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The Death of a Texas Legend

She Dated Dukes, Hobnobbed with Movie Stars and Designed Like No One Else

BY // 12.04.16

WE REMEMBER THE INIMITABLE DESIGNER BEVERLY FIELD — BRAZEN, BRILLIANT, AND UNIVERSALLY BELOVED.

Beverly Field, who died last month at age 88 at her home in Dallas, was appreciated as much for her eccentricity as for her design brilliance. “She was outrageous,” says London art gallerist Thomas Gibson, who was close friends with Field for more than 40 years. “She came off as a bit batty, but she knew her onions. She was up there with the best of them — Cecil Beaton, Sister Parrish, Syrie Maugham.”

A talented colorist whose interiors were at once sophisticated and bohemian, Field attracted socially prominent clients — Dallas names such as Carpenter, Hunt, and Dedman. Nancy Dedman, who was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority at Southern Methodist University with Field in the 1940s, hired her to work on three of her houses during their seven-decades-long friendship.

“She could see a color in 1950 and reproduce it 25 years later,” says Dedman. “Working with Beverly was one of the greatest pleasures of my life.”

Field was a lover of classic European and English architecture, with a style influenced by her many years abroad. She was a member of the Irish Georgian Society, founded by brewing heir Desmond Guinness, who was also a friend. As a young widow in the 1970s, she moved for a brief period with her three sons to Castletown (Guinness’ spectacular home in Ireland), where she taught art at a camp for the privileged horsey set.

“She loved Ireland because it had this sort of mad side that appealed to her,” says Ireland-born Netta Blanchard, a great friend of Field, who now lives in Dallas. “She and Desmond Guinness got along because they were both sharp-tongued and quick-witted. They both had this amazing sense of the absurd, which is very Irish.”

Beverly, circa 1973
Beverly, circa 1973

Later, Field moved the family to Zurich so she could study at the C. G. Jung Institute. “She thought therapy was the answer to everything,” says her son, Tom Field. After a year, the children were sent to live with relatives in Texas, and Field stayed on two more years. “She had a thirst for knowledge and was incredibly well read,” Gibson says.

There were frequent sojourns to London and Italy to visit Gibson and his family. “One day, The Duke of Beaufort came over to our garden. She was chitchatting to the gardener earlier, and she chitchatted the same way with the duke. She was not impressed. And she loved old things and historic architecture. My god, the hours we had to spend in churches in Italy, looking at architecture,” says Gibson.

At her house in Highland Park, Field reveled in a mix of unusual Asian and European antiques, folk art, and ornate braquenié fabrics from India, set off by regal reds, golds, and blues. Of decorating, she often opined that it was like “climbing a snow-covered mountain in high-heeled Manolo Blahniks, all to beg a husband to buy a sofa pillow,” remembers long-time friend Rob Brinkley. She loved color, but it had to be the right one. “I’m still expecting her to burst into my room and tell me the color is all wrong,” says Blanchard.

Beverly Field collected an international assortment of acquaintances, including British actor John Cleese and his wife, Fawlty Towers actress Connie Booth; Winston Churchill’s granddaughter, the artist Edwina Sandys; and the late American actress Ronnie Claire Edwards of The Waltons TV series fame.

“People were always attracted to Beverly, and she met them everywhere,” from bookstores to trains, says Blanchard. “Beverly burned with an intensity, and you were never left with a doubt about how she felt about anything — whether it was your behavior or the color of a room. She was a force to be reckoned with.”

And then there’s this, relayed by friend and fellow designer Michelle Nussbaumer. “She wore nothing but Issey Miyake — she was even buried in it.” An eccentric to the end.

Field Notes
“When Beverly walked into a room, it was like bees to honey. There werelords, barons, dukes —  she just left a trail of broken hearts behind her from England to France to Ireland.” — Netta Blanchard

“Upon being introduced as an interior decorator at a party, Field stated: ‘I don’t do lamps or ashtrays!’” — Stanley Zareff

“You never wanted to drive with her, ever. Once was enough for me. We mounted three curbs and bumped into two cars, and we’d only gone 10 blocks. Were we in London? No, we were in Highland Park!” — Thomas Gibson

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