|SHOP TILL YOU DROP: Fort Worth is a treasure trove of home furnishings and accessories. You’ll find antiques at Leigh-Boyd (left), sleek bowls at the Modern (below right), custom lighting at the House of Tuscany (below left), and pillows and fine linens at Domain XCIV (below right, bottom).|
Culture in Cowtown
Ken Knight unearths a luxurious getaway, beautiful art, and smart design “all next door in our sister city Fort Worth.
Let’s put aside the expected clich’s of Western beginnings, cattle trails, and nostalgic yearnings for yesteryear. There’s a graceful, elegant, and sophisticated devotion to home d’cor in Fort Worth just waiting to be discovered. It doesn’t require a map, the journey is simple, and you’ll be rewarded with a wealth of newfound options. And I promise I won’t steer you near one set of spurs.
Day One: Cultural Pursuits
In less time than it takes to drive from A to B, I arrive at Camp Bowie Boulevard and the heart of the Cultural District. Camp Bowie is a brick-lined thoroughfare that juts from the center of town in a southwestern direction. A lot happens along this stretch of real estate, and following it makes navigation fairly easy.
The plan for Day One is a combination of culture and shopping at the Kimbell Museum and the Modern Art Museum. It will be a leisurely day. I’m not worried about rushing through one to track down lunch before heading to the other because both museums have excellent restaurants “even the locals pop in for lunch. As I dine at the Modern, I peruse the many for-purchase prints on the walls. All were created by legendary artists of the museum’s collection for the 100th Anniversary exhibition.
Make a point to spend some time in the museum gift shops. The Modern carries an ever-changing collection of contemporary items, including reproduction Noguchi paper lamps and mobile sculptural hangings from Denmark. At the Kimbell, I find art glass items at very reasonable prices. Also worth mentioning are the reproduction prints of pieces from the museumâ€™s collection.
With a few hours of daylight left, I have enough time to fit in one or two of the shops lining West Seventh Street and Camp Bowie, which offer an eclectic mix of design directions. One of the most varied collections of clean, interesting pieces is at Strings, a shop owned and operated by partners Dale Stryker and Mike Schomburg.
|BROAD SPECTRUM: Exploring Fort Worth, you’ll come across everything from vintage floral containers at the Montgomery Street Antique Mall (below) to religious icons at Domain XCIV (above).|
Just inside the door I see that the Italian accessories firm Alessi is fully represented here. I find a teardrop glass-art vase, made in Poland, for $75; its big brother is only $105. I want both. Then there’s the perfect summer buy: an indoor/outdoor set with four stools and a table, all of concrete composite, in a clean, almost Japanese design for less than $1,000. A Peruvian clay vase catches my eye, and I realize how easily I could empty my bank account here.
Up the street I find Domain XCIV, one of the best sources I’ve seen of European-styled home products, including the top lines in earthenware from Italy, bed linens, and decorative accessories. Proprietors Mark Vaughan and Tad Watts craft displays that inspire and delight. A small bronze, Verde Bronze Head of a Man, sits on a desk next to an entertaining table lamp with a satin harlequin lampshade. The bedding department offers a large collection of pillows “my favorite is an antique embroidered piece in a baroque pattern for a mere $1,450.
A day of serious shopping calls for a night of serious pampering, so I head downtown to stay at one of the best boutique hotels in the country.
Home Away From Home
At the end of a full day, I’m glad to be ushered into the soothing comfort of The Ashton Hotel. The Ashton is a designated member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, so expect to be swept away. The rooms are beautiful and luxurious, appointed with Frette bed linens, elegant furniture and fabrics, and molding and architectural elements that reflect the integrity of the building’s 1915 Italianate style. (Local owners Shiree and Taylor Gandy bought the former Fort Worth Club building in 1996 and spent a generous amount on its renovation and preservation.)
When I come down to dinner, I am settled at a table facing the fireplace. My waiter, Jimmy, is passionate about his favorites on the menu, so I put myself in his charge and am rewarded with a delicious meal from start to finish: wild mushroom risotto, a crisp Caesar salad served on a thin, woven cheddar wafer, and amazing, feather-light Chilean sea bass served with garlic mashed potatoes infused with crabmeat. As for dessert, despite the tempting list “bread pudding, four-layer chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, and a cheesecake with graham-cracker crust “and Jimmy’s rave reviews, I abstain.
|TOOLS OF THE TRADE:
The House of Tuscany is the place to shop for truly unique custom lampshades.
