A Fort Worth couple embraces their newly renovated historic home — and its interior design — as part of the spiritual plan that guides them. Photos by Ralph Lauer Heather Essian is a patient woman. Deliberative in all she does, she is slowly decorating the 1905 Queen Anne she shares with her husband, pastor Jim Essian, and three daughters under the age of 7. She’s allowing the house , in Fort Worth’s Fairmount neighborhood, to tell her its stories as she focuses her vision for the family’s home. A portrait photographer who took up abstract painting when her second daughter was born, Heather views her creativity as a gift yet embraces it cautiously, wanting to employ it in service to others, too. She sees creating a welcoming space as a way to open her heart to her family and community, including members of The Paradox church — which started in the living room of the Essians’ previous house. The family was living happily in the Cultural District when they began to discuss a move. “We loved our home. We started a church in that house; we had our babies there. The sole purpose of a move was to live in a neighborhood with more of a sense of community, with younger families.” The Queen Anne had been a long-desired renovation project for neighborhood historian Michael McDermott and Stan Tucker, who wanted to save the house deteriorating within view of their own restored home. Driving through Fairmount in the summer of 2016, Heather happened upon their efforts, already underway for two years. Through contractor Tom Tinsley, she contacted Stan, who offered a showing. Built as a single-family home, the house was opened to boarders in 1907, then converted to four apartment units in 1921. By the time Stan and Michael claimed ownership, the house had long been abused and neglected. They began a painstaking exterior restoration by removing an ugly PermaStone facade. The original footprint of the house was mostly restored when Stan told the Essians he and Michael expected to be ready to sell by that fall. The home had holes in the wood floor when the Essians first toured it, but its beauty was undeniable. When Heather saw the pocket doors, she fell in love. The couple met Michael and Stan for dinner. “We started talking possibilities. They asked what we thought about buying the project midrestoration so we could finish out the interior as we wanted,” she says. Heather and Jim decided it would work. Aside from its desirable location, the house met two other prerequisites: a heated/air conditioned studio space for Heather and an extra bedroom. As a professional baseball player for eight years, Jim had lived with myriad host families. “We’ve been blessed with people opening their homes to us; now it was our time to give back,” Heather says. “It’s a way for us to tangibly serve our church, to mentor in our home.” They bought the house and finished out the interior with Jim as contractor in May 2017. Heather posts photos of the restoration on Instagram, @TheUrban_QueenAnne. The snaps create a slow reveal of a look she calls “Parisian Apartment Art Deco.” The two “musts” for the home have been met: A small enclosed upstairs porch serves as her studio, and Faith Brown, a young member of their church and an extension of the family, moved into the downstairs bedroom. The majority of the design begun eight months ago is close to finished. Heather’s mixes of color and texture as a painter translate to her decorating style. “I want people to stop and be interested in what’s going on. I don’t want anyone to leave feeling indifferent.” The home’s architecture weighs into design decisions, too. “Because this house has such a big presence, the things I put in it can, too.” The tiny square kitchen was blown open. Removing a wall, incorporating a porch and adding windows created an airy, light-filled space. Primarily white — “so it always looks crisp” — it is highly functional with a large island, open shelving and a pantry behind barn door sliders the girls can easily open. The kitchen fronts a family room dominated by large windows, a clean-lined sofa and a white vinyl modern wing chair. A large dining room, accessible through a pocket door, centers on a large rustic table that seats 10. The contrast of the old wood, a seasoned leather settee (rescued from a curb) and a modern chandelier of cascading acrylic beads represent Heather’s aesthetic. The dining room is open to the parlor, where a similar juxtaposition of old and new involves a Sputniklike fixture hung from a period plaster medallion. The black walls and ceiling, midcentury gold velvet sofa and acrylic coffee table create a cheeky take on Parisian modern. Unique pieces are key to the evolving design. One of the reasons Heather has furnished the house slowly is that she exercises strict restraint: “If I buy a piece of furniture, I have to sell a piece. That slows me down and makes me think more creatively.” She feels the home is becoming one her girls will fondly remember growing up in. As for Jim, she says, he had one big request: a wing chair. A favorite, on the second-floor landing, is where he sits to read and write. She is still moving things around but attributes the house with freeing her to indulge her interest in interior design. “I’m still learning, but I’ve lost my fear of trying new things. If it works, it works.” THE DETAILS Builder/Contractor Thomas Tinsley worked for neighborhood historian Michael McDermott and Stan Tucker on the historically accurate restoration of the home, firstname.lastname@example.org. Windows Ray Feyen, another Fairmount resident who is no longer taking new jobs, rebuilt and restored the window frames. Artwork Heather Essian accepts commissions. See her work at LOCAL Design Studios + Gallery, 3610 W. Vickery Blvd., Fort Worth, 817-720-6877 and on heatheressian.com. Follow her on Instagram @artist_heatheressian.
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