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Nicole Arnold marries traditional architecture with contemporary design



It was perhaps the most daring change in the design of the Guthrie’s’ home that turned out to be its greatest success.

Doree and Roddy Guthrie, who have lived in their McKinney townhouse for a little over a year, had friends over after a day of golfing to give them a tour of their newly redesigned home. Their guests, who live in the same golfing community, had seen the interior prior to the couple moving in and were in awe of the changes—modern light fixtures, grasscloth walls, jewel-tone furniture and a sense of lightness that was missing before.

Designer Nicole Arnold lightened the formal dining room with a dandelion-inspired chandelier.

But as they ventured into the main bathroom, they saw the true pièce de résistance of the design project: a meadow green bathtub.

“We went into the deep end of the pool, and we love it; we absolutely love it. It’s different. It has personality,” says Doree.

In the living room, an acrylic-and-glass coffee table and mirror chest add a modern touch and sparkle with the sunlight that pours into the room through stone arches.

The couple, an American Airlines pilot and manager and a retired flight attendant who met on the job, has lived in Texas for almost 30 years and purchased the two-story townhouse in McKinney last year. With views of the 17th hole at TPC Craig Ranch, home to the AT&T Byron Nelson golf tournament, the Guthries are able to enjoy days on the course and sunsets from their firepit.

When they first purchased the 4,100-square-foot home, it was awash with dark alder wood, heavy brocade drapery and ornate light fixtures. What they yearned for was a more contemporary look without losing the home’s architectural details, so they enlisted the help of their longtime designer, Nicole Arnold, whom they met when she worked on their prior home. Initially, they had a hard time finding a designer who was willing to take on their last design project, which was fairly small, but when they were referred to Arnold and completed what turned into a much larger project, they knew they had both a design partner and friend to count on for years to come.

Since founding Nicole Arnold Interiors in 2008—a dream she pursued after spending years as a corporate sales and marketing executive—the designer has worked with the belief that she’s there to bring her clients’ dreams to fruition while providing gentle nudges to think outside of the box, whether it’s for commercial or residential design projects. The same applied to the Guthries’ home, which she transformed from a dated townhome to one that could fit perfectly into a Santa Barbara landscape.

“They’re fairly traditional at heart,” Arnold explains. “They appreciate the pops of modern and whimsy and things that can update that classic, traditional foundation.”

That included the custom-painted Victoria + Albert tub in the main bathroom, nestled on the second floor below a paned picture window overlooking the golf course. Originally, the travertine bathroom had a large copper tub, which Roddy describes as a “horse trough,” an eyesore that melted into the dark palette. But rather than going with a traditional white tub or the safe beige that Doree had originally planned, Arnold encouraged the Guthries to bring the earthy colors of the view they adored so much inside with the color choice. The natural aesthetic continues with the hand-knotted rug with a depiction of birds perched on winding vines, as well as a crystal tabletop balanced on a selenite floral vine stand, a true designer piece.

Although they were unsure about the meadow green choice for the tub, and even considered canceling the order, it’s now one of the couple’s favorite features in their home.

“Everyone has a white tub, and it was our opportunity through Nicole’s encouragement to be a little more daring and add color,” Doree says.

That meant the old-world chandelier in the foyer had to go, too, and the ornate wall draperies needed to be replaced with light, airy blinds. Keeping the couple’s vision top of mind, Arnold juxtaposed the dark beams throughout the house with light wallpaper and paint colors, and she updated the heavy wrought-iron lighting with simple, streamlined modern light fixtures.

“It was not an attempt to remake the home; it was to accept it for what it was and modernize it, enhance it and build it up and bring out the best of the bones,” Roddy explains of their vision.

Lighting turned out to be the most challenging part of the year-long endeavor, as there were lights inset into arched cutouts that the electrician had to rework to attain the modern feel they were aiming for. But it also was where Arnold was able to be the most creative, such as installing an acrylic light fixture to the kitchen ceiling that gives panache while allowing unobstructed views of the golf course. Over the coffee-colored dining room table, an airy, dandelion-inspired pendant light works with the white walls to brighten the plantation shutters and beams overhead.

Wedgwood blue and cream bedding, paired with a table lamp, bring cool tones into a room filled with rich wood.

Without hiding the beautiful wood flooring, Arnold added softness to the abode with area rugs and textiles in lighter hues. This included the winding staircase, which the Guthries found their dog was having difficulty navigating. The designer solved the problem by adding a pop of whimsy in the form of a leopard-print runner. This also helped bring the traditional balusters into currency, since they were not going to be replaced.

This juxtaposition continues in the living room, where an acrylic-and-glass coffee table and mirror chest add a modern touch and sparkle with the sunlight that pours into the room through stone arches.

On the second-story landing, a console adorned with pebbled leather adds texture and visual interest. In the primary bedroom, Arnold used muted colors to allow the stone fireplace and decadent wood graining to shine, while a contemporary ceiling fan in the shape of a propeller adds visual interest—and is a nod to Roddy’s career in the cockpit.

Arnold installed a leopard-print runner on the winding staircase to help the homeowners’ beloved dog make its way up and down the stairs.

Throughout the home, Arnold sprinkled saturated fuchsias, plums and jewel tones that work hand in hand with the dark wood. This includes rose club chairs in the living room and a cobalt leather armchair in the corner of the home office for a respite from work.

“Bold colors were something I felt very strongly about pulling in there because of all the dark woods,” Arnold says. “I wanted it to be a nice, eclectic curation of items that represent things that are important to the clients but with sophistication and elegance, for sure. I like a little bit of the unexpected in terms of combinations.”

Arnold also had to marry the new design with some of the Guthries’ existing pieces, including some furniture. The flooring, woodwork, cabinetry, countertops and Venetian plaster finish on the walls all remained as well. The final touches on the design included finding homes for the couple’s artwork, a selection of paintings they had collected from contemporary painter and friend Linda McCall. For Roddy’s home office, Arnold had a piece commissioned by Arizona artist Brent Foreman titled Two if by Sea—serendipitously, Roddy’s childhood bedroom had a Paul Revere theme.

A daring meadow green tub brings the color palette of the TPC Craig Ranch golf course into the home.

“We say every man to his trade, and this is her business, this is her eye, this is her patience,” Doree says of Arnold, whom she has referred to several friends for projects. “She never walks away from anything.”

Christiana Lilly is a freelance journalist in Pompano Beach, Florida. See more of her work spanning the arts, community news and social justice at

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