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A Highland Park Hacienda is Gorgeously Refreshed by Dallas Designer Chad Dorsey

Letting the O'Neil Ford-Inspired Architecture Shine

BY // 04.18.23
photography Douglas Friedman

Architect David Stocker’s office is just minutes from a favorite house he designed two decades ago in Highland Park, and he often drives by to see how it’s holding up.

“The goal for an architect is to have a house you still love after 20 years,” he says. “Trends and styles change, but if you put together great bones, it looks beautiful forever.”

And this Spanish Colonial Revival house has enviable bones. Completed in 2003 while Stocker was a partner at Turner | Boaz Architecture — he is now a partner with SHM Architects — the house fits right in with the neighborhood’s renowned Fooshee & Cheek-designed Spanish architecture from the ’20s and ’30s, including nearby Highland Park Village.

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A hallway’s graceful plaster groin vaults, designed by architect David Stocker, are painted in Benjamin Moore Vanilla Milkshake. (Photo by Douglas Friedman)

For inspiration, Stocker looked to ancient buildings in Spain and Italy, where he spent time earlier in his career; churches there are particularly beautiful — the Highland Park house features an entry hall with a stunning white-plaster groin vault that’s almost ecclesiastical in its purity. He also referenced the loggia from an exceptional Spanish Colonial hacienda in San Antonio designed by O’Neil Ford in 1967.

For the Highland Park house, Dallas builder Cy Barcus Sr. brought masons from Mexico to recreate iconic architectural details used by Ford, including the loggia’s traditional boveda vaulted ceiling — a low brickwork arch that is remarkably self-supporting once the final brick is laid. Bovedas, also known as Catalan vaults, are used throughout Mexico and Mediterranean regions, particularly Catalonia. Barcus also enlisted specialty artisans to create many of the unusual details in the house, including a local artist who hand-poured and cast inch-thick glass for the living room’s high clerestory windows.

Set behind a low stone wall and tall hedges, the house unfolds discretely from the street via leafy courtyards, gravel pathways, and stone arches. The exterior’s rare golden-tinged Old Yeller limestone was mined from a ranch near San Antonio and is no longer available. Timber beams supporting the living room’s dramatic vaulted ceiling were reclaimed from old Pennsylvania barns.

“The essence of a great house is in the ceilings,” Stocker says. “The trouble with the modern world is everything is fake — a beautiful arch actually holds something up, and you need to know how it’s made. The craftsmanship it takes to do that has to be there. You can’t cheat.”


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The family room with a Knoll Saarinen table and Barcelona chaise, and vintage furnishings including a pair of Venetian mirrors. (Photo by Douglas Friedman)

Livable, Open, and Light

Fast forward a couple of decades, and the house has a new owner: a California transplant and former proprietor of a Napa winery. After seeing a project by Dallas interior designer Chad Dorsey, who has a satellite office in L.A., she rang him up and asked him to drop by. “The minute I walked onto the property, it was like, ‘Wow!’” remembers Dorsey, who is also a trained architect. “It was this amazing architectural house — I couldn’t help but be inspired.”

The client wanted to freshen the interiors, which were furnished mostly with antiques, and she had already made a start with modern furniture such as a Mies van der Rohe daybed and Barcelona chairs. “The architecture was so amazing that you could honestly do anything to the interior and it would look great,” Dorsey says. “But we focused on making it livable and open and light, because with all the beams and limestone it can get heavy quickly.”

Plaster walls were given a warm, bright coat of Vanilla Milkshake by Benjamin Moore, a beautiful contrast to the dark timber beams and ebonized wood floors. With ceilings that soar as high as 14 feet and light streaming from clerestory windows above, the 10,000-square-foot house feels naturally spacious. The biggest challenge was how to place furniture in such big rooms so that people feel comfortable.

“We came up with a furniture plan, then strategically pulled in new items and objects that would enhance what she already had,” Dorsey says. “Some of the bigger upholstery furnishings were hers, and we streamlined rooms by editing out other pieces and adding side tables, lamps, and accessories.”

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Interior designer Chad Dorsey. (Photo by Douglas Friedman)

Dorsey blended a variety of different styles of furnishings and meaningful objects, including a large art collection, to bring the client’s personality and style into the mix. “Ultimately what I love to do is collect and add collections to a space, and that’s what we’ve done here,” he says.

Dorsey is known for interiors that are defined by a quiet palette. For this house, he created a monochromatic black-and-white color scheme of pale linen and bouclé-upholstered sofas and chairs, accented with vintage black leather seating and bronze-metal tables. Black-and-white interiors can sometimes feel cold, but “these feel warm because of the limestone, the green from outside, the hardwood floors, and overall distressed vintage quality,” Dorsey says.

The entryway sets a casual, minimal tone for the rest of the house with a few carefully placed objects. Previously, artwork covered the walls going up the staircase, which made it feel formal and cluttered. Dorsey pulled one painting from the collection to place next to a sculptural cast-bronze chair by Houston designer Kelly Gale Amen, which he bought from Sputnik Modern in Dallas. The spare grouping created a minimal yet striking focal point at the base of the stairs. “It’s simple and clean and allows the space to stand on its own,” he says.

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Designer Chad Dorsey created a quiet focal point in the entryway with a cast-bronze chair by Houston designer Kelly Gale Amen, from Sputnik Modern. (Photo by Douglas Friedman)

The living room is big enough to have multiple seating areas with an ample mix of modern and traditional furniture. In one elegant niche, the homeowner’s Chinese armoire and an antique French stool upholstered in tiger-stripe velvet are set off by a 10-foot-long high-back sofa of Dorsey’s own design, along with thin-legged metal side tables with minimalist appeal. In a bright corner flanked by windows, Dorsey brought in a white-marble Saarinen table by Knoll for the client to use as a desk and pulled up one of her antique

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