A move from the Northeast to Texas provides one couple with pared-down holidays that are just as meaningful.

By Krissa Rossbund
October 30, 2020
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Everything, they say, is bigger in Texas. For many people who relocate to the Lone Star State, that includes the size of their home. There's often an upgrade to expansive quarters far larger than those that were left behind. It's an easy feat in a state where space is seemingly limitless. But in their new role as empty nesters, Michael and Michele Friezo had a different goal: to slip into a dwelling much smaller than the sprawling 1920s Tudor in New Jersey that fulfilled their needs while raising their two daughters. With no need for playrooms or recreational spaces for teenagers, Michael and Michele set their eyes on a glamorous luxury residential high-rise new to the Dallas landscape: Museum Tower.

Modern chairs with sleek acrylic frames offer seats for games and socializing in a spot with a bird’s-eye view. Michael and Michele like to relax, read, and watch TV in this space.
| Credit: James Nathan Schroder

"Michael and I lived in Houston as a newly married couple while Michael was attending Rice," Michele says. "This time we chose Dallas because there is so much energy here—an entrepreneurial can-do spirit that embraces new ideas and a family orientation with generations going to football games. Families stay here, unlike what you see in the Northeast."

A riveted wallcovering wraps the entry space in a warm gray that contrasts the light palette of the apartment.
| Credit: James Nathan Schroder

Completed in 2013, the shiny glass building overlooks Klyde Warren Park and the Nasher Sculpture Center on the grounds of the Dallas Museum of Art. Then there are the amenities: A concierge service manages pickups from groceries to gifts, and valet drivers transport residents from Point A to Point B. But the greatest lure was the building's commitment to social gatherings, including weekly happy hours with fare created by the city's most notable chefs, an attractive perk for the Friezos, who were ready to cultivate new Dallas friendships.

The light-drenched living room glows amid a sophisticated ivory palette that serves as the perfect backdrop for a Christmas tree sparkling with elegance.
| Credit: James Nathan Schroder

At Christmastime, the festivities continue, but the real magic happens in the Friezos' apartment. Just as their cross-country move reduced the size of their dwelling, it also winnowed their Christmas decorations to only the most sentimental. But the emotion and spirit remain as big as ever.

"I've edited a lot, and the rest remains in storage," Michele says. "Our Christmases are more intimate now. In New England, we had lots of family, and we all gathered. My brother and his family live here, and then there is us. We have much smaller circumstances now."

Plaster wall tiles add texture to the contemporary dining room. A glass-top table mirrors the airy quality that comes from walls of windows.
| Credit: James Nathan Schroder

The Friezo Christmas accoutrements imbue a festive soul among the elegant interiors created by New York-based designer Penny Drue Baird. While this design project was new, the relationship with Baird was not. She designed the couple's Tudor in New Jersey and a weekend farmhouse in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The modern but warm architecture of the Dallas apartment didn't change the couple's process with their designer.

Credit: James Nathan Schroder

"We've always had a great working relationship," Baird says. "Each project presents a new challenge, and they embrace the experience. They had so many pieces that were sentimental. We managed to apply them to a modern setting without divorcing the traditional classic look they love so much."

Surrounded by windows on all sides, the apartment basks in natural light supported by a creamy ivory palette that weaves through the rooms. "I love to cook and entertain but didn't love the idea of an open kitchen that could be seen from the living room," Michele says. Baird had the solution: a smart dividing wall. "With Penny's vision, I feel like I can cook but still participate in what's going on around the corner," Michele says.

Credit: James Nathan Schroder

The unit is dappled in holiday greenery and firmly establishes the season with a decorated tree, but the real deep dive into the holidays happens in the kitchen. Both of the Friezos claim Italian heritage, and they revel in the Feast of the Seven Fishes, antipasto, and other traditional ethnic fare that Michele looks forward to preparing with their daughters at home. Decorations such as rosemary topiaries, white poinsettias, and greenery keep the holidays simple and don't interfere with Michele's holiday spread.

Credit: James Nathan Schroder

The baby grand piano, played by both of Michael and Michele's daughters, provides entertainment and visual volume. "The living room furniture had low profiles, and we needed pieces that would fill the space," Baird says.

Credit: James Nathan Schroder

Like an art gallery, the hallway repeats groupings of works hung horizontally and vertically on basic white walls. During the holidays, a rosemary tree adds fragrant zest.

Credit: James Nathan Schroder

Baird layered the bedroom in warm textures including a cut silk rug, a canopy bed with a rush headboard and footboard, and a patterned wallcovering.

Left: Credit: James Nathan Schroder
Right: Credit: James Nathan Schroder

In the guest bedroom, a polished-nickel canopy bed soars to meet a crystal chandelier that dangles from 12-foot ceilings. "Only four floors of the building had such high ceilings," Baird says. "They give the rooms volume so they don't feel closed in like an apartment might." Wrapped gifts await on a leather pouf.

"As we get older, spending time together is the best gift of all," Michele says. "Christmas now is just the four of us. It's a quieter Christmas, but a quality one."

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