The first-ever Designer Dream Spree in Round Top, envisioned and hosted by Texas-based interior designers Julie Dodson and Ike Isenhour during the Round Top Antiques Shows, lived up to its name.
Before the event, Katie and I didn’t know the difference between Fortuny and a spittoon-y. We were delighted to serve as the local media sponsor along with other local sponsors, Arbor Antiques Show, The Compound, Marburger Farm Antique Show, Distinguished Transport, Round Top Inn and Prost! on Block 29.
Dodson and Isenhour, working with publicist extraordinaire Nicole Gill-Ottinger, rounded up a designer dream team that included Michelle Nussbaumer, Barry Darr Dixon, Mary Douglas Drysdale and Kevin Isbell, as well as Ann Maine, Traditional Home’s editor in chief, and Amy Elbert, Traditional Home’s senior architecture editor.
The four-day excursion allowed the globe-trotting designers to experience the breadth, depth, warmth and high-quality surprises of the sprawling, one-of-a-kind Round Top Antiques Shows first-hand. The designers were tasked with finding a unique piece that they proudly would incorporate into one of their projects. The treasure hunt culminated with “Exceptional Discoveries,” a panel discussion moderated by Traditional Home’s experts, which showcased the designers and their finds.
As the panel discussion began, it quickly became apparent the rapport and mutual respect were real—and the wits were quick. These folks were knowledgeable and funny.
Michelle Nussbaumer, a former West Texas barrel racer who built a global design firm with locations in Dallas and Switzerland, chose an ornate 17th century Venetian cabinet in a striking aquamarine color. Its color, gilding and scale made it a focal point that would require a large room.
Nussbaumer selected the piece because it represented her love of travel and would be, in her opinion, ideal to house and display a collection of Delft plates. To showcase the $29,000 cabinet, Nussbaumer suggested putting it against a damask background.
“My philosophy of design more is more,” she said. “I could put it up against a white wall, but why?”
Barry Darr Dixon
Barry Darr Dixon, who works from his estate in Virginia’s horse country where his global clients include Fortuny, Vervain and Avrett, selected an asymmetrical settee of unknown origins that was covered in burlap. When he found it, it was covered by odd-and-end antiquities. The scale caught his eye because it could anchor an intimate discussion area in large room.
He brought the $2,600 courting bench to the panel to demonstrate the importance of keeping your eyes open because “wallflowers in the corner should get invited to the party, too, and many times they end up being the star.”
Kevin Isbell operates his nationally recognized design firm, founded in 2009, from the heart of NYC. Known for his clean, layered, nuanced style, he is also a self-proclaimed “fan of a touch of irreverence” as his Round Top find, a life-size longhorn steer faux mount upholstered in an antique tapestry. The “juxtaposition of the tapestry’s formality against the piece’s tongue-in-cheek whimsy,” grabbed his attention.
The $2,900 find was a purposely rough-around-the-edges art piece that Isbell envisioned using in a Tribeca loft. His caveat? “The client would have to be self-confident with a sense of humor and have an appreciation for the role that quirky art pieces can play in a room,” he said.
Mary Douglas Drysdale
Mary Douglas Drysdale, who founded her Washington D.C.-based design firm in 1980 and has earned 63 magazine covers to date, arrived in Round Top fashionably late because of airline delays. As a result, her fellow panelists made her selection for her. She saw it for the first time just before the panel discussion. The situation might have derailed a less experienced professional, but it didn’t flummox the woman who has taught at the Smithsonian Institute among other notable venues.
Her colleagues selected a mid-century, medium-sized table that due to a miscommunication was temporarily confused as a Gio Ponti. (This prompted a lively debate and a conversation about the importance of authenticating any significant investment piece.)
While Drysdale definitely could put the table to use, she suggested she might have chosen something different.
“Round Top is an exciting place where a visually literate person can discover, the quirky, the unusual and the singular,” Drysdale said.
From the Fields
The next day, Katie, Shannon and I stopped by the North Gate field to enjoy the fresh-made salads and sandwiches and to check out Isenhour’s new furniture line he and his brother had developed and produced in India, under the name Navasota Trading Co.
As timing would have it, Isenhour, who had traded the snappy blazer and chinos of the previous day for jeans, a straw cowboy hat, and Redwing work boots, and Isbell wheeled by in a John Deere Gator. We flagged them down, loaded the back of the Gator with copies of our antiques show map, and gave Isenhour delivery instructions. We’re still not sure which surprised Isbell the most: being waylaid by bossy, little women in big hats or riding shotgun in a Gator, likely not his usual Manhattan mode of transportation.
Later in the day, we ran into Dodson at Arbor Antiques. She was looking for Dixon. He walked up as she confirmed that the second Designer Dream Spree was already in the works and suggested it might be held as early as spring 2017.
Dixon had disappeared because he was on a mission. He had just purchased 47 lamps from a single vendor. He exhibited a few of the adrenaline-rush symptoms I’ve witnessed in big game hunters who have just bagged a trophy. In short order, he gave us a quick lesson on lamp pricing, antiques inventory management, Italian designer Gio Ponti and Fourtuny fabrics that start at $500 per yard. I don’t think he ever took a breath.