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Article - Fiestaware Brightens Up Ranch House

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Ranch house bursts with retro color

Salon owner livens up Texas home with his whimsical picks

CHRISTOPHER WYNN

Dallas Morning News

DALLAS - Todd Allen laughs about the reactions his whimsically redone 1950s ranch house sometimes earns. Chalk it up to the six-foot Statue of Liberty presiding over the courtyard, perhaps, or the exterior's Mondrianesque slices of green, orange and blue.

"One person said it reminded her of her elementary school, and someone else compared the color panels out front to a Monopoly game board," says Allen. "I've even had a friend kid me that the Partridge Family bus would look great parked out front."

Instead, you'll find Allen's bright orange Land Rover.

Owner of a trailblazing hair salon called Orange, Allen is accustomed to living on the cutting edge of style.

The ranch house he's been working on for nearly two years is no exception. The retro-chic color scheme and furnishings serve up a decided wink to guests.

Allen wouldn't have it any other way. "I'm a purist," he says of his obsession for authentic midcentury architecture and decor. The painstakingly restored home is a perfect showcase for his assorted collectibles.

"I have enough Fiestaware to open my own restaurant," Allen admits, only half joking. Add to that shelves of colorful Blenko glass, a Richard Schultz daybed covered in a 1960s Knoll fabric, and Illy coffee that never tasted better than from the Francis Francis espresso maker in Allen's orange kitchen.

About that color: Allen was considering a name for his salon and beauty biz four years ago when he happened to glance down at the Rolex watch his grandmother had given him. Belying the watch's serious craftsmanship was a face with bright-orange dials. The splash of color had always struck Allen as playful and unique.

A signature was born.

Cut to a scene two years later with Allen's real estate agent leading him through Forest Hills, Texas, to a house that was "as well-worn as an old shoe." Every room seemed dark and uncertain -- until they came to the kitchen, with its blazing orange sunburst flooring and counter tops.

Was it destiny? Regardless, Allen has spent the last 22 months restoring the gem and making it home.

"I'm loving it now," says Allen, "but the first night I slept here, I saw bats and heard animals howling. I felt like I was living on the set of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom."

Things would only get wilder as Allen went about tearing down a carport and knocking out the walls of the sunroom to create a spacious courtyard for entertaining. For a time, the rehab-in-progress looked as if "someone drove a car through the house."

It ultimately took three electricians, two plumbers, a small army of brick masons and the kindness of neighbors Josh Grieswell and Bruce Goode to help bring the home back to period glory. Grieswell, a contractor, even stripped and re-grouted the home's original floating fireplace.

Is the savvy stylist finished renovating his period pad? Hardly. "I think this will always be a work in progress," he says.

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