A Modern Dallas Home with an Abundance of Large-Scale Art


Modern Neutral Front Exterior

A completely contemporary home comprised of wood, granite, stone, and brick. Mostly neutral in color, it was designed to provide an open and airy feeling without compromising structural integrity.

Neutral Modern Entryway

A glassed-in entry reveals a work by Marcia Myers. Doors and windows, designed by architect Vernon Barry, are strong enough to withstand hurricane winds; their floor-to-ceiling expanse enhances the in-and-out visual flow.

Neutral Contemporary Living Room Fireplace

Rift-cut white oak pillars in the kitchen conceal cabinets while visually separating the space from the living area. A custom sectional designed by Allen Kirsch and fabricated by Kisabeth Furniture provides ample seating. The diptych (right) is by Margaret Fitzgerald; the wood sculpture in the corner is by James Williams.

Contemporary Living Room Hallway

In the living area, custom rift-cut white oak cabinets hold an Asian dragon artifact; another painting by Fitzgerald hangs above. Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona coffee table and chairs provide a quietly chic conversation nook.

Neutral Contemporary Granite Dining Room

The dining room was designed around a massive table conceptualized by Kirsch and manufactured by The Granite Shop. The Mies van der Rohe chairs came from the clients’ previous home, while an encaustic work by Brad Ellis was acquired specifically for the space.

Cream Contemporary Kitchen Courtyard

A courtyard outside the kitchen holds a seating area with chairs from Restoration Hardware. The breakfast room at its threshold boasts a Saarinen table by Knoll and a George Nelson lighting pendant. The dress-shaped art piece on the wall is by Nancy Youdelman.

Contemporary Pool and Deck

Lounge chairs by Kingsley-Bate surround a pool designed by landscape firm Naud Burnett & Partners and built by Distinctive Pools. The Hadrian limestone in the pool is from International Stone Resources.

Red-Accented Contemporary Sitting Room

A sitting room on the upstairs landing features bold splashes of red in paintings (from left) by David A. Dreyer and Olivette Hubler, and a gun sculpture by David Buckingham. The Eames lounge chair and ottoman are from Herman Miller.

Neutral Contemporary Master Bedroom

The master bedroom’s sitting area includes a custom designed sofa fabricated by Kisabeth Furniture; an antique Indian daybed that serves as a coffee table; a red Womb chair by Knoll; and another encaustic piece by Ellis.

Master Bedroom Accent Shelf

A painting by the homeowners’ daughter is on display above a custom black laminate shelf in the master bedroom. A pure, neutral beige wall color—with no pink, yellow or green tint—was chosen to make the art pop. Floral arrangements are by Susan Graham Design.

Contemporary Bathroom in Chocolate

A powder room features artwork by Shuqiao Zhou; a custom niche holds an antique Asian sculpture. Chocolate Venetian plaster on the walls and dark Emperador marble countertops envelop the room. The glass sink is by Vitraform.

Designer Allen Kirsch had worked with clients Pam and Phil Baker on three previous homes, so he was delighted when they came to him to do their fourth. “I met the Bakers in 1987 when they were first married,” says Kirsch. “Every house I had completed for them before this one was traditional, but after their daughter left home, they sold the house, got rid of almost everything and decided to go modern.”

To bring their new surroundings to life, architect Vernon Berry and builder Mickey Munir worked closely with Kirsch and the couple to deliver a contemporary house on their chosen lot in the Preston Hollow neighborhood of Dallas—one that met their precise vision and needs. “Pam and Phil both come from artsy backgrounds and are very particular about what they like,” says Munir, who was on site every day throughout the construction process. “But if you listen to people and ask the right questions, you can deliver exactly what they’re looking for.”

Pam, a retired graphic designer, and Phil, a commercial real estate developer and art collector, requested large open living spaces that flowed to the outdoors and enough wall space to hold what was soon to be a stellar contemporary art collection. “All of us, including Allen, were on the same page throughout the whole project,” says Berry. “We never butted heads. That’s rare.”

Rare, but easy when everyone on the team speaks the same language. “Pam and I joke that we both love the kind of house that looks like nobody lives there,” says Kirsch. “It has to be absolutely minimal.” For Berry, it was a matter of taking inspiration from some of the great midcentury Case Study Houses in California, where he had lived for years. “Those are forever engraved in my head,” he says. “They weren’t just white boxes—they were comfortable homes made from rich materials.”

Keeping in mind the clients’ plan to acquire large art pieces for the residence, Berry and Kirsch designed walls to hold big paintings, as well as interior and exterior vistas to showcase sculptures. Once the walls were up, works by Brad Ellis, Shane Pennington, Robert Jessup, Roger Winter and Olivette Hubler followed. “Knowing we were planning on buying a sculpture that we wanted to put at the end of a corridor, Vern designed one with a glass wall,” says Pam. It looks out onto a gravel exterior enclosure, which is where a figurative sculpture by Deborah Ballard now holds court.

The Bakers jettisoned much of their old furniture, but kept a handful of clean-lined Asian antiques, including two low Chinese daybeds that serve as cocktail tables and a set of chinoiserie cabinets. The dining room was designed to precisely accommodate the width of a large red antique Chinese buffet, along with a custom Emperador stone table that seats 12.

Furniture designed by Kirsch mingles with mid-20th-century pieces, including a Saarinen table by Knoll; Mies van der Rohe Barcelona chairs; and a George Nelson light pendant. Red, one of Pam’s favorite colors, is used with restraint downstairs, while a sitting room on the second floor packs a dramatic punch with a crimson sofa and similarly hued artwork.

Given its expanse, the house is hardly a shrinking violet. But its neutral palette and blond floors keep it understated and help the art stand out. “We have always been teased that our favorite accent color is beige,” says Pam of herself and her husband. “But the art is what’s important, not the walls.”

The house handles large-scale pieces so well, Phil adds, that it’s tempting to fill the display space up. “I keep thinking that we’re finished with the collection, but we keep finding things to buy. It’s an ongoing pleasure.”

—Rebecca Sherman