09 May Design makeover elevates style of Magnolia farmhouse
The barndominium at Shelley and Don Riley’s Magnolia spread is getting more visitors than they ever imagined now that the coronavirus pandemic has thrown work and school schedules off track.
Shelley’s two sons — 17-year-old Blake Yeary and 15-year-old Drew Yeary — are still home, and Don’s three sons are all grown and live elsewhere but it’s not uncommon for one or more of them to visit.
That building was the Rileys’ first concern when Shelley called Ashley Moore of Moore House Interiors last summer. They were expecting guests, and she needed help finishing its 2,500-square-foot guest quarters — three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a small living area with a kitchenette — and wanted it to look nicer than “the land of misfit furniture.”
When that project was done, they moved on to the main house on the family’s 45-acre site in rural Montgomery County. That contained furniture the Rileys brought from their previous home, some of which they wanted to keep, some that needed to be repurposed and some that could simply go away.
“I wanted the farmhouse to be a little more modern; it was very country when we bought it,” Shelley said. “I get it as far as I can get it — maybe about 75 percent — but I can’t seem to pull it all together.
“I know what I want in my mind, but interior designers know where the best quality is at the best price and what’s trending out and coming in,” she continued. “If I’m not careful, I could be a year or two behind.”
The Rileys moved to Montgomery County in January 2018. They met when they worked together in Atlanta, married in Italy in 2013 and lived in Austin immediately before moving to Houston, where Don is a CEO in the building-products industry. Shelley is retired from a career in human resources.
From the big windows across the back of the living room, they can see out to a small pond, where they sometimes fish or tool around in a paddle boat. The beautiful scenery contributes to their rural quality of life, gives their dogs, a German shepherd named Dave and a black Lab named Tank, room to play. They’ve added cows, miniature horses and chickens, and when their four grandkids visit, they run immediately to see the animals.
A pair of armchairs covered in pale blue upholstery may not look like chairs meant for a farmhouse, but that’s the point. The Rileys wanted land and a more pastoral setting, but they wanted their farmhouse to be more current and less rustic. The chairs — which the Rileys have had for a while — help pull that off.
Moore opted to bring in decorative pillows, plus a new sofa upholstered slipcover-style in white linen. Other furniture shifted around, accessories were edited, and the bare windows were addressed in a room-changing way.
“When we first walked in, she had those gorgeous chairs and a pretty coffee table, but she had a lot of stuff on it. We started by clearing out the clutter but leaving enough for personality,” Moore said.
“There was nothing whatsoever on the windows — (addressing) that was a ‘must’ to finish the space,” she continued. “I love the look of seagrass shades paired with the draperies. It’s a farmhouse, so it gives a casual look, and the draperies with trim detail elevates it to be more sophisticated.”
In one corner, a curvy chest of drawers found a new home, and Moore added a bamboo-framed mirror and decorative plates for a vintage touch.
The Rileys knew they needed new art and wanted to start with the bare spot over the fireplace. They asked for a Houston artist, and Moore offered a colorful abstract by Kellie Morley.
There’s no TV in the room, but that doesn’t mean no one ever uses it. Shelley’s two sons sometimes do schoolwork in the quiet, and the couple has had parties here because they can set up a bar in a corner and open the doors to the patio so people can filter in and out.
“People just like the feel of this room; it feels good to sit in here,” she said.
An upstairs room got a dramatic makeover — from an oddly placed and little-used space to an answer to a big problem.
It might have become an in-home gym, but Shelley had a bigger need.
In their Austin home, the couple had plenty of closet space in their master suite, but this farmhouse had just half. There wasn’t an easy way to incorporate more square footage for that closet, but she could commandeer this other room.
She keeps some clothes in the closet they share but set up a boutiquelike space that any clotheshound would envy.
“It took some talking to get my husband and boys into it. My boys said, ‘Why would you ever turn a room into that?’ I said, ‘One day you’ll have a wife, and you will understand,’” Shelley said. “I’m telling you, it’s worth it. I don’t have any regrets.”
They moved the yellow sofa that had been in the living room here and added a large tufted ottoman and a rug.
Moore remembered getting a Ballard Designs catalog that she flipped through while watching her own kids swim in their backyard pool one day. She was struck by the functional and affordable options they offered for closets.
So when Shelley needed something that would be less permanent than a built-in closet system, she turned to Ballard. Units offer racks for hanging clothes, including long gowns for formal events, drawers for folded clothes, shallow drawers for jewelry, shelves for handbags and compartments for shoes.
“Lighting is so important in a closet. You know how you go into a department-store dressing room and their fluorescent lights make you look so bad? You want to feel like a million bucks when you leave,” Moore said.
In the end, they spent only about 25 percent of what a custom closet might have cost.
An upstairs family room had a big TV niche in the wall that was important back when the home was built — back when televisions were deep and could never be hung on a wall.
Moore transformed it into a bench with a custom cushion and pillows. It provides a little storage underneath, and a pair of sconces make it a place to sit and read or for their grandchildren to play.
It’s also a perfect update for any home built in the 1980s or 1990s that has a similar niche that has outlived its purpose.
The changes in the home were something Shelley wanted, but they’re all enjoying the results.
“(Don and the boys) were surprised at how good it looks and how quickly it came together. They’re proud to show it off to their friends and when we have people over,” Shelley said.
“Now the boys want their rooms done, though. I’m not so sure I’m going to spend that much on their rooms,” she continued. “My freshman has texted me twice, ‘Can you get the blinds in my room, too? And with blackout shades, don’t forget.’ I’m not sure he even knew what blinds were before.”
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