Socialites Natalie and Mike McGuire swapped houses with baseball star Alex Rodriquez. They couldn’t be happier with their end of the bargain.
Life is good on Lakeside Drive. Majestic homes face Turtle Creek, which is replete with swans, ducks, and lily pads. When weather permits, would-be artists set up paints and easels as if this were their own private Giverny. Charming benches and bridges dot the landscape, and a steady stream of walkers and joggers populate the sidewalks. It is, quite possibly, the most idyllic spot in Dallas to have a home. So, when Natalie and Mike McGuire had the opportunity to swap houses with friend Alex Rodriguez (yes, that Alex Rodriquez) about six years ago, they jumped at the chance. The New York Yankees third baseman moved into their house on Arcady Avenue, and the McGuires took over his manse on Lakeside Drive.
Swapping houses sounds simpler than it is. The McGuires immediately discovered that their furniture neither fit nor looked especially good in their new surroundings. The scale was all wrong, and the floor and walls were too dark and traditional for their taste. But they didn’t do anything rash – not at first anyway. “We wanted to be in the house for a while before we redecorated anything, just to find out how we would really live in it,” Natalie says. “Three years later, when we decided it was time to refurbish, we found Laura Lee Clark Falconer.”
Interior Designer Falconer has it all. She’s been in the business for 22 years, after all. So, she wasn’t afraid of the challenge. “When I first saw the house, there was nothing personal about it,” she says. “It was almost like these young people were playing at living in their parent’s home – with dark, stuffy furniture and big pieces of decorative art. The first thing I got them to invest in was good art.”
Now the home is practically a gallery specializing in the works of David Bates – an artist whose pieces they began collecting through Lisa Brown of Dunn and Contemporary. Included in their collection are some of the more unusual pieces from his floral series and church series. They add a colorful and edgy dimension to the downstairs. “We pick out every painting together, and we both have to agree on it,” Natalie says. “It’s something that Mike and I really enjoy doing. And Lisa has helped us develop our taste.”
After getting the McGuires started as art collectors, Falconer began the three-year process of helping them find their personal style. She encouraged them to choose furniture and accessories that showcased their personalities and also fit their everyday needs. Every room received a makeover. Some original pieces were either re-covered or refinished. Others had to go to make room for new items that adhered to the new aesthetic.
One item that stayed put was the dining table. It came with the house and was designed specially for the room. The McGuires opted to keep it, as well as the chairs, though they added their own touch. Now each chair is decked out with a gorgeous and intricate monogrammed M by Joan Cecil Fine Embroidery.
In the entry, a custom sofa fits into the curve of the staircase, and an over-scale chest and painting bring the 22-foot ceiling down to human proportion. The furniture in the living room was simply rearranged so that is faces the carved stone mantel. If firelight isn’t available, a Murano chandelier lights up the room quite nicely.
As staples of the society pages, the McGuires attend and throw great parties. They needed a house that could accommodate the demands of their social calendar and their family. Falconer created multiple entertaining areas with soft neutral backgrounds highlighted by bright and colorful art. “It was important to have the rooms flow together and not look cluttered,” Falconer says.
But the most important task at hand was to de-formalize the formal home. “Above all, it’s a family place – no room is off limits to the kids,” Falconer says. So even the most elegant rooms in the house have a family purpose as well. The highly polished, incredibly long dining table is used for tutoring lessons in the afternoon. Impromptu piano recitals take place in the formal living room. In the family room, two panels of sky blue hand painted wallpaper open up to reveal a media room-sized flat-screen television. (The adorable, high-spirited McGuire girls fight over who gets watching time on the comfy chaise.) The wood paneling in the study went from stuffy to fresh once Falconer had Brown & Associates stencil the pilasters and door surrounds. It’s the room where the McGuire clan convenes every morning to watch television in cozy chairs or play on a computer while Dad checks his email.
The house teems with a family spirit that is delightful and, honestly, a bit unexpected. Obviously, the McGuire girls’ energy brings a sense of youth to what could be a rather formal house. And lest you equate formal with stuffy, Natalie and Mike’s warmth disarms you of that notion in an instant. Sure, she’s a regular in the society rags and comes from one of Dallas’ most prominent families, and the couple does lead a very glamorous social life, but more often than not the McGuires’ schedule revolves around their children. They rarely go anywhere without their kids in tow during the week, and some of their favorite parties to throw are more likely to include the family and neighborhood kids rather than members of the social registry.
“I really am a homebody,” Natalie says. “I like to light my candles and put on country music first thing in the morning. I just want to stay here and hang with the girls.”