First-time homeowners Matt and Mary Emma Hawthorne orchestrated a modern remodel of the Dallas house like experienced professionals. Their secret? A crystal-clear vision and lots of research. Matt says, “We wanted a fresh, intentional space prepared for our artwork and artifacts.” Mary Emma adds, “But we wanted to do it right the first time.”
Both Matt and Mary Emma possess a similar layout aesthetic, letting them move ahead on their remodel with a unified vision. Matt, an expert photographer, provided a computing eye for detail, colour and space. Mary Emma, an artist, attracted her keen understanding of texture, layering and organic forms. Together, this young couple produced a modern gem with a handmade feel.
at a Glance
Who lives here: Matt and Mary Emma Hawthorne, their 1-year-old son, Oliver, and cat Parker
Location: Lake Highlands neighborhood of Dallas
Size: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths
That’s interesting: Mary Emma’s father is a lifelong art collector and awarded the family lots of the pieces exhibited in the house.
The Hawthornes spent the first five years of the union in a small apartment filled with hand-me-downs, saving their pennies for some time when they can create their own dream space.
Sarah Greenman: Tell me about your decorating Procedure.
Mary Emma Hawthorne: After forfeiting for such a long time, it had been this fun to pick out furniture and fittings.
Matt Hawthorne: We see furniture as artwork also. When we had been making initial decisions about furniture, we chose a blueprint and cut out furniture contours to scale and moved them around on the paper until we had the ideal configuration. Everything was planned.
SG: How would you describe your own personal aesthetic?
MH: That is tough. It is a lot of things. Urban. Modern. Organic. Eclectic. Minimal.
MEH: I seek out authenticity. Some of the “artwork” in our house is just real artifacts from our journeys. A drum from a box or Indonesia from Ghana. We enjoy things that are real.
Art: “Water Well,” by Mary Emma Hawthorne, dining table: Bo Concept; seats: Design Within Reach; bookcase: Expedit, Ikea
SG: How did you realize that was the ideal house for your renovation?
MH: We wanted a house that had no prior renovations. Why pay for updates which you’re only going to take out? It was built in the 1950s, and we enjoyed the floor plan. We dissected each house that we looked at and knew that this one would best match our vision.
MEH: We spent a lot of time in each home. I believe what I enjoyed the most was that the face of the house was directly across, accentuating the clean-line texture.
Art (far left): Beast sculpture by Patrick Mehaffy and “Nana” by James Havard
SG: After you chose the house, how can you decide on a contractor?
MH: We went with Scott Powell of New Leaf Construction since he was confident he could do exactly what we wanted within our budget.
MEH: We just sat down and chatted with builders. Some of them had their own ideas about layout which didn’t jive with what we wanted.
MH: We were very picky.
Sofa: Gus Modern; java table: Anthropologie
SG: I understand you were on a budget. What was your greatest steal?
MEH: The 3 globe pendants dangling in the kitchen. I used to be a screen coordinator at Anthropologie and got them for $30 apiece rather than the first $200.
Bar Condominiums: Sportsman’s Guide
The excellent room is anchored by a huge piece of abstract artwork by Dirk de Bruycker, which greets guests as they enter the front door.
Oliver just celebrated his first birthday and loves to scoot around the house. He is, building a escape down the hallway to his bedroom.
End table: Crate & Barrel; lamp: Bo Concept
Oliver’s area is filled with vintage toys and whimsical artwork, much of it created by Mary Emma. The red screen-print above the crib is by Evan Hecox.
Crib: Walmart; dresser/changing table: Oeuf
Wire baskets under a wooden chair provide storage room for Oliver’s books and trinkets. The silver roadster from Design Within Reach was a present.
Armchair: Small Castle, Baby Bliss
Oliver’s playthings are neatly tucked away on shelves by Ikea.
SG: How has your home’s design changed since you’d Oliver?
MEH: It has not. After we were pregnant we had been nervous. Spaghetti on walls! But I couldn’t care less today.
MH: The house stands up. If Oliver bangs a toy on the wall, I believe “uh-oh,” but it is fine.
Although the hallway bathroom is small, it is inviting and well appointed. Mary Emma points to the countertop and says, “This is a struggle that I won. Matt wanted a different whitened, but this white has little flecks in various earth tones. It goes great with the wood floors.”
The guest area doubles as a workplace. The artwork above the bed is among Mary Emma’s first functions.
The office is a clean, compact space. The framed Polaroids above the desk were shot by Matt. See Matt Hawthorne Photography for much more of his photography work.
Desk, drawers: Ikea
Mary Emma’s desk can be from Ikea. The seat is a discovered object she obtained while working at Anthropologie. The artwork above the desk is by Cody Hudson. It was a present from Mary Emma’s father purchased at The Public Trust a gallery at the Regional Deep Ellum neighborhood.
Atop her desk is Mary Emma’s prize possession: a paintbrush that once belonged to abstract impressionist Agnes Martin.
A low-lying platform bed covered in a strong grey quilt, either from Crate & Barrel, is the centerpiece of this master bedroom.
Art: Waddy Armstrong (over headboard), Mary Emma Hawthorne (next to TV); lamp, side table: CB2
SG: Where are your favorite places to look for home products?
MH: We enjoy Design Within Reach, West Elm, Bo Concept, global markets while traveling and small, interesting boutiques.
The master bath is simple, practical and monochromatic with a double sink and a huge glass walk-in shower.
There was no backyard landscaping once the family moved in, so that they brought in 10,000 pounds of dirt, built a short retaining wall by hand and installed grass. Potted succulents, aloe and agave anchor the edges of the patio.
Painted brick, dark grey trim and bright green grass create a pure framework that showcases the home’s crisp, clean curb appeal.
Mary Emma retains Oliver while Matt leafs through a few of his art books. The excellent room, with a view from the bay window, is a favorite spot for the Hawthorne family.
SG: what’s your advice to homeowners interested in remodeling at a modern style?
MH: Don’t rush it and don’t be trendy.
MEH: We often see modern remodels that seem cool at first, then quickly become obsolete.
MH: And do your research. Make sure your contractor is on precisely the same page. His answers must be in line with the homeowner’s vision.
Do you have a creative, modern home? Share it with us!