Clay Dark’s luxurious Mansfield home fits in the “Modern Tropical” genre. But some six years after he first set foot in the door, the dwelling might also be described as “early Clay Dark” – with a touch of “eclectic Vanessa Lowe” thrown in for good measure.
Dark is an IT specialist for an international mining company by day. But designing things – and the ability to convert theory into practice – are also two of his gifts that have been put to great use practically every year since 2011, when he decided to make the 3,900-square-foot, four-bedroom, 4.5-bath house his new home.
”I have personally built or installed many features of the home,” Dark says. “My girlfriend Blayne and I also have a good friend, Vanessa, who is a designer that I always like to bounce ideas off of and who has contributed to our décor.”
Lowe fashioned her own home
into an original, distinctively artistic showcase – it was featured on these pages several months ago – and when she was offered the chance to tag-team to make something great even better, she jumped at it.
As a result, Dark took aim at the outside, and Lowe and he collaborated indoors, thus creating the masterpiece you see here.
“I also enjoy landscaping and have designed and installed the landscaping myself,” Dark said. “A longtime friend of mine and I both enjoy landscaping design, outdoor lighting and building outdoor kitchens for friends. We have recently started a small business helping friends of friends complete their outdoor projects. We have found that many people buya home or build a pool and don’t quite get all of what they want, and we help them complete their project a few years later.”
Actually, his own dwelling fit that category, and many photos you see here tell the story of how he and his collaborative partners set about attaining what he wanted from the get-go.
As “Exhibit A,” we present the billiard room. Actually, upon closer inspection you might have concluded that the room is, in fact, the formal dining area. You would have concluded correctly.
“Blayne and I almost never cook or have occasion to eat at a formal dining table,” he says. “But I do like playing pool.” Hence, a practical but unconventional design choice.
Then there is Dark’s pride and joy: his media room. “When I bought the home, it just wasn’t designed properly,” Dark says. “The way it was laid out, you couldn’t see the screen from certain seats. So I changed the layout and built a drop- down screen and created a master system that controls everything.”
With one flip of a switch, everything goes on at once – the screen drops down, the sound comes on, the lighting adjusts just like in a normal theater.
Well, there’s one thing that’s not “normal theater-centric”: the stars that twinkle above visitors to the media room. Dark created those using fiber-optic lights – putting them in one at a time by himself to create a night sky effect.
”It’s not as hard as you might think,” he says. “Stars aren’t aligned in a preset pattern in the sky, so I just installed those randomly like you’d see in the real evening sky.”
Other areas throughout the house
also feature Dark’s handiwork: The light fixture, the tile designs in the kitchen and the hunting trophies hanging in his study are all products of his imagination, skillset and leisure passions.
Of course, as he noted, he saved much of his best work for the outdoor portion of the home. “I like the back yard, the landscaping and the lighting both indoors and out – particularly at night,” he says. “Many people spend a lot of effort and money making their home beautiful during the day, but good lighting design with lots of options can make it just as good at night, too.”
The picture that greeted you when you began this story is a testament to what Dark is talking about. The scene is, well, the stuff of magazines.
So, in fact, is the whole house, which remains a work in progress and probably will as long as he owns it. “The house has a good layout for entertaining and having friends over,” he says. “I liked that from the first moment I saw it. I then just made it even better.”