Saving A Historically Significant House: Cathy Kincaid


A short while ago, I wrote about this house that Dallas designer Cathy Kincaid had decorated – a most perfectly designed house, if ever.

The Dallas house had been featured in Veranda and it was now for sale, which allowed an in-depth look at all the design choices Kincaid made, and why.  HERE.

Kincaid’s design of the dining room in that house is unparalleled, in my opinion.  It might just be the prettiest dining room in Texas!   Photos from the architect Wilson Fuqua HERE.

Over the years, Cathy Kincaid has been featured in all the best magazines, but I couldn’t remember her own house being featured in a national mag.   So, it was a big thrill to open the newest House Beautiful and see her beautifully photographed house in Dallas.  I was able to locate a few photos of the house via Instagram and Real Estate sites that fleshes out the story a bit more.

The photographs are by the incomparable Miquel Flores-Vianna, whose own book remains one of my all time favorites:

Click on the photo above, to order.

The Beginning:

In order to tell the story of Cathy Kincaid’s house, you first have to tell the story of her former house.  And that story is bittersweet.   She and her husband and their many children had lived in the classically styled house for many happy years – 15 in all.     When the real estate agent first told her about the house, Cathy already knew it.  For years, she had driven by the house on Mockingbird Lane.   It was sited with the front door on the side as opposed to the front which resulted in only a small portion of the house to be visible from the street.   A two story, it was large, but filled with tiny rooms – typical of its age.  

Still, there was an allure to the house that proved irresistible:  the house had been owned by Nina Claiborne, once one of Dallas’ most famous decorators.  The legendary Nina had worked as Neiman Marcus’ Interior Designer and her clientele were the upper of the upper crust of Highland Park. 

It was impossible to say “no” to a house with such a pedigree.

Scanned from a 2004 D Magazine, sorry these photos are so blurry.

Kincaid’s former house, once owned by Nina Claiborne.  The house was turned on its side and only a small portion could be seen from the street.

From Google Maps, when Kincaid moved in, she planted a row of hedges to further block the busy street’s rubber-neckers. 

Within a few years, the hedges had done the trick and acted as a living fence.

Cathy describes her former house, with its diminutive rooms as glamorous, each room was a “jewel box” which visitors loved.

Below, is her living room – with its low ceiling covered in a reflective silver teapaper that helps to visually raise it up.

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In her living room, Kincaid added antique Chinese panels on the walls and layered framed art work over the panels.

   Her now grown daughter’s day bed was used here, filling in for a sofa or dining room chairs, when extra space was needed at parties.

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To the right of the day bed in the living room - a closer view of the framed art and two pretty French chairs.  That lamp!

Love this vignette!

I’m sorry this photo below is such a blurry scan from D Magazine, 2004:

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The dining room in the former house was the show stopper – and the room that ties it to the current house.  Nina Claiborne was an artist and she painted this mural onto canvas which she then hung in the dining room.  The story goes that when Nina’s husband cheated on her – she painted over his character in the mural, leaving just a headless body.

Cathy and her husband had many happy years at the Nina Claiborne house, but as it happens, real life came knocking.   Cathy’s husband passed away.  A year later, her beloved house went up in flames – completely destroying the second floor.

The day after the fire, Cathy went to her house and salvaged the Nina Claiborne hand-painted canvases in the dining room.   They were damaged, some beyond repair, but she rolled up the canvases that had survived and stored them away.

Six months later, Cathy went shopping for a new house.  She had decided against rebuilding the Nina Claiborne house, opting instead for a clean slate and a new start.  She wasn’t looking for such a large house this time, but with seven grandchildren – she did need enough space for sleepovers.

Hence, the new house.

Many of these photos are from the new House Beautiful, Instagram, and Pinterest.

In the new House Beautiful, Cathy refers to her featured house as the “caretaker’s cottage.”   The adjective fits.  The house is charming, clad in shingles with a large stone chimney.  An original to Dallas, a tree on the property is one of the oldest in its University Park neighborhood.  The house, located on 1/2  acre, is architecturally significant, built in 1923 for the Ted Dealey family (think Dealey Plaza & JFK.)   Famed Dallas architect Charles Dilbeck had added onto the house in the 1940s. 

