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Design Confidential: Dallas

Dallas lights up the Lone Star State with a glittering constellation of design-driven must-sees and even more must-do’s. Don’t forget your walking shoes.

Written by Candace Ord Manroe

Lethal stilettos and men’s chic Italian loafers remain packing musts for a trip to Dallas. But if it’s been more than a couple of years since you visited, hear this: soft-sole casual footwear is now another essential to stow. That’s because Dallas, in its latest incarnation, is more than its fabled tony nightlife and shopping venues. Its newest design landmarks and cultural destinations are best accessed alfresco, on foot or by bike. (Yup, you may even break a sweat!) But rest assured, fashion still matters (it’s Dallas), and Gucci is the one name in footwear, casual and dressy, that will give you an insider’s edge as you tour Big D. 

For decorating divas, stop one has to be the shops and showrooms in the continuing-to-emerge Dallas Design District. Located west of Interstate 35 in converted warehouses, the District’s offerings include the showrooms of trendsetters and Dallas natives like David Sutherland, whose reputation shines bright from a celebrated collection of outdoor furniture that got a mate in 1996 when his wife, Ann, launched a companion line of outdoor textiles called Perennials. 

 Designers with outdoor projects bolt to David Sutherland's legendary showroom for stylish teak furniture and Perennials textiles, rugs, and trim (in the Dallas Design Center, 1025 Stemmons Fwy.).

Also found there is the elegant shop of Jan Showers, who’s mastered glamour with materials including Lucite, crystal, and vintage Murano glass.     

Chinoiserie wallpaper and one of Jan’s trademark Murano lamps greet visitors (1308 Slocum St.). 

But when shopping for the home, don’t feel as if you need to drive a truck with a big bed for hauling. There are plenty of small gems for sale too.

The inventory of finds at Michelle Nussbaumer’s Ceylon et Cie shop is ever changing. Strands of raw amber from Africa and a ceramic plate from Turkey are two of her newest acquisitions (1319 Dragon St.).  

Designer Michelle Nussbaumer is famed in the decorative arts world for her exotic eye that amasses eclectic finds such as African textiles and Turkish ceramics at her emporium of global curiosities, Ceylon et Cie.

Designer Michelle Nussbaumer

At Scout Design Studio, a chic line of vintage goods is front and center while the back rooms serve as a furniture rehab center, giving new life in the form of cushions, upholstery, and paint jobs to tired silhouettes worth saving.


Identified by an apple-green door embellished with black binoculars, Scout Design Studio houses an exclusive mix of vintage finds from around the world, from lighting to furniture to home accessories. This Design District studio also produces its own line of limited-run merchandise, such as the painted “Hughes” dining chair with Greek key detailing and blue upholstery (155 Howell St.).

And Uncommon Market is a treasure trove of European antiques, with some great U.S. finds mixed in. (We stumbled upon an old iron cash register  with intricate decoration that came from a shop in Ohio.) Reproduction and restorative lighting services, as well as a grand inventory of architectural salvage, make this warehouse an architect’s dream. 

Discoveries from old glass bottles to reproduction lighting fill this old warehouse (100 Riveredge Dr.).

Speaking of architecture, fans might want to perambulate the Continental Avenue Pedestrian Bridge, a 1933 structure that spans the Trinity River from downtown to West Dallas. The bridge reopened in 2014 exclusively to pedestrians and cyclists after a $12 million revamp. (Big rehabs are to Big D today what big hair was in years gone by.) Here you’ll find the best vantage point for admiring the city’s newest architectural stunner, the adjacent white-arched Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge.  

While still sporting those walking shoes (or a cycle rented from Red Star Bicycle Shop, 155 Parkhouse Street, in the Trinity Industrial District next to the Design District), head to Klyde Warren Park, another recent addition to Dallas’s blossoming outdoors urbanity, at 2012 Woodall Rodgers, and the gateway to the Dallas Arts District. 

Klyde Warren park

Start with the exhibitions at the Dallas Museum of Art. Then stroll past the historic Belo Mansion, a neoclassical home built by The Dallas Morning News founder Alfred Horatio Belo in the late 1800s. With its grand columns, the mansion recalls antebellum architecture of the Confederate colonel’s native North Carolina. 

For contrast, check out the sleek modernity of the nearby Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, an I.M. Pei beauty. And for more art appreciation, spend some time in the Nasher Sculpture Center at the Crow Collection of Asian Art (located at the base of the 50-story postmodern Tramell Crow Center skyscraper). You’re also close to One Arts Plaza, a 24-story skyscraper at 1722 Routh Street that’s famous for its color-changing LED light display designed by Scott Oldner. 

Sammons Park A reflecting pool is the eye-catching centerpiece of the 10-acre park that connects the Winspear Opera House and the Wyly Theatre (2403 Flora St.).

Old Red Museum Once the courthouse, this building adds historic flavor to the shiny new architecture of downtown (100 S. Houston St.). 

While you’re downtown, shopping is mandatory at the flagship Neiman Marcus. For this Dallas native, it was our go-to for back-to-school shopping and lunch at the Zodiac Room, still a fave with ladies who lunch. Keep it light with a salad—the salads and popovers are to die for—so you won’t be too full for Tea at Taschen next door in the circa-1920s Joule Hotel. The neo-Gothic hotel is an art destination in its own right, its walls brimming with installations. Also nearby, catch the latest iteration of Forty-Five Ten. This hip fashion-and-home destination sports fresh style in its new flagship store—a renovated historic building. 

Just north of downtown, shop the hip boutiques in Uptown. At Blue Print, an emporium of well-curated goods from decorative pillows to jewelry to artwork, I once bought a Parisian marble apple that now lives on my mantel. 

Bright blue French doors open to rooms of furniture and accessories. The dining room houses the newest design books (2707 Fairmount St.). 

Set & Co. In the Oak Cliff neighborhood, Set & Co. sells artisanal kitchen goods chosen by its owners, Jennifer and Adam Littke (841 West Davis St.). 

Grange Hall This Uptown hot spot is a wealth of jewelry, apothecary, and home accessories, with an ultra-chic restaurant attached for dining (4445 Travis St.). 

Sample something sweet at Bisous Bisous Pâtisserie. (French for “Kiss Kiss” for those of you determined to someday speak the language with confidence.)

Owner and pastry chef Andrea Meyer left a corporate career to refine her skills for sweets before opening her bistro-style patisserie in Dallas’s Uptown neighborhood (3700 McKinney Ave.). 

 Or just go ahead and book dinner—Uptown, especially its streets like McKinney Avenue, has been a restaurant and nightlife mecca for decades. If you’re in the mood for casual, grab a burger at Jakes Uptown or try classic Irish pub food at The Idle Rich Pub. Or head to Fearing’s to sample the cuisine of one of Dallas’s best-known chefs, Dean Fearing. If you crave a steak, Perry’s Steakhouse & Grille cooks some of the finest, washed down with fresh oysters on the half shell. Or if Tex-Mex is mandatory, try El Fenix on McKinney Avenue. After dinner, hop aboard the McKinney Avenue Trolley to hit night spots like the Avenu Lounge.

If you only have time for one more neighborhood, make it Bishop Arts District in Oak Cliff.

Bishop Arts District Independent shops and a Bohemian vibe define the Bishop Arts District. 

On the west side of the Trinity River, old storefronts house 60 boutiques, restaurants, galleries, and bars. Everything here is unpretentious. But still, be styling in your Guccis. No matter how laid-back this brand of urbanity, you are in Dallas!  

Photography: Ryann Ford
Produced by Krissa Rossbund