Monica Wilcox was no stranger to deadline pressure from her client. The first time they worked together five years ago, he knew exactly what he wanted. He preferred—no, insisted—that the design, decoration and install be completed in just two weeks, and without input from his wife.
“She was away on business in China, and he wanted to surprise her when
she got back,” recalls Wilcox, principal designer at M. Wilcox Design. “That was my first experience where a husband wanted to design a whole house without a wife. I was nervous, but I ended up designing the house.”
She hit a home run with the clients too. “The wife’s very first phone call after she returned was to introduce herself and thank me so much. She thought it looked like a five-star hotel,” Wilcox says.
Then, last month, an opportunity knocked again with the client, Festus Madubuike. Wilcox had just opened her Dallas store, Designer Consignment Shop, and she called Madubuike to come in for a visit. He did, and while browsing the store, he filled Wilcox in on what he’d been up to in the intervening years. His wife, Maureen, had gone to construction management school. Madubuike, who has training in interior design in addition to his career as a home health care executive, and Maureen teamed up to build and sell a handful of spec houses in McKinney. Turns out, they also built a custom home for themselves, a 9,000-square-foot modern estate in Parker. They furnished it themselves, moving much of the furniture and accessories from their former house, but it was missing something.
“He said, ‘Monica, I feel like I need more help. Can you come to the house?’” Wilcox recalls.
Wait for it … Maureen was out of town again, this time in Baltimore, where their son, Justin, plays for the Baltimore Ravens. Madubuike wanted to surprise her for their 30th anniversary together as a couple, including 29 years married. “He wanted to make the house more fun, more fresh, more colorful, more modern,” Wilcox says. “He said, ‘I feel like she’s not going to divorce me. Let’s just do it!’’
As Madubuike recalls: “It took a whole day for us to walk through and do the planning. At the end of the day, I was depending on her design style to execute what we talked about. She told me, ‘If you give me the money in the morning, I’m going shopping.’”
The walk-through was a Tuesday. By Wednesday morning, Wilcox was ready to get going. Then she learned that Maureen was due home Friday night.
“I grabbed my two assistants, and we set out to furnish this house and decorate it in a day and a half. We spent the rest of the day Wednesday and all day Thursday shopping and pulling together the looks,” Wilcox says. “We had five delivery trucks show up Friday morning, and a design crew of 12 stayed until 7 p.m., and we did the entire house!”
Three days, really? When you’re a longtime designer with your own warehouse full of furniture and a trusted team; when you know your client’s tastes inside and out; when you have relationships with vendors who have available product—it’s not easy, but it’s eminently possible, as Wilcox has proven, twice now, with Madubuike.
“If you have the relationships, you can make what you need happen. I just make those calls, and people come through. I also make it a fun environment,” she says.
Even her client, who has experience in the Wilcox-makes-it-happen department, admits to being shocked that she pulled off the project.
“She outdid me. Honestly, to do this that fast,” Madubuike says. “I really love her work. She listens. Some designers do whatever they want to do. She respects my opinion about what I want.”
Madubuike describes his style as modern, bold and glam, and it’s apparent as you enter the main living area. A curvy chaise, upholstered in tufted royal blue velvet, commands the view. It’s also
conveniently tilted toward the television, a nod to Maureen’s love of lounging in the center of it all. The chaise is one of a pair that Wilcox had reupholstered for the couple for their previous house, and they found new life with a pair of cobalt chairs from Meridian. “He saw them in my store and loved them,” Wilcox notes, “so I said, ‘Let’s do it.’” The couple already owned the leather sofas from Restoration Hardware (now RH), and Wilcox pulled the look together with a bright blue and white rug from Feizy, new accent tables from Wilcox’s inventory and a pair of round coffee tables by Caracole.
“He wanted it to be bold and comfortable as soon as you walked through the double glass entry doors. He didn’t want it to feel like an art gallery. The art had to have texture and movement,” she says. Wilcox chose dimensional metallic circles from Imax Art in gold and silver for the walls above the windows, a treatment also repeated in the primary bedroom. Upstairs, a gallery-style corridor looks down on the light-filled, high-ceilinged room.
A media room extends from the main area, in which Wilcox augmented existing sofas and tables with new blue media chairs from Palliser and a striking white acrylic console from VIG Furniture with gold poured-metal inlay running through it. A new Feizy rug unifies the owners’ white sofas, and colorful art glass by Daleno Art provides a happy pop of color.
In the kitchen, a white waterfall island has plenty of room for white barstools with gold trim. A table by Sunpan Modern, surrounded by four chairs from Meridian, provides a cozy space for dining or morning coffee. In the dining room, Wilcox paired a live-edge table with a gold base from Nuevo with custom cobalt blue chairs from Wilcox’s inventory. Pieces from Leftbank Art line one wall, the owners’ mirror takes up the facing wall and a wall of windows frames the scene.
Madubuike admits to a special weakness for Wilcox’s work in the primary bedroom. There, she worked around the owners’ bed, nightstands and console table. “It was one of the areas that had the bottleneck. She brought in the chairs and the ottoman and went upstairs where I had a collection of accessories and placed them so well. There’s no way I would have thought of this,” says the satisfied client.
Wilcox placed two mustard-gold armchairs from Sunpan Modern in front of the bed. “When searching for inventory, I knew who had the distribution centers here. I wanted something low,” she says. The chairs were paired with a blue tufted ottoman from Steve Silver Company and accent tables from TOV Furniture.
A second roomy chaise, similar to the one in the main living area, is upholstered in Kravet fabric and looks out over the owners’ rose bushes outside. Here, as in the main living area, metallic starbursts above the bed and an installation of diamond-shaped mirrors above the chaise provide glitzy finishes that complement the sumptuous textured fabrics of the furnishings.
Throughout the house, beds and sofas are plumped and fluffed with pillows. Dining tables, consoles and occasional tables are finished with lighting and accessories, all from Wilcox’s inventory. “You can make things amazing if you know how to put them together,” she says.
For Madubuike, the finished house brings him sheer delight. “We had so much joy going through this. My house is so beautiful, and I could not imagine a better result.”
And what did Maureen think? As Wilcox learned after she’d completed the project, Maureen was extending her stay. And her husband of nearly three decades, father to their four children, ages 16 to 24, was as giddy as a newlywed contemplating the homecoming.
“My wife will flip when she comes back,” Madubuike says. “She has no clue. She called me two days ago and said, ‘You sound so happy.’ And I told her, ‘Yes, everything’s going well at work and that’s making me happy.’’’ He was working, alright, just not at the office.
For the Madubuikes, Nigerian immigrants who have lived the American dream of hard work and success, creating their dream home wasn’t just about acquisitions and conjuring up a polished look. It was about the process and the people along the way.
“When people are asking for craziness, it’s not just the checkbook,” says Wilcox. “It’s trust in you and what you choose. You want to do a better job because they’re trusting you with the whole vision.”
Freelance writer and editor Connie Dufner is a proud Texan transplant living in Washington, D.C. She is a former editor for Modern Luxury Dallas and The Dallas Morning News who has been covering interiors journalism since 2001.