Most interesting about this house is how it was saved from becoming the next tear-down.  Years before it was sold to Kincaid, the then owners of the house enlisted the help of real estate agent/historian Douglas Newby.  Newby specializes in older houses, significant for their architecture, be they Tudor or Midcentury Modern.  The owners of this house wanted to be sure it was protected and not torn down, as its lot value was worth more than the cottage itself - a neighboring church was anxious to annex the cottage’s leafy 1/2 acre.  Additionally, the house was vulnerable to the wrecking ball due to its age, condition, and size.  Newby saw its value and knew the Dilbeck connection raised its cachet.  In order to save the house, he invoked a device that he has used many times before on other vulnerable houses:  deed restriction.

When the house was sold, it came with the Newby deed restriction: the front façade could not be altered for ten years without penalty of $500,000.


After ten years, the deed restriction would be lifted, having done its job:  protecting the house that is still standing, having been stabilized via renovations.  The deed restriction proved effective in protecting this cottage that had a history, that was charming, and that was worth saving despite the fact that it wasn’t the most expensive house in Dallas nor was it a Frank Lloyd Wright.

 When Cathy Kincaid bought the house a few years ago, she spent 1 1/2 years opening the dark house up to the outside light.     Close to Turtle Creek and Highland Park Village, the house is completely secluded behind tall trees and hedges.  Only the original front gate is visible to the street:


A googlemap shows this charming, original flagstone gate that leads to house.  I have to say, I have never seen such a cute gate like this!

BEFORE:   Real Estate photos shows the exterior before it was remodeled by Kincaid.  The front door is to the right, on the front porch.  Kincaid enclosed the porch to make a proper foyer.

I wonder if that oak tree to the left of the house is the one that is the oldest in the neighborhood?

AFTER:   Instagram.  Decorated for Valentine’s Day, you can see the house with the porch now enclosed and the front door visible.  Kincaid installed new landscaping and planted clipped box,  taming the property of its overgrown bushes.  Notice the tiny leaded glass windows that flank the upper part of the stone chimney  - we’ll see those later (you can only see one window here, but on the other side of the chimney is its mate.)


Today:  The entry is enclosed with gorgeous newly installed steel framed windows that catch the oak tree’s dappled light.  I love how she decorated the new foyer, with a mix of French antiques and Moroccan tables.   The rattan accent chair is vintage.  Notice the floor is tiny white marble tiles with a Greek Key border. 

Oh, it is soooo beautiful!   The textures, the colors!!

Cathy says that during the winter months, the foyer becomes an orangery that keeps her citrus trees warm, moved in from the freezing cold. 

Beautiful photograph of course!  Miguel Flores Vianna took it.  Who else? 

Just out of view to the right is a large contemporary painting that you can barely see above the console.   Here’s a larger view of that art work:

INSTAGRAM, BEFORE:   An early view after moving in.  You can see the painting here.

Cathy loves to mix classic furnishings with contemporary art work.

Instagram:  A bit later, the bamboo chairs now go under the console and the Moroccan table is placed out front.  Notice the Greek Key trim on the lantern matches the floor border.  Details.

4007 Normandy Ave, Dallas, TX 75205

BEFORE:  Real Estate photo.  Here is the front door before the porch was enclosed.  The foyer opened directly into the living room.   This was a great remodeling choice Cathy made.

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BEFORE:  Real Estate – looking towards the dining room.  You can see how thick the stucco on the walls was.  Kincaid removed the stucco and smoothed out the walls.   The busy shelves were removed, as were all the arched doorways, which were replaced with a transom.

Notice the terrible, terrible mantel over the original beautiful fireplace!  That was a later addition – why would anyone ever add that clunky, squared off mantel over the beautiful original stone fireplace?

Do you think Kincaid removed the mantel or kept it????


House Beautiful:   Of COURSE Kincaid removed that mantel!  That’s why she is one of the best!!!  I am absolutely crazy about her aesthetic.  Here, you can see the living room – and how much cleaner it looks without all the arches and bookcases.

And notice, do you really need a mantel?  This is decorating without a mantel and doesn’t it SEEM like there is a mantel there?  Mirror, sconces, art work is all you really need if you can’t have a proper mantel!! 

I love how she layered this room – with different fabrics, chairs, rugs, and accessories.   This room looks so warm and inviting – because of her layering. 


4007 Normandy Ave, Dallas, TX 75205

BEFORE:   There were three original leaded glass windows but Kincaid needed more space so she added a bumped out window instead.  The new window adds much architectural element as does the new fireplace she installed.



AFTER:   The dining room.  I love her collection of lettuceware in yellow, green and white.   You can see the bumped out window which added just enough space to move chairs about. 

