AT HOME: Joyce Fox in her Art Deco-style home studio with black-and-white striped curtains, black Shantung silk daybed, and family portrait


Collected Stories

Joyce Fox’s varied collections reveal what’s in her heart.

LIVING ROOM: The combination of patterned and floral fabrics and blue and white porcelains make Fox’s living room a lesson on mixing styles. The desk is 19th-century Italian. Couch and chairs are covered in Cowtan & Tout. Silk draperies are Brunschwig & Fils, mirror is Italian carved wood, wall sconces from Santa Fe, Asian pottery from Beijing and Shanghai. The rug is English needlepoint, and the pillows are antique French Aubusson.
Joyce Fox was 21 when she toured the beautifully decorated home of one of Phoenix’s grandest dames. "I fell in love with all her collected pieces," says Fox, who is now a decorator. "I just remember her looking at me and saying, ’I’ve been collecting these things for more than 40 years. A house like this takes a lifetime.’"

Since then, Fox has spent her life traveling and building collections of her own. "I love different periods and different cultures," she says. "I want to represent the places I’ve traveled and my many memories as much as I can. Each piece has meaning."

Fox takes two major shopping trips a year, often to Beijing, Hong Kong, Paris, Tokyo, and Thailand. Each time she takes one suitcase for clothing and another stuffed with yards of Bubble Wrap to protect the small, fragile things she buys at flea markets and shops. She ships larger pieces home, and often they arrive so beautifully wrapped in handmade papers and twine, that she can hardly bring herself to open them. This was the case when she visited China for the first time, right after the fall of Communism, and Western tourism was scarce. Everything was for sale the government hadn’t yet put restrictions on what treasures could be taken out of the country. Fox bought as much as she could afford and shipped it all home. It arrived months later, in two large wooden crates. Inside, each piece was delicately wrapped in hay and twine, and nothing was chipped or broken. "I was so taken by the beauty," she remembers. "Each packing was a work of art."

 
FOX COLLECTION: With a last name like Fox, it’s no surprise that she receives many of them as gifts from friends and family. The blue and white Herend Fox above was made in Hungary.

She has hundreds of pieces of blue and white porcelains from China,  Japan, and England, but she never gives a thought to whether she has a place for them before she buys. If she loves something enough, there will always be the right spot at home for it. Her decorating philosophy is intuitive, and it is what drives her style, which might be described as a combination of sunny Tuscan, French Provencal, and English. She doesn’t use furniture plans or a measuring tape when hanging pictures. She just mixes it all up and moves things around until it works. Her styling is so nonchalant that she might be arranging a collection and get distracted by the phone or a knock at the door and set a piece down with the intention of moving it later, only to come back and realize it looks perfect as is.

When it comes to arranging collections, it’s all about layering many different styles and periods, and grouping. "I think after years of experience I have trained my eye to know what will work well together," she says. "Ultimately, color and proportion are key, and the bolder the better."

"I’ve found that when I have something that is strong and makes a bold statement, I live with it much better over the years. When I have something that just disappears or fills space, I’m not nearly as happy with it," she says. There’s nothing shy about Fox’s living room, with its dramatic red draperies, red-and-white checked ottoman, chintz covered sofa and chairs, and ornately carved and gilded Italian mirror over the fireplace. An unusual carved steel campaign bed is the centerpiece of the room. In the kitchen, a yolk yellow Venetian plaster wall, makes an exciting backdrop for a grouping of blue and white plates and her collection of foxes, which was started after friends began giving them as gifts. Her small study is audacious and beautiful with its Art Deco look in black-and-white striped curtains and daybed, zebra rug, and black-and-white portraits of her family on the wall.

 
KITCHEN: It took seven coats of Venetian plaster to get the color of the kitchen just right. The table is old pine, chair cushions are covered in tapestry, blue and white porcelains collected from England, China, and Japan. Pine buffet is from Santa Fe.
With so much confident decoration going on inside, it might surprise you to know that outside, the house is an unremarkable North Dallas-builder home, with cavernous rooms and high ceilings. But the scale of the house is what appealed to Fox most and reminded her of the houses in Phoenix, with their rambling rooms and boxy architectural design. The living room’s vaulted ceiling was originally 18 feet high, but in order to give the room the right proportions, she closed it off and created a family room on the second floor, with a custom, southwestern looking fireplace similar to the ones she had in Phoenix. She had the walls in the house smoothed to mimic plaster, because smooth walls create a neutral palette that allows each piece in her varied collections stand out.

Fox’s favorite piece is an intricately made, 19th-century marquetry Italian desk. "I love this desk, and I’ve had several antiques dealers look at. They’ve all told me that this must have been the lifetime work of somebody because of the intricacy of the detail," she says. "The person who made this did it with love."