Photography by Emily Minton Redfield
Written by Candace Ord Manroe
Gershwin got it right, and Minton did, too. The Fort Worth home of Dana and David Porter and their three boys is “a rhapsody in blue,” modestly agrees Texas interior design maestro Joseph Minton, “a big Gershwin fan” who embraces any association with the iconic composer.
Blue was a natural for the subtle seaside theme in the Porters’ 1920s-era classic New England-style home. Minton orchestrated the beach theme with blue tones, sandy notes on the millwork and sisal rugs, and carefully arranged seashells collected by Dana. “My husband is from Maine, and every summer we vacation on Fisher Island,” says Dana, a native Texan. “We love our time on the beach, and we wanted to capture that experience in our Fort Worth home. Most of the artwork consists of seascapes we’ve collected on our summer vacations.”
Before her marriage to David, Dana favored jewel tones—vivid ruby and emerald. “David was the blue person,” she says. “I never envisioned myself liking it or living with it.” An interior built on blues wasn’t a marital concession, though. “Through David, blue actually became my favorite color. I can’t get enough blue-and-white Chinese porcelain. Even David says, ‘Overkill, Dana.’ ”
Blue’s most exquisite application is on the living room walls. “It’s a soft Wedgwood blue paint, very pale,” Minton notes, “the kind of hue that really reads subtle.” Even moldings on the plaster walls are covered in uninterrupted blue to envelop the space in the fragile color. Instead of the expected high-contrast bright white, the ceiling and millwork are painted pale tan that suggests the beach. “We entertain a lot, and guests feel extremely comfortable in this soft-colored room,” says Dana.
An additional neutral color drifts underfoot on the room’s geometric-patterned sisal rug. “I love sisal,” enthuses Minton. “I’ve been using it for close to 40 years and never tire of it. It takes down very elegant furnishings and makes them unpretentious, and it never becomes dated.” Sisal, in fact, is the rug of choice in his own Dallas home, providing a counterpoint to his gilt-laden furniture. Sisal also grounds the Porters’ dining room as well as a couple of areas of their roomy kitchen.
Sisal’s casual balancing act works its magic with the Porters’ pedigreed furnishings. The living room’s 18th-century Georgian secretary and the dining room’s rich blue-and-sand Fortuny chair fabrics are rendered less precious and more livable. Dana’s seashells strike a similar balance sprinkled among her collection of both old and new Chinese porcelains, taking them down a notch. “We wanted a design that’s appropriate for a very active family of three boys and dogs,” says Minton. “Parents and children alike all have busy social lives.”
Thankfully, the original architecture meets those needs. In addition to the formal rooms, the floor plan provides ample casual public spaces for easy living, and an open flow that was ahead of its time. Most important are a pair of informal sun-drenched spaces that beckon through open doorways in both the living and dining rooms, teasing the eye—and feet—to travel farther.
The living room flows into a sunroom that is flooded in natural light streaming through a wall of tall French doors. Comfortable bergères and a handsome fireplace complete the coziness. A portal in the elegant dining room leads to a sunny conservatory. A glass table that is the conservatory’s focal point comes in handy for entertaining, and the room provides convenient storage for extra dining room chairs.
“All the wonderful natural light from these glass-walled rooms makes it almost impossible for the living and dining rooms to feel stuffy,” Minton observes. He dressed the French doors unobtrusively in sandy-tone sheer panels that continue the beach theme. “The sheers are the color of nude panty hose,” injects Minton’s
associate, Michelle Wade, who, with Paula Lowes, assisted with the house’s interior design.
A change in flooring denotes the casual spaces. While the living and dining rooms feature wood floors topped with area rugs, the sunroom and conservatory are paved in the same Italian marble painstakingly selected for the entry. “We looked at a bazillion marbles before we got it right,” says Minton. “We wanted one that didn’t have a lot of striation and that wasn’t a pure white.” Honed black granite cabochons accent the marble in a classical manner.
Casual spaces aren’t the only ones that are comfy. Sink-down bliss awaits in the living room’s rolled-arm sofa, which is covered in a biscuit linen velvet with a waterfall skirt. “It’s durable for an active family,” Minton promises.
Exuding elegance, the dining room is all about entertaining. Walls in a hand-painted de Gournay Chinese-patterned paper needed “three or four strike-offs before we got the colors right,” says Minton. A Georgian broken-pediment china cabinet, a gilt Regency-style girandole candlestand, a chinoiserie demilune commode, and oodles of Fortuny appeal to an adult aesthetic. “Our family celebrates holidays here, but we usually eat in the kitchen,” says Dana.
The Porters only had two sons when they bought the house, and its original three bedrooms were adequate. When their youngest, David, was born in 2004, they recruited architect Randy Walton to design a fourth bedroom and an additional bath on the third floor. “The two older boys still share a room, but eventually they’ll want one of their own,” Dana explains. Until that time, they share a space that celebrates adventure and travel with a globe at their fingertips and an ode to the sea in the form of model ships perched on shelves.
A third-floor playroom is the boys’ main hangout. “This is home to the Wii,” Dana says. The siren song of the video-game system, however troubling to parents at times, is a great guarantee that active boys keep their feet off the Fortuny. Even this strikes a harmonious chord in a home that resonates with classic style and beautiful blues.
Architect: Randall Walton, Walton & Walton Architecture & Interior Design, P.O. Box 1990, Fort Worth, TX 76101; 817/732-1536, waltonwalton.com
Interior designer: Joseph Minton, with Paula Lowes and Michelle M. Wade, Joseph Minton Inc., 2623 White Settlement Rd., Fort Worth, TX 76107; 817/332-3111, josephminton.com. Joseph Minton Antiques, Kevin Peavy, director, 1410 Slocum, Dallas, TX 75207; 214/744-3111, josephmintonantiques.com