Tulsa Architecture

Five Questions with McBirney Designer Chad Renfro

We asked designer Chad Renfro about his work with the McBirney Mansion, which is highlighted at this year’s exclusive Tulsa Foundation for Architecture Members-Only event on April 14th, 2016. Here is what he had to say:

1. What was your design inspirations for the McBirney renovation?

CR: Design inspiration came from the period in which the house was built.  I love to create comfortable spaces which also have a touch of drama.  My clients have a modern aesthetic and modern in the late 1920’s was Art Deco.  Intricate details embedded in streamlined designs.  We are surrounded by Gothic elements inherent to the original design.  I chose luxurious finishes and furnishing that allow those original historic elements to shine.

2. It can be a challenge to adapt such a historic and significant home for modern living and entertaining. How did you work with the home’s historic character?

CR: Interestingly, the original layout of the house was just one step away from the way we all live and entertain today.  We took out a few walls and opened up the spaces but the bones were there. Countless hours of sanding and finishing were spent on all of the woodwork and plaster moldings, thanks to Eddie Swift and his crew.

Loman Studios created a replica of the original stained glass windows in the library – no small feat. We added to the replicas to the kitchen to obscure a less desirable view – one of the only views in the house one wouldn’t want to take advantage of. I had Chris Bendel of La Maison restore all the original light fixtures throughout.  Thankfully, previous owners were good stewards who left them all intact since the 1920’s! But, every single one needed to be restored, cloth wiring and all.

The kitchen and master bathrooms have seen the greatest transformations, as the originals were modified years ago. We were able to modernize the kitchen on the main floor. We gave it a new layout so that everything is within reach. I designed an oak arch way leading into the kitchen from the main hall, actualized by the architect and craftsmen, that really looks like it has been there all along. 

3. Which room in the home do you most look forward to showing off at the TFA event?

CR: I can’t pick a favorite, so I will really tell you my favorite thing about this project: first and foremost, my clients, the Drummonds. Wendy and Gentner Drummond had the vision and energy to restore such an important historic property. They made an excellent choice in hiring General Contractor Chad Osgood of Highgate Construction and his right hand man, project manager Buck Gilpin, who worked tirelessly to make sure that no stone, rusted pipe or faulty wiring went unattended.  Last but not least, all of the local dedicated tradesmen and craftsmen made my job seem effortless.

4. You lived in Palm Beach for years. Why did you decide to relocate  your design practice to Tulsa? 

CR: My decision to return home and continue my career here in Tulsa was simple.  I wanted to come back and share the knowledge I gained incubating and growing my career in South Florida.  I have always loved this area and growing up here I was inspired by all it has to offer including family, friends and the amazing architecture and design that the Oil Capitol afforded.  I’m a child of the 1920’s at heart. 

5. Any words of wisdom for others who are considering a project of this scale, in a house of this era? 

CR: There will be unknowns! Hire experienced professionals you are comfortable with, to help you through those unforeseen challenges. (Quadruple your budget.)  Whether you’re able to afford a professional team or not, you must do your homework.  The internet is an amazing resource, as is Tulsa Foundation for Architecture. Save and restore everything original you are lucky to have remaining! You may have to renovate in phases, and that’s fine. Most of all, enjoy the process. Preservation and restoration are two of the most rewarding things you can do.

Chad is the founder of Chad Renfro Design. Find more information about his work at CHADRENFRODESIGN.COM  Visit tulsaarchitecture.com/McBirney for more about the event.

Chad Renfro takes fresh approach to Palm Beach home's interior

By Christine Davis

Take formal and make it fun. That was interior designer Chad Renfro's challenge when he was asked to redo a 3,800-square-foot Regency-style house on Palm Beach's north end.

"My clients wanted light, colorful, young and fun," Renfro says. "And the house was completely the opposite. It was all one color, very formal, loaded with gold. It had a beautiful layout, was situated perfectly on its lot and was designed for entertaining.

"My clients, though, wanted to live a more casual lifestyle."

Even though the home's ambience was to change drastically, no major renovation was in the offing. So how do you pare things down without ripping things out? With ease and ingenuity, thanks to the talented Renfro of Chad Renfro Design in Palm Beach.

"The home is beautifully landscaped and all built around the pool courtyard in the back, with an awninged area so that you can have living space outside," Renfro says. "It has good bones and a great layout and does lend itself to lots of light."

The entry is by way of a gracious foyer with a powder room and den to the right, while the formal living room and dining room are to the left. Beyond them is the main staircase, which eases the transition to the family room – where French doors open onto the courtyard pool patio – and its adjacent kitchen. Also on the first floor is the master bedroom suite, with more French doors leading to the pool. Upstairs are the guest bedrooms and a laundry area.

To help make the transition from formal to relaxed, Renfro played down the glossy, stately aspects of the home and worked to create new textures.

