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French Flair in a Dallas Ranch Home
Open the door of this little Dallas ranch home and you’ll swear you’ve stepped into a beloved bit of Paris past
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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.
“I painted the door to set the stage for what’s to come inside Robin’s house,” says Nussbaumer, who also directed the landscaping. She chose low boxwoods for a classic look.
Photography: Nathan Schroder
Produced by Donna Talley
Interior designer: Michelle Nussbaumer, Ceylon et Cie, 1319 Dragon St., Dallas, TX 75207; 214/742-7632, ceylonetcie.com.
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—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, designed by her friend Michelle Nussbaumer.
Carpet: Interior Resources, intre.biz.
Chairs, console, mirror (19th-century French); botanical drawing (19th-century); porcelain cranes: Ceylon et Cie, ceylonetcie.com.
Lamp (alabaster): JED Design and Antiques, 1stdibs.com/dealers/jed.
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.”
Murano chandelier: from Rome.
Persian carpet (with antique wash): World Market, worldmarket.com.
Portrait: artist unknown. Chair: owner’s collection.
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.
Pretty 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 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.
Paint (“Silver Half Dollar” #2121-40): Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com.
Area rug (Oushak): Esmaili Rugs, esmailirugs.com.
Drapery: Fabricut, fabricut.com.
Chairs (19th-century); plaster lamp (by George Sellers): Ceylon et Cie, ceylonetcie.com.
Chair fabric (by David Hicks): Lee Jofa, leejofa.com.
Sofa fabric: Holland & Sherry, hollandandsherry.com.
Round table (19th-century gueridon table): from Paris.
Art: by Anais Nussbaumer, ceylonetcie.com.
Dog figure (19th-century zinc whippet); Murano vase holding flowers (1940s): Ceylon et Cie, ceylonetcie.com.
Coffee table: owner’s collection.
Pillows on sofa (Topaz Collection): Fabricut, fabricut.com.
Pillow trim (custom): Samuel & Sons, samuelandsons.com.
Glam 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.
Ceiling wallpaper (design by Michelle Nussbaumer): Newlon Collection by Bettinger Studio, newloncollection.com.
Dining table (1940s Leleu table); dining chairs (Louis XVI); chandelier (Murano): Ceylon et Cie, ceylonetcie.com.
Photograph (“BeetleWall Art-Blue Weevil” #T14492): Wisteria, wisteria.com.
Area rug (Oushak): Esmaili Rugs, esmailirugs.com.
Dining room tabletop—
Wine tumbler (“Gold Stemless Wine Glasses” #495706): World Market, worldmarket.com.
Stemware (19th-century Irish Crystal Goblet); plates (Chinese porcelain); anemone flower arrangement (by Michelle Nussbaumer): Ceylon et Cie, ceylonetcie.com.
Napkins: vintage linen.
Glam Dining Room
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.”
The stylish bar, a Paris find, is from the 1940s.
Bar cabinet (1940s): from Paris.
Turquoise milagro glasses (designed by Michelle Nussbaumer); Chinese porcelain blanc de chine figure: 1st Dibs, 1stdibs.com.
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.
Moroccan rug: Esmaili Rugs, esmailirugs.com.
Blue-and-white collection (Chinese and Italian porcelain); chandelier (plaster, attributed to Jean Michel Frank): Ceylon et Cie, ceylonetcie.com.
Window treatment: Michelle Nussbaumer Fabrics, ceylonetcie.com.
Drawing to right of sink (Jamaican, 1940s): Chairish, chairish.com.
Japanese bowls: Takashimaya, closed.
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.
Etching (by Jack Cornell): Axel Nussbaumer Gallery, ceylonetcie.com.
Mirrored side table; lamp (“Triple Moon Eclipse Lamp”): Michelle Nussbaumer Furniture & Lighting Collection, ceylonetcie.com.
Side table: vintage.
Bed linens: Sferra, sferra.com.
Bed: owner’s collection.
Headboard fabric; bedskirt and bed valance fabric; pillow shams; apricot-colored bed drapery: Topaz Collection, by Fabricut, fabricut.com.
Wall and ceiling paint (“Arctic Blue” #2050-60): Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com.
Chair (19th-century): owner’s collection.
Fabric: Schumacher, fschumacher.com.
Area rug (19th-century Oushak); Esmaili Rugs, esmailirugs.com.
Art between windows: Ceylon et Cie, ceylonetcie.com.
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.
Wall mural (custom, by Hannah Hammond): Ceylon et Cie, ceylonetcie.com.
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.
Wall paint: Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com.
Bed: owner’s collection.
Bed cover (Mexican Otomi Embroidery); nightstands (industrial); wall bracket (“Dorothy Draper Plaster Bracket”): Ceylon et Cie, ceylonetcie.com.
Table lamp (“Metropolis Carved and Gilt Lamp”): Michelle Nussbaumer Furniture and Lighting, ceylonetcie.com.
Porcelain bird on bracket (1940s): 1st Dibs, 1stdibs.com.
Area rug; mirror behind bed: owner’s collection.
Photograph to left of window: Ceylon et Cie, ceylonetcie.com.
“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.”
Desk; chair; table lamp: owner’s collection.
Framed drawing (by Jean Negulesco); collection of Chinese blanc de chine: Ceylon et Cie, ceylonetcie.com.
The Sidecar, price available upon request from Moore & Giles [1-800-737-0169]
This beautifully crafted bar cart, The Sidecar by Moore and Giles, is a great way to store liquor, glassware, bar tools, and anything else needed to complete your own miniature bar. The cart, made of Virginia black walnut, birch, leather, aluminum, and brass, is wheeled to make sure the party can travel with you. Perfect for drink-lovers without the space for a full bar.