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A Museum-Worthy Apartment in the Sky — Emily Summers Designs an Eye-Catching Hall Arts Residence

Inside the High-Rise Apartment in the Heart of the Dallas Arts District

BY // 09.07.21

When a prominent Dallas Opera supporter decided to downsize from his Park Cities house into a downtown high-rise, only one building — and one view — would do. His new apartment inside Hall Arts Residences is just steps away from the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House, a dazzling ruby-tinted glass building designed in 2009 by UK architects Foster + Partners. The Winspear is a scene- stealer, its red drum dominating the pale skyline by day and glowing like a crimson lantern at night. “He very carefully planned the living room around that view,” says longtime friend Emily Summers, who designed the apartment’s interiors.

Emily Summers also has a special place in her heart for the Winspear: She worked pro bono on the opera house’s interiors with architect Spencer de Grey of Foster + Partners. Her involvement with the Winspear led her to team with developers Craig and Kathryn Hall on the design of the Residences’ interior architecture and amenities. The 28-story tower opened in 2020. “I didn’t usually do high-rise work, but the Arts District was such a part of me for so many years that I wanted to be involved,” she says. Summers is currently at work on several apartments in the building for other clients, including a newly completed two-story residence for the Halls.

For this client, a spectacular view of the Winspear and the surrounding Arts District was just one reason to love the new apartment. Its ultra-tall ceilings are perfect to showcase a blue-chip contemporary art collection that includes works by Donald Judd, Agnes Martin, Mark Rothko, Joan Mitchell, Richard Serra, Alexander Calder, and Cy Twombly. “All the art has been collected over his lifetime, and it’s never looked better,” says Summers, who worked on the client’s previous home as well. “He had an inventory of each piece and was meticulous about laying everything out ahead of time. He even knew where he wanted the Droog milk bottles to go in the Bulthaup kitchen.” The clever light pendant — inspired by a crate of milk bottles — was created by Amsterdam conceptual design firm Droog.

Emily Summers Dallas
On the wall, an untitled stainless-steel sculpture by Donald Judd. (Photo by Douglas Friedman)

The client chose the view because of his passion for opera, and his art collection is just as personal. Much of it reflects his involvement with such organizations as The Chinati Foundation art museum in Marfa. One of his favorite works is by minimalist artist Donald Judd, who founded Chinati in 1979; the iconic piece, which consists of 10 stacked stainless-steel units, floats alone on a wall between the dining and living areas. Judd celebrated the empty space around his sculptures, and if the ceilings in this apartment had been lower, it might have been a deal-breaker for the client. “The ceiling height is perfect for the stacked sculpture, and it was the first piece to go up,” Summers says. “He knew exactly what the measurements needed to be so it could hang the way the artist originally intended it.” In the living room is a large horseshoe- shaped sculpture made in 1990 by Judd’s close friend, pop artist Claes Oldenburg, who has many works at Chinati. The client’s collection also includes sculptures by artists with a long tenure at Chinati — Dan Flavin and John Chamberlain.

“There’s a lot of personal-life interest that goes into this apartment,” Emily Summers says. Furnishings and decorative objects with significant meaning to the client have places of honor, including a late-19th-century desk that takes center stage in the library. “It’s unusual to have an antique desk in the middle of a contemporary apartment, but it was his father’s desk,” Summers says. In the dining room, an antique silver tea service that belonged to his late wife creates a stylistic juxtaposition beneath an Agnes Martin artwork, with its delicate pencil lines and soft bands of color. The tea service rests on a console handmade in Paris by cabinetmakers Ludwig & Dominique, who also made the dining table. Both are exquisite in their construction and materials, including marquetry made with prehistoric oak and bronze bases. “They do all the historical restoration at the Louvre,” Summers says. “I had fun visiting with them, going to Paris and picking out the veneers. We’ve worked with them on several projects.”

Such a museum-worthy art collection requires equally notable furnishings. In the entryway, a chest made by one of the world’s greatest living furniture designers, Gareth Neal, bumps elbows with eight Cy Twombly lithographs and a Mark Rothko oil on paper. Summers first discovered the London designer’s work at the Victoria & Albert Museum and tracked him down at his studio. The chest is a contemporary reinterpretation of a 1780s George III commode with unusual rectilinear cuts made with a computer-controlled routing machine and hand-carving techniques. A similar chest is in the permanent furniture collection of the V&A.

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Agnes Martin’s “Untitled #15” in the dining room. Console and table by Ludwig & Dominque, Paris. The silver tea service belonged to the homeowner’s late wife. Vintage Mattaliano chairs. Alfredo Salvatori marble light fixture. (Photo by Douglas Friedman)

Among Emily Summers’ favorite furnishings is a pair of limited- edition marble consoles by French designer Hervé Langlais, which. she found at Galerie Negropontes in Paris. Colorful sculptures by Dan Flavin, John Chamberlain, and Alexander Calder are hung in acrylic boxes above the consoles, creating a push-pull of angles and textures that she loves. Other furniture includes vintage and new pieces by Ward Bennett, Christian Liaigre, LaVerne, Josef Frank, KGBL, and Pinto Paris. “The client was instrumental in choosing and spritzer is his favorite cocktail, and he wanted to show us the color he wanted us to use,” Summers recalls. After watering it down a bit — and avoiding any reference to Texas Longhorn orange — they hit on just the right intensity. She used the spirited color in the living room’s accessories and a Tai Ping rug of her design, inspired by a vintage pattern from a book on Modernism.

Summers has since developed an affection for the color she once rarely used. Aperol spritzers were served in the lobby to toast the opening of Hall Arts Residences last year, and she just completed an apartment for other clients done entirely in red. When designing the interiors for the Italian-American restaurant Fachini in Highland Park Village, she specified a bright red carpet for the stairs. “I’m in love with red now,” Summers says.

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