Taking style cues from the owner, this home has a calm, collected feel
After two terms as Dallas mayor and another on the city council, Laura Miller has earned a break from life in the fishbowl. So has her husband, Steve Wolens, a lawyer who served the state of Texas as a legislator for 24 years. Home is where they relax, raise their three children, and recharge for the next worthy cause. (Hers is clean coal and a healthier environment.) Their home is also a sanctuary where they shake off the scrutiny of the press and the public and cherish time just being themselves. “I think because we have both been in public office, we need our home to be our refuge,” explains Laura, who completed her last term as mayor of the ninth largest city in America in 2007.
Design: Julio Quiñones, Julio Quiñones & Assoc., 2525 Butler St., Dallas, TX 75235; 214/350-6437.
Photography: Emily Minton-Redfield
Produced by Diane Carroll
After buying their 1940s Tudor-style home two years ago, Laura and Steve gave young interior designer Julio Quiñones only one directive. “They wanted me to create a comfortable, traditional family home,” says Quiñones, who left another design firm to start his own business, with Laura and Steve as his first clients.
A limestone portico with finials and quoins complements the intricate masonry of the house in Dallas’s Preston Hollow.
To start this project, Quiñones took his cues from Laura -- calm and collected -- and extended her personal style to the style of her and Steve’s home. “They wanted an understated but very traditional style, nothing fussy or flashy. And they wanted to be able to use family heirlooms, pieces from their other house, and the art that they’ve become passionate about collecting,” says the designer.
His gift for the great find is evidenced by the green silk settee with exaggerated high, scrolled arms. “I found it at an estate sale,” says Quiñones. “It has a beautiful back and sides -- nice, feminine lines -- and is very whimsical. Sometimes you have to buy something and trust that it will work, because you could never find it again.”
An antique English mirror and 19th-century French candlesticks adorn the mantel.
Designer Quiñones’s sharp and independent eye doesn’t rely on tony showrooms or pricey antiques shops to know what’s good. One of the living room’s most interesting upholstered pieces is its Chippendale-style camelback sofa. “Julio found it in a used furniture store, liked it, completely gutted it, and made it fabulous,” Laura praises.
Unusual detailing is a critical component of Quiñones’s approach. “Instead of using welting, I finished the edges of the camelback sofa with a kind of pleat that I’d never done before and haven’t done since,” he says. The pleats terminate at the corners with tiny rosette-like blooms, so subtle they become apparent only on close inspection. “I just thought it would look kind of neat here,” the designer adds modestly.
As practical as he is creative, Quiñones is always concerned with his clients’ comfort. He furnished Laura and Steve’s dining room with an 18th-century English sideboard and an antique wine cabinet but added a new Baker table and chairs. “It was important to incorporate a few antiques -- otherwise the house feels too new -- but it was just as important to have pieces that are comfortable and practical for today. That’s especially important with dining room chairs. Plus, it’s hard to find 12 or 24 matching antique chairs,” he says.
“Laura did not want a crystal chandelier,” notes Quiñones of the 1940s Empire-style bronze chandelier. “This one is grand but light. And it has the kind of detailing that sets it apart.” Sensuous textures and an unstudied shapeliness -- as found on the silk draperies -- create a “sexy feel for a traditional style,” says the designer.
A 1940s gold-leaf French mirror crowns an 18th-century English sideboard.
Quiñones stripped paint from the banister to reveal a beautiful mix of textures and materials. The red runner introduces drama in the entry.
Antique Fortuny fabric on the decorative pillows joins custom Schumacher bedding. Carving on the Louis XVI bench at the foot of the bed visually partners with the decoration on the fireplace, flanked by vintage Robsjohn-Gibbings chairs, to unify the room.
“The pulse of the home is the kitchen,” Laura says. That’s where she and Steve gather for family dinners with all three children -- daughters Alex, 18, and Lily, 16, and their 13-year-old son, Max. “Even when I was mayor, I insisted on family dinner. If I had to do a reception, we had our family dinner either before or after it.”
White marble countertops and white painted cabinets keep the kitchen looking clean and airy -- and assure that red accents pop.
On weekends, the sunroom is Laura and Steve’s favorite retreat, a place to sip coffee and read the papers.
Putting family first was imperative to the design’s success. “Our kids tell us their very best memories are from our previous house, where the girls shared a bedroom and all five of us shared a bath,” says Laura, shown here with Lily (left), Alex, and Max. “So beware when you dream of owning a larger home.” The challenge for Quiñones was to create the same sense of ease and opportunity for memory-making, but in a much larger house. His solution was a design that’s “pretty, airy, and not formal,” sums up Laura.
Family, in fact, was why she did not seek a third term as mayor. “No one has served three terms as Dallas mayor, so that little bit of ego was tempting, but it would’ve been completely narcissistic,” Laura explains. “Our 18-year-old sat me down and said, ‘If you run for reelection, you’re throwing the towel in on our family.’ She wanted me present for her senior year. The past 11 months have been great because I’ve gotten to spend so much time with my kids” -- in a home they all love.