Soft Colors and Antique Finds Lend French Flair to This Small Dallas Home
Open the door of this little Dallas ranch home and you'll swear you've stepped into a beloved bit of Paris past.
Bringing Paris to Dallas
A Dallas address can't stop Francophile Robin Wilkes from living in Paris, at least viscerally. The interiors of her home transport her there every day.
"I wanted it to feel like a little French apartment," says Robin, who has garnered an enviable amount of frequent flier miles traveling to Europe on buying trips for the Jil Sander shop she formerly co-owned.
To accompany her on her quest to infuse European flair in the Texas home she shares with her husband, Warren, Robin looked to friend and fellow traveler Michelle Nussbaumer, an interior designer, author of Wanderlust, and owner of Ceylon et Cie, a Dallas emporium that brims with a wealth of treasures she's discovered around the world.
The two met years ago at Robin's boutique and forged a friendship on common affinities. "We're both crazy about fashion and design," Robin says. "We love shopping together in Paris and Milan."
That kinship made it easy for Nussbaumer to shape Robin's interiors in a way that reflects who she truly is. "I always bring who my clients are into a project," the designer says. "I helped Robin translate what she loves into her home."
French antiques and fashion-inspired touches, including fur and leopard, set the tone for Robin's home.
Family Portrait Decor
Along with travel and haute couture, Robin adores art, both new abstracts and old oil paintings, particularly two family portraits done in the 1940s, when Warren was a boy living with his family in Mexico City. Portraits of Warren and his mother were handed down to the couple, who gave the works prominent placement in their home. "Having them here makes the house feel warm," Robin says. "And the colors in the portraits feel so right." Nussbaumer agreed: "Those were the colors I wanted to use as my palette for Robin's home."
Sense of Serenity
Soft blues, grays, and whites flow from room to room, bringing a sense of serenity. "I'm comfortable with a light, soft palette. I grew up in a house like that, and it feels happy," Robin says. "It's easy to live in."
Robin Wilkes relaxes with furry friends Oprah and Corkscrew.
Calm Living Room
The calm never takes a turn toward the dull, though. Playing to Robin's fashion connections, Nussbaumer layered in runway-worthy thrills. In the living room, sumptuous draperies flow like a ball gown. In the entry, leopard-print carpet serves as an ode to Chanel rival Elsa Schiaparelli, while a circle-motif wallpaper on the ceiling caps the space like fine millinery.
A portrait of Robin's mother-in-law sparked the palette; an abstract work by Nussbaumer's daughter provides a modern counterpoint. A clean-lined 1940s coffee table pairs with ornate 19th-century bronze guéridons and French chairs. The sofa evokes one owned by Coco Chanel.
Glamorous Dining Room
The dining room also gives visitors good cause to look up. "One of my favorite places is Brasserie Lipp in Paris," Robin says. "Michelle and I were there, admiring the painted ceiling. I said to her, 'Maybe we should do something like this.'"
A Murano chandelier and custom ceiling treatment crown the dining space. Louis XVI chairs were painted gray to contrast with a vintage table.
Her friend agreed. The paintings of African scenes, done in the 1920s at this hangout favored by Hemingway, inspired Nussbaumer to evoke another famous American in Paris, Josephine Baker, the African-American entertainer who became a symbol of the Jazz Age.
"I dressed a model in a Josephine Baker costume that I created, took a photo, and had it blown up to put on Robin’s dining room ceiling," Nussbaumer says. "I believe that the dining room is a place that should always have drama."
Dramatic Bar Area
Splashiness gleaned from glam of the past suits this 1930s home, decorated with refined objects and furniture pieces from the 1930s and '40s as well as from centuries past. Luxe fabrics imbue upholstered pieces with new life. The dreamy blue, white, and gray textiles mesh with the home's overall scheme, which Nussbaumer spiked with hits of gold, pumpkin, coral, and black. "With a soft palette, I always like to bring in black as an accent to keep it from being too sweet," she says.
The stylish bar, a Paris find, is from the 1940s.
Blissful Master Bedroom
In the master bedroom, the glamour goes serene with a sumptuous silk bed treatment. Celadon hues on fabrics and walls (even the ceiling) wash Robin and Warren's private retreat in blissful serenity.
Throughout the interiors, carefully chosen accessories layer in character. "In a small house, I like to be restrained with accessories," says Nussbaumer, who focused on specific materials that Robin loves to collect, such as blanc de Chine and Murano glass.
Wisps of coral crescendo in the bath, where Nussbaumer had an artist paint billowing banana leaves on the walls in a nod to wallpaper that caught Robin's eye at The Beverly Hills Hotel. The wall treatment and coordinating shower curtain give the small space big attitude.
Elegant Guest Bedroom
Rich grays keep the calm in the guest bedroom, where Nussbaumer employed hand-embroidered textiles from Mexico in a palette reminiscent of a 1940s Christian Dior showroom.
The nightstand is one of the first pieces Robin bought at Nussbaumer's shop. A photograph of Versailles hangs on the wall while a framed drawing and a collection of blanc de Chine top the desk.
A hand-embroidered Otomi pattern on the coverlet, inspired by ancient cliff paintings in Hidalgo, Mexico, jump-starts a restful gray-and-white palette that gains just the right amount of glimmer from a silver lamp and mirror.
Noticing All the Details
"Michelle keeps an eye out for me while she's running all over the world," Robin says. "She never overlooks a detail. She helped me with every single thing in this house, but still left it to be ours."