And the fabulous Nina Claiborne murals were restored before they were placed on the walls of this house.  There were some parts too damaged from the fire to be reused and other segments were pasted together out of order, but that just adds to its charm.    It is a fabulous mural – how lucky was Cathy to buy that house with the mural???   Love the mirror with the crystals. 

The lettuceware is from Tory Burch:

Order HERE

I’m so in love with the Lettuceware!!


There is a new fireplace with a mantel, a design that Kincaid has used before. This fireplace is a perfect addition for the vista from the living room to the dining room.   The chandelier came from her previous dining room. 

Another great design choice was the addition of the paneling, painted in green.  Look how pretty the green paneling looks next to the blue mural.  To tie it all together, Kincaid added a blue and green striped Elizabeth Eakin rug!    Fabulous!

NOTHING is left to chance.  Every detail is a labored decision.  And as usual, Kincaid’s decisions are always right. IMO, of course!



Layering – art over art!

Want more?    The Kincaid Interiors Instagram has a few more photos of the dining room:

Decorated for Christmas.  The mantel, a classic choice juxtaposed with the contemporary art – a Cathy Kincaid trademark.   Kincaid likes this classic mantel – I’ve seen her use it before.  And why not?  I love its detailing.  Sometimes you just get tired over the huge, imported, French stone mantels.

This is a very early photo of the bump out, even before the mural was hung.   But you can see how much room was gained by removing the old windows.  And even though the original leaded glass windows were replaced, somehow the bump out looks original.  Another good decision.

Work at home day!  I don’t think there are too many photos of the house without the cute dogs!!!    Here, you can really see the expanse of the mural – still, I wish we could see that one back wall.

The mural is so warm, so cozy, so inviting.  It really adds so much to the front part of the house.

4007 Normandy Ave, Dallas, TX 75205BEFORE:  Real Estate Photo.  Past the living and dining rooms is the family room with an eat-in area.  This room faces the back yard.  Through the door and arch is the kitchen and butlers pantry.

4007 Normandy Ave, Dallas, TX 75205

Looking the other direction, there is a ginormous flatscreen.   Kincaid will remove this and add another fireplace in its stead.


HOUSE BEAUTIFUL:   The other side of the room.  Kincaid added beams to the long room, beadboard paneling, and new windows and doors that lead outside.  Here, a marble Saarinen table is mixed with classic Thonet chairs.  One of her wintering lemon trees stands next to the contemporary painting, one of the first she ever bought, having had to convince her husband first.    Against the window is pure Kincaid - bamboo, blue & white, tufting, and tin!


The flowers in the vases are just too cute!!!  Love the what???  THE LETTUCEWARE!  I might have to get a piece or two.

Instagram:   A banquette was used here, pulled up to the Saarinen table.

Instagram:  A few years ago, the console from the foyer landed here.  Different rug.   Through the doorway with the new transom is the kitchen, with the contemporary light fixture.

From Instagram – the stairs, not shown in House Beautiful.  This area connects the original front part of the house with the newer Dilbeck addition on the back.    Kincaid added all this paneling which was not here before.

4007 Normandy Ave, Dallas, TX 75205

BEFORE:   On the first floor, past the foyer which you can see out the window, is the guest bedroom.


AFTER:  The same guest room has a vintage blue canopy bed by Albert Hadley dressed with a mix of Lisa Fine Textiles.

What I really love about Kincaid’s aesthetic is how it has changed through the years – with her use of fabrics.  Her updated look is the use of the Lisa Fine, Penny Morrison, Les Indiennes, etc. type fabrics that have a definite Moroccan and Indian look.  It’s colorful and full of pattern, but in a more subtle way.  Love it!!!

Side tables HERE. 


The mirror is vintage John Rosselli.  Notice the wallpaper which warms up the room and envelopes it, creating a cozy feel.   Adelphi Paper Hangings.  Leontine Linens.

Instagram:   An earlier view before the new lamps were placed in the room.  

Another photo that proves no “civilian” can compare to a “real” photographer!!   LOL.   I learned that lesson the hard way – after I paid a small fortune for my camera, thinking THAT was the problem!! 

NOPE, the problem was my photographic abilities.


In the master bedroom, a screen found in Round Top was divided into two pieces, one behind each end table.  The bed is vintage John Rosselli – made of bone, it’s gorgeous.

