WINDOWS ON THE WORLD
From the vantage point of a glass and steel aerie 16 stories above the ground, everything’s different. Sounds tone down to a whisper. On stormy evenings, lightning bolts dazzle like heavenly exclamation points. And the view of downtown Dallas-well, just ask Mike McAdams. He’s got a front row seat for the most spectacular show in town.
“The first time I walked in here,” says McAdams, gesturing around the living room of the leased high-rise apartment where he’s lived since October 1992, “I said to the friend who was with me, ’This is it!’ I had seen this kind of downtown view on visits to San Francisco and New York, but I never dreamed it existed in Dallas.
“It’s a light show 24 hours a day. In late afternoon, when the sun hits the buildings a certain way, all of downtown has a golden glow. The first night I lived here, there was a tremendous electrical and rain storm, and it was like being inside a washing machine.”
McAdams’ L-shaped sweep of living room, dining room, and den are all decorated with deliberate understatement in deference to the view. “Design has become my life,” says McAdams, who for the last five years has served as president of Crow Design Centers, which manages wholesale furniture showrooms in Dallas, Houston, and Boston. “I love beautiful things, and I love a space that displays them without conflict. I knew here that I couldn’t possibly compete with that view.”
To help create the interiors, McAdams turned to an old friend, Dallas interior designer Neal Stewart. ” I helped Mike devise a plan for the apartment,” Stewart explains, “He has a love of antiques, and I helped him select a few classic contemporary pieces [by such famous names as Saarinen and Corbusier] to complete the picture. We worked with the backgrounds that were already there-white walls and carpeting- to frame the skyline like a painting.”
McAdams made sure to find places for some of his treasured older possessions. Two hundred-year-old opalescent perfume bottles from a Paris flea market rest with other blue glass pieces on a round rosewood table from the English Regency period (circa 1825 ) beside a French armchair with original needlepoint upholstery from the 1800s.
The antiques, McAdams says, help create that all-important sense of style. “If you develop your own style, you can maintain it even if you don’t have a lot of money. You can make the rounds of flea markets and find the things you need to pull it off. “
Of course, nobody ever came back from a flea market with a breathtaking view of the Dallas skyline. That’s one thing you have to earn- just like Mike McAdams did.
Leave it to the English to find humor in designer fabrics, a field not usually abounding in merriment. But Osborne & Little, the London manufacturer of fabrics and wallpapers, brings a terribly droll sensibility to a new line called Scrapbook.
“We don’t like being typecast,” explained Osborne & Little design director Antony Little on a recent Dallas visit. That explains why the memorable characters from Kenneth Grahame’s children’s classic, The Wind in the Willows, make their merry way through the new collection of fabrics and papers. The antics of such characters as Toad, Ratty, Badger, and Mole have been adapted from the book’s original illustrations. “Children and grown-up children” alike may find them irresistible, says Little.
The eclectic composition of the Scrapbook collection also includes designs based on playing cards, hearts, buttons, and even a conga line of “strange little birds,” including the puffin, dodo, spoonbill, toucan, and penguin. So even if the customers don’t applaud the fabrics’ versatility (they’re 100 percent cotton in 11 patterns), maybe they’ll chuckle their way to satisfaction. Osborne & Little fabrics are available ( to the design trade only) through Boyd-Levinson, 1400 Hi Line Drive, 698-0226.
LIVING THE SIMPLE LIFE
“Boughs of fragrant lilac in a water-ing can. The scent of grass after a rain. The smooth surface of a stone worn by the tide.”
These favorite things of author Tricia Foley, plus a desire to live in tranquil sim-plicity, have given birth to a new book and a pared-down lifestyle. “Many of us feel a yearning for a simpler life, one more attuned to the natural world, based on pleasures rather than possessions, guided by needs rather than trends,’’ notes Foley in the introduction to The Natural Home: Living the Simple Life (Clarkson Potter, $22.50).
With Foley’s selection of some refreshingly clean-lined interiors, accompanied by Michael Skott’s evocative photography, some readers may be convinced to pitch out their chemicals, plastics, and other synthetics, strip their rooms of frou-frou, and embrace natural living as their own. If they do, they’ll welcome Foley’s neutral fabrics, mostly bare floors, undraped windows, and minimal classic furnishings.
