WRITTEN BY AMY ELBERT
PHOTOGRAPHS BY WERNER STRAUBE
Gooey frosting, sticky gumdrops, and rows of unadorned gingerbread houses signal the holidays at the Texas home of Bay and Paula Miltenberger. The couple’s three sons, Bryce, 11, Bo, 6, and Brady, 5—along with the boys’ friends and their parents—cluster around large tables temporarily set up between the kitchen and great room for a gingerbread-house decorating party. The 14-foot-high Christmas tree (up since the day after Thanksgiving) reigns in the great room, and Christmas music is barely audible over the excited chatter. “This is a great house for entertaining,” Paula says.
With its beamed and barrel-arched ceiling, the kitchen opens to the 24x37-foot great room and an adjoining breakfast room. “Because the kitchen didn’t have an outside wall, we wanted to open it up as much as possible and grab views and light from the other rooms,” says architect Richard Drummond Davis, who designed the house for a previous owner.
After the Miltenbergers purchased the home, they worked with Dallas designer John Phifer Marrs to make it their own, warming the large spaces with rich color and texture. “The great room, kitchen, and breakfast room flow together, and these rooms are where the family lives,” Marrs says. Active living, too, with three young boys and a labradoodle who has the run of the house. “There is an elegance and grandness about the house, so the rooms are traditional but not stiff and formal,” notes the designer. “Fabrics and finishes are all very child-friendly.”
The neutral colors of the lightly glazed cabinets and cream granite countertops freed Marrs to play with deep hues. “Paula is a pretty blonde, and she likes oranges and reds—colors that complement her coloring,” he says, explaining that people often gravitate toward colors they wear.
The French country architecture of the house plus the size and scale of the rooms dictated color choices as well. “The great room is a large space with those wonderful beams, so we needed to introduce warmth and comfort,” Marrs explains. Orange-reds, golds, and muddied greens do the trick. “There also is a lot of pattern, which warms up the room,” he adds. In keeping with the distressed beams, walls were painted and then glazed to create the look of old plaster.
To embellish the kitchen’s focal-point range, a crest was painted on the hood. “We didn’t have a family crest, so we used symbols that meant something to us to create our own,” says Paula. One symbol depicts a castle in Miltenberg, Germany, the town to which the family traces its roots.
A bay window in the breakfast room called for a banquette, and Marrs designed a settee with a leather seat and fabric back. “The leather makes it easy to scoot across,” he says. An oval table with a heavy base has the proper heft for the space. “The finish is distressed too,” he notes, “so the more it gets banged up, the better it looks.”
It gets plenty of use, says Paula. “It’s a cozy place to have a family dinner.”
Architect: Richard Drummond Davis, Richard Drummond Davis Architects, 4310 Westside Dr., Suite H, Dallas, TX 75209-6557; 214/521-8763,
Interior designer: John P. Marrs, John Phifer Marrs Inc., 4623 W. Lovers Lane, Dallas, TX 75209; 214/352-4949, johnmarrs.com
Range: Wolf, 800/222-7820, subzero-wolf.com
Refrigerator: Sub-Zero, 800/222-7820, subzero-wolf.com
Decorative treatment on oven hood; faux finishing: Art Services Collective, asc-portfolio.com
Rug runners (antique): Abrash Decorative
Rug Gallery, 214/573-6262, abrashrugs.com