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Designers Alex Boudreau and Hayley Cavagnolo’s client, Sarah, admits the real-estate-listing photos of her family’s Dallas home were pretty off-putting—at least the ones of the interior. “But my husband was so curious about the backyard that I agreed to take a look,” says Sarah. They were sold: A landscape architect had lived there before them and it showed. “It’s our own little nature oasis in the middle of the city,” she adds. After nearly seven years of living in the house and making small tweaks here and there, they called up Boudreau and Cavagnolo, who recently solidified their partnership as a design duo, and inquired about adding more windows in the living room and primary bedroom to take advantage of the garden views. As things often do, they snowballed from there into a full-on renovation with help from general contractor Jason Asmar of the Burke Company.

The biggest hurdle was figuring out a new layout for the primary suite, says Cavagnolo. Originally, to get to the closet, you had to trek through the bathroom. Instead, they created a hallway entrance to the bedroom with one door leading to the walk-in and another door in the corridor leading to the bathroom. But really every room makeover was like a game of Jenga. The main entry went from having a dining table and shoe bench to boasting a cozy sofa and tall cabinets; the kids’ bathroom used to feel like a powder room with a skinny shower shoved in the corner, and now it features a tile-clad tub. Take a look at the best transformations they made.

Don’t Be Afraid to Change the Meaning of a Room

The entry living room, before.

A front door that leads directly into a big open room doesn’t leave a lot of space for error—or messy shoe piles—so the designers set out to make the space feel welcoming and a touch more formal without compromising function. Backpacks and soccer cleats can now be stowed away in the tall cabinets that frame the sofa; an extra-large jute rug feels cozy under bare feet and also helps hide dirt that’s tracked inside.

“The built-in storage is a complete game changer,” says Sarah. “We have a place for all the coats, backpacks, sports equipment, and instruments without adding a mudroom. Genius!” Most guests don’t even notice the painted detail on the ceiling (a trick Cavagnolo and Boudreau used to make the room appear larger) until they’ve been to the house several times.  

Give Dinner Guests Something to Guess On

The dining area, before.

Turning the entry room into a multifunctional hangout zone meant the dining table had to find a new home. Fortunately there was a blank spot around the corner calling its name. A banquette was an easy way to maximize square footage, and it also provided an opportunity for fun upholstery—both on the cushions themselves and on the overhead pendant lamp. “Our favorite game for people who haven’t visited before is to ask them to guess the pattern on the fabric,” says Sarah. Psst: It’s lips. “When they finally get it, then it’s like, ‘Oh, we’re in a dining room and we’re eating.’ It’s full circle,” explains Boudreau. 

Go Big on a Sofa So You Can Go Big on Game Night

The formal living room, before.

While continuing with the space-savvy millwork in the sunken living room, the designers had a built-in sectional constructed with push-to-open drawers underneath to hold the family’s expansive board game collection. “Tenzi, Uno, Bananagrams, and Clue are in heavy rotation right now,” shares Sarah. “We also love a game called Cat Crimes, where you determine which cat has caused mischief around the house using clues and deductive reasoning.” And when they want to throw on a movie in the background, they can open up the cupboard over the fireplace. “It’s on a hinge that comes out and down, so it’s not up in the sky with those high ceilings,” notes Boudreau. 

Utilize Every Inch, From Wall to Wall

The kids’ bathroom, before.

While there technically was a small corner shower in the girls’ bathroom before, the pedestal sink was a strong giveaway that the space was originally configured as a powder room. To make up for the serious lack of storage, the designers scrapped the sink for a double vanity with open shelves and lots of lower cabinets painted in a creamy white and buttery apricot combo.

Then they wanted to maximize the opposite wall with a tub-shower combo. The only catch was, there wasn’t enough room for a standard 60-inch tub. “It needed to be no more than 55 inches,” recalls Boudreau. After a deep dive on the Internet, the designers came across the perfect fit (with custom tile flange) at MTI Baths

Get Down With Zellige

The primary bathroom, before.

In the kids’ bathroom, the designers paid subtle homage to historic homes by adding a two-tone edge around the central hexagons on the floor. “It’s like finishing a thought,” explains Boudreau. Adding the red zellige tile to the main bathroom stemmed from a similar idea: It reminded the duo of character-rich terracotta but with a contemporary twist. It just so happened that this thought was a little harder to finish. “The floor was a struggle,” admits Cavagnolo.

The tile had to be reinstalled three times because pieces kept popping out—a result of them being handmade with varying thicknesses. “When you’re laying uneven tiles, each one has its own layer of thickness of grout that has to go on the back of it, then you have to take into consideration that this is a beam house and it will shift for the rest of its existence,” Boudreau notes. Fortunately, the sandy-hued ones in the shower never caused a fuss. 

Turn the Volume Down on Your Favorite Paints

The main bedroom, before.

When Cavagnolo and Boudreau go to the paint store, they often don’t walk away with the cans as is—they customize the saturation. In the primary suite, the barely there blue on the walls is actually Benjamin Moore’s Glacier Lake, but they decreased the formula to 50 percent. The comforting color (and all the other cozy finishes—like the customized cushion on the Crate & Barrel headboard) beckon an exhale every time Sarah walks into the space. “It feels like a light-filled treehouse retreat,” she says. “The space has brought me incredible comfort over the past year.”