Rich jewel tones make up this season’s palate, not bland beiges and browns. Faux finishes continue to be extremely popular as an embellishment for otherwise dreary walls. Fabrics create bold statements with zebra, leopard, and romantic florals as seen in ’Out of Africa’. And bathrooms are at their most luxurious, outfitted with specialty items and equipment that make them the ultimate retreat from the workday world. In other words, the look, the direction for fall is luxury.

These days, home is reflecting the best of all worlds in comfort, luxury, and amusement. Designer Jim Magni tracks cycles in the design industry by keeping a diary of his work. He has seen a change over the last six months in his clients’ color preferences, “I usually work in black, white, and neutrals, popping in color with accessories,” says Magni. “But recently I found clients were demanding more color; the bottom line was always color, and a lot of it.”

Besides the current palate of saturated colors such as emerald and ruby, he finds clients are requesting a lot of peach and teal tones. “Texas digests those colors very well, they’re derived from a Southwest feeling,” says Magni. Magni shows a preponderance for combining ruby red and teal in rooms this fall, or black and white with a ’tease’ of yellow.

Donna Guerra. ASID, has picked up those memorable favorites of the sixties, harvest gold and avocado green which have already been resurected in the fashion industry. “They’re coming back in, though not as muddy, and they will not be’called by the same names,” she says.

Magni sees a lot more color as well as pattern in this season’s fabric lines. He notes paisley as being important. “We seem to keep going back to a larger scale pattern,” he says.

Both texture and pattern seem to be recurring favorites this season. “There are a lot of exotic materials with patterns and pattern on pattern,” says Lloyd Scott, ASID, of Lloyd Scott Design. Fabrics and wallpaper take on the character of stone, old Florentine paper, or torn paper bags. Guerra adds that the African theme looms large over the season as well. “Leopard and zebra are back, it’s history repeating itself,” she explains. Or, doubtless, a romantic urge to be as artfully eccentric as Isak Dinesen.

This rich, comfortable, somewhat indulgent look reflects a definite swing back to the importance of the home. A trend that is beginning to show an effect on the floorplans of some of the newer houses being contructed. “Instead of a formal living room, dining room, and den, there is one great room,” says Scott. “The kitchen is partitioned off, but it opens onto the great room. And there is more emphasis on the bedroom as a suite, independent of the rest of the house”

Room by room, these three designers share some of their thoughts on this season’s top looks.


The living room is living up to its name as it is being used more and more. Eclecticism is still strong as an overall concept according to Guerra and older couples who bought complete sets of furniture in the past are now learning how to break up the house so as to get away from a single period look.

A lot more attention is also being given to the entry to create a pleasing transition from the front door into the living room. “It’s a statement of a look or a hint of what’s to come,” explains Scott. It also offers the client the chance to do something like marble or wall sconces that he might not be able to do otherwise. “After all, thirty square feet of marble is a whole lot less than four hundred,” says Scott.

An interest in flooring yields more pattern underfoot than we have seen in the past. Magni likes to work with combinations of wood with inlays of marble and granite for a custom look. For the entry, he would lay a marble and granite floor with a transition into wood with marble for the living room, filtering into all-wood flooring in the den. Next to granite flooring, white bleached floors are very popular and there has been some use of sisal.

Magni draws a correlation between this season’s window treatments and women’s evening gowns. “I see an influence from Michael Graves more of drapery and less restriction. I haven’t done traversing drapery but free-form design. Fabric at the window has a softening effect on a room,” he says. Magni does a lot of ’puddle effects’ created by pools of fabric cascading to the floor and uses soft Roman shades to shield the sun.

While drapery has gotten voluminous, Scott finds that furniture has not. “It used to all be overstuffed furniture,” says Scott. “I used to fight with the upholsterers to take some of it out. After all, we don’t all live in California,” She is glad to see more in novative pieces out now, such as nightclub designer Philippe Starck’s new line which she suggests one use as accent pieces.

If furniture is not yet affordable,’ this is the season to let the walls speak for themselves. Painted looks transform mere plaster into works of art using sponge, stripping, or wiping techniques to create tex-tural effects. Accompanying wood trim is being given a whitewashed effect in white, gray, and rust tones.

