Neal Stewart leads a double life. The designer spends equal time at his house in Dallas and the one he shares in Honolulu with Alan Carrell, his partner of 17 years. Their separate-but-equal living even extends to their Lhasa Apsos Lee Lee and Lu Lu—one of the dogs calls Texas home, and the other resides in Hawaii. This two-timing doesn’t make for the easiest commute, but Stewart manages to be in Hawaii six times a year.
But Stewart is hardly resting on his laurels—or a hammock—or anything else, for that matter. He owns a flourishing design company in Dallas. In order to keep his business booming (as well as ensuring that his very demanding clients are happy), Stewart maintains a frenetic schedule. Three days a week he’s at the gym at 5 a.m., and then it’s off to meetings and installations that run well into the evening. It helps that Stewart is one of the most organized and disciplined humans ever. He’s able to combine his high energy with creativity, and his clients hand over total control. They know that once they hire him for a job, they won’t be spending endless hours shopping for fabrics at all the showrooms.
Stewart’s discipline and organizational skills extend to his personal life as well. In a single year, he and Carrell moved four times in Dallas and five times in Honolulu. They moved into the Vendome in 2004, the third tenants in the building—“right after the sheetrock dust was cleared,” Carrell says—and they have moved many times within the building since then. It’s not that they’re difficult to please—it’s just that their unit does double duty as the Vendome’s informal model apartment. Friend and real estate agent Judy Pittman shows prospective buyers their apartment, and at least four times the clients have liked that particular unit so much, they’ve made an offer. So Stewart and Carrell are prepared on a moment’s notice to move again—clothes, dishes, everything. “There is nothing extraneous in this home—not a spare pitcher or extra set of spoons. We have only what we need,” Carrell says.
This talent for house “flipping” has worked for them in Honolulu as well. The couple first fell in love with Diamond Head eight years ago, and they subsequently bought a condo there. Since then, they have moved seven more times into increasingly nicer houses with more outstanding views. Despite the frequent moves, Carrell is so content there that he decided to relocate full-time and then opened a hip fashion and home furnishings store.
His boutique Into has even received national recognition. “We love our lives. Dallas and Honolulu are just so different, and we get to take advantage of the culture of the city and the relaxed beauty of a vacation paradise,” Stewart says.
Their current Dallas digs reflect their evolving design perspective. Until three years ago, every house they designed and lived in had white walls and black furniture—very stark and modern. Then Carolyn Neher, who has a decidedly more traditional style, hired Stewart to decorate her Vendome apartment. In a wonderful case of the designer learning from the client, Stewart discovered he liked the color and richness of more traditional furnishings and completely redid his place. “People used to say I never did traditional, and now they are saying I don’t do contemporary,” Stewart says. The truth is that he’s equally comfortable and adept at both styles.
As a longtime designer and former showroom owner, Stewart has furnished their apartment with “leftovers” such as extra panels of an Oriental screen and a console that a client didn’t want. Obviously everything is put together with great style, but nothing actually goes together. Styles, scales, and colors are mixed to create a handsome and stylish environment. Stewart uses rich, dark colors on the walls to create a cohesiveness, which makes the compact space seem much more expansive. The couple has amassed a diverse art collection during their worldly travels. Stewart purchased the arresting “Portrait of Two Women With Eye Drops” by Hungarian artist Tibor Csernus during his first trip to Paris with a client many years ago. “I had no money, so the gallery agreed that I could pay it out in monthly payments. It has since been on loan to various museums, including the Smithsonian. I guess it was a good buy after all,” Stewart says with a laugh.
When the more gregarious Carrell is in Dallas, there’s entertaining and home-cooked meals. When he’s not, the elusive Stewart is a self-described hermit who stays home most nights in order to rest up for his hectic schedule. He’s famous for attending a party by going in the front door and immediately walking out the back door. “Stewart has left the building” pretty much describes how he rolls. That could all change soon if Carrell decides to come back and open a new Into here in Dallas. And, of course, there’s always the chance that they will have moved a couple of times by the time you read this article. Anything is possible with these two.