Real Estate / Houses

A Globetrotting Dallas Decorator Tells Her Glamorous Story

From Rome to Hollywood and Beyond

BY // 09.06.16


NussbaumerFor Michelle Nussbaumer, all roads lead to Rome. The Eternal City is where the decorator’s infatuation with design began, back when she was a newlywed furnishing the villa she shared with her husband, Bernard Nussbaumer.

Located on the historic Appian Way, one of Rome’s oldest roads, the property abutted homes owned by Italian couturier Valentino Garavani and film and opera director Franco Zeffirelli. The rarified environs proved bewitching: She stole persimmons from Garavani’s trees, wandered into Zeffirelli’s gardenscape of classical ruins, and shopped the Italian countryside for pieces to add to her city home and her 16th-century tower turned country house in Umbria.

“You have to understand,” Nussbaumer says, “when I drove home, it wasn’t past a 7-Eleven. It was past the Colosseum.” When the storage units could no longer contain all of Nussbaumer’s found treasures, she sold the overflow to friends. Local expats asked her to decorate their homes, and she’s been designing interiors and scouring the world for treasures ever since.

The couple eventually moved from Italy to Los Angeles, where Bernard worked in the film business. There, Michelle opened an antiques store and decorated homes for A-list clients including Melissa Rivers. Next came a move to Dallas, where she opened a store: Ceylon et Cie, born out of the designer’s overflow collection of furniture and objets found at the great markets of the world, the Medina of Fez and the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, to the Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen in Paris and the European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht.

In her Dallas house, Nussbaumer’s collection of Indian paintings on fabric and silk hang above a Tree of Life pattern painted by her mother.

Nussbaumer filled her Hollywood Regency-era house in Dallas, where she and Bernard raised four children and continue to live, with Italian sofas, Venetian bombé commodes, 18th-century blue-and-white Chinese porcelain, Syrian tables, and antique textiles. “All those places I lived, the experiences I had, and the people I met, you see in my design,” she says.

This month, Nussbaumer tells the full story of her glamorous, globetrotting life in her design book, Wanderlust: Interiors That Bring the World Home (Rizzoli). Interior decorator, jeweler, and design influencer Hutton Wilkinson wrote the foreword for the book, which is both a charming memoir and an exotic feast for the eyes — a portfolio that offers a glimpse into her own residences in Switzerland and Dallas, as well as the myriad interiors she’s designed around the world.

Houston Book Signing: Michelle Nussbaumer will sign copes of Wanderlust: Interiors That Bring the World Home at Mecox in Highland Village, Thursday, September 22, 6 to 8 pm. Books will be for sale at the event, RSVP kwilliams@

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