In the fabric department, romantic floral furnishings are mixing with zebra prints and skins. “Westgate Fabrics has some great floral prints in really deep colors,” says Guerra. For a traditional, Old World feeling, she suggests doing the whole living room in an English look using the floral prints. But for a look that doesn’t involve the permanency of upholstered pieces, she would use the fabric in window treatments, pillows, table skirt, and then carry it over into the dining room for chairs with pop-out cushions.

Contemporary enthusiasts will want to seek out the geometric prints that are starting to make a comeback. “They are mostly used in contract furniture at the present,” says Guerra. “They are going back to the Bauhaus and Mondrian look. The look often crosses over into residential via contemporary pieces.”


“The dining room is the hardest room to do,” says Guerra. “it’s boring. A lot of people don’t like glass or wood tables and they’re tired of the same old chairs that are featured in every article.” Guerra usually designs her clients’ dining tables and suggests that the industry come up with some new chair introductions.

Her table design is likely to be something wild of marble or glass, and not necessarily a perfect shape. In a contemporary house, it might be a glass top with a fun base, using capitals from columns or square concrete pedestals with oxidized copper tops staggered down the middle of the table. For her next project she’d like to use different geometric shapes in various colors as the bases in either marble or wood.

Guerra laments the fact that there has never been any decent contemporary chairs for the dining room. But dying and refinishing will add interest, she says citing the new analine finish which is low-gloss and can be done in any color. (It can be seen on the red stairwell banister at Stanley Korshak.) But black lacquer is really out.

For contemporary looks, she likes Jane Bander at 1525 HiLine. “She has great contemporary chairs,” says Guerra. Her whole showroom is indicative of what’s happening in contemporary now, both residential and commercial. It’s not Memphis or Bauhaus, but different. You can feel and see the influence contract has on residential design.”


“Texas clients usually ask for a country or French kitchen,” says Magni. “it’s a reoccuring theme, mainly because they don’t know what else to ask for.” Guerra agrees that the Dallas kitchen is still country for the most part.

Cabinets are becoming sleek and simple, not panelled, like the rest of the house. There is also a wider use of marble in the kitchen since it is not that expensive.

Scott’s clients are going more for a manufactured component kitchen with pull-out wire baskets, “buzzes, whistles, and bells” she jokes. “Then they can put any type of window dressing they want on it. I would prefer to hire a kitchen consultant to do a kitchen. They’ve gone so far now with pre-built cabinets in both German and American styles. The Americans have become much more sophisticated because of Germany.”


Somewhat like a silken cocoon, this season’s bedroom is long on comfort and privacy. It’s almost become, together with the bathroom, a self-sufficient suite complete with wet bar.

It seems to be a compulsion,” says Scott, “to have such a suite within the house even if there are only two people.” The bedroom-bath today requires a walk-in closet, dressing closet, and fully-outfitted bath and exercise room.

Clients are opting for a European look in beds. “Low to the ground, platform, and tailored doesn’t fly,” says Magni. “It’s high off the ground with lots of pillows that people want.” Elaborate drapery and fabric surrounding the bed add softness while further sealing off the rest of the world. With such beautiful bedding, headboards are in high demand, whether upholstered, brass, or white wrought iron.

Magni finds four-poster beds to be extremely popular, some with an overhead trestle through which he weaves some of the fabric. Guerra’s clients also love a four-poster bed, although she finds men a bit reticent at times. “They think it’s going to look like their little sister’s bed,” she explains. But paisley sheets and plaid comforters convince them otherwise. Sheets and comforters are becoming more important now and there is an ever-widening choice to select from. Clients tend to be spending more on designer sheets and pricey lines such as Pratesi. Guerra describes the current look as having a Ralph Lauren feeling, making the bedroom feel as lush as possible. I he bed is not flat but piles high with a down comforter and lots of fluffy pillows to create a romantic feeling. “Everybody works so hard, they want to come home to something relaxing,” says Guerra.


“The bathroom is today’s adult playroom,” says Magni. Toys that are de riguer include a large, double-occupancy tub with Jacuzzi and a waterfall faucet; separate rooms for toilet and shower, fancy water faucets at the sink; at least one mirrored wall; and a bicycle or treadmill. And those are just the basics. Clients are still choosing carpeting out of practicality. With all this going on, it’s no surprise to find that bathrooms are taking up quite a bit more square footage than in the past.

