Text by Katie Ellis
Homeowner Liz Morrow isn’t afraid of color or pattern. So, when she and her husband, Craig, moved into their English Tudor-style cottage in Dallas, Texas, they were eager to embrace traditional style in a way that felt fresh and contemporary. To help bring their vision to life, the couple called on interior designer Kim Armstrong. Kim is also an enthusiast of eclectic, colorful interiors, so she and Liz made a perfect pair on this project.
The historic home was originally designed by famed architect Charles Dilbeck, and when the Morrows purchased the house, it still held all its original hand-carved woodwork details and custom ironworks throughout, including the ornate staircase railings, chandeliers, and hardware on the doors. “[The house] had great bones, and we wanted to glorify that,” Kim says. “[Liz] loves color—that was the driving force—so we had to use color and pattern in a way that would not distract from the architecture but would enhance the space.”
A vibrant pop of red on the exterior front door welcomes guests with a preview of the visual treat that awaits inside. The foyer area opens into a cathedral-style vaulted ceiling in the formal living room where the original woodwork and iron chandelier immediately draw the eyes upward. Kim worked with Liz to tastefully furnish the room with a mix of antique finds and repurposed pieces. They reviewed hundreds of fabric samples to create a custom, cohesive look. “[Liz] would pick the things that really spoke to her, and then based on that, I would build the design concept around what she gravitated towards,” Kim says. “The driving forces were Brunschwig & Fils and Schumacher fabrics. You’ll see a lot of that being used in the space.”
Comfortable, colorful seating areas continue into the den. A pair of reupholstered Bergère chairs pop in a pink Peter Fasano fabric. “He’s got fabulous prints and bright colors and more of a traditional design,” Kim says. “So, it was a great fit for this [room]!”
While Kim sourced many new pieces for this lively Southern charmer, she also reused and repurposed some of Liz’s existing pieces. In the dining room, she reupholstered the chairs in Schumacher’s Chiang Mai Dragon fabric in blue and stripped the original mahogany stain to create a more weathered look to match the antique dining table.
Playful patterns and bold colors seem to blend effortlessly from room to room. While it takes a trained eye and years of experience to master this style, Kim says her baseline tip for mixing color and pattern is to always pair organic and geometric shapes, which helps create a visual balance. “Pull colors from your inspiration and change up the scale [of patterned prints],” Kim says. “A lot of people think you have to go ‘matchy-matchy,’ but if there’s blue, blue blends and works beautifully with so many differing shades of blues. You don’t have to be consistent with one exact shade; I actually think it adds more interest when you vary the shades a little bit.”
Each of the home’s four bedrooms take on their own unique personality—and all are expertly layered with a merry mix of patterns. One of Kim’s favorite bedrooms to design was a nursery for the Morrows’ grandchildren. “They knew they were going to be grandparents, and they really wanted to create a space for everyone to feel comfortable when they came to visit,” Kim says. The wallpapered sloped walls give the room an attic-like feel that is sweetly serene. In addition to playing with patterns, Kim also suggests giving your eyes a place to rest. “So, even with a busy [guest] bedroom, with the toile [pattern] on the walls and the ceiling wallpapered, I did white bedding,” she says. “And that’s my place for the eyes to rest.”
Packed with brilliant colors and unique antique finds, it’s hard not to smile inside this cozy cottage. “This project was fun because [Liz] loves antiques. She’s not scared of color, and she’s not scared of pattern. . .When I think we’ve gone over the top, [Liz would] say, ‘What about wallpapering the ceiling?’” Kim says. “Her fearless boldness in selection really elevated the project even more!”