Walking the line between old and new can be tricky, as the result often feels disjointed. Luckily for Sarah James and Dustin Dorr, this was not the case with their Tudor Revival home.
Built in 1927 and retaining much of the original architecture and Art Deco fixtures, the house was remodeled in 2010 to include modern updates. Meaning that, by the time James and Dorr moved in, a lot of the groundwork had already been done, leaving the couple with the task of infusing their personal style into their new home.
[In the lead image: Knoll Saarinen 96-inch Oval Dining Table, $6,101-$11,030; Louis Poulson PH 5 Mini Pendant Light, $664; Sherwin-Williams "High Reflective White"]
James, the blogger behind whoorl.com, and Dorr, a designer, come from creative backgrounds and were looking for a more neutral backdrop to play host to their collection of art and vintage furnishings. With white walls, blonde wood floors, and 1,900 square feet to work with, the home’s essentially blank canvas was perfect. Ceilings as high as 20 feet further open up the space, while elements like Moroccan tile in the kitchen and original arched plank doors lend an old-school charm.
We spoke to the husband and wife team to learn about balancing old and new, plus what it’s like to work on your dream home with your significant other.
[In this image: West Elm Urban Sofa, $1,499]
What did the space look like before?
James: When we moved from Newport Beach to Oklahoma City in 2014, we had just finished a complete renovation of our California home a couple of years prior, so we weren’t particularly jazzed about jumping into another one. We were fortunate enough to find this home that had been completely renovated in 2010—the previous owners had done a beautiful job of honoring the lines of the home and celebrating the charm and character of a home built in the '20s.
We changed paint colors, replaced light fixtures, changed a few plumbing fixtures, removed some wallpaper, finished out a small closet upstairs, and added some custom cabinetry in the kitchen for more storage.
What was your inspiration for the space?
Dorr: Clean lines and quirky detail. A showcase for our collections. A reflection of our lifestyle and personalities.
Any elements of the old space you wanted to keep or highlight?
Dorr: We loved the old Deco-style door hardware and original doors that were stripped of paint and waxed to a beautiful patina. We also kept the original iron stair railing with [the] beautiful finish and detail, and the original lavender sink in the lower bathroom.
[In this image: Schoolhouse Electric Alabax Small Sconce in “Marigold”, $99]
What was it like working together on this home? Were there any challenges?
James: While design is an interest of mine, I tend to get more excited about fashion and/or beauty, while Dustin eats and sleeps design—it’s his true passion, as well as his livelihood. He loves to dig in and find the gems, while I prefer to come in at a later stage. We have a pretty seamless partnership when it comes to design.
So, our design process usually looks like Dustin doing all of the legwork (which he adores) and then presenting me with two or three options. Then we hash it out and come up with a decision. However I trust Dustin’s design implicitly—it’s very rare that we buck heads… although it has happened a few times!
Dorr: What she said. Must be nice to have a full-time in-house designer ;).
In a few words, how would you describe the style of the finished space?
Dorr: Comfortably modern. Crisp and clever—an unexpected mix of curated finds. It’s timeless, informed, and quite personal.
Sarah, how has your creative background in blogging influenced the way you view design? Did it impact the way you set about renovating the house at all?
James: I am definitely exposed to all types of design via the blogging community, and I usually keep a mental list of inspirations, but Dustin has a way of creating lovely and unique spaces that always delight me. I’m a lucky gal!
Dustin, what was it like designing a house for yourself vs. designing for clients? Did you find the experience easier or did it present its own unique set of difficulties?
Dorr: It’s always more difficult to design for yourself, knowing you’ll be stuck with your decisions day in and day out. On the flip side, it’s far easier to make decisions [for clients] knowing you’re spending other people’s money! Either way, design in general requires a highly disciplined approach and refined aesthetic, regardless of the audience.
[In this image: Room & Board Architecture Bed, $1,099]
We love the mashup of colors in the home; did you settle on a distinct color palette?
Dorr: Color is everywhere. There’s no particular palette… just the rainbow. It’s more about the balance of color with shape, line, and texture.
What’s the story behind all the antique and vintage finds in your home?
Dorr: It’s our personal history. Almost all things have a story. Some [has been] passed down from family, some from thrift stores, estate sales, or auctions, and a few from the very finest furniture manufacturers around. I love the hunt, and can generally remember each purchase and experience even after buying hundreds—probably thousands—of items.
Do you have a favorite part of the house?
James: It’s the master bedroom, no question. I am an introvert and definitely need my alone time, and the master is just heaven to me. It’s so private and quiet, with lovely natural light, and I spend a lot of time up there. There is the most perfect alcove where my vanity resides; settled in a nook with a window, it’s the perfect space for my work. Being a green beauty blogger, I spend a lot of time testing skincare and cosmetics, and that alcove acts as my office. I film videos there, and take most of my photos in that space.
Dorr: For me, the living room. Nothing beats the 20-foot vaulted ceiling, the original staircase and balcony, the planked arched-top doors, our wall of collected mirrors, the brick fireplace, the built-in bookshelves, and the huge steel window that lets in so much natural light and offers great views outdoors.
Be sure to follow Sarah James at whoorl.com and Dustin Door at dustindorr.com.
Photography by Emily Hart of Nina & B Photography.
See more home tours:
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This Prospect Heights Townhouse Is What Brooklyn Dreams Are Made Of
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