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This Stylish Preston Hollow Retreat is a Soothing Home Base for a Pair of Globetrotting CFOs

Inspired by Resorts Around the World, Smitharc Architects and Interior Designer Jean Liu Create a Natural Sanctuary

BY // 03.11.21
photography Stephen Karlisch

For 26 years, Dallas has been the launch pad for Philip and Kelly Parsons, a pair of globetrotting CFOs with demanding jobs that require constant travel. Philip, who’s originally from Australia, commuted to Washington, D.C., for years while Kelly, a Texas native, commuted to London and Florida regularly. Together they’ve visited all seven continents.

Along the way, they’ve stayed in top resorts around the world, some of which inspired the design of their newly built house in Preston Hollow, designed by Smitharc Architects + Interiors principals Jason and Signe Smith.

“We brought all of our experiences with us when we were talking to them about the house,” Philip says. “We wanted it to feel like a resort — uncluttered and open, with lots of natural light.” They also wanted the house to feel like it was in the middle of nature, with views of the outdoors from every room, along with a large patio with al fresco kitchen. “The first sketch they showed us of the plans and materials absolutely nailed it,” he says.

Shaded by mature live oaks, the Preston Hollow house is set back as far as possible on the lot and totally private behind a sleek wall of limestone. “Once you’re inside, you don’t feel like you’re on the street at all — it’s like being on vacation,” Jason says.

The design revolves around a stunning glassed-in courtyard that drenches the house in light and connects each room visually with nature. Mesa Design Group designed all the landscape architecture, including river birches planted in the courtyard. The slim trees are native to the American South, with textural peeling bark and serrated leaves that flutter and glint in the breeze. Light filters through the courtyard differently throughout the day, and in winter, the trees shed their leaves for an ever-evolving show.

An expansive covered porch at the front of the house is designed for cooking, dining, and lounging. With retractable screens that allow year-round use, it’s Kelly’s favorite place for watching a football game and Philip’s go-to spot for barbecuing. Skylights are plentiful, including a long narrow one in the back prep kitchen that produces a ribbon of light that travels like a sundial throughout the day. the couple makes coffee there in the mornings and can tell if they’re running late by where the light has landed.

Signe says, “the Parsons liked the idea that much of the house’s decoration comes from nature and the play of light and shadows, rather than architectural flourishes.”

044 smitharc_LavendaleRes_1891 (Photo by Stephen Karlisch )
In the family room, Phase Design chairs. Mark Jupiter Daisy table. Clifton Carpets rug. George Sellers lamp. Steel wall niche by Smitharc Architects + Interiors. (Photo by Stephen Karlisch)

Clean lines and glass are set off by robust materials such as Lueders limestone, which elegantly wraps walls and is punctuated by large, dramatic plates of blackened steel.

“Steel isn’t something you often see in a single-family house, but it brings interest and surprise,” Jason says. “It’s also not thought of as a natural material, but when it’s hot-rolled and waxed so that the small imperfections are visible, it feels like each piece has personality, much like stone or wood.”

White oak floors and cabinets are a foil to the seriousness of stone and steel, and help accentuate the darker materials. “Kelly and Philip weren’t interested in living delicately in their house — they really use all of it, so it has to last,” he adds. In the kitchen, dark bronze aluminum cabinets and durable sintered-stone countertops are a bulletproof combination.

Interior designer Jean Liu, who had collaborated with Smitharc on a number of previous projects, was the Parsons’ first choice after they’d interviewed several interior designers. “The architecture of the house is rigorous, so i wanted to make sure the interiors felt warm and livable,” Liu says.

She complemented dark stone and steel with fabrics and rugs in nubby whites and textural grays, along with wool and leather upholstery in rich black and mustard hues, a sumptuous juxtaposition against the hard surfaces. much of the furniture was custom-designed for the house. “I wanted furniture that had some curves or movement, to make the interiors feel approachable and inviting,” she says.

For the living area, Jean Liu Design Studio designed a pair of large curved sofas with black leather frames and white wool bouclé cushions as a counterpoint to the room’s straight lines. In the family room, where they often watch TV, comfort was paramount, so Jean Liu Design Studio customized a sectional sofa in dark green velvet, where they could put their feet up. A bespoke rug in ultra-soft wool is woven to look like a cozy cable-knit sweater. When she showed them a shapely, rounded-edge wood coffee table by New York artisan Mark Jupiter, the Parsons fell head over heels for his work.

“That table is what launched all the other commissions from Mark,” Liu says. “We all flew to New York to meet him at his studio, and they later invited him to visit the project so Jupiter would have a better sense of where the pieces would be installed.”

011 LavendaleRes_2222 (Photo by Stephen Karlisch )
In the master bath, Apparatus pendants, Noir stool, Caesarstone countertops. (Photo by Stephen Karlisch)

Jupiter crafted their massive dining table from bleached and washed solid ash and blackened steel. “It may look simple, but it’s an engineering feat,” Liu says.

He also made a console for the living room in oxidized walnut with blackened steel that references the room’s fireplace. Rustic wood plinths, which Jupiter reclaimed from an old sugar mill, are assembled like sculptural elements on the floor in front of a living-room window. His designs form a consistent thread of materials that helps connect all the open spaces, Liu says.

The Parsons’ Dallas house was designed to be a soothing retreat from the world, and it accomplishes just that. Kelly’s home office upstairs doubles as a meditation room, with a sleek Herman Miller chaise longue and a custom Mark Jupiter desk and credenza.

“It’s my sanctuary; it’s where I spend time even on the weekends,” she says. The main bedroom, which overlooks the courtyard, is Philip’s favorite spot to read a book. He also spends time in the wine room off the kitchen, where he stores a large collection of red wines, purchased during their travels.

At day’s end, they sometimes choose a bottle and have a glass of wine together in the living room — where there’s no TV to distract — and watch the sunlight fade into the trees.

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