Cody Ulrich and Timothy Kolk

Interior Designers

New-School vs. Old-School: Top Designers in Dallas Weigh In

The best designers in Dallas share their takes on what's trendy (like smart-home technology and temporary wallpaper) and what's timeless (like real leather and natural stone).

This story is part of The Best Designers in Dallas 2021 feature. Click here to see the 2021 winners.

You can’t stop progress—and that’s (mostly) a good thing. In the world of home interiors, materials and technology have come a long way in recent years, giving designers and homeowners more choices than ever when it comes to outfitting their homes. A great deal of modern-day tools and trends are improvements over the iterations from generations past. But in some cases, the tried-and-true methods have yet to meet their match. So which new-school items get an A+, and which old-school items can’t be beat? Designers weigh in.

New School

  • Engineered woods “Engineered wood has come a long way and is so much easier to install on remodels.” —Michelle Lynne, ML Interiors Group
  • Cement tiles “Cement tiles are something old but new. I love them. Clé Tile has a great selection.” —Michelle Nussbaumer, Michelle Nussbaumer Designs
  • Temporary wallpaper “I love the peel-and-stick wallpaper. Design Legacy has one that I love.” Michelle Nussbaumer, Michelle Nussbaumer Designs
  • Performance fabrics “Performance fabrics rule! All our clients are requesting that we select a fabric that’s easy to clean. Fortunately today we have so many great easy-to-maintain options, from velvets for sofas to indoor-outdoor rugs for the floors.”  Abby Smith, Smith & Ragsdale Interior Design
  • LED bulbs “LED lasts longer, is cooler, offers a wider color rendering, and has endless applications. Incandescent is used only occasionally for table lamps for softness, but now LED lamps are even mimicking that.” —Mary Anne Smiley, Mary Anne Smiley Interiors LLC
  • Smart-home technology “One of my pet peeves is even on otherwise well-designed light fixtures, the switching is poorly located. The availability of remote switching and dimming products such as the Lutron Caseta Pico remote can often offer a viable solution.” Paul Draper, Paul Draper Design
  • Motorized shades “Motorized solar shades instead of sheers or blinds to control glare and privacy concerns.” David Salem, David E. Salem Interiors
  • Printed murals “Digital printing technology has allowed us to install some beautiful wallcovering murals without the investment of hand-painting. While we still love the hand-painted style for some of our clients, it’s great to have options in multiple price points.” Carolina Gentry, Pulp Design Studios

Old School

  • Natural stone “Quartz countertops are the ‘in’ thing, and I understand the practical reasons, however, you cannot beat the personality or beauty of natural stone.” Richard Gordon, Richard Gordon Design
  • Real leather “I love real leather for key pieces. You can’t beat the feel and authentic patina that it has over time.” Susan Bednar Long, S.B. Long Interiors
  • Gas lanterns “They create a warmth and ambiance that is not possible with electric lighting.” —Kristen Fegale, Kristen Fegale Interiors
  • Real antiques “I always prefer a good antique over a reproduction. They look fabulous mixed in with contemporary upholstery and art.” Margaret Chambers, Chambers Interiors & Associates

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