Mom eases daughter’s apprehension of antiques with designer updates

The last thing Payton DiFalco wanted was her late grandmother’s antique furniture.

She and her husband, Joe, had just bought their first home in an older neighborhood near the Webb Park golf course when her grandmother died and left her collection of fine furniture and art to her grandchildren.

The country French furniture was “fancy,” and DiFalco prefers sleek contemporary. It was also covered with fabrics in bold colors, especially red, her grandmother’s favorite. DiFalco wanted soothing, neutral colors.

“Payton was worried she was going to end up with a grandmother-looking house,” said her mother, interior decorator Gary Fell.

It took some convincing, but within days of the purchase of the home, Fell and DiFalco were headed to her grandmother’s home in Midland, Texas, with a truck.

“I have an issue that young people all think they have to get new,” Fell said. “I wanted to show Payton what can be done with nice, old things.”

Using some design tricks, DiFalco and Fell created a modern look in an old home with the old furniture.

“This is not an open floor plan. It’s an old house,” DiFalco said. “We wanted to use a color palette that when you walked through the house, it would flow and be very cohesive. We used a neutral color palette. We wanted the color to be in the art.”

In the three years that the DiFalcos have lived in their home, they have worked slowly, doing one project at a time.

“We painted every room, did some decorative electrical and added some built-ins,” DiFalco said.

She started with the living room. “We just have one room to hang out in,” she said. “It has to be a mix of comfortable and formal with a 16-month-old running around.”

She took her grandmother’s French sofa and covered it in a contemporary fabric in neutral shades of grey, beige and gold. She cut down the legs of her grandmother’s card table to make a large coffee table. She recovered two occasional chairs to create an attractive seating area and used her mother’s sideboard at the far end of the room, which opens to the dining room.

Because the kitchen is relatively small and the home has no breakfast room, the DiFalcos use their dining room for their daily meals. The problem was that her grandmother’s dining room furniture was dressier than what DiFalco might have selected herself.

“How do you make it feel not fancy? How do you make it livable?” she said.

DiFalco took her grandmother’s lipstick red dining room chairs and had them whitewashed in grey and taupe. “Mom’s house is so different. Her accessories are all red. My grandmother’s house was all red,” DiFalco said. “I wanted something different. I wanted to go blue. I wanted to make it my own.”

Hanging over her antique dining table is one of DiFalco’s grandmother’s most interesting items, a large wooden chandelier of carved monkeys holding umbrellas. It’s a work of art and a real conversation starter.

The home is the backdrop for the DiFalcos’ collection of art. They have works by local artists among them Judi Betts, Emily Godfrey, Emerson Bell, Libby Johnson and Tony Mose. They are always on the lookout for interesting pieces.

“I have lots of good local art as well as my grandmother’s fine art,” DiFalco said.

The cutest room in the house is the nursery, which was originally part of a closed-in back porch.

When the DiFalcos purchased their home, doors on both sides of the living room fireplace opened to the narrow room. They removed the doors and filled in the openings with built-ins.

The result was a snug little room for 16-month-old Evie, who is named for Evelyn Anderson, the grandmother whose furniture and spirit fill the house.