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Luminous Knox-Henderson Townhouse Offers a Healing Escape in Quarantine

Remodeled '90s Home Maintains Dallas Architect Lionel Morrison's Signature White-Box Minimalism

BY // 05.18.20
photography Stephen Karlisch

It’s a few days into Dallas’ stay-at-home order, and Tammie Kleinmann is ensconced in her first-floor bedroom, tapping away on her MacBook. She’s the owner of Lucky Post, a studio that edits television commercials; for the foreseeable future, the first level of this Knox-Henderson townhouse will serve as command central for her work. It’s hard to imagine a more rejuvenating temporary office during a crisis, with rooms drenched in light and filled with art.

“I look around this beautiful home, and it’s such a healing environment,” she says.

Her family is holed up with her, and while it’s soothing to have loved ones around, the townhouse is quite narrow, and they would be stepping on each other if it weren’t for the three-story layout. Her husband, Brian Nadurak, an art director at the Richards Group, does his work in the kitchen on the second floor, while Kleinmann’s daughter, Sydney, has returned from college and is finishing her classwork online from her bedroom on the third floor.

They moved into this townhouse in 2018 from a rambling O’Neil Ford-designed residence in Preston Hollow.

“When we were thinking about downsizing, we really hesitated with all the stairs,” Kleinmann says. “But now I’m like, ‘Thank God for the multilevels and the stairs.’ In the mornings, we all have coffee together and then head to our respective floors.”

18 Creative Duo’s Townhouse 2 (Photo by Stephen Karlisch)
In the entry, Edward Fields carpet. Sculptures in the courtyard and entry are by Elliot Eames Saarinen. (Photo by Stephen Karlisch)

Designed by Dallas architect Lionel Morrison in 1999, the townhouse is luminous with white walls, polished concrete floors, and sparkling courtyard views. Morrison’s firm was among the first to introduce beautifully executed white-box minimalism to Dallas in the late 1980s and early ’90s. His austere, reductionist designs are deceptively simple yet dynamic with complex interactions of volumes and voids. Signature design elements include floating walls and uninterrupted planes of natural materials.

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There are four Morrison-designed townhouses on Kleinmann’s block, but hers is the only one that has never been renovated. Except for a fresh coat of paint, it’s in pristine original condition, including the granite countertops in the kitchen. Granite was a cutting-edge material 20 years ago, and although it’s now considered dated, she has no plans to replace it. “I wanted to embrace the house just the way it is,” she says. “I dreamed of living in a classic modern house like this, and I finally did.”

Interior designer Alice Cottrell and Tammie Kleinmann have been friends for decades, and they’ve worked on a half-dozen projects together, including this townhouse and the interiors for the Lucky Post offices, located two minutes away. In all, Kleinmann has lived in 16 or 17 homes over the past 20 years, many of them rescues and redos, including a historic 1908 Prairie-style house in Highland Park, one of the oldest remaining structures in the Park Cities. Kleinmann and her first husband lived in the O’Neil Ford-designed house for 10 years, a long-term restoration project and the longest she’s stayed anywhere.

Her motivation isn’t to flip houses for profit, she insists, but to create something nurturing and beautiful, then move on. She has no plans to move again any time soon, but the itch to create something new recently prompted her to buy an old cottage near Knox-Henderson, which she plans to fix up and possibly rent. Her husband, who loves to paint, is currently using it as an art studio.

26 Creative Duo’s Townhouse 12 (Photo by Stephen Karlisch)
The TV area on the second floor of the Knox-Henderson townhouse includes a T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings chair from Sputnik Modern. Holly Hunt floor lamp. Brian Nadurak painting. (Photo by Stephen Karlisch)

Redoing the townhouse was like running a well-oiled machine. “Tammie is a dream client, and you can put that in bold letters,” Cottrell says. “We have a great history and camaraderie, and I rarely have to show her options. She loves everything we choose.”

Design’s Impact on Your Mood

For this project, Cottrell also enlisted the help of designer Gary Hatch and Steven Hauser Construction. They used much of Kleinmann’s existing furniture, along with a handful of new pieces and custom sofas. Cottrell employed a few design tricks to create cohesiveness throughout, such as using the same neutral-tone rugs in every room and covering seating in adjacent rooms in similar fabrics, though in different colors. Walls were repainted in Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace, creating a soft white backdrop.

Cottrell used unconventional wallpapers to break up the white and create focal points. In the entry, a floating wall next to the grand piano is covered in Flavor Paper Vigilant Floral. At first glance, it looks like traditional floral wallpaper; upon closer inspection, we see that it also includes birds perched on razor wire and vines entwined around digital surveillance cameras. In the master bedroom, Fornasetti’s classic wallpaper Nuvole al Tramonto features atmospheric etchings of billowing clouds and sets a peaceful tone.

“I wake up and immediately feel good in such a beautiful room,” Kleinmann says. “Design is important, because it can affect your whole outlook.”

At the end of the workday, she joins her husband on the second-floor living room for a glass of wine. Two brightly patterned B&B Italia lounge chairs, which have endured through four previous houses, have been dubbed therapy chairs because they’re where the couple relaxes and swaps stories. Inevitably, the talk of late turns to the effects of the COVID-19 crisis.

“We have a roof over our heads, but not everyone does,” Kleinmann says. “I go to Whole Foods, but not everyone has money for groceries. My husband and I are struggling with what we have and others don’t. It’s hard to accept that reality.”


Photography by Stephen Karlisch. Interior design by Alice Cottrell. Styling by Russell Brightwell. Flowers by Crisman Liverman.

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