Such a tiny photo, I wish we could see more of the room!   But, the bed is the same one that Kincaid used in her Kips Bay Showhouse Bedroom – a few years ago:


Kips Bay:  Kincaid’s room was one of the most popular of that year’s rooms.  But – for some reason, the official photograph showed the room not finished – the photo was taken with a package of linens on the bench.   Notice, though, how beautiful the bed is – especially notice the wooden side panels. 

The room has all of Cathy Kincaid’s trademarks:  layers, wallpaper, fabrics with small designs, monogrammed and bespoke bed linens, PLATES ON THE WALLS, blue & white, curtains, curtains with trim, two rug layers, topiaries, antiques, accent chairs – and more! 

Can I hire her???  Can I be her???

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Another view shows more of her room and her aesthetic – fabrics with plain trims, mirrors, and symmetry.

But you can see here, the beautiful side of the bone bed.

AND, the package is still there!

Sigh.  It’s such a pretty, warm, inviting room. Sigh.

The bed is interesting – it’s actually called the “Furlow Indian Bone Bed” named after John and his wife Bunny William’s great friend, Furlow Gatewood.

Of course Furlow has one of the beds himself:


Furlow’s namesake bed in his guest house.


John and Bunny have a Furlow Indian Bone Bed in their country home, although theirs has a bit different detailing.

What great company Kincaid’s bed is in!  Bunny Williams, John Rosselli and Furlow Gatewood!

Finally, Cathy Kincaid’s 1923 house is architecturally significant for its original design and the addition done in the 1940s by Charles Dilbeck.   I found an old photo of a bedroom on the second floor under the eaves that was decorated like a party room.  

Real Estate in St. Andrews Place

Taken from the “Architecturally Significant Homes” blog  HERE by Douglas Newby.  Yes!  The same real estate agent that saved this house from the wrecking ball.

This large room was carved out of the eaves on the second floor.   There is the“barrel bar” and a set of original leaded glass windows which are located over what used to be the front porch.

4007 Normandy Ave, Dallas, TX 75205

From Real Estate:  The fireplace uses the same chimney as the living room’s.  Remember those two tiny leaded glass windows from the front of the house, flanking the chimney? They’re in this room, but out of sight, unfortunately. 

The previous owners turned this into a bunk room, leaving the large metal fireplace hood and the brick wall behind it.  There are built in bookcases on each side of the room – one is behind the sofa.  What a fabulous room!!!!!   I know Kincaid has a lot of children and grandchildren, so this would make a great bunk room, but what about a library?  Add more shelving.  Place two antique leather chairs around the leaded glass windows.  Add a few more chairs flanking the fireplace.  Pull up the area rug and scatter a few antiques rugs for atmosphere.   Or, if it is turned into  bunk room, how about wallpapering the walls and ceiling in a small print pattern?

I’m so curious to see how Kincaid decorated this room!!!!!  Maybe we’ll see it in her book.   AND no, there is no book that I know of, but if anyone needs to put all her projects into one permanent place like a book, it’s Cathy Kincaid!!!

More good news on the Cathy Kincaid front.   The December issue of House Beautiful is featuring another project by Kincaid, so be sure to order this issue.  You can get it online through Zinio  HERE.  Or, you can get it on your device, direct through the House Beautiful app.

And finally, just a word about design.  A lesson for today!

It’s always interesting to talk about changes in design, trends and classics.  

When you look at Kincaid’s house from the early 2000s – almost 20 years ago (wow!!!!) – you notice the fabrics she used:

 Toile.  Instead of toile, Kincaid updates her look through the use of fabrics like these – Lisa Fine:

and Penny Morrison:

Others include Carolina Irving and Robert Kime.   Their fabrics are based on classic design but they make the rooms they are in so new, trendy, fresh!

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Fifteen, twenty years ago – this room might have been done in toiles or a heavily patterned fabric – instead we have this, the Robert Kime Indian inspired fabrics. 

The Lesson?  Want to update an out of style room?   Think about fabrics…add new fabrics with a fresh look.  Think fabrics from a new genre, like Cathy did.    And…you don’t have to spend a fortune, just cover a few chairs, or a stool – add pillows in the fabric.  Layer a new rug over your seagrass.

    Suddenly you have a new look! 

A thank you to Cathy Kincaid and a thank you to Douglas Newby for his expert information! HERE

Be sure to take a look at Mr. Newby’s web site (above) – especially if you are interesting in Architecturally Significant Houses!!