Sai Sankoh always thinks big. From her billowing silk caftans and ultra-wide-brimmed raffia hats to her feather-bedecked dresses and boldly patterned two-piece sets, the Dallas-based fashion designer has mastered the art of maximalism. So it should come as no surprise that when she decided to open her first storefront, the Sierra Leone native would take things to the max there, too.
Sankoh’s new Design District space—a collaboration with interior designer Johnathan Bailey, who recently relocated from Dallas to Mexico City—is much more than a store. “It’s a unique escape,” Sankoh says of the three-story boutique, which opened in October and features a rooftop lounge and second-floor VIP area in addition to its first-floor showroom space. “It’s inspired by the places that I have been. I wanted you to walk in and feel like it’s an experience.”
The journey begins in the entryway, with its head-turning, high-gloss Bottega Green staircase. “We wanted to do something super dramatic when you first walk into the space,” Bailey says. “Just something that really catches the eye.” Turn the corner, and you see the vivid green paint butting up against walls washed in vibrant Yves Klein Blue, a choice informed by both Bailey’s and Sankoh’s trips to Morocco. Besides providing a striking backdrop for Sankoh’s equally lively designs, the blue-and-green color scheme pays homage to the flag of her West African home country.
The duo’s kaleidoscopic approach continues throughout the main floor’s seating areas, where a massive burlwood coffee table painted bright orange shares space with a zebra hide rug and a quartet of vintage lamps Bailey transformed with a coat of hot pink paint. The intense pink, a prevalent color in Mexico, is a nod to his adopted hometown.
On the second floor, which houses Sankoh’s office and a private space for VIP clients, things start to feel a bit more subdued. Here, unlike the main level, neutral hues abound. “I wanted the store to be colorful, but I also wanted some serene spaces,” Sankoh says. “I wanted a place that my customers could feel at home—like a girl cave.”
But the upstairs space isn’t all muted and mellow. In contrast, the VIP bathroom feels like a tropical vacation. Bailey covered the entire space in a rainforest-themed wallpaper featuring a pattern that would look right at home on one of Sankoh’s billowy caftans or always-quick-to-sell-out shirtdresses. The interior designer punctuated the showstopping statement by wrapping the room’s clawfoot tub in the same wallcovering. “It’s definitely a photo moment,” he says.
But it’s the rooftop lounge that might be the store’s most surprising—and photo-worthy—spot. Inspired by the Amalfi Coast and the candy-striped aesthetic of the Faena Hotel in Miami Beach, a getaway beloved by both Bailey and Sankoh, the designers installed a sea of red-and-white umbrellas and red furniture. Aptly dubbed Rouge, the space is open to the public and offers an unexpected refuge from the hubbub of the city.
“We wanted to create an oasis in the middle of the Design District,” Bailey says. “While there are so many beautiful showrooms in this area, there’s nothing that feels like Sai Sankoh’s space. The boldness and the whimsicalness of the entire space is kind of surreal.”
Shop Sankoh’s favorite Design District haunts for vintage furnishings and decor.
There’s a midcentury modern treasure around every corner at this Design District mainstay specializing in heirloom-quality furniture from the 1950s through the ’80s. 961 Slocum St. 214-746-6300.
One part upscale consignment store and one part art gallery, Dulce deals in vintage gems by the likes of Harvey Probber, Adrian Pearsall, Milo Baughman, and other designer favorites. 1208 N. Riverfront Blvd. 214-219-5656.
Need an antique French farm table, hand-tied Persian rug, or marble-topped mahogany chest from the 19th century? You might find all that and more at this warehouse-style emporium. 910 N. Riverfront Blvd. 214-761-1575.
This story originally appeared in the November issue of D Magazine with the headline “Around the World in Style.” Write to [email protected].