A blank slate.
That’s what Maddy Barnas and Evan Dickerson had in mind when they started designing a new home in 2017. At the time, the couple had been living near downtown for a couple years. But with a history of questionable renovations, their three-story townhouse had long since sapped their energy. “Every time I would fix something, I would find something behind the walls that would give me a panic attack,” says Dickerson. Worn out but determined to stay in the neighborhood, the couple examined their options: Should they pay full price for a flipped home, or should they take the more affordable yet challenging route of building a new home? In the end, the opportunity to customize everything, from the facade to the fixtures, won out.
Barnas and Dickerson started working with Indy Smart House, a local builder that provides a highly personalized experience. “They let us do everything, but it made the process longer,” says Dickerson, who works in business development at IU Health. Working alongside the company, the couple completed initial plans in three months and broke ground on the three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath home later that summer. More than a year later—in July 2018—they moved in. The real deadline, though, was the couple’s rehearsal dinner earlier this year. “We held it right here in the house,” says Barnas. “It was really fun, but it was a lot of work to get the house where we wanted it to be.” Even today, Barnas and Dickerson play around with window treatments, hardware, and wallpaper—“little things” that complement the home’s black-and-white base palette.
The simplistic, Scandinavian-style exterior is painted black and features white windows. It sets the tone for the interior, where white walls and black accents—the stair railing, the kitchen cabinets—provide the blank canvas Barnas and Dickerson wanted. “It made it easier for us to plan around,” says Dickerson. “Instead of trying to match different colors in the rooms, we’re adding in the color.” Like a diamond-patterned couch from Jayson Home, and DwellStudio by York wallpaper in the master bedroom, which breaks up the starkness and, as Barnas says, gives the illusion of a headboard (their sleek four-poster frame doesn’t have one). Barnas’s passion for antique rugs is evident throughout the 2,250-square-foot home. From the living and dining areas, to the upstairs hallway, to the master bedroom and bathroom, the home is full of colorful textiles.
Barnas, director of marketing at Patachou Inc., has always had a passion for the old and often-forgotten. She grew up around historic homes and frequented antiques stores and flea markets with her mother. After a while, Barnas started collecting rugs from shops, estate sales, and websites like Everything But the House. Because so many of the rugs were purchased before the new house was completed, they momentarily resided on the third floor of the townhouse. Once Barnas and Dickerson were settled into the new home, they had the opportunity to configure and reconfigure their furnishings, rugs included. “Sometimes, you buy something and there’s a domino effect of needing to change everything in the room,” says Barnas. “I had to learn what aesthetically looked good together, and also had to learn how to deal with a semi-unique open concept.”
The first floor, which is about 1,100 square feet, features a powder room and an open-concept kitchen, dining room, and living room. But what defines each space, in addition to Barnas’s rugs, are the furnishings. The couple has a knack for nabbing midcentury-modern pieces from Flux, a semi-hidden store in Fountain Square where they found most of their living-room furniture, including a credenza, side table, two yellow chairs, and coffee table. Other Indy haunts include Midland Arts & Antiques and Haus Love. If Barnas and Dickerson are in Chicago, they visit South Loop Loft for design-conscious 20th-century furniture.
Between her passion for collecting and his love of tackling projects head-on, Barnas guesses their home will “probably always be changing, to some extent.” (Especially since Barnas is a fan of textiles and patterns, and Dickerson has a not-so-secret soft spot for clean lines.) With a black-and-white canvas, any style, color, or texture can find its place. As Barnas says, “It’s worth all of the headaches and delays [during construction] to have something you love and feel like is an expression of yourself.”