Real Estate / High-Rises

High above Dallas, a Textile Queen’s Apartment Glows like a Maharajah’s Jewel — Go Inside a Rare Retreat

Lisa Fine Brings a Bit of India to Dallas

BY // 11.21.19

Textile designer Lisa Fine greets me at the door of her family’s Turtle Creek-area residence, looking every inch the globetrotting tastemaker in a flowing paisley block-print silk dress by Peter d’Ascoli, whose designs are harvested from historic archives in India. Gold bangles jangle on one arm, and a bejeweled tiger-claw necklace encircles her neck, all from The Gem Palace in Jaipur.

Fine is full of bouncing energy, striding to the kitchen in search of sparkling water for her guest — a glass of chilled wine, perhaps, or is three o’clock too early, she wonders. A bowl of pralines is offered with a hint of Southern drawl leftover from her childhood in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, a sweet-tea accent that mellowed during her teenage years as a boarder at The Hockaday School.

Fine, who travels regularly to India in search of inspiration for her namesake collection of hand-blocked textiles, splits her time between her Dallas apartment, and her apartment in New York City. For many years, she also kept a pied-à-terre in Paris, where she worked as a contributing editor for Elle Decor and House Beautiful.

She’s now a contributing editor at Town & Country, and her recent focus has been on creating new designs for her line, which is carried in showrooms around the world, including the James in Dallas.

In the living area, a banquette by Richard keith Langham in Scalamandré. Luxor by Lisa Fine Textiles covers the slipper chair. Louis XVI-style chair from Nick Brock Antiques.
In the living area, a banquette by Richard keith Langham in Scalamandré. Luxor by Lisa Fine Textiles covers the slipper chair. Louis XVI-style chair from Nick Brock Antiques.

Fine launched her company on a lark 12 years ago, after visiting India in search of custom embroidery.

“Then I became interested in block prints, and things kept growing, and we have added chintz, moire, and ikats to the mix,” she says.

Her fabrics are printed in California, Switzerland, and England, but all roads lead back to India. Many of the fabrics and patterns we associate with other cultures, including chinoiserie, have India origins, she explains. Chintz, a glazed cotton floral reminiscent of English interiors, is actually derived from ancient Mughal art and was imported from India.

Last summer, Fine slipcovered some of the sofas in peacock-blue and apple-green cabbage-rose chintz from her textile collection. The look was meant to be temporary, but she decided to keep them year-round after seeing how naturally chintz mixed with the apartment’s collection of miniature Indian paintings and other subcontinent treasures.

“I love studying and researching the history of fabrics, because it makes designing so much more interesting,” she says.

Fresh Fine

Fine has debuted 20 fresh colors and patterns for her company, including leafy Pomona red, which wraps the front and back covers of her new book, Near & Far: Interiors I Love (Vendome). Photographed by Miguel Flores-Vianna, the book is an insider’s romp with the people and places that make up Fine’s fascinating orbit. She and Flores-Vianna met almost two decades ago when he shot her Paris apartment for Elle Decor, and they’ve worked together since.

If Near & Far reads as a sort of autobiographical roadmap to Fine’s design heart, one might say the apartment is a series of beautifully illustrated pages torn from her travel diary. On this particular afternoon, Fine gives me a quick tour while dogs Pasha and GoGo follow.

Essentially a long gallery flanked by windows and balconies, the apartment is flooded with natural light. It’s part garden room, part loggia, part raj palace.

“I think of this as my vacation house,” Fine says. “New York is such an all-on city, so Dallas is where I come for downtime. I watch a lot of Netflix and walk the dogs.”

Here, casual chintz mixes with rich ikat velvet from Istanbul and panels of romantic de Gournay wallpaper. The walls are filled with Fine’s collection of exquisite Indian miniatures and portraits, all framed in camel bone. Many were found in New Delhi and cost as little as $5, she says.

In her bedroom, where the walls are covered in her own Pasha linen, Fine has hung paintings of Mother Teresa and Gandhi by Calcutta artist Sunita Kumar, who was a dear friend of Mother Teresa’s.

Almost everything in the apartment is layered with personal sentiment and historical references. A black-lacquered screen, which came from her childhood home in Mississippi, was shipped from China in the 1950s by her uncle. A collage that hangs in a bedroom was painted by Iranian artist Afsoon and depicts a scene from the Shahnameh, an ancient, epic Persian poem of 50,000 couplets.

One of Fine’s favorite pieces is a naturally formed sculpture made from coral and shards of blue-and-white Chinese export porcelain, discovered at the bottom of the ocean 300 years after a Dutch East India Company ship was lost at sea. This was one of hundreds of salvaged export porcelains originally bought at auction in 1984 by Dallas collector Betty Gertz and architect Axel Vervoordt.

It made its way around the world to Fremontier Antiquaires on Paris’ Left Bank, which is where Fine purchased it.

Looking around the apartment, Fine is reminded of good friends, many of them celebrated designers in their own right. Jeffrey Bilhuber designed the large leather–and-lacquer coffee table in the living area as extra seating and to hold her books. Richard Keith Langham found the rare set of Frances Elkins Loop chairs, now in her dining area, at the shoe department at Gus Mayer in Birmingham, Alabama.

And, while visiting from New York some years ago, Tom Scheerer insisted that Fine purchase the monumental 19th-century Chinese pagoda from Nick Brock Antiques that now holds court against a wall in the living room.

“This is really the message in my book,” Fine says. “It’s not so much about decorating. It’s the personalities that are so inspiring, and how interiors can reflect personal passions and interests.

“Fill your house with things you love — that’s what makes it your own.”

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