Foley makes her points without becoming overwrought. Then she wisely meets her readers’ practical needs by scattering throughout the book lists of helpful instructions on such things as natural laundering and house cleaning, natural insect repellents, even “houseplants to make your home healthier” (Boston fern and English ivy, to name two). The wisdom of her ideas will no doubt recruit some converts.
SEEDS OF THE SOUTHLAND
Like people, flowers have regional accents. The blooms that flourish in New England or Southern California sometimes crash and burn in Dallas. So Dallas gardeners can rejoice that one mail order company selling wildflower seeds has a product with East Texas specifically in mind.
The hugely successful Vermont Wildflower Farm (last year’s sales sent 12 tons of seeds hurtling through the mail) offers an assortment of seeds chosen for the “varied soils and long growing season ” in the southland. The 23 different flowers in each large or small package include such annuals as wild baby’s breath, wild delphinium, and poppy and such perennials as daisy, black-eyed susan, and dam’s rocket, Prices range from $8.95 for a one-ounce package with 30,000 seeds to $375 for a 10-pound bag with enough seeds to plant an acre.
The farm’s seed experts advise Texans to wait until late September or early October- when the summer heat has abated-before planting. Even better, the experts say, wait until after the first killing frost (average date in Dallas County is November 17). In either event, Dallas gardeners can expect the annuals to bloom next spring and the perennials the year after. The Vermont Wildflower Farm, P.O. Box 5, Route 7, Charlotte, Vermont, 05445-0005. 802-425-3500.
Some of its products may be calculated to fool the eye, but there’s nothing fake about the success of a new decorating shop called Essentials in suburban McKinney. In its first two months of operation the business sold its entire inventor}’, with the exception of a few massive pieces of furniture with big price tags.
“I’m trying to introduce my customers to a new way of thinking,” says owner Laura Towery. Her thoughts turn to the use of color, plus decorative painting techniques, including the French trompe l’oeil. Nothing within Tower)’’s domain stays unpainted for long. Floors, walls, and ceilings in clients’ homes display faux finishes or decorative scenes, and in the shop, armoires, sideboards, library tables, and vanities have been hand-painted in finishes from earlier time periods.
Completing the shop’s inventory are pillows, lamps, clocks, flower arrangements, and candlesticks. The walls exhibit art work by Collin County artists and others.
The surroundings make a visit to Essentials doubly charming. Located in the old Ritz Theater on McKinney’s lovingly restored courthouse square, Essentials has as its neighbors restaurants, antique stores, and other shops. It makes a perfect destination for a weekend excursion. Essentials, 103 E. Virginia Parkway, Suite 108, McKinney. 214-562-9730.
FROM THE MARKETS OF MEXICO
WHEN CORPORATE CUT-backs ended Larry Sanders’ 12-year job as a graphic artist, that closed door led to an open one- the entrance to Casa Mexi-cana, the bright and beautiful new Mexican gift and art gallery in Deep Ellum.
With his partner, Tom Hickey, Sanders has shopped the artisans’ studios and small town markets of Mexico and imported plenty of intriguing wares: beautifully beaded Huichol Indian masks, black Oaxacan spottery, mirrors with handsome hammered tin frames, colorful hand-painted tables and chairs, and splendid Talavera pottery bowls, trays, and urns in calla lily and sunflower motifs.
“I’ve always loved the primitive folk art of Mexico, because it comes from the heart,” says Sanders. “Most of the people who make these things are poor, yet their art is life-affirming.”
The shop almost overflows with color and life. Crucifixes, dolls, and papier maché Day of the Dead figures line the walls, and books, nativity scenes, and jewelry fill the tabletops. In an upstairs gallery, framed oils, prints, watercolors, and paintings on bark command attention, particularly those featuring cult figure Frida Kahlo as either artist or subject . Her hypnotic eyes and bold eyebrows will stop traffic in any language.
Casa Mexicana, 2616 Elm Street.