Two weeks ago, an East Dallas property in Old Lake Highlands went on the market and was featured as the CandysDirt Thursday Three Hundred. It caught our eye with its custom-build features; cohesive, elegant look; and Midcentury vibe.
The response was overwhelmingly positive, and people swooned over the details of this big renovation that turned a dated cottage into a chic, welcoming home. (It also went under contract in 12 days, proving our readers have great taste!)
The woman behind the transformation of 561 Classen Dr. is Summer Riggins, a Dallas-area pharmaceutical rep who is self-taught and does this work in her free time.
After you’ve picked your jaw up off the floor, take a moment to look through the before-and-after photos of this house to appreciate the scale of the reno that Riggins undertook. This was not just paint and floors: Riggins reimagined almost every area and made careful changes to reflect a California Midcentury Modern ranch aesthetic, honed over years of study and practice on multiple smaller projects. The Classen house is almost unrecognizable from its pre-renovation state.
Riggins has been on the path to “renovation virtuoso” since childhood.
“While I haven’t completed a [complete] home renovation prior to this one, I did grow up in a household where it wasn’t uncommon to come home from school and find an exterior wall knocked down, with a smile across my mom’s face and a directive we would be rebuilding it as a family,” she said.
Riggins once got sent to her room for not properly drawing layouts for the home she wanted to build one day.
“I truly wanted to be an architect and I’ve always had visions of living spaces running through my head,” she said. “I guess I thought everyone else did, too.”
Riggins bought the Classen house on Sep. 29 of last year, and it listed Sept. 18 of this year, a slower pace that she said was purposeful.
“With it being my first official renovation, I wanted to make sure that the overall design concept was well laid out, maximized the square footage, and all work was completed to a quality I would want in my own home,” she said. “Much of the time was spent actually creating the layout. From that point on, it was about securing subcontractors who would adhere to the overall vision—you’d be surprised how many would not. I heard ‘you can’t’ an awful lot last year, and carrying through and proving I could [realize my vision] made the final product so much more gratifying.”
Riggins not only created the layout and design on her own, but she also acted as general contractor for the project.
“I approached the Classen renovation with a desire to incorporate both functionally based modern designs along with quality remodeling,” she said. “I’m in love with the finished product and know someone will get great joy out of living there.”
The house is 1,170 square feet with three bedrooms and one bathroom. Some of the interior renos include custom soft-close wood cabinets; recessed lighting; chic light fixtures; a luxe bathroom; new low-E windows; and foam insulation in the attic.
The kitchen, in particular, is a focal point. Riggins gutted it and created an open layout with a marble backsplash and floating shelves instead of upper cabinets, and a large island with storage on both sides and a Kraus undermount stainless steel farm sink. She removed a window where the double ovens are now located (the washer/dryer used to be there. She put a stackable washer-dryer area in the third bedroom’s closet). She also added new window above microwave area, and new hardwood floors in that room.
There are now KitchenAid Architect Series II stainless steel appliances, including a drop-in, five-burner gas range, as well as Siltstone Ariel white quartz countertops, custom walnut cabinets with soft-close drawers and doors, and a new pantry with pull-out shelving,
Exterior changes included a new roof; new gutters; new exterior A/C unit; landscaping; painting the brick; adding modern pavers in front; and building a new portico with cedar-wrapped posts.
While this may be Riggins’ first major renovation, she’s spent years studying architecture and design on her own, and working as the “interior guru” for many friends’ design projects.
“I’ve worked on countless homes for my loved ones, and I get no greater pleasure than turning their space into the most it could possibly be aesthetically,” she said.
A move to California a few years after college gave her aesthetic a new twist when she discovered the original California modern ranch and Midcentury Modern styles.
“This is when the previously held passion became more of an obsession—I had the opportunity to experience firsthand the beauty of interiors that flowed effortlessly into the exterior and I was hooked,” she said.
During this time, Riggins’ began to travel regularly for business and for 10 years, she enjoyed and scrutinized the artful design of everything from gorgeous boutique hotels to entire cities.
“When traveling, some people may pay attention to the people that encounter, but I’m always struck by and focused on the design inspirations around me,” she said. “All this coupled with a television dedicated to anything DIY or HGTV and an nagging issue with perfection led me to the Classen project.”
Riggins moved back to Dallas in 2012, and set her sights on East Dallas.
“It’s my community and I want to be as badass on the insides as it is on the outside,” she said. “I am obsessed with recreating that interior-exterior living of California ranches, and [in the Classen house], I wanted to recreate the functional, spatial efficiencies of modern design while infusing each with a warm, inviting feel.”
Currently, Riggins is working on two East Dallas projects, an Old Lake Highlands interior design, and the layout of a house west of Lawther Drive near White Rock Lake.
When asked if she’d consider doing this kind of work as her profession, instead of in her free time, Riggins said undoubtedly—she even designs in her dreams.
“Designs pop into my head while I sleep, and I wake up with an idea of what I want to do,” she said. “Yes, I would absolutely do this full time, and I will someday. I’m just not there yet.”