The Manning Project

For designer Philip Thomas Vanderford of Studio Thomas James, the third time really was a charm in creating a dream home for his long term clients.

Written by Juno DeMelo



The principal and founder of Studio Thomas James in Dallas had already worked on two homes for a local couple when they brought him on to help with their third home, a new build with space for their two young children.

“Their last house had this slightly East Coast look to it,” says Vanderford. “The homeowner kept saying that was her taste, but when I really dug in to do this house, we realized that look was familiar and comfortable but not really her taste at all. So we started from scratch, and it was really interesting pulling out what they really gravitated toward and comingling their looks.”

Like his clients, Vanderford is a Southerner. He was born in Arkansas and attended the University of Arkansas Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design.

“Where I grew up, there was a lot more of an antique-collector’s mentality. It was more traditional,” he says. “Dallas has a little bit more edge. We definitely have a lot of Spanish influence, and you see that in indoor-outdoor spaces, stucco and tile, and the type of stone we use. We get a little bit of cowboy here. It’s not super obvious; maybe it’s just a cowhide rug done in a chic, subtle-nod way.”

Though Vanderford says there’s a Spanish vibe to the architecture of the five-bedroom, eight-bath home, he took his cues for the interior from what his clients wore, what they drove, where they vacationed, and which hotels they stayed at. “This home very much represents their personalities. It’s very them. We really captured their essence,” he says.

Their point of view overlaps with his own. “My work is extremely varied. I really try to do what I think is best for the architecture and the client. But one amazing thing about these particular clients is that our tastes are very similar,” says Vanderford. “It‘s fun when you get to work on something where most of what you’re doing is what you would do for yourself.” 

One way Vanderford infused the home with personality was through art, from the film-noirish Miles Aldridge photograph hanging in the living room to the pair of Stephen D’Onofrio botanical paintings in the kitchen. “Everyone buys great art for the living room and dining room, but the reality is you’re in the kitchen all the time,” says Vanderford.

“There’s a side wall in the kitchen that’s all storage, and the kitchen’s quite large, so we really wanted to give the room a little bit more personality. We immediately knew we didn’t want uppers, we wanted to bring art and pattern in. We wanted something graphic that didn’t scream ‘kitchen backsplash,’ per se.”

That something was Ann Sacks Asher Grey Parquet Mosaic. “If we wouldn’t have had the art and tile there, the kitchen would have been quite blasé,” says Vanderford. “It added a lot of interest and depth.”

The homeowners also wanted something unexpected in their primary bath. “So we used this opportunity to go with the Ann Sacks Catia Vintage Cube Mosaic in a really fun pattern all the way up the shower walls,” says Vanderford. “One thing that’s interesting about that pattern is it almost feels contemporary. But I was in Italy this summer, and I saw a similar pattern in a 13th-century building. That was a reminder that nothing is new. It’s interesting how in black and gray, it feels very fresh and a little edgy.”

In the powder bath, Vanderford reworked the color and scale of the wallpaper to complement the Ann Sacks Mosaic Enclave tile on the floor.

In the daughter’s bathroom, he leaned into her favorite color, peachy-pink, for the cabinetry but went with white Ann Sacks Kanso Scallop tile for the backsplash. “We wanted to put in a tile that would grow with her,” he says. “The pattern’s a little whimsical but not cutesy.”

Vanderford also relied on an Ann Sacks tile, the geometric glazed-porcelain Ermanno in black and gold, to bring an Art Deco vibe to the bar backsplash.  As sophisticated as the home is, Vanderford says it’s actually quite kid-friendly. “Every fabric is commercial or indoor-outdoor. The fabric might be off-white, but it has a fiber treatment on it. Everything’s been coated, and none of the finishes are overly slick.”

Because Vanderford ordered all furnishings during the yearlong construction process, the home was ready to be photographed two weeks after the owners moved in. “Things don’t always happen that way, but when you have the luxury, there’s such a sense of satisfaction and enjoyment to having everything done at once,” says Vanderford.

Which isn’t to say that the project isn’t ever-evolving. “One thing I love about these two is that they’re constantly keeping things refreshed. Since we’ve photographed the home, we’ve acquired more art and all new furniture for the back patio, and we’re going to panel all the white walls in the kitchen. I’ve never done this before, but I told the clients this is probably one property I will go back and photograph in five years.”

September 22, 2022

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