We're Crazy for This Space Oddity

Inside the Nest of Kimberly Cunningham & Mark Burge

Brittany Cobb. Photography Manny Rodriguez.
March 28, 2013

Take chinoiserie wallpaper, French iron gates, electric-blue walls and a chrome mannequin, and you’ve only begun to describe the stair landing inside Kimberly Cunningham and Mark Burge’s intricately layered Kessler Park home. Their never-seen-anything-quite-like-it interiors mix might be expected from an artist or mad hatter. Instead, it’s the lair of two corporate sales execs.

The rambling three-story was built in 1987 by Larry Hermann on the former estate of John Yakimo, a well-known resident in Kessler Park around the mid-century. Yakimo’s original home, stables and elaborate gardens are gone, but today, the remainder of a long and curving walkway traverses the hillside at the rear of the property.

“We bought it for the backyard,” says Mark. “There’s no uniformity to it; it’s wild, it’s not landscaped, and it’s on a ridiculously steep hill. It’s so unexpected and surrounded by 200-year-old Texas trees.”  

“I knew it had such potential,” adds Kimberly. “The lines were so unusual and the layout didn’t make much sense. But I saw it as my palette, my big white canvas.”

The couple didn’t tear down a single wall, but cosmetically cleaned house with new countertops, floors, tile, hardware and lighting. Mark had a hand in some eye-popping custom touches such as painting a fire engine red runner up the stairs and installing malachite-inspired glass panels in the powder bath’s French door.

The fusion of humor, color, new and old goes from there. Custom acid green, fuchsia, purple and black wallpaper welcomes guests in the entry. Hook a sharp right and the main living area combines contemporary yellow Marcel Wanders Stone stools with a craftsman-style chandelier rescued from an old restaurant.

Considering her laid-back decorating method, it’s mind-bending that they remodeled and furnished the digs in a cool eight months, particularly when you consider all the repurposed finds. An old metal grain conveyor serves as a stairway handrail. A pair of vintage iron fence posts were flipped upside down, wired with electricity and hung from the ceiling as sconces next to a guest bed. Instead of hanging a trio of old oil paintings on the wall, Kimberly had them ripped from their frames and used as upholstery on a vintage club chair. She wrapped the kitchen’s appliances with bold floral wallpaper rather than replace them. Mark couldn’t stomach throwing out the master bedroom’s extra pine wood plank flooring reclaimed from an old church so he built two long benches that sit alongside the Italian pietre dure kitchen table inlaid with semiprecious stones in a mosaic design. One of Kimberly’s most recent custom works is a wingback chair covered in mosaic tiles. She tapped Oak Cliff artist Katrina Doran to render a design the owner calls “dark stag scene meets Bambi.”

Yet for all of its idiosyncrasies, the free-spirited design mix is decidedly cozy and utterly endearing. “We know it’s out there,” concludes Kimberly. “But we love living here and that’s all that matters.”