A Peek Inside Sis Carr’s Yellow Haven

Local legend Sis Carr has had a lifelong love affair with yellow. From her hand-dyed clothes to her custom painted cars to her one-of-a-kind home décor, nothing has escaped Carr’s delightful fixation.

 
LET THE SUN SHINE IN: The late decorator Jed Mace designed the Carrs’ interiors. He selected yellow tweed for the living room’s wingback chairs and had the toile dyed to match an ivy leaf he offered as a color sample.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mellow Yellow
A peek into the one-of-a-kind home of Dallas legend Sis Carr. 

 
SIS CARR

TODAY, AS EVERY OTHER DAY, Sis Carr wears yellow. She has on a nubby wool Adolfo suit, the creamy, muted color of homemade banana pudding, with a subtle gray-and-brown plaid. Her shoes are sensible, square-toed pumps in a slightly darker hue. A pair of sharp- edged rectangular glasses, which she slides on and off her nose as needed to read, are the color of a sunflower. A yellow legal pad rests on her lap, as does a brown pen. Her fingernails are painted yellow, too. The color of her nail polish is that of a lemon meringue pie. She buys it at Minyard’s.

At 84, Carr laughingly describes her collection of all things yellow as a “mania.” If this is true, then it is a cheerful obsession; light and airy, and free of metaphorical nonsense.

“Brown, I think, is my color,” says Carr, matter-of-factly, sipping iced coffee from a yellow plastic cup with a yellow straw. “Yellow, I just happen to like.”

Around town, her name has become synonymous with her favorite color. For decades, Dallas most well-known balletomane has always been the easiest to spot in a crowd and the first to be identified in a picture in the society pages. After all, who else would dare to dye not one but a closetful of mink coats butter yellow?

IN 1954, SIS AND HER OILMAN HUSBAND William Plack Carr moved into the house off Forest Lane, on 8 acres of woodsy land, where she still lives. She immediately set about the business of turning her home into an homage to yellow. Rather, yellow and brown, her favored color combination. Carra’s husband was supportive of her decorating choices. “Plack always enjoyed that I got to have my yellow things,” she says.

 
Carr purchased this dollhouse years ago at a TACA auction.

Cheerful yellow pansies line the beds in the front of the chocolate-brick, French provincial-style house. (“Plack once wanted many different colored flowers,” she remembers. “But he got that out of his system.”) Two Suburbans are parked out front, along with a Lincoln Town Car, all custom-painted bright yellow. Newly hung toile curtains peek through the windows. They are mustard yellow—French’s, not Dijon. “We dyed all 150 yards,” she says, proudly. “It was brown and off-white, and we lightened it. I can’t tell you how many steps we went through.”

With the help of friends who designed costumes for theater, Carr learned how to dye feathers, leather, and fabric. “I found out how dye affects things differently,” she says. “It’s been a lifetime of learning. Each fabric is different. When synthetics came along, everything changed. You can’t water dye synthetic fabrics. You have to use cleaning fluid. And,” she adds with a wry smile, “you can’t do it in the house. You’d blow it up.”

Instead, she uses metal washtubs outside, drying fabrics on clotheslines that stretched from tree to tree or simply laying the fabric in the grass, on top of an old sheet. “You try to get a nice sunny day, so it will dry in a hurry, and you need a little wind, too. You have to choose your days,” she says.

Carr dyed many of her pleated, synthetic Mary McFaddens herself. Knowing this, McFadden would often send a fabric sample before a dress was made, so Carr could test-dye the fabric. (The Carrs were a handsome pair when he dressed to match in his yellow tuxedo shirt.)

Some things, though, were more easily transformed. Like the manger scene on permanent display atop the fireplace in what was once the game room, now a dining room. Joseph, Mary, the Wise Men—even baby Jesus are yellow. “Anything’s fair game,” she says. “I put hobby paint on it. That hobby glaze washes off. I didn’t want to destroy the artwork.”

 

 
DISPLAY SPACE: The original formal dining room now holds two round tables and two banquettes.

TODAY, CARR REACHES FOR A FOLDED COTTON HANDKERCHIEF the color of a baby chick and looks around the room, as satisfied with the dcor now as she was when she moved in 50 years ago. The dining room table is set with Italian linens, a wedding gift from her mother, which she dyed yellow in two days. The walls are deep brown Louisiana Pecky Cypress wood. The ceiling here, as in every other room in the house, is painted lemon.

It’s a bold design statement, to be sure. But, as Carr says, the décor isn’t garish. “It doesn’t just hit you when you walk in,” she says. “I’m very color conscious.”

Her phone, which is gold, rings, and one of the members of her staff, dressed in yellow scrubs, hands it to her. “It’s on February 13, on a Friday night, so put that on your calendar, if you will,” she says, promoting the Texas Ballet Theater event in which she was honored with an original pas de deux.

Rejoining our conversation, Carr confirms that her love of yellow is indeed a life-long passion, not just a passing fancy. “Even as a child, I favored yellow,” she says. “But you didn’t find much yellow then—a rose or a tiny check.” And so, to please her daughter, Carr’s mother had her clothes custom made, allowing her pick out the fabric. “I think everybody should find colors that are best for them and stick with them,” she says. Then she adds,There are people who are colorists, but I don’t dare go to one. They might upset my apple cart.”

Who would dare?

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