Award-winning Dallas interior designer Cheryl Van Duyne was engaged to redesign a lakeside country estate. Her mission was to make the large rooms more functional, comfortable and beautiful for small gatherings as well as large groups.
The rambling, 11,000-squarefoot house sits on a large lake in Texas with water on three sides, a large boathouse and beautiful outside vistas of the lake and property. The gardens are accented with numerous large bronze sculptures, including works created by renowned artists Glenna Goodacre and Gary Lee Price. A large fireplace warms seating areas in an outdoor arbor. The center feature of the garden is a koi pond, which offers a peaceful place to relax.
The decided focal point inside the house is a dramatic two-story great room capped by a beamed ceiling. A gallery runs along one side of the upper level, providing views of a dining room at one end and a large fireplace at the other. Large windows topped by clerestories provide natural light and a scenic view of the lake.
“The great room is enormous,” Van Duyne explains, “but furniture in the room did not adequately support the lifestyle of the family. Heavy use by children and grandchildren, along with frequent entertaining of friends, required new furniture that had to be both comfortable and durable.”
Van Duyne channeled warmth into the immense room by creating a number of discrete areas of activity, including a large seating area in front of the fireplace that has become one of the family’s favorite spots for gathering. Family members are gamers, so Van Duyne designed a wooden gaming table with a top that flips over to transform into a poker table. The clean-lined, neutral leather chairs are accented with brass nailhead trim. Four plush blue armchairs face off around a large ottoman that doubles as a coffee table. From there the room flows into the dining room where 14 elegantly simple blue leather chairs line a table that would do a monastery proud. An adjacent room to the fireplace is used for reading, television and morning coffee.
A theater, game room and bar are on the second level. The owners asked for a sparkly blue sky effect on the ceiling of the theater, and Van Duyne went to work with her painters, who threw polycarbonate prisms onto wet blue paint. LED lighting around the barrel-vaulted ceiling cove creates a universe of twinkling stars.
Lighting is crucial. She says, “If you don’t have good lighting, you might as well forget everything else in the room.” Van Duyne wasn’t able to part the owners from the large antler chandelier over the great room, but added lighting to show off the sculpture and art in the great room and dining room. Beautiful lamps were added for aesthetics as well as general lighting.
Van Duyne has practiced interior design in Dallas for 30 years, although projects have taken her as far afield as Hawaii. In the years she’s been one of the city’s most prominent designers, she has watched tastes change from traditional to modern, although, she points out, “Dallas people like their contemporary soft, not hard-edged.”
Van Duyne attributes a large part of the shift to modern décor to the recent increase of people downsizing and retiring to highrise buildings. They want less to care for and a more casual lifestyle. Here she’s in her prime.
She relishes this kind of major renovating project. “You have to respect the plumbing and the support walls,” Van Duyne says, “but other than that, you can start from scratch. Bathrooms are like sanctuaries these days. I have designed large bathrooms with every amenity possible.” She has also designed ADA-compliant bathrooms for clients who require them that are equally beautiful and functional.
It is possible, Van Duyne says, to get almost anything you need for projects in Dallas. “We have design showrooms that are equal to any I have seen on either coast. We have many fine art galleries and some of the best craftspeople in the country,” she continues. “Dallas people are very, very into their homes, and they want fine finishes and furnishings. We are fortunate that we have the trades and showrooms to help us accomplish that.”
Van Duyne finds the most joy in always moving on, never repeating herself. Each project is a new opportunity to create. She listens to clients and tries to invent something unique that reflects their needs and desires in a creative way. And in keeping with something different in each project, there’s always the issue of budget. “I really enjoy making things work in different price ranges,” she says.
Currently, one of Van Duyne’s more complicated projects is renovating her own home. It is difficult, she explains, for designers to make a commitment out of the endless possibilities available to them. She lives in a 4,000-square-foot house in Dallas that she designed a couple of decades ago along with her architect nephew, and it is definitely going modern: airy and light, elegantly understated, comfortable, but with few hard edges—something few of her present clients might consider. As she says, “My home has clean lines and is sparsely furnished, and I like it that way!”
Laurel Delp is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles (laureldelp.com).