Real Estate / Houses

Zen House: An Interior Designer’s Own Home Shows Luxury Needn’t be Over the Top

BY // 07.28.15
photography Shayna Fontana

Clair Parker Tompkins, partner in the highly successful interior design firm Tompkins Lloyd Interiors, has designed her home in ways that are fabulous on many counts. Its elegance and contemporary sheen afford guests the ultimate luxury: An invitation to thoroughly jettison the outside world.

Just past the heavy, pivoting metal front door, a Zen-like aura induces a mode of soothing damage control that makes the city, by contrast, seem hopped up and overly laden with visual chatter. Just a short distance from White Rock Lake, the 4,000-square-foot home is a reminder of what can be done when a talented, well-traveled designer indulges in a simple yet artful combination of textures, color and light. Tompkins, you see, lists London, New York and the infinitely fascinating terrain of North Africa among her favorite destinations. Ergo, this is the closest you’ll come to a Casbah sensibility within the confines of North Texas. An apt analogue for Tompkins’ home in the realm of apéritifs would surely be Lillet. It reliably conjures the zone for which we most ardently long — the blurred and buzzy, not to mention oft celebrated luxury of a time outside of time. Let it be known that a home deserves massive kudos when it encompasses serious booty without resorting to stuffily daunting swagger. In fact, isn’t it great when spaces make you take in the angle of sunlight striking walls and the toothy texture of a sofa?

Natural light streams comfortably through a multitude of windows, while ample space allows for an ideal hybrid of privacy and revelatory views of an aqua pool flanked by pared-back deck chairs and an outdoor dining table. The latter accommodates an undulating piece of driftwood with broad indentations for bromeliads — the perfect touch. After all, less exotic specimens would hardly suit this chic oasis, which is obviously the result of l’oeil du maître, or the eye of the master — or, in this case, maîtres. Tompkins says that she and her husband, David, “found the property when it was still being framed. That made it a perfect fit, because I was able to make adjustments and work with the builder, Randy Kienast, until it was exactly what we wanted.”

Apparently what she wanted was something impeccable. She defines space masterfully with rugs that pull rooms together as reliably as compasses point to true north. She is especially fond of a Beni Ouarain rug from Morocco that delineates a living area; it resonates with an amalgam of design books, glass, metal, rich fabric and an ambiance that is irrevocably hip without relinquishing its ambitious dose of elegance. If rooms have theme songs, this one would surely be Shirley Bassey’s “Get The Party Started,” as the space is ideally suited to both low-key conversation and ambitious entertaining.

Claire Parker Tompkins

Tompkins also has a penchant for “burled wood and tusk-shaped ornaments and lamps. Some people find them too masculine, but they can work well in a lot of settings,” she says. “I love it when clients are adventurous enough to let me use things like that, things that I choose for my own home … Many times they shy away from colors that are bold. In the end, they often opt for what they are most familiar with, and that works fine, too. After all, the space is theirs, and my role is to make something that works perfectly for them.”


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Favorite places for terrific decorative finds.
There are so many. Nest for the perfect finishing touches and accessories — Donald Fowler, the manager, is so on point. Gallerie Noir for unusual pieces that pull rooms together and Nick Brock for antiques.

Tell us about your history in Dallas.
I was born in Dallas and grew up here, although I have lived in several other cities post-college. In high school, I was voted “Least Likely to Live in Dallas,” and yet here I am, and I absolutely love living in Dallas. Family is very important to me, and my family is here. My roots are here. I also think that Dallas has really transformed into an interesting and dynamic city, specifically over the past 10 years. Dallas has an amazing social scene, and it’s easy for me to be private or to be involved at my own discretion. I like that ability to ebb and flow without the pressure to always be present at every social event.

Ideal project.
Right now, a modern Parisian flat. I am very into French design as of late. It is so effortlessly chic and luxurious and still timeless all at once.

On balancing work and home life with a husband and children.
It’s a constant give and take. I work really hard at trying to be present in the moment. When I am with my family, I strive to focus on spending that precious time with them and enjoying every moment. I apply the same mindset to my work and personal life. When I am installing a project or spending time with clients or friends, I want to be fully engaged. It is a continual struggle, and I am always trying to improve upon it.

Is there a place you go to in the city for inspiration?
My living room with a glass of red wine, some good music and a huge stack of art books.

Clair Parker Tompkins

Travels that have impacted your sense of design.
Several come to mind. But London and New York have probably been the most influential. I have lived in both places and loved them equally, but for different reasons. I love the rock ’n’ roll vibe and the edginess that they both evoke; it’s fresh and chic and always progressing. I also recently visited Morocco and fell in love with all of the textures and the energy of the country; it is rich and visceral on so many levels.

Favorite pieces in your home.
My vintage black-and-brass Mastercraft credenza, a large black-and-white photograph by Tatiana Gerusova and a pair of Cleo Renault vintage Lucite lamps from Leslie Pritchard at Again & Again.

Artwork closest to your heart.
Probably a piece by Henry Whiddon that my mother gave me. She purchased it in the ’70s from the DMA. It used to hang in my grandmother’s house, and it always feels like home to me. It is a beautiful modern abstract collage, and I will have it for the rest of my life.

First choice you make when designing a room.
When my business partner, Julie Lloyd, and I are designing for a client, there is always a jumping-off point, a plan. It varies dependent on the space, but we are always very precise and organized. It can be a rug, a color, a chair or a chandelier. It’s never the same for any room. When I am designing for my own home, I purchase out of sheer passion for a piece. There is a feeling I get if I see something that I want in my home; it is often sporadic and illogical, but somehow it all works. I have a very specific look at my house, and I know when something will fit into the mix.

When did you decide to become a designer? What were your most profound influences?
I feel like design has always been in my life one way or another, through art and fashion and my travels. Julie and I formally started our company, Tompkins Lloyd Interiors, two years ago [2012]. I would say fashion has a large influence on my design. One of my favorite interior designers, Ryan Korban, is actually very involved in the fashion world as well. I feel like the two are seamlessly integrated. Korban says, “When I’m asked to describe my style, I often say that it has three critical elements: sex, romance and fantasy. When I say sex, I’m talking about allure, seduction and mystery.” I could not agree more.

What do you imagine your future will look like 10 years from now?
I hope the same as it does now.

[Editors’ note: This story originally appeared in the July 2014 Dallas issue of PaperCity Magazine.]

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