When Mia Brous, Kerri Goldfarb, and Louise Marsh founded their University Park design store, Madre, in 2015, they initially focused on children’s furniture and accessories. It was a smart move, and one that has paid off. “A lot of clients come to us after they first get married for kids’ rooms and nurseries,” Brous says. “Then we end up doing their entire houses later.” Such was the case with a pair of newlywed graduates from The University of Oklahoma, who enlisted the Madre team to design a Dallas nursery. When the couple bought a house in Highland Park in 2018, they hired Brous and Goldfarb to do all the interiors — but with a catch. “We had to turn it around in a few months,” Brous says. “They are big OU fans, and the goal was to have it done for their OU party in October.” To pull it off in time, they corralled a team of talented and loyal seamstresses, upholsterers, wallpaper hangers, and painters. “I tell people I’m not a designer but a logistics coordinator,” she says, laughing. The homeowners also helped speed things up. “These clients were great to work with. The wife was very decisive — she sees something she loves and commits.”
With voluminous rooms and high ceilings, the two-story, 7,000-square-foot house presented another challenge: how to make all that space feel comfortable and inviting. So the designers did something not often seen in modern American houses of ample proportions: They wallpapered almost every room. “Wallpaper is our first love,” Goldfarb says. “We love to start a room with it.” Downstairs, they used lavish Brunschwig & Fils in the dining room and durable Thibaut grasscloth in the communal living, dining, and kitchen areas. Upstairs, bedrooms and baths are cocooned in Schumacher, China Seas batik, and Meg Braff Designs bamboo pattern. “Wallpaper really warms up everything,” she says. “and the clients love it.”
These Sooners fans also love bright colors and fun patterns — but you won’t find a crimson and cream color palette here. “They go to Palm Beach a lot, so we used greens, aquas, blues, and corals,” Brous says. Wicker and grasscloth elements reinforce a relaxed vibe, such as the grasscloth-covered buffet in the dining room and wicker pouf and pendant light fixture in the casual living area. It wouldn’t be Palm Beach without palm trees, and the designers use them in a way that feels sophisticated rather than theme-ish. In the casual living area, several hand-painted Iksel Decorative Arts scenic panels depict a tropical landscape and are flanked by a pair of antique tole palm tree sconces. The wife discovered a pair of large white canvas-and-wood palm trees at a shop in Florida, so the designers found the perfect spot for them on either side of the fireplace in the formal living room, where they pop dramatically against the room’s coral-painted walls.
With a tight deadline looming, the designers naturally pulled many of the furnishings from Madre, along with lighting from Visual Comfort. “They are great for projects like this because they keep a lot of lighting in stock,” Brous says. “It’s affordable, and the quality is great.” They like to mix new with old, so many of the antiques in the house came from the designers’ favorite haunts such as Muse on Slocum, Antique Row in Dallas, and Parc Monceau in Atlanta. In the formal living room, an antique Venetian-glass mirror and vintage shell sconces over the fireplace strike just the right note and provide a bit of gravitas when paired with the irreverent canvas palm trees. “It’s an elegant, elevated space but still fun and suited for family and entertaining,” Goldfarb says.
Other furnishings were custom-designed out of necessity. “The clients were coming from a smaller, more traditional house, so their furniture was smaller,” Brous says. “This house is a very big scale, so the sofas and coffee tables needed to be a bit bigger, too. Otherwise, the furniture would be overwhelmed.” This was especially true in the communal living, breakfast, and kitchen areas that flow into each other. “It’s quite a large space, so we separated and defined individual areas with pendant lights and rugs.” Antique Oushak rugs are a favorite to use, but they’re hardly big enough to work solo in these rooms, so the solution was to layer them over large custom-sized sisal rugs. Antique Oushaks work well in households with kids, she says, because of their forgiving handwoven nature, with natural variations in dyes and patterns. “Oushaks are popular right now so there are a lot of mass-produced new ones out there without the artistic nature. Find an old one you love, and it’ll stand the test of time.”
The homeowners now have three children, but you might never suspect it because the house looks so crisp and refined. “We used a lot of Romo, Thibaut, and Mulberry Home upholstery, which wear really well,” Brous says. “Thibaut even does tutorials where they put a Sharpie or ketchup on the fabric and show you how to get it out with dish soap.” After all, Madre is all about creating family-friendly interiors. “We both have kids and juggle Madre like it’s another child,” Brous says. “We know what we’re doing from experience.” Oh, and if you’re wondering whether the interiors were finished on schedule — they were. “Everything was perfect and party-ready,” she says.