Malina Pearson apologized repeatedly for the state of her Oak Cliff house. The vase on her dining room table had no flowers. A box sat unpacked since her move in November. The closets didn’t have doors yet. When we interviewed her, she was gearing up for a photo shoot in Los Angeles and putting in long nights with friends creating Wigwam, the pop-up store during Oak Cliff Art Crawl’s Better Block project. Basically, her house isn’t picture perfect because she has a life. Those imperfect details bother Pearson, though, because in her work as a prop stylist, she’s the one who makes photo sets look perfect for catalogs such as Pottery Barn Teen, West Elm and Garnet Hill. No apologies are necessary for the home Pearson shares with her chihuahuas, Hank and Lefty. It is brimming with natural light that showcases Pearson’s Danish modern furniture and her impeccable style. She bought it for $80,000 and renovated it last year, turning a bland little rancher into a sophisticated home that matches her style.
What renovations have you made to this house?
Everything. We stripped it down to the studs and raised the roofline. We took off the front porch and brought that square footage into the house. We completely redid everything. The back of the house, where the kitchen is, was a porch. Every wire, every window was replaced. The floors are original; I just had to tooth in oak where it was missing or damaged.
Why did you have to redo everything?
If you’re going to do it, you might as well just start from scratch. You can spend money on nice faucets and appliances, but you don’t know what’s going on behind the walls. This house was a dog. I wouldn’t have been happy if I didn’t do everything.
Wasn’t it expensive to remodel?
It looks like I spent more money than I did. I shop a lot of scratch-and-dent sales. On some things, I went straight to the manufacturer instead of going to retailers. I was going to this tile showroom all the time, and so I became friends with the people because I was there all the time. And one day, they said, “You know, we’re having a contractor sale tomorrow, but you can look at the stuff now if you want.” And I found this tile for 99 cents a square foot.
What about the electrical and things you really have to hire a pro to do?
I enlisted friends to work after hours. The electrician is the brother of a friend of mine. A friend who is a furniture maker built the cabinets in the hall. My friend, Deanne Teeter, is an architect, so she helped with planning and zoning to get the porch OKed. Every little thing adds up, and I’m lucky enough to know people who were willing to help me. And I was my own contractor, which is a huge savings.
It still seems like a house that was built in the ’60s, even though everything is new.
I tried to add things back to the house that had a soulful feel. One example is I bought these old doors from a garage sale. So none of the doors in the house are new. In my job, I have to pull things together and make it look like something acquired over a number of years, but really I got it in two days. And it’s kind of the same idea in my home.
Renovating a house seems like an awfully big project to take on yourself.
It’s a lot of work, and you just have to love it. I love to shop, and I’m always shopping for windows, wood, fixtures, flooring and things like that for my work. Fifty percent of the job is shopping. You would think I would get tired of it or I wouldn’t want to do it on my own, but I love it.
So what are your favorite places to shop in Dallas?
I like Curiosities and the White Elephant Antique Mall. I like the mix at We are 1976 as well as Bows and Arrows. My mom is an antiques dealer, so I get some stuff from her. I tend to shop out of town more than in Dallas. Most of my work is in San Francisco and New York, so I do a lot of shopping in those cities.
You shop all the time, but your house seems uncluttered.
One thing that helps me not go completely overboard, because I am always shopping and I have the opportunity to buy things daily, is that I try to stick within a color scheme. I might love this turquoise couch, or whatever, but I try to keep it in a neutral color scheme, and that’s helped me not get too much stuff. I try to stick with whites and neutrals and pops of color here and there. And I think that makes it less confusing.
Can you give us some style tips?
That’s a hard question. I guess I would say, don’t be afraid to let your personality show through your stuff. Don’t think you have to stay married to one style. Never take yourself too seriously, and always have a little something that’s just off enough to keep people interested.