Designing a home for a legendary designer is a joy when the legend is your mentor and friend.
That was the opportunity and approach taken by Julie Stryker and Dawn Bergan, owners of Corley Design Associates, as they assisted in designing the interior of a new home for Mary and David Corley.
Stryker worked with Corley for 15 years, and her partner, Bergan, worked with him for 20, until he retired and they bought the business several years ago. “We knew him very well—really everything about his life,” Stryker says.
And what they knew was the story of a man who started his interior design practice in Fort Worth in 1959, designing executive offices for an established office equipment firm. About 10 years later, he was hired by a bank in Fort Worth to design and furnish an executive lounge and dining room. He became fast friends with the bank’s attorney, Joe Minton. Minton subsequently left the bank to partner with Corley in the design business in Fort Worth.
Over the next 20 years, Minton-Corley became a well-known design firm with a national reputation. During their time together they earned many awards and were published in many design magazines.
Meanwhile, Corley and his wife, Mary, parlayed their love of antiques and international travel into Mary Corley Antiques, which opened in Santa Fe in 1987. In a city best known for Southwest style and architecture, the Corleys’ shop became the place to go for exceptional pieces gathered on buying trips to France, Spain, Italy and England. In 1993 Minton and Corley each branched off on their own, and Corley moved his business to Dallas.
In 2012 when the Corleys retired, they closed the shop, sold their Santa Fe home and moved back to Fort Worth to be near their seven children and numerous grandchildren.
“They designed this little house—it’s two stories and 4,300 square feet, but I call it little because it only has two bedrooms— based on architecture they saw on their many trips to South Africa, so it is Dutch Colonial-inspired,” says Stryker. “Mary drew a little sketch of the floor plan she wanted and her son-in-law Randy Gideon, a well-known Fort Worth architect, designed it.”
The house, located in old Fort Worth’s historic Westside neighborhood, does look small from the street, but it has a wide gallery running from front to back with a high ceiling that helps the house feel big on the inside. Branching off the gallery are the various living and entertaining rooms where the Corleys have displayed their personal pieces as well as favorites from their European travels.
“We assisted David with the design of the interior. Obviously he is our mentor and he had a good idea of what he wanted. It was not a difficult process,” says Stryker.
The interior features what she calls “David Corley colors,” which are brown, terra-cotta and blue. “Those were our go-to favorites,” she says, noting that neutral colors throughout the house help create unity and flow. Adding to that principle is the selection of large, natural French limestone floor tiles in the gallery and main rooms.
Stryker says the Corley house is a good example of how she and Bergan organize their projects. “This project represents 100 percent of what we do. Everything we did for him, we do for our clients.”
She explains that David Corley always emphasized a timeless look, and they do the same. “We love to mix antiques with contemporary upholstery, art and finishes,” Stryker says, adding that there are some basic things they adhere to—such as the way they arrange furniture and a preference for certain colors—but they always listen to the client. “We don’t veer from what the client desires.”
All of that goes back to their years working with David Corley.
“Everything we know we learned from him,” says Stryker. “A lot of it is inherent; you have to have knowledge of color, scale and what goes well together. But the emphasis on service and getting things done is learned on the job. As David always said: ‘We provide a service. We’re not an ego-driven company.’ We’re proud to carry on that legacy.”
Jeff Hampton is a freelance writer based in Garland, Texas. Find out more at jeffhamptonwriter.com.