Architect Rick McDermott and designer Jill Rice breathe new life into a dated midcentury rambler to create an open-concept contemporary retreat for a Mission Hills couple
There are footprints—and there are footprints.
The former can be left behind by humans, chickens, quadrupeds, and prehistoric life forms. The latter is man-made and is, in architectural terms, the entire area of ground covered by a permittable structure.
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There are stringent rules in the suburb of Mission Hills about a house exceeding the size of an existing permit, particularly in a home built nearly a half-century ago. It must not overstep its footprint, as it were.
That was the challenge for homeowners Mary and David Schulte, who fell in love with a truly unique ranch-style home designed by Morton Payne that was the ne plus ultra of modern living in 1967. It had survived, with few preceding owners, almost remarkably intact on its original footprint.
The Schultes liked the footprint. They were less entranced with the interior dynamics of the stylishly ’60s-modern home. After all, they were ready to downsize from a much larger home that had been perfectly suitable when their blended family of five children were all together. Now that the youngest is off to college, Mary started looking for something smaller and easier to manage. The U-shaped house with three distinctive living areas fit the bill.
Architect Rick McDermott and his staff at RDM Architecture joined the Schultes’ design team (which included Hurst Construction and Jill Rice Design) to create a fresh new image for a dated 20th-century rambling one-story with a full basement.
“Our previous home was a great place for raising our family,” Mary Schulte says. “It had lots of bedrooms, a rec room, a movie theater room. This house is for us.”
“It’s a great house for entertaining,” David Schulte says. “There’s a wonderful flow now that the house is no longer in its original incarnation.”
“This house had fantastic bones,” says Mary Schulte. “We saw the potential right away.”
McDermott chose to expand a jumble of dimly lit, pecan-paneled smaller rooms (kitchen, bath, bar, den, breakfast room) into a fluid living area that launched out from a dazzlingly up-to-date kitchen—moved closer to the formal dining room from its original location at the back of the house—and into a comfortable living room facing an original fireplace now faced with polished blue limestone.
Glass doors on various points of the interior U-shape slide open to permit the couple’s dogs to scramble outside and dash around the perimeter of a gorgeous infinity-edge pool that seems to hover over the backyard like a glistening jewel.
Overseeing this renovation project became Mary Schulte’s full-time job during the year of construction and redesign.
“My wife knew what she wanted,” David Schulte says. “I trusted her on this project.”
The lines of the Schulte home may seem deceptively simple, but elegant touches abound, including gleaming, marble-tiled his-and-her bathrooms on each side of a luxurious, Asian-inspired master bedroom with ingeniously designed built-in hidden cabinets for re-charging phones, etc., instead of conventional nightstands.
If the kitchen and outdoor patio are, as David Schulte calls it, “the heart of the home,” the dining room is the soul of the undisputed showplace. There’s nothing simple about the composition of this sophisticated room, dominated by custom-made hand-painted wallpaper with graceful branches of vivid cherry blossoms over a background of subtle silver.
When previous owners lived in the home, this dining room’s most assertive feature was a formal crystal chandelier. That was replaced by two more modern fixtures that very much recall the sensibility of the 1960s, with bold crystal prisms that are so theatrical that they seem a perfect contrast to the more romantic wallcovering.
“It was a way to honor the spirit of the house as it once was,” says Mary Schulte.
The long, modern dining room table shares the space with an unexpected, but equally lengthy piece of furniture: a bench from a 19th-century French schoolhouse, with each student’s proper place indicated by incised Roman numerals.
A more formal living room is just adjacent to the dining room, with comfortable sofas and chairs (among the few pieces that the Schultes brought from their other home) and a high-backed banquette that wraps around two walls. Five shallow niches above the banquette are each fitted with acrylic boxes containing medallion-like gold metallic flowers created by North Carolina-based artist Tommy Mitchell.
“When we bought the house, I wanted those niches, although I wasn’t sure what I wanted to put in them,” Mary Schulte says. “Dave would tease me by putting these acrylic sales trophies in them. But Jill Rice found these Mitchell pieces and they’re fantastic.”
Across the hall, a former closet was reborn as a black-and-gold bathroom, with a gold-leafed domed ceiling—this salle de bain was inspired by a visit to France. The Schultes, who shipped all of the French Provincial furniture from their previous home to their vacation home in Colorado, had to have at least one room unabashedly Gallic. This is it.
Mary and David Schulte insist this is their last house.
“I’ll go out feet first,” she laughs. “We’re never leaving. We put so much care into it, so much time and love that I knew this would be our forever home. And it is!”
Jill Rice Design