"We honed the polished-marble floors and painted some of the woodwork," the designer explains. "We also did away with the monochromatic color palette."

In darker rooms, Renfro went with cool colors, and in light-filled rooms he chose more saturated hues.

To ground the living and family rooms, he ordered sisal carpeting in a flat-weave herringbone pattern.

"The walls are white in the living room. It's a good background for the aqua, green and gold. The room faces north, and I used the colors to make the room light and bright," the designer explains.

A large dark walnut coffee table with a mirrored top is the focal point. Pillows with a palm-leaf motif complement the clean-lined sofa by Kravet Pelham. Draperies of dupioni silk in an aqua-and-apple-green stripe hang from rods with glass finals in a tortoise-shell finish. A custom-made bench with aluminum legs is upholstered in a Lee Jofa fabric.

"The two Asian-inspired chairs have been with my clients for a long time, and they asked me to use them. I love the idea of using the trays as end tables. The vintage lamps are from Cashmere Buffalo in West Palm Beach.

The sunny family room is painted white, while the rear walls of the built-in display cases are colored coral.

"In the family room, I utilized some floor lamps and ottomans that my clients had – otherwise, everything else we custom-ordered or found locally."

The Pierce Martin Lakeside sofa and chairs are rattan with wheat-colored linen upholstery. Throw pillows in a Lee Jofa fabric bring in color and pattern. Renfro also dressed up the leather ottomans: "I found the red lacquer trays to make them more useful as coffee tables."

Apple-green accent tables add other spots of color.

"This room frames a beautiful view," Renfro says. "It brings the outdoors in and vice versa."

You could say the room knows no boundaries. "Often, people won't put a sofa in front of the (French) doors, but I set the space up in such a way that you could enjoy all of the room, rather than pointing everything to the swimming pool. It's a very livable room.

"The kids can come in, and nothing is so precious that it's going to matter. There's nothing overly serious. And it has some funky pieces, like a painted red frog placed on the floor."

Light touches in the kitchen include the coconut drum-shaped pendant light fixtures by Niedermaier and the China Seas Java Java printed-linen coverings on the bar chairs.

Opposite the staircase, the generously sized dining room retains a level of formality – but with a twist: "The way I kept it young and fresh is with the apple-green color," Renfro says.

Over the table, Renfro hung a chandelier that already belonged to his clients.  "It happened to work beautifully with the staircase, as it has a similar black-wrought-iron element," he notes.

The dining room's artwork adds an exotic touch, as they are hand-carved pieces that the owner's mother brought back from China.

The nearby master bedroom's walls have been drenched in a color called "Antiguan Sky," while the woodwork is painted bright white. With its icy color scheme, the room has seen quite a departure from its former décor. "In this room, even the woodwork, had been yellow," Renfro recalls.

Wool sisal covers the floor. The custom headboard and bedskirt are fashioned from a whimsical printed linen by Thibaut. The lamps with blown-glass finals were found at Maine Cottage. A Jack Young photograph of swimming pool steps strikes a pleasant note.

The white-lacquered bureau – with its gleaming polished-nickel hardware – is Dorothy Draper-esque, playing subtle tribute to the famous New York decorator whose trend-setting rooms enlivened the 1940s and '50s. So, too, are the nightstands, which were once part of the old Eden Roc Hotel in Miami Beach. Renfro refurbished the bases, while keeping their aqua tops. "We wanted the room to have that Old Miami feeling," Renfro says.

One of the two guest bedrooms features grass-green walls and custom twin headboards with a China Seas printed linen. Between the beds is a mirrored-and-latticed nightstand. A chair has been painted white and covered in a green-and-white fabric that echoes the latticework.

"The lamp was a found object," adds Renfro. "It's funky, and it takes this very comfortable, sort-of-quiet bedroom and makes it just a little bit more playful."

A predominantly white guest bedroom, meanwhile, was designed with a tranquil spa-like feeling accented by splashes of coral. The bedding is by Ralph Lauren, and the 1950s ceramic lamps with linen-drum shades and shell finials are from Cashmere Buffalo.

Executing the entire project was a pleasure, Renfro says. "The shopping sprees were fun, and mixing furniture from my clients' collection with new and vintage pieces was challenging and interesting."

Creating a playful style was surprisingly satisfying, too. "I remade the interiors without starting from scratch," Renfro explains.

Take the powder room, for example.

"I love powder rooms. They can be excessive and still make sense. The vanity in this house's powder room is the original, but I lacquered it in dark coral. I replaced the swan-and-crystal fixtures with polished nickel with rock-crystal spheres. I used Thibaut chocolate brown wallpaper, polished-nickel sconces and an antique gold bamboo mirror," he says.

On the other hand, some elements in the house are completely new, like the mirror and lighting, pictured on page 8, that Renfro designed for the foyer, working with a local iron fabricator.

