrored insets.

Upstairs: Romper Room

The Home of Dreams’ upstairs is just as eclectic as the downstairs, featuring three kids’ bedrooms with full baths, alcoves for reading and laundry, and a common area for entertaining and media.

Instead of a long straight hallway between two staircases going to the first floor, Baker and Johnson laid out a wandering path for the corridor – reminiscent of the attic of a European B&B – and included the reading alcove in one stretch to create more interest.

The finishes set the upstairs spaces apart from each other for girls and boys of different ages. The media area is in “steampunk” style, with an industrial-themed mural and commissioned art pieces like bike wheels.

One of the bedrooms, with twin beds and bright gray and gold finishes, including champagne bronze fixtures in the bathroom, is for young girls. “It’s the most French thing in the house,” Baker says. A second “industrial” bedroom sports a wall fashioned from old brick reclaimed from a building in Chicago. “To me, that’s kind of a boy’s room,” Baker says. The third bedroom is in the style of what Baker calls “Hollywood Glam,” with a chrome canopy bed. “More sophisticated,” Baker says. “Teen.”

The second floor also has an unfinished 1,000-square-foot space over the garage. The new owners can let their minds explode over this opportunity. “It can be an art studio, a dorm,” Johnson says.

We Can Dance If We Want To

The Home of Dreams’ new owner can set up for parties, big and small. Open the French doors in the dining room and the Fleetwood doors in the Great Room, and the party and fall breeze can move from the front porch through the Great Room, out onto the rear covered porch and grilling area, across the pool, and up the hill and onto the pool deck beneath the triple pergola.

The backyard beckons with four stair-stepped eye levels: porch, pool, pergola and upper deck, and, at last, the hilltop.

The design crew set up the rear porch, its 12-foot ceiling built from stained hemlock, with a simple wicker vignette. The outdoor kitchen, in a corner and easily accessible to the kitchens, game room and rear porch, includes a built-in grill, refrigerator, icemaker, and sink.

The pool, built by J. Caldwell Pools, has a tanning bench and three cascading waterfalls centered on the pergola segments. Baker, as she did with the Kardashian staircase, found inspiration for the pergola design online. The pergola-covered patio off of the game and guest rooms has a firepit with a blue flame that matches the blues in the pool design.

The Home of Dreams is also wired with more than 20 electronic zones. Set up for the Home of Dreams showing, Realtors can hit a button in the entryway, and the lights and background music turn on, and the flat panel TVs throughout the home display a screensaver.

Once a new owner buys the house, “then the gloves are off,” Davis Tyson, of DB Media Solutions, the installer, says. “We can design it to do anything you want it to do.” That could include anything from custom music in every zone, to lights that turn on and off depending on whether anybody’s in the room, art appearing on the flat panels à la the home of Bill and Melinda Gates, various options connected to the home’s alarm system, and even connection to a security camera system Tyson has set up in the small neighborhood. The Home of Dreams system is controlled from a special room off of the game room.

“It’s 100 percent customizable,” Tyson says. “The house is going to work for the new owner.”