Cool. Calm. Cozy.
By Meda Kessler
Photos by Dan Piassick
A previous remodel opened up the rooms in this 1950s home. A designer’s deft touch pulled them all together.
Finding a perfect house is never easy, especially when you live out of town and have a demanding job.
For Hannah and Robert Blankenship, the search meant making weekend trips — about eight of them — from Little Rock, Arkansas, to Fort Worth to meet up with their real estate agent. Sometimes they packed in 10 viewings of homes for sale into two days. With a red-hot selling market, properties were going quickly, but they didn’t want to buy anything sight unseen.
The young couple had fallen in love with Fort Worth when Robert’s graduate program in nurse anesthesia brought them to the city. Originally from Tulsa, he met Hannah after both had graduated from college there. “We both went on to get our graduate degrees before we finally tied the knot in 2018,” says Hannah, a speech-language pathologist. For their year in Fort Worth, the couple rented an apartment near the Trinity River. “We loved the trail access to restaurants and the Clearfork shopping center,” says Hannah. “Plus, people were so friendly in Fort Worth.” Work then took them to Little Rock, Arkansas, but they both knew they would end up in Fort Worth someday.
After those hectic weekends of house-hunting, they finally signed a contract on one in November 2018. “We had a few criteria: The house needed to be in good shape and move-in ready,” says Hannah. Robert also needed to be within 30 minutes of the hospital where he works.
The property that turned their heads was a 1950 three-bedroom, two-bath remodel in the Rivercrest neighborhood. Its open concept gave it an airy feel; the third bedroom gave them space for a home office.
But after completing the move, the couple faced the challenge of making the house a home. It had a formal living room that they wanted to look interesting while still being functional, and the couple wanted to modernize their style without going too contemporary. “We were busy with work and a little overwhelmed by the task of making the open concept cohesive,” says Hannah.
Exploring shops in Fort Worth led them to a housewares boutique and a conversation with one of the employees. She told them about Kim Milam, who owns an interior design firm and retail shop, House Essential, near their new neighborhood. While open to Milam’s expertise, the couple did have a few wants: Hannah loves blues and greens, mainly inspired by a set of sliced agate coasters; she also wanted to incorporate some of the antiques and furniture they had brought with them.
On her initial walk-through of the home, Milam knew a few things were going to be a challenge — “nothing was symmetrical,” including the ceiling beams added in the remodel. Milam loves mixing textures and fabrics, so she turned to some of her favorites, including velvet, to reupholster existing chairs. She also called upon the artisans she works with to create custom pieces, such as the stunning daybed that gives the formal living room a sophisticated look. The piece sets the tone for the rest of the home.
To give the space more impact, she repainted what had been a jet-black feature wall, choosing Deep Caviar by Benjamin Moore and taking the color up to the ceiling to create the illusion of height. “I like to use flat paint on the wall and then a satin finish in the same color on the molding,” says Milam. A live edge console table and large planter, both made by Fort Worth woodworker Andrew Bradfield, add earthy touches. Milam sourced a mature pencil cactus from The Greenhouse 817 in Fort Worth for
The family room — the perfect place for quiet conversation or TV watching — is a favorite of Robert and Hannah’s, due in large part to how Milam made the room feel cozy and inviting.
She used a dark gray for the feature wall (the rest of the walls are white). A favorite sofa that moved with the couple was rebuilt and recovered in a rich blue-green velvet, inspired by the colors in the agate coasters. Shades of the hue also are picked up in throw pillows, a modern side table and the upholstered stool. A small table and a pair of acrylic chairs, which almost disappear against the wall of windows, offer a place to sit and enjoy the backyard view.
A chunky wood coffee table and layered area rugs — a cowhide and a custom sisal — add texture.
“The rugs in all the rooms help warm up the space,” says Hannah.
For the master bedroom, Milam gave the couple a soothing space that’s still bold and sophisticated. Vinyl wallpaper in an abstract floral pairs well with the wool draperies done in a men’s suiting pattern. Two chests of drawers used as bedside tables — Milam believes the bigger the better — are covered in linen and feature curved edges. Artwork, along with the ceramic lamps and a reupholstered chair, adds color. The custom area rug features a subtle diamond pattern. The beams in the bedroom posed a challenge when installing the four-poster bed. “We had to leave the finials off to make it fit,” says Milam.
The Blankenships still have a few more rooms to tackle, along with landscaping but, for now, they’re enjoying what’s finished and getting reacquainted with Fort Worth.