Magni’s clients usually prefer separate men’s and women’s toilet rooms off the central dressing room. If the area is shared, they usually run into a problem when choosing the color. Men like the black-and-brown-tone marbles while women go for the pinks. In such a case, they usually opt for a neutral, hitting a mutual point with easy resale in mind.

Magni has found marble to be the material of choice for bathrooms. Though black marble looks fabulous, it is hard to keep up and shows water rings after each use. Scott sees floor to ceiling tile used now in baths and Guerra notices a return to the patterned tile of the ’50s (remember those sea-green tiles with a black border?) She also uses the tiny floor tiles for showers and thinks Villeroy & Boch “has the most gorgeous tile.” Guerra points towards the current bath towels as a catalyst for the patterned look. Patterned towels are back and people are utilizing these colors in the bath, pastels accented with bold colors.


Art has become a vital ingredient in many home environments and many pieces are now commissioned especially for a specific room. “The trend now is to find an artist, then do the piece,” says Magni. It always used to be the other way around, where the designer or owner searched for a particular piece of art that would be appropriate. “Instead of showing the client the end result, I show them philosophies and styles of works from various artists and they choose the one they like. Texas has some great local artists and clients usually choose a Texan without knowing it.”

Magni prefers this method as people usually don’t know what they want until they have seen a variety of styles. It makes the client feel like they have a part in the process. Also, since the piece is commissioned for a specific spot, it works beautifully -more so than any found object would. Nor is it terribly expensive either. Magni has commissioned pieces for his clients ranging from $2,000 up to $10,000. He finds that they usually choose paintings over sculpture. “Two-dimensional pieces are the best-received. Clients can understand a painting better than a construction,” says Magni.

Outside of painting, accessories are getting bigger, better, and more expensive according to Scott. She however, prefers less. “I like one, big, special bowl. I’m not into collecting lots of stuff.” She refers to the current accessory movement as postmodern embellishment, comparing it to what the Renaissance was to the Baroque period -simply a dressed-up version of what came before.

Guerra sees color as being an important selling point in accessories. “A lot of people had neutral or monochromatic environments for a long time. Now people are drawn to buying color in dhurries, rag rugs, and painted baskets.

She’s witnessed the biggest change however in lighting. “The whole house can be changed with lighting. The general public isn’t educated on low voltage, but anyone who is interested in design will go for the new wave Eurostyle. And the availability of contemporary lighting is growing by leaps and bounds.

“I don’t think we’re into crystal chandeliers though, not even my traditional clients. They don’t shed much light. A spotlight on a Lalique bowl does the same”


Michael Williams, ASLA, partner in Naud Burnett & Partners Landscape Architects and Development Planners, sees ornamental grasses as a new and different look for Dallas gardens this fall. Their beauty comes not only in their colorful appearance and gentle action in the wind, but in their cost savings as well. Since they are grasses, they grow well and in a relatively short period of time. Depending on the variety, ornamental grasses can be used as ground cover, shrubs, or trees.

“We are excited about using ornamental grasses and perennials in our gardens as an unusual departure from the evergreen shrub.” says Williams. “This is a relatively new concept in this area, but one that has gained popularity on the East Coast for some time.”

In the past, ornamental grasses have usually been relegated next to the fence as a backdrop behind other seasonal color. But standing on their own, these grasses provide striking color which changes seasonally as well as providing bold and unusual texture and form. “Ornamental grasses enter dormency in the winter, many leaving pale, golden stalks and tassles that persist through the winter and resemble large, dried flower arrangements,” says Williams. “In the spring, the old growth is removed to accomodate the vigorous new growth.

A fan of ornamental grasses as well as perennials, Williams noted several of their advantages:

They are extremely hardy.

Most are drought-tolerant but will flourishwith care.

They are extremely fast-growing.

They are totally disease and bug-free.

Ornamental grasses are very well-suited to informal gardens,” says Williams, “but Highland Park clients are going to want a more formal look because they have a more formal house.” Williams suggests the traditional look of a clipped hedge with hollys, boxwood and a few magnolias that are reminiscent of the South.

’’But depending on the architecture of the house, if it’s assymetrical, modern, or informal, the grassy look could work just as well,” says Williams. To achieve a more traditional effect with the grasses, he suggests planting them in straight lines or using them as a backdrop to provide color in the winter. The grasses would add a softening touch to a strict, formal garden.


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