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.