Real Estate / Home + Design

The 10 Best Rooms of 2015

Stunning Outdoor Marvels, Celeb-Inspired Escapes, Revamp Miracles and More

BY // 01.09.16

I never tire of seeing a beautifully crafted room. Spare and thoughtful, jam-packed and emotional, sleek and modern or classically traditional — great interiors inspire me equally no matter the style, period or trend. Like many decorating editors, my enthusiasm swells with each new story I cover.

A fantastic space makes me go home after the photo shoot and want to redo everything. Of course, I can’t do that or I’d go broke or insane. But I store bits and pieces of my favorite shots in my memory and on my computer, and at the appropriate time, I borrow ideas from the best of them. That’s a perk of being in the business, but I’m a lot like you — I bet you’re always gathering inspiration and tips from the design stories you read in PaperCity and elsewhere, saving them for the right time.

Some rooms hold up over the years better than others, and it’s those timeless rooms that ignite creative passion in all of us. We may not be decorators, but we know a great room when we see one. I pored over the design stories I penned in 2015 and rounded up 10 rooms from across Texas that ignited that passion in me. If you had to pick one that speaks to you most, which would that be?

1. April 2015
In 1966, legendary Texas architect Frank Welch created a shelter in Sterling County for a rancher who wanted to enjoy the expansive and peaceful views on his property. We hear so much about “outdoor rooms” these days, but this was truly in the vanguard 50 years ago. Known as The Birthday Shelter, the room is included along with Welch’s many other projects across Texas in his memoirs, On Becoming an Architect (TCU Press, $45).

What I love about it: This ethereal space meets all the design requirements of a room in a succinct and eloquent way, with no fuss.

2. May 2015
Advertising and branding entrepreneur Michael Cory’s renovated house in the University Park neighborhood of Dallas was inspired by classic Monterrey-style houses in California, rehabbed by Diane Keaton. He has her books, and used them as a guide for redoing his own place. The living room’s vaulted ceiling and butterfly beams — original to the 1980s-era house — were covered over during previous renovations and only discovered when Cory’s architects, Wernerfield Architecture, began work.

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What I love about it: If you think the 1980s didn’t produce anything of lasting value architecture-wise, just look at this beautiful room.

3. September 2015
Houston space planner and interior designer Fred Smith’s entryway gives it all away: He’s an antiquarian who appreciates great modernism and the impact of a first impression. Fine Empire-era console, clock and sconces contrast dramatically with a geometric rug made of rubber found on gilt.com. Sleek mid-century furnishings peek from either side, in adjoining rooms.

What I love about it: Smith bought the console and mirror years before he purchased this house, and yet it all fit within the new space. As his tastes evolved and more contemporary pieces entered his repertoire, they all meshed. Buy what you love and somehow it all works.

4. November 2015
This edgy living room inside Houston’s Bayou Bend Towers was orchestrated by 78-year-old interior designer Barbara Hill, who loves to rip out walls and get down to business. Underneath it all, Hill discovered beautiful concrete walls and red-painted support brackets, which were left intact. The homeowners, a pair of trial lawyers, were smitten with the rustic modernism.

What I love about it: Vintage Italian leather chairs and Lucite table, an antique French gilt bergère and high-gloss grand piano all contrast and synergize in the most exciting way. And, who wouldn’t be impressed by a room with the bravado of exposed infrastructure?

5. April 2015
Designer Jan Strickland’s palest tonal-gray-and-white Museum District house in Houston features an unconventional dining room set under a tiny space beneath a circular staircase off the main entry.

What I love about it: As Diana Vreeland might have said: “Why don’t you … eat in the most beautiful part of the house, even if it’s a few feet from the front door and in an awkward space?”

6. October 2015
Former Dallasite Jenny Laird’s apartment on the upper east side of New York City was designed by Jeffrey Bilhuber, and it’s the perfect expression of sophisticated color and composition. It was chosen by Cynthia Collins of Collins Interiors (who grew up with Laird) for a story we did showcasing Dallas designers’ favorite rooms. It soon became one of mine.

What I love about it: The room is less about symmetry and all about balance, especially with multiple seating vignettes, a series of vertical black-and-white photographs along one wall and dark draperies hung high. Custom, jewel-tone lamp shades and sumptuous colors and patterns on upholstery make this a dazzling room. It’s all set off by a massive, chartreuse vase in the center of the room.

7. March 2015
Cobalt blue rules at the Highland Park home of retailing entrepreneurs Ed and Gable Shaikh, owners of Hadleigh’s haberdashery and women’s clothing. Like their cobalt-inspired store in Highland Park Village in Dallas, their home is awash in the heavenly hue. In the entry, Dror Benshetrit’s iconic felt Peacock chair for Cappellini makes a statement, as Ed — dressed in a bespoke cobalt suit, no less — descends the stairs with daughter Everleigh in tow. Gable painted the vintage mid-century side table in the preferred color, and the furnishings and art are crisp against the white, sun-drenched walls.

What I love about it: Everything. The Shaikhs have the confidence to stand out and do what they love, and that’s something to aspire to.

8. October 2015
The salon of this 1931 Highland Park house in Dallas was renovated by interior designer Paul Garzotto, and showcases the homeowner’s favorite color — lavender, in case you missed it. The antique French furniture is freshened by a handful of modern pieces, including the massive 1970s chandelier that was retrieved from the Houston Petroleum Club when it was renovated — a portion of the chandelier can be seen in the mirror.

What I love about it: The homeowners are from New Orleans and Dallas, so it’s very genteel southern. People aren’t afraid to use color in New Orleans, and it’s exciting to see a young couple embrace that at home in Dallas.

9. October 2015
This kitchen in Houston designer Eleanor Cummings’ house near Round Top is inspired by the country French kitchens Cummings loves. An old French pastry table serves as a center island in the kitchen, which stays drenched in sunlight from a bank of large windows and glass French doors.

What I love about it: With all the natural light, open shelving and white-painted wood, it makes me want to spend all day in there, cooking and hanging out.

10. March 2015
When legendary avant-garde furniture designer Vladimir Kagan stormed into Dallas and Houston to sign his new book, the design-obsessed crowds came out to meet him. At 88, Kagan is having another big moment, and while trends come and go, he has never stopped producing looks that endure. A single piece of his furniture can make a whole room. Case in point, Kagan’s swooning Crescent sofa in Tommy and Dee Hilfiger’s master bedroom has just the right curvature to play off the Hilfigers’ collection of Marilyn Monroe portraits.

What I love about it: The chrome bed, Marilyn’s portraits framed in chrome, and the ’70s-inspired metallic wallpaper are all softened by the sumptuous rug, pillows and Kagan’s sensuous sofa.

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