A Texas Guest House Turned Design Playground
land of liberty
WRITTEN BY RONDA SWANEY / PHOTOGRAPHY BY MIKE DAVELLO
“You don’t expect to find a vignette behind a cabinet door, but what happens when you open it and it’s there? There’s this flood of delight,” says Ginger Curtis, owner and principal designer of Urbanology Designs in the Dallas Fort Worth metroplex. “I want to feel that way in my home, and I definitely want to offer that experience to my guests,” she says, describing her thoughts behind the now updated guest house, which includes a guest bedroom and bath suite.
Guests use the space, but so do Curtis, her husband, and their five children. It’s become almost a design lab for her, noting that the design process becomes more fluid when you’re your own client. “I get to lean into some of the things that I don’t always get to do when working with a client. I love the creative liberty. I can stand back and say, ‘Oooh, this is what I want to do next.’”
One of those creative liberties was bleaching the cherry floors found in the bedroom, which were originally stained orangey-red. “I’m not going to rip out perfectly good hardwoods,” she says. “So, I went into my experimenting mode and grabbed my sander from the garage.” She sanded a section of the floor, and it was no longer orange: it was pink, and not at all what she was hoping for. Undaunted, she reached out to a flooring company, asking if they could bleach and seal the floors. To her surprise, “Not only did it work, it really worked. Now, that’s a tool I can keep in my design toolbox.”
Another creative experiment was using micro concrete in the shower area. Popular in Europe but little known in North America, the material is a thin, light coating that looks like plaster. It is antimicrobial, mold-resistant, and great for wet locations when applied to wood or tile. That wasn’t her only creative addition to the guest bath suite. She also added a built-in bench with a piano hinge for more storage. “I love when I walk in there and see that built-in bench. It adds a lot of function and, aesthetically, it’s just one of my favorite things,” she says.
The freedom to experiment in her style, and here in the guest bedroom and bath, comes from her embrace of wabi-sabi. It’s a Japanese concept of finding beauty in the simple, imperfect, and impermanent.
“You can embrace the beauty of a patinaed pot that maybe has a little chip. It makes you ask, ‘What’s the story behind that?’ That feels so much more interesting than things that are perfect and perfectly placed,” she says. “It gives us permission to dance in this playground of creativity.”
In addition to seeing guest spaces as creative playgrounds, Curtis offers this final bit of advice on how to transform a guest bedroom and bath from comfortable to special: “It’s easy to focus on the big things, like the bed. The comfort of the bed and pillows matter! But we often focus on only the big things and forget to obsess over the tiny details, the celebration of little imperfections that make people feel known, seen, loved, and valued.”
The art in the bedroom holds special meaning for designer Ginger Curtis. Painted by her grandfather, now passed, it was gifted to her by her mother. Many pieces are scenes of Big Sur, California, where he lived and where Curtis spent many summers as a child. Here, she offers advice on displaying collections.
“Sometimes people don’t feel they know how or have the freedom to incorporate special pieces. It may be because it’s not necessarily their vibe or doesn’t quite match their decor,” says Curtis. “When you have those moments, lean into creating a gallery wall. That suddenly opens a door, leaving leeway in how you put artwork together. The frames and even the frame styles don’t have to match. When it’s an eclectic mix, you can bring in pieces that are unexpected. Take that piece of art that you haven’t hung, that you don’t know what to do with, but that is special to you. Once you add it to a gallery wall, it suddenly works.”