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Home & Garden

Advice From Dallas’ Best Interior Designers

This year’s winners on what they’re loving in home design. (And we share a few of our favorite things, too.)
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Best is a great word—just ask the 99 professionals included in our annual ranking of the top interior designers in Dallas. Best represents the elite, in this case, of the local design community. Best is a badge to wear with honor. But what best has in distinction, it lacks in specifics. It doesn’t tell you much about what these designers prioritize, what they covet, how they think. So we posed five questions to our winning designers that would shed a little more light on their tastes and preferences, how they work within a range of price points (which, we should point out, do not necessarily reflect realistic dollar amounts they work with), and where they shop when they’re looking for a steal. We think you’ll find their answers as interesting and wide-ranging as the designers themselves. 

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1. If you could buy any home-design item for yourself right now, what would it be?  

A Steinway baby grand piano.
– Mary Anne Smiley 

Some fabulous  Ann Sacks tile!
– Kay Genua 

Six yards of Beacon Hill Mon Cheri Aqua to recover an 18th-century French Régence Canapé.
– Eric Prokesh

An original Giacometti cocktail table—a mere trifle at $800,000!
– Sherry Hayslip

A framed collection of Hermès scarves.
– Margaret Chambers

A Picasso.
– Leslie Jenkins

I just had a client’s closet fitted with unlacquered brass shelving and rods. I cannot resist the urge much longer to complete mine.
– Philip Thomas Vanderford 

A spectacular 18th-century Louis XV mirror from Ernesto Klun. It’s one of the prettiest things I’ve ever seen.
– Barry Williams

The Miele sheet presser! It is awesome.
– Jan Jones

A Wolf convection steam oven. It is to food what Tom Ford is to clothes.
David Salem

Art is always my first love and first choice. It defines who you are and can be your wisest investment.
– Stephen Dunn

Something iconic, like maybe a womb chair and ottoman or an egg chair in leather.
– Allen Kirsch

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2. Name a specific home-decor item under $500 you love. 

Table linens. Nothing perks your day up more than eating at a beautifully appointed table. 
– Cheryl Van Duyne 

White leather tufted Hassock-style ottomans from Pier 1—less than $50 each. 
– Mary Anne Smiley 

Live plants! Their impact [can be] just as great as the furnishings and art.
– Philip Thomas Vanderford

Restoration Hardware’s Italian Fiore duvet cover. Italian made. Beautiful, Fortuny-like pattern. Two easy-to-work-with colors.
– Eric Prokesh

Fake white orchids from Robert-Lawrence Designs. They are fabulously real and always add sophistication to a room.
– Barbara Vessels

$500! You’ve got to be kidding! Maybe flowers. 
– Allen Kirsch

Trim. It is a sign of thought and thoroughness of a design.
– Vanessa Redman

A reprint of a vintage Condé Nast photograph from Vogue magazine.
– Michelle Nussbaumer

The outdoor Spun chairs designed by Thomas Heatherwick. The uncontrollable laughter they provide is priceless.
– Jen Mauldin

Cashmere blankets.
– Elizabeth White

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3. What’s your favorite store/resource for low-cost items that look great?  

I’ve gotten some great-looking things at Target. We all love to find something that looks like twice as much as it costs.
– Jan Showers

The Container Store. Organized homes make everything look better!
– Cheryl Van Duyne

I love CB2. I think they have great, affordable design in many categories for the home.
– Susan Bednar Long

The Nasher Sculpture Center store and many other museum stores usually have high-quality design at affordable prices.
– David Cadwallader

Z Gallerie. Inexpensive options for an instant gratification of “glamy wow.”
– Rhonda Vandiver-White 

Tuesday Morning. They have great deals on luxury bedding and towels.
– Emily Summers

Lula B’s. I always find a piece or two here.
– Mike Mousel

West Elm. They have some of the best designs at any price point. They’re also a company with a conscience.
– Lisa Martensen

Zara Home usually has great accessories and some cool bedding and tabletop pieces.
– Kyle Knight

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4. If a client came to you with $25,000, what would you do with it?  

I would update the space they relax in every evening. It is important to reward yourself at the end of every day with a space that comforts you and makes you smile. 
– Debra Stewart

The master bedroom!
– Amy Berry 

I would spend it on a statement piece that immediately makes a huge visual impact.
– Suzan Davidson

Urge my client to purchase a fabulous rug.
– Charlotte Taylor

I always encourage a client to spend the first portion of their budget getting the architectural bones perfected. Then the stage is set for great furnishings and art.
– Philip Thomas Vanderford

I would design custom window treatments and add accent lighting. These two items can finish a space like putting on lipstick and wearing a great pair of shoes can complete your look.
– Cristie Schlosser

I’d rather see a client focus on one area or room and do it well. For the designer and client alike, it makes a real difference to be able to see the impact of the investment.
– Cameron Drinkwater

Create an entryway that reflects my client’s personality while kicking it up a couple of notches. It’s the first and last thing they see in the house, so it needs to be wonderful and create a sense of homecoming. 
– Alana Villanueva

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5. If they had $50,000? 

Lighting, lighting, lighting. Crisp, clean light makes you look better, and that’s easily worth $50,000—not to mention your art comes to life. 
– David Salem

With $50,000, you can tackle a nice master bath redo. It’s funny how fast $50,000 can go.
– Russ Peters

Work on architectural frustrations, whether it be lighting, crown molding, hardware, or a wall that desperately needs millwork. Make the commitment to right the architectural wrongs of a space.
– Vanessa Redman

With any budget, I always feel that finishing a room is more satisfying than spreading your budget throughout the house.
– Susan Bednar Long

Start with the basics, focusing on quality of the product over trend. Make those few investment purchases—good things with great style—then add a few really good things (perhaps in a grander scale) for even bigger impact.
– Sherry Hayslip 

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For even more from the Best Designers, go to


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