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Rustic, Feminine, and Filled With Natural Materials — Inside a Cherished East Texas Farmhouse With a Fascinating History

Dallas Designer Cathy Kincaid Makes Magic on 600 Acres

BY // 03.11.22
photography Tria Giovan

Designer Cathy Kincaid has crafted many retreats for this Dallas couple during their 16 years of friendship, including houses in the Hamptons, the South of France, and an apartment in New York City. But their most cherished getaway is a farmhouse on 600 acres in East Texas acquired years ago when the kids were small.

Located just an hour and a half away in Edom — where Piney Woods meets ancient oak forests — the farm makes for an easy weekend sojourn. “Our kids were free to wander and have that sense of childhood outdoors you can’t get in the city,” the wife says. “We could go and have great family time, great friend time.”

The setting is bucolic, with winding roads, bridges, a small lake for fishing, stables, a shooting range, and pastures with grazing horses, cows, and donkeys. The couple are empty nesters now, so it’s become a quiet place to recharge after a busy week or for the family to gather on holidays. “We get there and just exhale,” she says. “It’s a magical place.”

cathy kincaid designer
In the main living area, a door is framed by natural-edge oak, repurposed from an old barn. Furnishings include a mix of English antiques and vintage Round Top finds. Artwork by Damian Loeb from Acquavella Galleries, New York. (Photo by Tria Giovan)

The farm also has a fascinating backstory. The house was built in the late ’70s for members of the Von Erich wrestling family; according to a local legend, they practiced in a wrestling ring set up in a shed on the property. In the early ’90s, a Dallas billionaire and his wife purchased the house and land and made extensive changes. Tyler, Texas architect Mike Butler oversaw the renovations and additions, which included a rustic staircase crafted by carpenters from felled cedar trees and branches on the property. An artisan from East Texas was enlisted to carve woodland animals here and there throughout the house, including a delightful bird’s nest and squirrel face on the stairs’ newel post. Cedar trees were also used for the porches and to build several bridges near the house. Oak trees were harvested from the land, and the sturdy lumber was used for millwork, ceiling beams, and floors.

Rose Cottage, a guest house overlooking the lake, was designed by Butler with most of the interior finishes made from wood salvaged from old barns in the area, including exquisitely carved millwork around the doors. Clad in wood with a pitched metal roof and a screened-in sleeping porch, the cottage’s architecture is reminiscent of early East Texas farmhouses. “The idea was to make it look like it had been in the family for generations,” Butler says.

cathy kincaid designer
A bedroom in the main house with a bird theme, including a collection of avian prints. Monogrammed Leontine Linens. (Photo by Tria Giovan)

Kincaid’s clients first fell in love with the house and land after the husband attended a corporate event there almost two decades ago. “The farm reminded [the husband] of where he grew up in Virginia, with all the trees and red dirt, so when it came up for sale, they purchased it,” Kincaid says.The designer had previously decorated the couple’s Highland Park house and was enlisted by the husband to redecorate their new Edom farmhouse and cottage. “It was his baby, and it was the first time I’d ever presented a design plan to a husband. He was so lovely and enthusiastic — he embraced his feminine side, because we definitely had a lot of florals and prints.”

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cathy kincaid designer
Tyler architect Mike Butler designed Rose Cottage to feel like it had been added to over the years, reminiscent of early East Texas farmhouses that were clad in wood with a pitched metal roof and screened-in sleeping porch. (Photo by Tria Giovan)

Kincaid worked on Rose Cottage first, since she wanted her clients to be able to stay there while the main house was being renovated. “We kept everything pretty much as it was — we just painted the rustic wood white, which brightened it up,” she says. The cottage has everything it needs to be comfortable: a main room that combines a living and dining area, a tiny kitchen, and two bedrooms. The challenge was to make the main area work for many different activities, including dining and lounging. Kincaid used an old wine-tasting table, which she lowered slightly to serve as a place to eat, play cards or board games, or check emails on a laptop. The trick to making it all work for multiple uses was to make the chairs and sofa a little higher for dining, she says. “We chose things that were a little more primitive-looking and not so dressy to keep things casual,” Kincaid says.

The main house feels elegantly rustic with a large stone fireplace, repurposed oak ceilings and beams, and natural-edge millwork around the doors. The designer used a lot of English antiques. “I’d go to England to shop several times a year and bring things back for projects,” she says. “A lot of the pieces came from Alfies Antique Market and the shops around Alfies like Robert Kime. I also bought from a few shops on Pimlico Road.” One of her favorite finds is a carved 19th-century Anglo Indian bed from Guinevere Antiques on King’s Road that perfectly fits the large scale of the main bedroom. She also shopped in Dallas and Round Top for simple Shaker-inspired furniture and old, painted American pieces.

052 Rose Cottage-Entry_404 (Photo by Tria Giovan)
In the entryway of Rose Cottage, carpenters and a local artisan carved the gingerbread door surround from repurposed oak, which has been painted white. Indian paisley from Jasper covers the walls. The painted clock and furniture provide a Swedish feel. (Photo by Tria Giovan)

Comfortable and durable upholstery fabrics are in floral and check cotton prints and linens that feel especially fresh in spring and summer when the house is used the most. “I love Indian and ethnic textiles and hand-blocked patterns, which we used here, especially in the bedrooms,” Kincaid says. The floors are covered in striped and tonal rugs made in Sweden, Connecticut, and India, and woven in wool. These interiors were designed before performance fabrics became as refined as they are now, so the fabrics and rugs are made of natural materials — a rarity these days.

Kincaid didn’t sacrifice durability for beauty, though, as wool is bulletproof, and linen and cotton fabrics are easily washed and long-wearing. After a day of cutting down vines and clearing brush — one of the husband’s favorite diversions at the farm — he can walk through the house in his work clothes without worrying. “Cathy told us years and years ago that she wanted the house to be such that we can wear our dusty jeans and dirty boots indoors and it doesn’t matter,” the wife remembers. “And that’s exactly how we live in it. It’s really pretty but it’s not precious — it’s a wonderful house.”

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