Turn On, Tune In, Stand Out

Jenny and John Kirtland’s Preston Hollow home strikes all the right chords.

Karen Muncy. Photography Chris Plavidal.
February 28, 2013

Architecture Robbie Fusch. Interior design Brant McFarlain. Floral Grange Hall.

It’s a design-obsessed world. National and regional shelter publications have been joined by literally dozens of Web sites and TV shows in the search for see-worthy interiors — so many gorgeous homes and, increasingly, so little to differentiate them. So when you stumble across a truly singular dwelling, it’s with a mix of surprise, delight and much relief. The kind of place with a Saarinen table in the entry, a work-in-progress puzzle on the dining table, an aerial silk rigging in the upstairs recording studio and two funky tents in the back garden.

That, in a very small nutshell, is the very large but completely comfortable home of Jenny and John Kirtland. Built just two years ago on a spacious corner lot in one of Dallas’ most prestigious but least intimidating neighborhoods, it’s both lush and livable, with a full measure of quirkiness — interior design that doesn’t hold its breath waiting for someone else’s approval.

The couple met onstage when Jenny, now with Polyphonic Spree, opened for John’s band Deep Blue Something. You might expect the home of two musicians to have a Laurel Canyon vibe, and there are touches of that aesthetic in natural wood finishes and graphic-patterned wallpapers — not to mention the music room and that recording studio. But there are also sleek mid-century pieces, luxurious leathers and extraordinary custom lighting, all embraced by the architecture of an elegant but relaxed English country home, complete with pale stone façade and soaring cathedral ceilings laced with glowing wood beams. “We love modern,” Jenny explains, “but we didn’t want a white box. The English-style architecture gave us a casual feel without that antique-y feeling.”

Although they had loved the process of gutting and remodeling their first home in a Lower Greenville neighborhood, the Kirtlands decided to build as their family grew. “We had just had our daughter when we bought the property,” Jenny says. They worked with architect Robbie Fusch and builder Tom Kindred to realize their vision.

That point/counterpoint of traditional and modern informs every room. They had purchased much of the furniture and rugs before moving in, then partnered with Dallas designer Brant McFarlain “to finish out the rooms. His taste is similar to mine,” says Jenny, “so we worked well together.” The interior evolved at a relaxed pace, with pieces relocated several times “before they found their place.” For instance, their original dining table was split to create twin consoles — one in the upstairs hall, the other creating a DJ station with dual turntables in the music room.

The music room is a microcosm of their style mash-up: grand piano with a tufted velvet bench, a sinuously modern sofa that curves over a retro-chic purple shag rug and shelves filled with an LP collection (think Wilco meets Puccini, The Flaming Lips vs. Captain and Tennille, Merle Haggard sidling up to Stereolab). This is a favorite spot for entertaining, with friends taking turns DJing.

“We don’t really entertain formally,” Jenny says. That explains the jigsaw puzzle in the dining room, which is typically used for games and homework rather than formal gatherings. The family congregates primarily in the open kitchen/living area, dominated by a brass-seamed wood

“Our friends Lisa and John Runyon (of Runyon Fine Arts) helped us with the art collection,” which includes album cover art by Christian Marclay and a Will Cotton drawing that served as the concept art for a Katy Perry album. Their music-industry ties are evident throughout the house, especially in the upstairs recording studio, tucked into a tall gabled space and crowded with microphones and instruments. Right in the center is Jenny’s aerial silk rigging, a sluice of bright blue that she uses for workouts à la Cirque du Soleil “although when they do it, they look so calm and graceful.”

Working at a relaxed pace, Jenny spent a lot of time sourcing the striking wallpapers that give each room its character. “I scoured European design magazines and books, and I went down a lot of online rabbit trails,” she says. Her favorite finds: designs by the Swedish one-named wonder Hanna and papers by New York artist Shanan Campanaro, who transforms individual art prints into dazzling wallpapers such as the Rorschachian pattern in the dining room and the magical Lamb’s Ear in a rear hallway.

The no-pressure progression of the house shows in the natural, unforced style of the finished project. “The real pressure was off when we moved in,” Jenny says, “so I could finish each room on my own time, with no deadlines.”