Photos by Brian McMurtry, Focus B Studio
Standing tall on Tulsa’s Golf Ball Hill is a 1980s home that recently experienced a yearlong dramatic transformation with the talents of semi-retired Tulsa designer Richard Neel and Lance Cheney, the new owner of Richard Neel Interiors, Inc., in Brookside.
The traditional style of the home was renovated in such a way to capture views of downtown Tulsa through the tree tops, an unusual vista for a home in an exclusive, secluded area. The sweeping renovation reflects the owners’ interest in modern furnishings and midcentury design.
“The owners are really into the modern aesthetic, which is reflected in the furnishings they chose and their extensive modern art collection,” Cheney says.
The couple bought the home from the original owners and quickly began to reorganize and change the design style of the interior. Cheney says the renovation included gutting the main floor, consisting of the living and dining rooms, kitchen and master suite. The project included an extensive new lighting system, designed by Neel.
The home’s entry is like a prelude to the character and charm of the rest of the home. A voluptuously shaped console, fashioned of mahogany veneer, reveals the couple’s interest in wood accents, evidenced in select pieces throughout the home. Sconces in the shape of twisted elk horns frame a modern painting, “Under Water Tower” by Patricia Larsen. A pair of midcentury walnut benches anchors this well-planned design portrait.
“The kitchen was a major focal point of the renovation,” Cheney says. “The biggest change was replacing all the upper cabinets in the kitchen with windows, providing expansive views of the surrounding landscape.”
Neel says: “We put in counter stools to take advantage of the new views the windows now provide. The seating area created with the undercounter stools is a functional space for dining or working, making the kitchen the heart of their home. Now, it’s the most beautiful, modern kitchen I’ve ever been involved in.”
Cheney sees the new kitchen much like “a tree house” in the heart of South Tulsa.
The designers also faced another challenge in the kitchen. The previous owners had placed the dining table directly in front of a door leading to the large elevated deck, creating something of a traffic problem.
“By opening a hallway near the kitchen, we were able to add a breakfast area for the children and create more seating in the kitchen,” Cheney says.
A gallery feeling is evident in the formal dining room, which was planned without a traditional chandelier over the table. Neel designed new architecturally recessed lighting to illuminate the art and dining area. A large chocolate-colored painting, “Tilt03” by Kim Fonder, is compelling, as is an antique Thai cultivation tool.
The living room exudes comfort and warmth in the muted hues of charcoal grays, off-whites and warm walnut wood. The fireplace is not only an anchoring focal point, but a conversation piece. Above the fireplace is an unusual custom installation of 102 small ceramic houses, titled “Urban Community,” designed by Brandon Reese. Each house is different and casts a small shadow on the fireplace wall above the mantel.
The master suite is the epitome of serenity, designed to be a quiet, relaxing space. It is also the only area in the home with custom draperies. They reflect the color palette featuring contrasting strips of felt in shades of gray, taupe and silver. The adjoining master bath features marble surfaces and custom floating vanities with undercabinet lighting that automatically illuminates when a person enters the room.
Cheney and Neel balanced the couple’s professional lifestyle and love for their family in each aspect of the extensive renovation. They designed a fresh contempory look for an older, traditional-style home. The family’s residence is visually enticing and extremely functional, dressed with an exciting mix of midcentury antiquities and modern treasures.