The new studio space for Sees Design is dark, moody, and mysterious. (Photo by Pär Bengtsson)
Sees Design principals Ross See, Corbin See. (Photo by Pär Bengtsson)
Cassina table. Vintage Anglo-Indian chairs in Perennials fabric. Nelson Bubble pendant from DWR. Dessin Fournir bookcase. (Photo by Pär Bengtsson)
Vintage club chair and ottoman. Rug from The Rug Company. Custom cabinet D.H. Phillips. Dessin Fournir chinoiserie panel. John Dickinson side table from David Sutherland Showroom. (Photo by Pär Bengtsson)
French 19th-century desk. Scala Luxury cabinet. Michael Eastman photograph. Canasta desk chair Heron Parigi. Embree & Lake vase. (Photo by Pär Bengtsson)
Designer Matt Mazur (Photo by Pär Bengtsson)
The new Dallas studio space for Sees Design is moody and mysterious. Located next door to The Charles — an Italian restaurant and lounge designed by brothers Corbin and Ross See — the 800-square-foot studio is where the Sees design team works and meets with residential design clients.
Like The Bar Charles, which was a garage before it was transformed into a glamorous eatery and champagne bar, the studio space has undergone a dramatic transformation from its previous life as a locksmith storefront.
“The space itself was nothing special, so the idea was to make the walls disappear with black paint and let the furniture and lighting do the talking,” Corbin says.
Antiques and contemporary furnishings mingle in a fascinating push-pull of styles, eras, and provenance. An ornate Louis XVI-style desk, made in France in the 1950s, is juxtaposed with several Anglo-Indian hammered-metal chairs covered in Perennials tiger velvet, along with a mid-20th-century George Nelson Bubble light pendant. Russian-red leather chairs, made in Italy by Cassina, join a polished French 1940s dining table that was once in Corbin’s house but now serves as a conference table. There’s a seating area with French Art Deco leather club chairs, a footed plaster table by John Dickinson, and a stunning inlaid veneer armoire made by Dallas artisan D.H. Phillips. Michael Eastman’s large photographs of grand and decaying interiors and façades in Cuba lend a mysterious air.
“The inspiration to make a really dramatic and moody show space is similar to what Loyd-Paxton used to do,” says Corbin of the design duo Loyd Taylor and Paxton Gremillion, whose legendary antiques showroom on Maple Avenue drew movie stars and royalty during the ’70s and ’80s. As a child, Corbin visited the showroom regularly with his father, Carson See, who started Sees Design more than 40 years ago in Oklahoma City.
It’s now a second-generation design firm with Ross, Corbin, and Corbin’s wife, Sara, who split time between studios in Dallas and Oklahoma. Ross has expertise in interior architecture, which helps set the design firm apart, Corbin says. Sara, an interior designer and former design director at Perennials, is a pro with textiles, which allows Corbin to focus on his passion for furniture, decoration, and styling. Interior designer Matt Mazur joined the firm a year ago.
“He’s a total design geek like I am when it comes to obsessively studying and researching design history,” Corbin says. Mazur is also a prolific collector — his collection of ’40s and ’50s German ceramics is displayed inside a spectacular 19th-century French vitrine in the Dallas studio.
Corbin’s penchant for antiques and objects of great design is a big influence on his interiors projects. “It’s a mishmash of styles that feels very European,” he says.
Corbin and Ross grew up with antiques, to which the family added contemporary furniture over time, much as Europeans have always done. For The Charles, the Italian furnishings includes chandeliers from the 1960s and the 1860s. Despite their different styles, they look amazing together, he says.
Sees Design worked on a contemporary house in Dallas — which was published in Architectural Digest last year — that mixes it up with a pair of massive gold dome lights by Ingo Maurer, de Gournay Willow wallpaper, Italian 1980s Memphis tables, and a curvy Vladimir Kagan sofa. And, for the inaugural Kips Bay Decorator Show House Dallas last year, Sees Design created a chic bar inspired by Bunny Mellon’s trompe l’oeil trellis mural in her potting shed, with a ceiling papered in celestial moons and planets — a riff on the cover art of the Smashing Pumpkins album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.
While 2020 was a tough time for restaurants everywhere, their experience with The Charles, which opened in late 2019, has been so positive that they’ve launched a separate turnkey hospitality arm with Duro, led by Corbin, Ross, Benji Homsey, and Chas Martin, a founding partner in The Charles. Homsey is the former president of brand and development for Z Resorts, which operates Hotel ZaZa in Dallas and Houston.
While it’s too early to talk specifics, Duro is working on four restaurant concepts that will open over the next 16 months, says Corbin, who hopes to add hotels and multi-family residences to Duro’s lineup. Like The Charles, expect Duro’s future hospitality projects to project a moody European vibe.
“Our objective is to transport you,” he says.