Text: Tiffany Adams
Photos: Michael Hunter
As a designer, bringing meaning and interest to homes is at the heart of Sarah West’s mission. “Relationships are important to me, and I want to create a place where you can visualize your family making memories for years to come,” she says. When her dear friends Dana and Walter Burke called on her expertise, West put connection at the forefront of the plans, desiring to give the couple a space that was a true reflection of them.
“They were planning to build new, but this house is on the bayou in Houston and has an amazing view,” West says. Seeing the potential to maximize this and other features throughout the home, she suggested a full-scale renovation, knocking out walls and installing new floor-to-ceiling steel windows to bring life and light into the home that was built in 2002. “This house had a very traditional look, and we took it down to the studs,” the designer says.
In terms of flow and architectural features, one of the biggest changes came in opening up the floor plan to seamlessly connect the family room and kitchen. “They travel a lot and like to be ready to entertain at any moment when they are home. They wanted an area where they could host everyone,” West says in regard to the newly created hub. At the entry, the original grand staircase was replaced with a stylized interpretation with an undulating curve. “The exterior is very straightforward, so I thought it might be nice to mix in the curves,” West says. Throughout, a neutral backdrop turns the focus to the view, artwork, and accessories. “I always try to incorporate a few of my clients’ meaningful pieces. For this home, I selected lightly hued plaster walls, which provided the ideal canvas for me to curate the other elements,” the designer adds.
For the Burkes, these meaningful items include everything from contemporary works by artists such as Donald Martiny to antiques—both inherited and purchased on their own travels.
“I like mixing genres and shaking it up a bit,” West says. “Design can be timeless and still be fun.” This mix of new and old is apparent throughout the home, including the primary bedroom where a vintage, pink marble-top table is juxtaposed with a more contemporary custom bubble gum-hued sofa. “She’s a pink girl,” West says of the cheerful selections for her client. Other significant pieces are found in the kitchen, where yellow depression glass plates inherited from Dana’s mother and framed photos of the couple’s grandchildren line a wall near the range.
In addition to the overarching design, it was important to the Burkes and West to layer in holiday décor with a similar feel. “Dana is such a giving person that I knew she would want a Christmas moment in more than one space,” West says. Artfully decorated trees shine in the family room and living room, while pinecones and vintage snowflakes are sprinkled throughout the entertaining areas. Acorns also find a home on a gilt light fixture in the living room, where each one represents a child or grandchild in the family. “Acorns hold special meaning to them; Walter gave Dana one on a walk when they first met,” West explains. “It’s creating visual moments like these for my clients that gives me the most joy.”