Welcome to Along for the Revival, where we follow designers through the renovating and decorating process of historic homes. In our first-ever Along for the Revival series, designer Caitlin Wilson invites us into her 1920s Georgian home in Dallas’ Highland Park as she reimagines it for modern life.
If I could live in any other time period, it would be the 1920s. As a designer, I’m drawn to fearlessly feminine colors and patterns, and I love the splendor and the romance of the Jazz Age. I could imagine being a part of extravagant parties in homes characterized by glamour and sophistication.
Dallas’ Highland Park neighborhood epitomizes that grandeur. When we moved here five years ago, Texas opened my eyes to high teas and black-tie dinners. Throw away your notions of a Texas barbecue (though those can’t be beat!); I love the way gatherings here elevate parties to soirées.
Four children later, with a fifth on the way, our first Highland Park home was filled to capacity—and I was ready for a new design challenge. One thing was certain: We wanted to stay in the neighborhood.
Designed in 1915 by the same urban planner who developed Beverly Hills, the 2¼ square mile community of Highland Park is completely walkable. Every lot showcases a different architectural style—Mediterranean, Colonial, Georgian, Tudor, modern—and the streets are canopied with mature magnolias and oaks. It’s an aspirational neighborhood that’s dreamy in every sense of the word.
When we first saw our future home, a majestic Georgian with symmetrical arched windows and a grand entrance, we all fell in love. Its location was idyllic, overlooking a beautiful creek with a footbridge where our kids can play. The house itself appealed to my romantic nature. It almost looked like the White House—formal and traditional, built in 1920, with classic arches and columns.
It also needed a lot of work. The owner was considering tearing it down, and I think a lot of buyers would have replaced it with a new build. The porte cochere, once a grand covered entrance to the house that could accommodate a car underneath, was literally falling apart. All the windows needed to be replaced. The electrical and plumbing required a total overhaul.
We knew we’d found a gem, but to return this home to its original magnificence, we needed help. First, we called on the expertise of Wilson Fuqua, a local architect known for historic remodels. Then we brought in a builder, Coats Homes, who was the perfect liaison between preserving an historic, traditional style and upgrading it for life in the modern world.
At first, we planned to live in the home while we renovated the kitchen and bathrooms. But after six months—following the realization that to repair the foundation on the back of the house, we’d have to take it down to its studs—we moved out to make way for a full-on renovation.
Those six months before we had to move were an adventure, an opportunity for us to learn how the house functions and flows. We took the old layout and made it ours. The previous family room became our ballroom. There, we set up a trampoline, and my dance-loving girls twirled, leapt, and scootered their way through that room more times than I can count.
Our 6-month test drive also taught us a lot about the house, and helped us better understand what we wanted in the renovation. Here’s what we decided:
- We need a bigger kitchen. Back in 1920, kitchens weren’t the gathering places they are today. What was originally designed as a small maid’s kitchen is no longer practical for hosting friends, family dinners, afternoon crafts, and late-night chats with my husband. As a family, we spend so much time in the kitchen, and I want it to be a space where we are comfortable and feel at home.
- The ballroom stays. Parquet floors, huge ceilings, tall windows, and French doors—I love the wide-open charm of this space. Swing those doors open, and it’s the perfect entertaining area.
- We don’t need a big playroom. Children tend to follow you wherever you go, toys in tow. We don’t need a dedicated room for storing toys on the main floor. Every room can be a playroom!
- But we do need a place to store those scooters. This home didn’t have a garage, but luckily, because an alley runs behind the backyard, we’ll be able to add one without disrupting the front façade.
- Privacy is important. We live on a popular walking route, and you can’t believe how many people stroll by—especially on holidays. Sometimes it felt like people could see in, and we wanted a little more privacy. Our solution: Transform the front sunroom into more of an open zone, rather than a work space or a private room.
Over the next year, I’m so thrilled to share our renovation journey with you. Join me as we dive into the details of designing a modern, traditional home. We’ll share our processes for choosing tiles, window treatments, and paint colors. We’ll share ideas for organizing kids’ spaces, offer tips for preserving family treasures, and we’ll even take you on a tour through our home’s secret gardens.
Let the journey begin!
This is part one in our Along for the Revival series with Caitlin Wilson. Get caught up with the rest of the series here.