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A Dallas Couple’s High-Rise Apartment and Designer Joshua Rice Prove to Be the Perfect Match

How a Happenstance Encounter Turned Into Something Beautiful

BY // 01.26.21

As Sylvia Hargrave and Magnus Wetterstrand know, good things can blossom out of the most challenging situations. In 2011, when their longtime designer abruptly left town, they were left with unfinished interiors two months before Christmas.

“I was desperate to find another designer,” remembers Hargrave, a prominent eye surgeon and chief of ophthalmology at Methodist Dallas Medical Center. In a rare free moment, she headed to the Dallas Design District, where she popped into the contemporary design showroom Smink. Spotting two of her friends shopping, Hargrave asked, “Is anybody here an interior designer?”

They pointed across the room to Joshua Rice, who had opened his own design business four years earlier after working with architecture and design firm Bodron + Fruit. Hargrave didn’t mince words.

“I walked up to him and said, ‘Listen, I’m in a very bad situation.’ I explained everything.” Rice agreed to stop by their apartment at the W Residences and take a look; their chance meeting was fortuitous.

Hargrave and her husband, a senior pilot with American Airlines, had been living in the Victory Park area tower since 2007, a year after it opened. “We like really modern, clean spaces, and were drawn to the W because of the liveliness of the area — my husband is a big hockey fan, so he was excited about being able to walk across the street to the American Airlines Center and watch games,” she says. “And we have a great downtown view.”

The couple had been redoing the apartment slowly over the years with their previous designer, and after meeting with Rice and looking at his portfolio, they asked him to step in and finish it.

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“He was very polite, but I could tell he wasn’t thrilled with what the other designer had done,” Hargrave says.

White walls and hard-edged contemporary furnishings gave the interiors a harsh feel. Rice says, “I love minimalist looks, but I don’t like cold minimalism, and this space was flirting with being cold.” But he wasn’t being hired to do an overhaul; the goal was just to get them through the holidays and then some. They liked the changes he made, and over the next few years, the couple enlisted Rice’s help finishing other areas in the apartment.

Hargrave House Dallas
Homeowner Sylvia Hargrave in a lounge chair by Jaime Tresserra, Barcelona. (Portrait by Misael Rodriguez)

“Very long story short,” Hargrave says, “we went to Sweden for two months over the summer — my husband was born and raised there — and when we came back, pipes had burst, and the whole place was flooded.” It wasn’t just furniture that was ruined; floors, walls, and cabinets had been steeped in muck for weeks. The whole apartment had to be gutted, but Rice had a blank canvas to work from.

“That’s when he gave us our dream place,” Hargrave says.

Joshua Rice is known in the design world for obsessively curated interiors filled with important furnishings, and national magazines have taken note: His collaboration with Wernerfield Architects was published in Dwell in 2014, and interiors he created for a modernist home in Diane Cheatham’s award-winning Urban Reserve enclave landed in the pages of Architectural Digest in 2017. But the residence he created for Hargrave and Wetterstrand ranks among his favorite projects.

“They are great clients and incredibly fastidious — it makes sense because they’re in professions that are exacting — so these interiors are detailed and refined,” Rice says.

The clients moved into a temporary apartment for a year while extensive renovations were underway. “We took a totally different direction with the design after the flood,” Rice says. “The space is southeast facing, so it gets intense sun, and darker materials help counteract that.”

The overall palette went from light to dark, including the new Poliform kitchen, which was customized with fumed-oak cabinets. Tile floors were replaced with blue limestone, and stark white walls were softened with heavily textured linen wallpaper, which remind him of the wallcoverings at the Kimbell Art Museum.

Joshua Rice
Custom Poliform kitchen from Scott + Cooner. John Pawson bronze bowl. Barstools by BassamFellows. (Photo by Robert Yu)

The clients were drawn to the linear shapes and straight edges found in most contemporary furniture, but square or rectangular shapes would have only boxed in the already long and narrow main living area, Rice says. A trapezoid rug, designed in collaboration with artist Travis LaMothe, provided a solution.

“The rug gave me a reason to kick the furniture off-center, so that everything is at a 30-degree angle to the side. It makes the room more interesting and gives it more energy,” he says.

Rice chose a curved mohair sofa by Vioski because it subtly follows the rug’s shape, as does the sculptural coffee table by Italian architect Vincenzo De Cotiis. His DC 1201 table, produced in 2012, is an investment piece and an exquisite work of art in silver-plated brass and wood. At first, the couple were hesitant to have an expensive coffee table that tarnishes, but ultimately they grew to cherish its imperfect perfection.

“We could polish it to a mirror finish, but we decided to let it patina, and we absolutely love it now,” Hargrave says. “A cute backstory is that one of our friends came over with her little boy, and he’d hold onto the table and walk around it. Now we have perfect little hand prints in the patina.”

Rice procured other furniture and art from dealers and galleries around the world. “Everything was meticulously picked, and we chose a lot of collectible pieces that will only increase in value over time,” he says.

In the dining room are a cast-bronze and wenge wood Pan Coupé table designed in the 1950s by Belgian design icon Jules Wabbes; a striking blue-painted cantilevered lamp by Belgian designer Muller Van Severen; and a credenza handmade from beautiful claro walnut by the small New York City design company BDDW. Two meticulously detailed lounge chairs in the living area were created in 1987 by Spanish designer Jaime Tresserra and feature detachable leather magazine holders. In the main bedroom, two aubergine-hued chairs designed by iconic 1970s artist Donald Judd are as sculptural as they are functional.

Hargrave House Dallas
In the entry, a black aluminum-and-leather secretary by Johnathan Nesci holds wood sculptures by Japanese artist Teruo Kinoshita. (Photo by Robert Yu)

Rice helped flesh out Hargrave and Wetterstrand’s already growing art collection with works by Antonio Murado, Mark Williams, Andrea Rosenberg, Joe Guy, and Friederike von Rauch. When Rice told them about Swedish artist Jenny Nordberg, the couple traveled to Sweden to purchase a work and were invited to the artist’s atelier. The large mirrored wall sculpture that hangs in the entryway over an Hermès bench is one of their favorites.

What started as a series of unfortunate events has turned out to be the best thing that could have happened.

“I was fortunate to run into Josh, and he was fortunate to run into me, too,” Hargrave says. “We love his work so much that he’s doing another project for us: We’re building a summer house on Martha’s Vineyard, and he’s going to help us with it.”

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