Like an iridescent pearl cloistered in an unexpected shell, the Kips Bay Decorator Showhouse Dallas 2023 holds twenty-two different interior design projects potent with visual delight within a home painted in a striking black coat. It is indeed a stark contrast from the neighboring Texan-chateaus in Old Preston Hollow’s Sunnybrook Estates neighborhood, but the kaleidoscope of patterns, fabrics, colors, and finesse inside certainly matched the aesthetic patterns of the city—a spectacle as sophisticated as it is camp.
When your senses are somewhat overloaded with all that is set before you (such was the case during my visit) one can’t help but seek temporary refuge by looking away. Early on in my venture through the home, I chose to look up, hoping that the ceilings provided a white clean slate. I was wrong, but delighted.
In Kirsten Kelli’s spacious family room called “Sumptuous Sanctuary,” textures and fabrics ran wild. First, it was a set of Macassar Ebony chairs across the sofa. Then, it was a pair of club chairs covered in Cowtan & Tout’s Hollyhocks. A Dutch convex art mirror from the David Sutherland Showroom sealed the deal, and my eyes ran upward. I was taken aback: embossed crocodile ceiling? A peculiar, but sexy twist from the expected. Designed by Phillip Jeffries wallcoverings, something of that sort seems better reserved for a surface meant to withstand use. It’s a bold choice, but on the ceiling, it makes a room feel, dare I say, intimate? Tom Ford cool?
Throughout the showhouse, designers did their fair share of overhead adornment. Mark D. Sikes, Jill Biden’s L.A.-based designer, encased his take on a dining room in a blue and white windowpane from top to bottom. The walls blended with the ceiling in this pattern, boxing in a treasure of interior elements inspired by Bunny Mellon, Billy Baldwin, and Hubert de Givenchy. Sikes is known for his affinity for traditional styles, but the use of windowpane wallpapers throughout the room showed a contemporary side, offering an example of how traditional styles can place themselves in a modern world.
Cathy Kincaid, too, referenced the lifestyle of Bunny Mellon by creating a library that directly nods to Mellon’s horticulturist background. She chose a Persian-style wallpaper that covered the walls and the ceilings. Simms Hayes thought of her daughter for her “Fern Returns” bedroom, which follows suit with its name. Above the Samuel and Sons trim and drapes crafted by The Shade Store, one of the event’s sponsors, were fern motifs crafted out of Casci Plaster used on all corners of the ceiling. Nearby, Darren Henault tended his elegant bedroom with Cowtan & Tout fabric with finished trim by Colefax and Fowler. Morgan Madison Designs’s mystical landing room on the second floor even featured a metal cupholder that descends from the ceiling. It isn’t that the details on the ceilings were the only, nor even the best part of these rooms, but the experimentation, like any memorable space, gave immense character to their settings.
But, there were other tremendous wins in the show, too. Dodson Interiors, to pay tribute to legendary decorator Suzanne Rheinstein, honed in on the use of antiques for their salon-style room. Like the aforementioned, wall-to-wall drapery by The Shade Store in Zoffany fabrics descended from a tented ceiling. With a mix of modern art, the result was a room rooted in timeless elegance that is neither too antiquated nor outwardly daring. KMNelson Design looked to Marrakech for a bedroom, which resulted in bohemian decadence inspired by Yves Saint Laurent and Paul and Talitha Getty. Pursley Dixon Ford’s design and architecture provided a different experience in their downstairs bedroom: a minimal one that relied on the layering of textures to elicit a sort of clean slate elegance.
At the heart of the home, Kurt Bielawski’s kitchen was successful at not only passing on utility (thank you, Jennair appliances), but also imagination. Tucked to the side was a scullery with warm wood cabinetry filled with grains of all sorts. The window pane in the scullery looks out to the bucolic front yard of the home –which features towering topiaries designed by Melissa Gerstle—and, maybe just for a second, transports one to the European countryside. It’s a meditative space for culinary connoisseurs, and perhaps a push for a new skill for those who aren’t as skilled in the kitchen.
Speaking of Gerstle’s creation, there was magic in other parts of the landscape, too. Todd Events’s pool folly provided a plush lounging area featuring Tibetan Knot Performance Rug from Perennials and heirloom Chinoiserie stools. Dan Houchard at From the Ground Up provided a playful shire eliciting a faraway wooded garden set among mature trees with a moon gate and a 19th-century Belgian limestone water fountain.
Back in the house, it was Sarah Hillery’s “Tea for Two” hallway (shown at the very beginning of this article) that provided the ideal ending to a long tour. The Virginia-based designer reimagined a feature of a home, often forgotten, as a place for intimacy and relaxation. A green velvet sofa was used like a French bed alcove, accompanied by a pair of French chairs and small British colonial bamboo tables. Christopher Farr Cloth drapes cocooned a room that one couldn’t help but pause in; for tea, for a game of cards, or for pondering their next decorating move.
The Kips Bay Decorator Show Dallas 2023 is now open to the public until November 14th with proceeds benefiting the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club as well as local Dallas charities Dwell with Dignity and The Crystal Charity Ball. For tickets, visit kipsbaydecoratorshowhouse.org.