How to Host a High-Rise Holiday
A Dallas condo sets the scene for an extended family’s colorful Christmas.
Sometimes dreams really do come true.
For a young Greg Barker, designing amusement park rides sounded like the best job in the world. And although that plan didn’t quite work out, Barker got as close to Adventureland as possible when he answered the call to design a unit in The Centrum Condominiums.
Used as a Dallas retreat for a jet-setting Hungarian family that includes Mom, Dad, and four adult children, the condo is a funhouse in more ways than one. The parents stay there when they come for a visit, the kids use it for birthday celebrations, and the grandchildren invite friends over for slumber parties. It’s also in rotation for the group’s holiday gatherings—even though the competition includes a house in New Mexico and a place in the Bahamas.
In keeping with the convivial theme, instead of adding only pops of color throughout the 1,800-square-foot space, Barker painted entire walls in vibrant tones.
“They’re good friends with Phil Romano,” he says of the family. “Phil had given them a painting that’s all the primary colors. And they said, ‘Okay, decorate the apartment around this. We love this painting. Make it all work around this painting.’”
Barker took that directive to heart. When he visited the condo for the first time with one of the three sons, he looked around for about an hour before he revealed his bright idea.
“I walked through and basically pulled every color that was in the painting and decided to use them on the walls,” he says. “So imagine his surprise when I’m saying, ‘Let’s paint the entry hall Kelly green. Let’s paint this wall fire engine red. Let’s paint the kitchen lemon yellow. Let’s paint the master bedroom orange. Let’s paint the guest room blue.’ He’s like, ‘What? No. That will look like a Crayola box.’”
But Barker pleaded his case: “I said, ‘No, trust me. I know it sounds crazy and kind of wacky, but it will all come together.’
“I didn’t tell him,” he says, “but I was a little nervous, too.”
The nerves didn’t last long, though. The family gave the okay, and Barker got to work. There was just one challenge: the budget.
“They didn’t want to spend a great deal of money,” he says, “so it forced me to be more creative in the furniture that I chose. So a lot of the furniture I actually designed and made myself or had made. Most of the artwork I painted. The twin beds in the guest room I literally designed and put those together.”
But Barker was in his element. The self-described jack-of-all-trades specializes in unearthing treasures, and he calls salvage yards his favorite place to shop. “My thing is taking things that are discarded and repurposing them, giving them another life,” he says.
For the Centrum condo, several items were reincarnated. Those twin headboards in the guest room were originally one king headboard. The coffee table in the living room was once a baker’s rack. And the lamps in the entryway received a new coat of paint, new wiring, and fresh shades.
“This was a fun project for me because everything in there I picked out,” he says, “the paint colors, the floor, every light fixture, every stitch of furniture. It was basically like, ‘Here’s the keys, here’s our budget.’”
Luckily, Barker’s high-rise kaleidoscope came in on time and on budget, and the family was more than pleased with the colorful results. The matriarch even refers to the condo as fellegvár, a Hungarian phrase that roughly translates to “castle in the clouds.”
For a kid with dreams of designing roller coasters for a living, that praise is no thrill ride, but for interior designer Greg Barker, it’s even better.
Styled by Jenny O’Connor and Billy Milner | Flowers by Haile Wossen