Chez George

This maestro of good taste can really work a room

Karen Muncy. Photography Ka Yeung. Architect George Dahl, circa 1964.
October 04, 2013

You’ll never have to drag an opinion out of George Cameron Nash. After 36 years of assiduous collecting and
26 years at the helm of respected showrooms in Houston and Dallas, he is unquestionably savvy, confidently authoritative and ferociously outspoken.

His commitment to the best of everything is evident in the names he represents — Rose Tarlow, Holly Hunt, Christian Liaigre, and other design world luminaries — and in the home he and partner Mark Williams share in a mid-century mid-rise on Turtle Creek in Dallas. Their second-floor aerie sits at treetop level. Why? “Dallas doesn’t have any views,” he says, “so the second floor is perfect; I get to see magnolias and oaks. One floor higher, and I’d see air conditioning units.”

Finding the apartment was, he says, “a total fluke. We had a house in Highland Park when a very good friend, who lives in this building, suggested we might want to take a look at this space.” All it took was one walk-through, “and we said, ‘We’re moving.’” Nash loves the treehouse feel of their corner apartment, framed by an expansive L-shaped balcony and walls of windows. “Every time I walk in, the environment feels like I’m in a secluded corner of a marvelous building,” he says. “It’s one of the only buildings in Dallas designed and built by the same person [the prominent Dallas architect George Dahl].”

The flow of the residence is impeccable. There are almost no interior doors, but each room is clearly defined in the clean lines of the architecture and the thoughtful composition of furnishings. “Nothing has ever been so perfect architecturally,” Nash says. “I love to change things, but there wasn’t a darn thing I saw that I wanted to change.” New carpet in the bedrooms was the only modification before the couple moved in. Everywhere else, sable-tinted hardwoods and undraped windows keep the feeling open and relaxed.

The space has evolved through the years. “It’s about a mix that makes sense; as long as the quality is good, the mix will always work,” he says. “The best has nothing to do with price; it’s characterized by originality and quality, which result in longevity.”

In many ways, this apartment takes Nash back to his childhood in Houston. “I grew up in a modern home with great big windows and architectural reveals, so this place is very much like that. And it has the right proportions of walls and ceiling height — my big paintings can breathe here.”

Holly Hunt’s siren of a pedestal table in “beautiful, sensual hot-red-pepper lacquer” sizzles in the company of refined Christian Liaigre sofas in simple ivory linen; pillows in gold silk velvet echo the shimmer of a Japanese Edo screen, circa 1845. “It has been my soul mate since 1979,” Nash says of the screen. “I have sold it and bought it back three times.”

Every space is designed for both comfort and maximum visual impact. “I love to put together compositions,” he says. “I love chairs thrown around in a room.” The living area incorporates three. A Michael Taylor piece is “the best Louis XVI chair that has ever been. The proportion and quality are excellent, the silver leaf is perfection. It cannot be ignored.” A glamorous leopard-print silk velvet beauty is “a one-off Yale Burge experiment” whose hand-painted quill finish resembles nothing so much as glossy liquid caramel. And a one-of-a-kind Rose Tarlow chair combines the powerful scale of its Biedermeier forebears and a daredevil carved frame that begs for future museum acquisition. Nash relishes its bold presence, explaining, “I don’t like dinky stuff. Dinky stuff is irrelevant.”

Although the space is ideal for entertaining, especially with the wraparound terrace, “we don’t have a big social life. We have to borrow silver if we have more than 12 for dinner. We are two gentlemen who work 10 hours a day, come home, feed the dogs, go to dinner, walk the dogs, watch TV, and we’re asleep by 10 o’clock.”

Those 10-hour days are nothing new. Nash was “the only boy in design class” at the University of Houston when he got “an accidental job” pulling fabric samples at a showroom in 1975. After working for several others over the next decade, he founded his eponymous showroom in 1987 with $5,000. “I had the good, the bad and the ugly to start with,” he says, “but by editing for years and years, little by little, I attracted the best — many of the most important design originators in the industry.

“One of my best friends in the industry, Holly Hunt, is often asked when she plans to leave her business or slow her pace. Her answer is ‘when I get it right.’ I don’t think I’ve gotten it right yet,” Nash says. “There is still plenty to do. But I love the avenue I’m on — the personal enjoyment of acquiring wisdom.”