With its ethereal high-desert landscape, cavernous blue skies, and "views for 50 miles," as the artist Donald Judd once put it, the far-west Texas town of Marfa has been a magnet for artists, writers, and other creatives since the 1970s. These days, the boho clan comes for the art, including the obligatory pilgrimage to Judd's Chinati Foundation, and is summarily awed by the setting. And some, like me, end up buying property here despite the fact that (or because) this globally renowned cultural mecca consists of a single stoplight, a few dusty streets, and a hodgepodge of mostly unassuming architecture.

Transformed Texas Country House
Barnette with Lebermann and her son, Henry, on the roof of their 1969 Jeep in front of the main house.
Douglas Friedman

Not that there aren’t gems to be found here. It’s just that more often than not, the most enviable spaces in town are like the geodes in the surrounding Chihuahuan Desert: outwardly modest, but a completely different story inside. Virginia Lebermann’s home is one of them. A native Texan, Lebermann moved to Marfa 16 years ago when she and Fairfax Dorn cofounded the nonprofit cultural-arts space Ballroom Marfa (she also owns the Thunderbird Hotel and the Capri, a restaurant and events space, in town). When she first laid eyes on the adobe building that would eventually become her home, it was “a ruin.” The modest structure, which appeared on local maps in 1880, had partial dirt floors and a weathered tin roof, and it lacked electricity and plumbing. Still, Lebermann saw the potential. “The architecture had so much soul,” she says. “I did not want to manipulate or change it in a big way. ”

"The house just needed to be listened to a bit more."

Transformed Texas Country House
Douglas Friedman

LEFT: In the guest room, a Spanish chair pulls up to an antique desk, and the artworks are by Nick Terry. RIGHT: In the kitchen’s fireplace, a barro rojo bowl from Oaxaca, Mexico, holds onions. The antique furniture, including a French table, was inherited from Lebermann’s family. The floor is poured concrete, the ceiling is reclaimed longleaf pine, and the print is by Jonah Freeman, Justin Lowe, and Alexandre Singh.

In conversation, Lebermann has a habit of hanging back and taking things in before responding. So it’s no surprise that she “stared at” the home for six months before devising a plan and hiring contractors. During that time, she researched both the architecture and style of the lower Rio Grande Valley, learning about traditional methods of construction. She finally set out to renovate the building into a four-bedroom house for her family, including her husband, the chef Rocky Barnette, and Henry, her 11-year-old son from a previous marriage.

Transformed Texas Country House
Spray-painted tumbleweeds hang from the cedar ceiling in the living room. The sofa is by Minotti, the white chair is by Axel Vervoordt, and the floor lamp (foreground) is from John Derian. The painting is by Charlotte Culot.
Douglas Friedman

The meticulous renovation took two-and-a-half years to complete. Part of that had to do with replastering the original adobe walls. Lebermann discovered that the most indigenous method—which is known as earth plaster—involves fermenting barrel-cactus pads in water, creating an adhesive that is added to the local mud. “You end up with proper, old-school plaster,” says Lebermann, who supervised the fermentation process in horse troughs installed for the purpose in her backyard.

Her new cedar-shingle roof is also west-Texas traditional, but because Lebermann, who grew up on a ranch, wanted exposed shingles inside the house as well as out, two separate roofs ended up being built. And rather than standardize the home’s asymmetrical openings, she found an artisan in the town of Presidio, about an hour’s drive away, to hand-make on-site new windows and doors fitted with copper screens and hinges forged by a local blacksmith.

Transformed Texas Country House
Douglas Friedman

LEFT: A pair of vintage Italian chairs frames an Axel Vervoordt cocktail table in the library. The custom bookshelves are mahogany, the burlap-and-tinsel chandelier is by Sean Daly, and the rug is by Society Limonta. The three adobe sculptures under the table are by Rafa Esparza. RIGHT: In Lebermann’s dressing room, vintage cowboy boots are arranged on an antique table. The chest is by Maria Yee, the antique bench is Spanish, and the Huichol beaded skull is from Mexico. The painting is by Mark Flood, and the floor tiles are Mexican.

To furnish her new space, Lebermann looked far beyond the Texas desert all the way to Belgium, where she sourced many of her home’s cornerstone pieces from the legendary designer Axel Vervoordt. Indeed, the rustic aesthetic of her house—handcrafted white walls, exposed wooden ceiling beams, oiled mesquite floors, and an overall sense of calm—have much in common with Vervoordt’s elemental interiors. “His style of furniture, big and comfortable, visually just works so well in a minimal setting such as the Chihuahuan Desert,” Lebermann says. The neutral palette also made it easy to layer in the colorful textiles that Lebermann and Barnette have collected from Mexico and South America, as well as vintage and antique furniture from Spain, Italy, and France.

Transformed Texas Country House
In the master bedroom, a British Khaki bed is dressed in Matteo sheets. The side table is by Maria Yee, the chair is by Michael Tracy, and the rug is from ABC Carpet & Home.
Douglas Friedman

And, of course, in Marfa there is plenty of art. One might expect the founder of a renowned arts-and-culture institution (the Prada Marfa installation was one of Ballroom Marfa’s early commissions) to live in a museum of sorts, but Lebermann’s personal collection is refreshingly unostentatious; here, pieces by such well-known contemporary artists as Raymond Pettibon and Peter Doig coexist with works by local artists and friends. Several were originally commissioned for Ballroom Marfa shows, but they receive no special treatment or attention, never detracting from the comfortable, hospitable spirit of the home. “People are surprised when they walk in here,” says Lebermann. “The house is humble on the outside, and then you enter and there’s magic. It turned out to be pretty dreamy.”

Transformed Texas Country House
LEFT: The guest bath’s sink is by Waterworks, the mirror is from BDDW, and the artwork is by Julio Larraz. RIGHT: In Lebermann’s bathroom, a Waterworks tub is encased in mahogany, and the photograph is by Kate Breakey.
Douglas Friedman