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A 1933 Fort Worth Home is Transformed for a Pair of Young Manhattan Expats

New York Designer Gabriela Gargano Elevates a Classically Inspired Family Home

BY // 05.21.24
photography Trevor Parker

Kit Ulrich’s heartwarming introduction to her new neighborhood in Fort Worth is like a scene from a Hallmark movie. It was late January 2018, and she and her husband, Will Ulrich, along with their two small children, had recently arrived from Manhattan, where they’d lived for 15 years. The East Coast had always been home — they met at Harvard and were married in Southport, Connecticut, where they still own a house — so Kit was experiencing a bit of culture shock. Will, co-founder of oil and gas company Presidio, had moved its headquarters to Fort Worth and was already getting to know people. But Kit, who had left her job in New York as a venture capitalist, didn’t know a soul in Texas.

“I will never forget: We were moving in, and I was still in my first trimester with my third child, and I wasn’t feeling great,” she says. “The moving truck pulled up to the front of the house and started unloading. Neighbors all along the street walked over and gave me beautiful baskets of homemade casseroles with plates and napkins and silverware — everything you would need to feed a family when you haven’t unpacked yet,” she recalls. One neighbor, noticing their TV wasn’t set up, invited the family over on Sunday to watch the Super Bowl. This unexpected, warm welcome was unlike anything they’d experienced in New York.

101 TREVOR PARKER – GRISORO STUDIO – FW – 2 (Photo by Travis Parker )
Restored millwork frames a view into the living room. (Photo by Trevor Parker)

Located in the long-established Fort Worth neighborhood of Monticello, just blocks from the city’s cultural center, their 1933 Federal-style house is reminiscent of Southport’s many preserved, centuries-old Federal and Georgian buildings. “We immediately fell in love with the bones of this house and the way the rooms flow into one another,” Kit says. “This is a house we could see ourselves living in for a long time.”

The house needed updating, along with new furnishings, so the Ulriches hired Gabriela Gargano of the New York design firm Grisoro, who had done two previous houses for them in Southport. An earlier addition, which includes a family room, felt a little out of sync with the rest of the house, so Gargano matched moldings, hardware, doors, and windows for a seamless look. She also updated old lighting throughout the house and renovated the bathrooms. Original architectural elements were restored, including the living room’s carved classical fireplace. Walls, trim, and ceilings were painted a calming Sherwin Williams Pure White. Gargano layered the windows with double treatments, such as the living room’s combination of sheer cafe curtains and custom roman shades, which provide both light and privacy.

“Kit loves classical design and antiques, and she’s a fun person with a young family, so we made sure that the environment was elegant and refined with traditional elements, but not too heavy or serious,” Gargano says. The Ulriches entertain a lot at home, from formal dinner parties with friends to big Sunday-night gatherings with several families from the neighborhood. “For this house, we wanted something that adults would love but would also be kid-friendly,” says Kit, who, like her husband, recently turned 40. “The interesting thing for us was how to create a house that felt both feminine and masculine, so that we both feel like this is our home.”

And, as Kit is now working from home as general manager of the Dallas-based social media monetizing company LTK, the interiors have to work on several levels.

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Fort worth home tour - a slick white-tiled kitchen
Mehraban Rugs vintage Persian Malayer runner in kitchen. (Photo by Trevor Parker)

The biggest challenge was accommodating the couple’s differences in height — he’s 6’6 and she’s 5’2 — so Gargano furnished each room with a variety of seating and table heights. In the living room, a Pinch sofa from The Future Perfect in NYC is deep enough for Will’s long legs, and Studio Ashby’s swivel chair is petite. Mid-century furniture is great for adding stylish low-slung options to a room, such as a pair of vintage Milo Baughman scoop chairs, which Gargano found on 1stDibs, and a slate-top coffee table sourced from a dealer in the Netherlands. The family spends hours putting puzzles together in the living room at an Italian 1950s marble game table, seated on comfortable walnut-and-cane Paul McCobb chairs.

With kids in the equation, Gargano skipped the expected acrylic performance fabrics and instead chose elegant and durable natural materials such as cotton velvet, linen, mohair, sheepskin, and leather from such revered textile makers as Dedar, Fortuny, Holland & Sherry, Romo, Scalamandré, and Jerry Pair. Kit’s mother has a large collection of English antiques — a smattering of which they brought with them to Fort Worth — and Gargano added collectible pieces to the mix, such as an Art Deco bar cabinet designed by Belgian furniture maker De Coene Frères, whose pieces are found in museums.

Kit seems to have mastered the art of teaching her kids to live graciously. Although there’s a big table in the kitchen, the family gathers for meals in the dining room every night. With grasscloth on the walls, Rogers & Goffigon menswear stripe fabric at the windows, and a massive burlwood dining table, the space is cozy and slightly masculine. “We love to light candles at almost every dinner because that’s a different mood for our kids to experience,” Kit says. “Even though it’s a formal room, we use it constantly.”

Fort worth home tour - a library-style living room painted dark blue
The family room is painted Farrow & Ball Hague Blue. Brass 1970s ceiling lamp from 1stdibs. Maiden Home sectional. Maison Jansen brass side tables. Audo sheepskin lounge chair and footstool from Copenhagen. Vintage 1960s brass benches from 1stdibs. Kim Salmela custom ottoman. Elan Atelier lamps from David Sutherland Showroom. Stark rug. (Photo by Trevor Parker)

The family room, which has the muscular vibe of a library — thanks to a fireplace and beautiful millwork — pays homage to the New England coast, with cabinetry and walls painted in Farrow & Ball’s Hague Blue, a sectional sofa upholstered in seafoam velvet, and a Harry Ballinger seascape of Pigeon Harbor, Massachusetts. “We have a sailboat and when we’re in Connecticut, we love sailing and being on the water,” Kit says.

Even so, the Ulriches have wholeheartedly embraced life in Fort Worth, where the closest thing to the ocean is the Water Gardens. They’d never seen a rodeo before moving to town, and now they’re regulars at the annual Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, attending a dozen or more times during the month it’s in town, which might be a record for even native Texans.

“Fort Worth is a hidden gem,” Kit says. “There are museums that rival anything in New York just blocks from our house. It takes 10 minutes to get anywhere — it’s such a livable city. People ask me if I miss Manhattan. I still love it, but that was a wonderful chapter in our lives, and this now feels like the best place we could be.”

Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled the name of the photographer. The photographer is Trevor Parker.

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