Interiors by John Chadwick

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John Chadwick
The designer's Oklahoma residence is a showcase for traditional refinements.

Oklahoma, where the chintz comes sweeping down the plain? Not exactly what Rodgers and Hammerstein had in mind, but perhaps less implausible than one might think. In the early decades of this century, the well- heeled members of Sooner society looked back East to find models of gracious residential living.

Interior Design

October 1994

The living room, with its two distinct seating groups, is enveloped in a richly textured cloak of gessoed red. Chadwick compares the sisal carpeting to a wood floor: “The more indentations and irregularities it has, the more character it develops.”
Sisal flooring: H. Lynn White. Fabrics: Decorators Walk (sofa); Jack Valentine (love seat and curtains): Clarence House. Osborne & Little (chairs).
Photography: Don Wheeler


The big cities back East were themselves looking east to Europe for similar inspiration. Oklahoma’s first “mansion district,” an area north of downtown Oklahoma City now known as Heritage Hills, embraced a mélange of European styles filtered through the lens of Americana. The first officially designated preservation district in the state, Heritage Hills was originally planned on a rectangular urban grid. It seems fitting then that the interiors of the 1923 Heritage Hills cottage illustrated here—a vaguely Georgian structure measuring a modest 3,000 sq. ft.—would appear equally appropriate in the vertical reaches of Manhattan’s Upper East Side and the gently rolling hills of Oklahoma City.

The house belongs to local designer
John Chadwick, Jr., a traditionalist in
practice and preference. Chadwick
bought the place just over two decades ago and has been cultivating it as an ever-evolving project. “When I got the house, it wasn’t so much abused as neglected,” he says, noting that structural elements were basically intact. Certain problems, however, required immediate attention. “There was a sprayed acoustic ceiling that must have been put up to sell the house, and on the first really damp, humid day, it started coming down in clumps.” In addition to remedial measures for the ceiling, the initial renovation also involved the addition of central heating and air conditioning as well as replacement of electrical and plumbing systems.


As for the less pressing issues of taste and style, Chadwick’s phased refurbishment efforts over the past two decades have yielded a design calculated to avoid appearing overly starched and formal. “I wanted to give the house an evolved, sophisticated and undecorated look,” he explains. “I didn’t want a house filled with mother-of-the-bride rooms—the kind where the shoes are dyed to match the dress dyed to match the purse dyed to match the walls.”


In the toile-wrapped kitchen and breakfast room, Chadwick achieved a détente between traditional decoration and modern conveniences. The wagon wheel pot rack was salvaged from a dilapidated threshing machine encountered on an Oklahoma road.
Toile-pattern wallpaper: Brunschwig & Fils. Curtain and love seat fabric: Westgate. Counters: Corian. Appliances: Kitchen Aid.

The Chinoiserie wallpaper in the dining room was “the first thing I did in the house 20 years ago and the last thing I’d ever change,” says the designer. The red-and-blue plaid chair fabric eases the transition between dining and living rooms. Portrait is of Chadwick’s pug Vivian and her late sister Priscilla.
Wallpaper: Clarence House. Fabrics: Stroheim & Romann (chairs): Jack Valentine (curtains).


In a nod to the Georgian flavor of the architecture, Chadwick selected a deep gessoed red for the walls of the central living room and a cream color for the ceiling and woodwork. The richly textured, hand-troweled wall finish was achieved by multiple applications of pigment: first, a base of Russian blue, then a glaze of mustard yellow, and finally a wash of deep red. Clear, matte-finish lacquer sealed the deal. Furnishings in the long, narrow room were deployed in two discrete, intimate groups bridged by a piano. Chadwick replaced the traditional piano bench with two Chippendale chairs that can be called into service when extra seating is required for either grouping.

In other areas of the house, Chadwick manipulated the plan and recast room functions to better suit his needs. An erstwhile side porch was retooled as a library with banquette seating and fireplace. Three small rooms in the back of the house were conflated to create a comfortable, state-of-the-art kitchen zone and adjacent breakfast room with newly installed French windows opening onto a brick terrace and small garden pool. Upstairs, a sleeping porch and two bedrooms were annexed to create a master bedroom suite with a generous sitting area and sybaritic bathroom chamber.

When asked if the latest round of renovation maneuvers begun nearly two years ago represent some kind of definitive resolution for the house, Chadwick demurs. “I’ll always be working on the house,” he says with amiable resignation, noting that his eye invariably detects certain areas or details ripe for change or refinement. “If I had a client who was as hard on me as I am, I’d have to quit.”

The character of the sitting room off the master bedroom is defined by Chadwick’s accumulated memorabilia and family treasures. The rocking horse was a gift from his grandmother, sent from England where she was vacationing when the designer was born.
Fabrics: Manuel Canovas (table skirt); Brunschwig & Fils (valance and trim); Stroheim & Romann (ottoman, curtain side panels); Rose Cumming (pillows). Carpet: Karastan.


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• From the Bible Belt to the Big Apple •
• Design Focus: John Chadwick •
• Studio Style •
• What's Ours is Yours •
• The Designer's Oklahoma Residence •

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Interiors by John Chadwick

Revised: October 16, 2015
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