Day Two: Serious Shopping
The next morning I wake refreshed and anxious to get back to exploring. My first stop is The House of Tuscany, where I fall under the charming spell of Melinda and Gary Alexander. Their shop exemplifies the term œspecialty store “all energies and products are focused on one theme, in this case, classical lighting.
Melinda and Gary graciously invite me to take tea with them, and, as I listen to their enchanting stories, I learn a lot about lighting, including a few of their most interesting custom creations. One, an intriguing antique Chinese jar from the Quig Dynasty, circa 1870, is now properly wired and topped with a lampshade “and a steal at $380. This is where you should go to find dramatic, one-of-a-kind lampshades.
|CUSTOMIZED: Treasured objects, such as this antique Chinese jar, find practical uses in the hands of lighting experts Melinda and Gary Alexander at the House of Tuscany.|
The next shop on my list is Leigh-Boyd. Owner John Mitchell has created a home for select antiques, decorative accessories, and fine French linens and soaps. If you have some wall space to fill, consider John’s pair of black Japanese kimono prints framed in teak. And here’s an item that would work in both contemporary and traditional settings: a polished-steel folding tripod occasional table with a 9-inch butler’s tray top for just $98.
For lunch, I meet up with a friend, Dallas interior designer Julio Quinones. Julio has agreed to introduce me to three of his favorite Fort Worth antique sources. Stepping into the first, K. Flories Antiques, I overhear owner Kathy Flories phone call; she’s assuring someone on the other end of the line that she will travel far and wide to acquire worthy merchandise, whether it’s a whole house or just a single piece. She is an antique dealer in the truest sense, and her passion for it shows in her zeal for the deal and the business hours printed on her card: she’s open seven days a week, including Sundays, after church. Need I say more? As I amble through the shop, one of Kathy’s associates is busy refinishing a beautiful antique desk. Perhaps the most whimsical thing I’ve seen all weekend greets me as I turn a corner “two 36-inch, white-ceramic monkey-as-minstrel lamps.
A few steps beyond our friend Kathy is Julio’s second secret source. Pease-Cobb Antique & Estate Galleries takes things on consignment from local estates. The mix is truly random, but each piece has been inspected and accepted with care, so this shop is definitely worth your time. Case in point: after taking only a few steps inside the door, I find a 23-piece, bright-orange, 1920s Czechoslovakian tea set for $200, a pair of 20-inch gold-leaf candle sconces, and a bold blue-and-white English Meissen 20-inch platter for $650.
Our final stop for the day is the Montgomery Street Antique Mall, which, at 64,000 square feet, is the largest collective in the area. Experienced shopper that he is, in less than 20 minutes, Julio finds a real treasure: a pair of simple-knot lucite candlesticks that look like glass “priced at $16. I offer him $200 right there, but no deal. Antique shopping is a game. You have to be good and quick. Julio practices.
My shopping excursion was a complete success, and I’m sure I only scratched the surface of all that Fort Worth has to offer. From now on, my design campground will encompass a broader sense of this region I call home.
WHERE TO EAT
Whether it’s chuckwagon cuisine or fine French fare, Fort Worth is a foodie’s dream.
Lonesome Dove Western Bistro. This Stockyards stalwart does buffalo ribeye and braised antelope ribs but forgoes the fancy threads, befitting a Fort Worth eatery. It’s cowboy chic done right. 2406 Main St. 817-740-8810.
Escargot. We had the best sweetbreads we’ve ever tasted (outside of France, bon ami) at this artsy, secluded French cafe. The clientele is Cultural District cool, and so is the dcor. 3427 W. Seventh St. 817-336-3090.
Cafe Ashton. Beautiful New American cuisine at the beautiful Ashton boutique hotel. Afterwards, stroll FW’s famed Sundance Square. 610 Main St. 817-332-0100.
Pedro’s Trailer Park. It looks like a dive, but it tastes like the finest South American cuisine this side of the Trinity River. Try plump tenderloin tamales and Chilean sea bass. 2731 White Settlement Rd. 817-335-1548.
Cattlemen’s Steak House. Because, sometimes, you just need a little beef. 2458 N. Main St. 817-624-3945.