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Art and Artifacts

Their dream house came with a major caveat. When Mary Emma and Matt Hawthorne found a 1950s ranch-style home in the northwest corner of Lake Highlands, they instantly fell in love with the clean exterior lines, including the flat roofline. What they decided needed to change? Almost everything else.
“We liked the fact that there’d only been two owners before us and that nothing had really been done to the house, so we felt free to address everything,” says Matt, 33, a photographer with a studio in the Dallas Design District. “We wound up taking it down to the studs.”
The extensive three-month remodel (during which Emma was expecting their first child, Oliver, now 18 months) saw walls moved, the kitchen redone, a laundry room created, closets relocated and a significant expansion of the master bath. The look of the place took on the vibe of a contemporary gallery thanks to abundant white cabinetry, white solid-surface countertops, grey tile and walnut-stained floors (the original cherry pine).
“I’ve always been a fan of white,” says 31-year-old Mary Emma, a fine artist and stay-at-home mom awaiting the birth of their second child, due in early August. “The white all the way through the interior allows the art and artifacts to stand out. We’re not into interior design like ‘let’s have a maroon wall with a shelf on it with objects.’ We’re much more about the artwork itself.”
Mary Emma’s father, who lives in San Antonio and has a second home in Santa Fe, generously loans the young couple works from his extensive collection. Matt, meanwhile, often trades with local artists for additional pieces. Mary Emma’s own artwork, including paper collages, assumes a prominent place in their home as do international finds such as a ladder from a West African village and Turkish rugs and throw pillows. “It’s definitely a combination of things, but the common thread is that everything we have is abstract, clean and authentic,” she says.
Their son’s room also boasts an array of interesting items, including globes, a minimal white crib, simple grey rug and a wood chair that belonged to Mary Emma’s brother as a child. Oliver will likely move into what’s now the guestroom when his sibling arrives this summer, which gives the Hawthornes another project to consider.
Down the hallway, their bedroom exudes an unfussy, modern appeal.
“We decided when we were renting our apartment that we wanted to save money for the house, so literally the only piece of furniture we brought into our home was a coffee table,” Matt says. While Mary Emma confesses that she didn’t particularly enjoy the remodeling process (“So stressful!”), she did enjoy shopping. In the master bedroom, for instance, they found the white dresser and bed as well as the grey quilt from west elm; the grey metal tables came from CB2.
They purchased the sofa in the great room – a giant space relative to the rest of the 1,560-square-foot home – from Haven, the dearly departed fine home store in Victory Park. Mary Emma particularly enjoys flipping through art books on the sofa while Oliver has a snack at the bar and Matt putters in the kitchen, which welcomed a whole new suite of appliances during the remodel.
So how does a mostly white house withstand the rigors of a busy 18-month-old who has clearly inherited his parents’ creative genes? Patience.
“The other day Oliver grabbed a crayon and started running around the house,” Matt recalls.
“We can’t be too crazy about things like that, though we try to be intentional about where he draws,” Mary Emma adds. “Still, we caught him writing on the couch recently, which at least we had Scotchguarded!”