December 8, 2019
A new low-slung roofline allows for a side patio to become an extension of the house, and against the subdued exterior, a bright yellow door handle is an artful touch.
While chatting with Dallas art educator Gail Sachson about the newly renovated 1,760-square-foot house she and her husband, Richard, call home for several months out of the year, the words color, light, fun and happy—especially happy—come up again and again. “It’s a happy house,” she exclaims. “I love it. It makes me happy to be there.”
Until a couple of years ago, when the couple enlisted local firm Rowland+Broughton, the circa 1950s split-level home was dark and closed in, clearly not an appropriate setting to house the collection of contemporary artwork that Gail, who has an MFA and is heavily involved with Anderson Ranch Arts Center, had amassed.
From top: The open floor plan allows for easy flow within a series of open, light-filled spaces; colorful painted-wood wall art is by Dallas artist Jay Shinn, the rosewood table and leather chairs by Saarinen, and the rugs from Design Within Reach.
“From day one, it was about highlighting and creating a platform for their art,” says Sarah Broughton, principal of R+B, who led the renovation of the home the Sachsons have owned for more than 20 years. “Over time, there had been some pretty bad interventions. We had clear goals of opening the main space, flattening out the three-level floor plan, bringing in natural light and restoring it back to its midcentury essence.”
Now the home, with its low-slung roofline and stained clear cedar siding, nestles peacefully among the surrounding greenery and woods. A closer look reveals a bright yellow powder-coated door handle. “It was something I’d asked for that adds a sense of welcome and lets you know you’re at a happy place,” says Gail. “Sarah and Dana [Ellis, project manager] thought it was a really fun idea.”
From top: Glass walls connect the interior with the natural wooded site; a pair of painted wood penguins guard the shower; lime green and gray Edito armchairs from Roche Bobois add color and the wire sculpture above the bed is by Dallas artist Shane Pennington.
Inside, the house has a gallerylike feel; its white walls and abundant natural light flow through new windows and skylights, providing the perfect backdrop for artwork—both curated and Gail’s own. A double-sided fireplace, a key feature, could be considered functional art. “You walk in the front door and are greeted by the hearth, which is very inviting,” says Broughton. “The vertical brick treatment is tied to midcentury architecture, and the beauty of the travertine slab is art unto itself.”
Throughout, custom built-ins, a R+B signature element, are functional, practical and allow the artwork to shine. “They’re done so expertly—and, oh, my gosh, the attention to detail,” says Gail. “And I didn’t have to go out and buy a ton of furniture, dressers and night tables.” The furniture she did purchase, such as Benson U-Turn swivel club chairs from HIVE and an oval Saarinen dining table with a rosewood veneer top, is colorful and sculptural. Hunt Slonem bunny wallpaper in the master bathroom was a serendipitous find (Gail had seen Slonem’s work at the McHugh Gallery in Aspen and coincidentally was handed a piece of his wallpaper during an interview with him in Dallas soon after). “We chose color schemes so that everything worked together,” she says. “I’d email photos of things I’d found to Sarah and Dana, and ask them what they thought. It was good energy and fun.”
Broughton agrees, noting: “Working with them, they were superinvolved and collaborative, but also very trusting. We’d choose things together that were important and responded to their personality; then, for others, they’d say, ‘Whatever you think; go for it.’ It’s the subtle things that make a massive difference in spaces for the people who live in them.”
Photography by: brent moss photography