INTERIOR DESIGN: CHANDOS INTERIORS
ARCHITECTURE: GORDON PARTNERS DESIGN
TEXT: LISA BINGHAM DEWART
PHOTOGRAPHY: CLAUDIA CASBARIAN FOR JULIE SOEFER
Designer Chandos Dodson Epley, of Chandos Interiors, calls leafy Tanglewood in Houston home but had never met neighbors living just down the street. That took an introduction from architect Ryan Gordon, whom the couple had hired to replace the dated rancher on their property with a new, two-story dwelling faced in brick. Connection made, Gordon and Dodson Epley worked together to give their clients “something timeless but with a more mod aesthetic,” says Dodson Epley, who took the lead on the interiors as well as the interior architecture, cabinet elevations, and, crucially, the artwork. “We always start with art as part of our process,” Dodson Epley says. “It’s integral not just to who you are but to how rooms evolve.”
You see, Dodson Epley is not just a designer—she also is the founder of C2 Art Advisors, which counts AT&T and BNSF as clients, and worked closely with these clients to build a collection for their home. She and the homeowners kicked off their search in New York, where they hit auctions and galleries, looking for pieces of various media and subject matter. The collection they assembled runs the gamut from a Devon Christopher Moore wall-mounted steel piece to a Tomory Dodge watercolor landscape to the first work they acquired at auction—an abstract Sebastian Black portrait rendered in shades of pink that now hangs against the dining room’s blue ombre Phillip Jeffries wallcovering. “The artwork set the tone for the palette—there’s a lot of earth tones but also lots of color,” the designer says.
The pairing of the Black portrait with the dynamic wallcovering also speaks to the deft layering Dodson Epley employed throughout. “We wanted to do it in a way that wasn’t too fussy,” she explains, “and Ryan gave us carte blanche to style the interior as we saw fit.” So, for example, the dining room also boasts a step ceiling. “The effect gives the space one more level of intricacy—your eye notices something, but you’re not sure why you’re feeling so enveloped.” Similarly, the family room’s cold-rolled steel fireplace surround (chosen in lieu of a more traditional one faced in limestone), the beamed ceiling and the hand-carved doors concealing the built-in bar satisfy the husband’s desire for a mix of industrial and rough-hewn elements while adding more visual interest.
Perhaps nowhere is Dodson Epley’s command of interior layering and detail more evident, though, than in the kitchen. “We started with the backsplash tile that looks like rough-cut stone and the black granite sink.” From there, the designer wove in Taj Mahal granite for the island and a variety of metallic finishes. “We didn’t want all brass, so we played with the hardware,” she says. “It’s layered in but still looks really clean. You can always vary materials more in a kitchen.” For the cabinets, she chose a dark finish for the ones around the sink and refrigeration, which ground the room. (“No one lets me do dark cabinets,” the designer muses, “but the clients loved the dark gray, and we went for it.”) Flanking the range are cabinets in a lighter finish that harmonize with the oak detail framing the space, while just beyond is a moody breakfast area with a banquette in a deep purple Holly Hunt faux leather and a wall covered in a herringbone Romo grasscloth.
When it came to furnishing the rest of the home, Dodson Epley again looked to artful mixes and combinations. The clients had a handful of more traditional items with sentimental value that needed to be included, such as the Sheraton-style pedestal table in the dining room. The designer paired the heirloom with a midcentury console of Macassar ebony, one of a sprinkling of newly purchased antiques that bring a spark to the rooms. However, the dining chairs Dodson Epley chose—a suite by Alfonso Marino—speak to her desire to bring in classic pieces with clean lines.
Dodson Epley listened intently to the family’s needs and devised some ingenious space planning solutions with furniture. The family room, which also functions as the formal living room, is divided in two, with the grouping closest to the fireplace boasting a pair of blue velvet sofas and two Baker club chairs, and a smaller, more intimate area near the kitchen appointed with a duo of low-slung A. Rudin lounge chairs and a custom banquette in a gray Great Plains fabric. For the multi-functional playroom, a console and a quartet of Interlude Home chairs pull up to the Lee Industries sectional in a Holly Hunt cotton. The arrangement means the couple’s three children can use the spot to eat or place a laptop for homework.
Although they might not have met before, the relationship between Dodson Epley and her clients seems almost preordained given the ease of their working relationship. “It is always such a joy when a client gives you wings and lets you be the professional you are,” says the designer. Ultimately, though, “It’s not my house,” she says. “This is a reflection of who they are. I try to represent the people who live inside and what they want—I give them what they didn’t even know they wanted.”