"All of that piece was made locally. Even the coral-and-brown silk shades were made in West Palm Beach. Many of the lampshades are from Heath and Company, and it was a pleasure to work with them."

Overall, his clients appreciated the lighting, and Renfro appreciated his finds. "My clients walked into the living room, and said they loved the lamps," Renfro says. "When I saw those aqua lamps, I said, 'I have to have them.'"

After all, they fit perfectly into his vision for the house. By focusing on color, using some of the clients' furniture and sticking to a "not-out-of-this-world-expensive" budget, Renfro gave this house a glamorous dressing down.

Osage designer revamps Osage Nation Executive Branch building

Walking into the newly remodeled Executive Branch building can take one’s breath away.

What used to be offices in different shades of brown, with cracked walls and out-of-date ceiling tiles are now bright, with new fixtures, artwork, carpet, flooring, ceilings – and Osage interior designer Chad Renfro designed it all.

“Chad has exceeded all expectations. He designed our offices into something we can be proud of. These offices were in shameful condition when we took office. Since the remodel we have hosted Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford, regional director for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, staff from the offices of the Oklahoma governor, tribal dignitaries,” said Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear. “It’s amazing what he did with such a limited budget.”

Chief of Staff Jason Zaun said it was a place he felt proud to come to work.

“I am really glad to be back home,” Renfro said.

Renfro, who has spent the last 20 years traveling the country with his interior design business Chad Renfro Designs, grew up in Pawhuska at 1115 Grandview, just down the street from the Osage Nation campus. Coming home and getting to work on the Nation’s Executive Building, that houses the Office of the Chiefs, was very sentimental and a great honor, he said.

He attended college at the University of Central Oklahoma and has a degree in Public Relations and Marketing. At the age of 20 he received an invitation to work in Florida and took it. He began working in the floral business and worked there for several years. His floral work included weddings, parties and he also worked as an event planner. One of his clients came to his house and after seeing his interior design wanted him to design their house and restaurant. After that, his interior design career took off.

He has designed day spas, registered facilities, homes and commercial properties in places such as the Bahamas, Florida, New York, New Jersey, Utah and Oklahoma.

His company operated out of Palm Beach, Fla., but he now has an Osage-licensed business in Pawhuska called 1115 Enterprises. 

According to his website, he was one of House Beautiful's 2010 Next Wave of Designers, his designs have been featured in Cottages and Garden Magazine, Florida Design, Palm Beach The Island Magazine, Palm Beach Illustrated, Palm Beach Daily News and The Palm Beach Post. Drawn from the success of projects in the Palm Beach market, Chad Renfro Design has expanded his reach to include projects in Manhattan, The Hamptons, Atlanta, Aiken, South Carolina, the West Coast of Florida, and the Caribbean.

Executive Building

He had a $40,000 budget for the Osage Nation Executive Building and acquired furniture from various vendors, all items American made and bought at wholesale prices.

The construction work on the Executive Building was done by Skiatook-based Osage contractor VP Construction and the Penta Building Group. VP Construction renovated the bathrooms, the flooring, plaster and made minor repairs. Penta Building Group was hired to do the ceilings and the heating and air. Renfro came in after all construction was completed and designed the newly remodeled building.

Renfro had photos printed from the Osage News to line the walls of the hallways and borrowed paintings from the Osage Nation Museum.

Upcoming projects

Renfro has a matching grant with the Osage Nation Foundation for an arts interwoven project. Osages Welena Fields and Jennifer Tiger helped him come up with guidelines to make the project functional and great, he said. The project will involve recruiting Osage artists to put their artwork on a 20 x 20 work of art that will later be turned into interiors such as pillows and textiles. 

Artists will be asked to go by the guidelines he has established to create beautiful authentic works of art to be used as interior design textiles and fabrics.

The artists can use paint, drawings, beadwork, finger weaving, and even the Osage headdress in their artwork.

The original work will be put on display at the Osage Nation Museum and he will buy the designs upfront from the designers. These works of art will then be manufactured at his company 1115 Enterprises and will be the manufacture and distributer of this project.

“I am really excited to see what people bring to the project,” Renfro said.

He also hopes to help with design work at the Osage Casinos and possibly the old Superintendent’s House on the Osage campus.

He has also worked with Blue Star Studios on The Sky Lodge Estates, Osage tribal housing in Skiatook.


Renfro is from the Osage Cheshewalla family from Pawhuska. He is deer clan and was given his Osage name by Dudley Whitehorn. He participates in the June Osage In-Lon-Schka dances.

For more information on Renfro’s design work visit his website at www.chadrenfrodesign.com/

Click the following link to view photos of the completed Executive Branch interior design work by Renfro: www.flickr.com/photos/osagenews/albums/72157664541779526