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Modernizing University Park

Sarah Harper of h design updates a traditional home without taking away the nostalgic character.


  • Larger windows and a more open floor plan provide more natural light throughout the home. 

  • A new kitchen island features a sink and seating for four, growing places for guests to be accommodated. 

  • The expanded pantry allows for hidden appliances and a new coffee bar area to the side of it. 

  • The complete gut of the master bathroom and closet provided more storage space and his and hers sinks and vanities on either side of the space.

University Park is a neighborhood rich in history and legacy. This is seen especially in some of the smaller, more traditional cottage style homes in the area. Sarah Harper, ASIA, LEED AP is a design architect who specializes in modern residential in Dallas. For this university park remodel, she teamed up with builder Greg Jeffers to give the owners a more efficient and bright home. Everything was custom built and the attention to detail shows. 

On this University Park remodel, Harper, an interior design and Jeffers all worked together with the client to achieve their goals. This project covered redesign of the entryway, a small room near the front door, the kitchen, the dining room and the master bathroom and closet. 

Harper, who sometimes teams up with interior designers and other times selects finishes herself or with the client, emphasizes that bringing an architect into the picture is an important step when moving walls or looking at the overall effectiveness of the floor plan and traffic flow of the house. She has worked in residential design specifically for more than 10 years. Harper works on all sizes of projects, ranging from new build construction to additions and remodels. Her first project with Greg was a large-scale remodel and expansion where they took everything right down to the studs. 

“The client might have some idea of what they want, or at least what their pain points are, but we come in and help them figure out how to best utilize their available space,” Harper says. “We come to the table with our ideas and use a lot of them in the end.” 

She always starts with a walkthrough of the property and a questionnaire for the client that goes over how they want to live in their house - i.e. “Do you want to be able to see inside from the street or have more privacy” or “Do you want separate sinks or just one?” Pain points for the owner of this home included a pantry that was much too small, a cramped kitchen layout with one long cabinet. The dining room was completely closed off to the kitchen as well as the hallway. Again in the master bathroom and closet, there was not enough storage space or space that was not being utilized correctly. Overall, the house had disjointed spaces, poor flow and not enough storage space. 

The porch and entrance to the house was reconfigured and features a large glass door. Harper also enlarged the window in the front entry room. Previously, this dark space was sort of a make-shift office and now it’s a sitting room that welcomes people into the home. 

“‘How much more light can we bring in here’ is my first thought when walking into a home,” said Harper. “By opening up all these spaces, you also get borrowed light from other spaces.” 

Moving into the kitchen and entertaining areas, the flow of the entire space had to be changed. There was no entrance into the dining room from the hallway, and you would enter the kitchen from the hallway which cramped the pantry. Now, Harper has taken space from the hallway to enlarge the pantry and you must go through the dining room to get to the kitchen. 

“I wanted to create this look of framed views from the living room to the dining room to the kitchen,” said Harper. 

The kitchen’s transformation includes two additional windows added on either side of the stove, a large island with seating and a sink and the rearranged pantry was made much larger. Instead of featuring pocket doors and making the large pantry an extension of sorts to the kitchen, the clients chose to include a small coffee bar area next to their pantry. 

Changes to the master bathroom and closet focused on removing angled shapes built into the space, as Harper says these are typically not the most efficient use of space. The straightened out walls added space for a larger closet. Now, when you first walk in you see the highlighted tub and window and each of the couple has their own sink space and storage. Extremely high ceilings in the closet (11 feet!) allowed for three rows of hanging rods and new built-ins all around. 

Says Harper of the finished product, “I feel like I was able to design a really good blend of modern elements, adding clean lines and light, but that these changes also highlighted the traditional beauty that was always part of the home.”

  • The updated entryway.
  • The small dining room features a table big enough for the four person family.