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Yves Saint Laurent’s Layered, Collected Interiors Inspired This Chic Preston Hollow Home by Dallas Designer Corbin See

An Empty Nester Refresh for a Longtime Client

BY // 11.03.23
photography Pär Bengtsson

Corbin See has been tinkering with the interiors of this Preston Hollow home for 15 years. “The house has evolved with the client’s life, so the furniture and decoration have evolved too,” says See, who had just joined his father’s Oklahoma City design firm when his client came calling in 2008. At the time, she was newly married with a blended family, so the interiors were practical, yet stylish. Over time, as their needs changed, new furnishings were added and old ones subtracted; a master suite with a large bath was built, along with a new study.

A few years ago, his client and her husband — now empty nesters — asked See to refresh the interiors to reflect their new lifestyle. The family’s TV room, which had become a den as the kids got older, has again been transformed, this time into an intimate salon for grown-up cocktail hour. Alluring attributes include a parchment cocktail table from the Paris flea market, Persian rugs, and floor lamps evocative of French designer Jacques Garcia’s Hotel Costes.

“The house has had a full arc of life, and we’ve been along for the whole process,” See says. “She was willing to take more risks than most clients, so we took more chances. The interiors feel a little edgier because of that.”

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In the salon, a gilt Serpentine mirror by Rose Tarlow. Vladimir Kagan swivel chair. B&B Italia sofas, David Iatesta floor lamps. Coffee table is a Paris flea-market find. Abrash rug. Bronze side tables by Cedric Hartman. Martini tables from The Lacquer Company.

For this client — a philanthropist with a fearless sense of personal style — the designer has approached the interiors like a collector, giving new life to the best pieces and introducing exciting furnishings that might one day be passed down to the next generation. Collecting is in See’s DNA. He grew up in a house with antiques, and before joining his father’s firm, he worked for Orion Antiques, where he honed an appreciation for a variety of styles and eras. He’s now the principal of Sees Design’s Dallas studio.

His client’s living room has a layered, collected feel that comes from years of editing. Her original Angelo Donghia sofa, purchased shortly after she moved in, was replaced by a curvaceous Vladimir Kagan sofa.

“She came to me with that sofa — she was onto the Kagan trend long before West Elm and CB2 started knocking it off — saying, ‘Let’s turn this room up one notch.’” The seductive new sofa was just the right touch, but the room’s Tibetan rug proved too assertive by contrast and had to go. It was replaced by an understated black sisal topped with a zebra hide, a moody twist on a timeless design trope.

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The Kagan sofa is flanked by tables of two very different design styles and eras. A boldly patterned 1980s table by Memphis founder Ettore Sottsass is one of the first pieces See bought for the room 15 years earlier. Back then, few knew what Memphis was; now, the furniture is highly collectible.

“It’s tricky to use Memphis, because it has so many primary colors, but it’s like a modern painting. You have to think of it as art,” he says. It’s juxtaposed with a bronze Dessin Fournir table that he says “looks like a Roman antiquity. The balance between the two is literally like hot and cold.”

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Another look at the James Perkins-designed ostrich-plume floor lamp Corbin See’s client found at Grange Hall.

In 2018, when the client brought See a photo of an ostrich-plume floor lamp she’d fallen in love with at Grange Hall, he was initially skeptical. “I was a little afraid of its trend power, but the quality was definitely there,” he says. The lamp is a creation of James Perkins, founder of eccentric Aynhoe Park, a 17th-century Palladian manor in England that offers unusual art, furnishings, and curiosities for sale through its website A Modern Grand Tour. See suggested they place the lamp in the living room near the sofa, and any misgivings he had vanished. “We were trying to create a sexier, more feminine space, and that lamp did it for me,” he says. “It’s like a big, burlesque boa.”

Juxtaposed on the opposite end of the sofa is a rice-paper light sculpture by Isamu Noguchi. The two floor lamps may hail from different time periods and look radically different, but they are both delicate designs and therefore harmonize perfectly.

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In the salon, a pair of framed custom designed fabric panels by Pierre Frey. Chairs and plaster John Dickinson side table from David Sutherland Showroom.

Other furnishings in the living room, such as a Karl Springer-inspired shagreen coffee table and leather Christian Liaigre ottoman, all coordinate because their design influences can be traced to a single source: the illustrious 1930s French designer Jean-Michel Frank. It’s hard to argue with brilliance.

“Vladimir Kagan, Karl Springer, Christian Liaigre, Jean-Michel Frank, and Ettore Sottsass were all geniuses, so everything they designed works together,” he says. “I love the story they tell. It’s like having different interesting people in a room, and the more the difference, the better.”

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In the main bedroom, a Fortuny lantern and de Gournay wallpaper. On the Giorgetti bed are a custom pillow in Dedar fabric and Ann Gish coverlet. Natasha Baradaran lounge chairs. John Dickinson table. Christian Liaigre floor lamp.

See’s favorite designer is Jacques Grange who, in addition to doing Hotel Costes, designed Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé’s impeccably collected house in Paris. The interiors were done in 1971 but feel ageless.

“Saint Laurent and Bergé were such avid collectors — so how do you design around that? How do you corral something like that? You almost have to art-direct it and be comfortable that a Charlotte Perriand chair is going to go with a gilded Louis XVI clock,” he says.

It’s the design direction See has taken with his client’s house over the decades. “What I love about this approach is that you are painting a portrait of the client. It’s a reflection of who they are — their travels, their stories, their likes. A lot of what we do is interpret how people want to live. Your house has to make you happy.”

Styling Christopher MacKinnon || Architecture Bernbaum/ Magadini Architects 

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