Laid-Back Luxury


A designer nods to California casual in his projects—no matter the home’s locale

The family room’s beams are reclaimed timber. Photos by Douglas Friedman.

For many designers, if given carte blanche by a client, the temptation to start entirely from scratch—with not a single remnant from past iterations of the rooms—might be irresistible. In the case of a 10,000-square-foot home in Dallas, however, Chad Dorsey took a deft, less heavy-handed approach yet still achieved a remarkable transformation. By introducing found pieces and modern designs, and thoughtfully combining them with a selection of the client’s effects, Dorsey conjured interiors that are at once refined and relaxed.

Dorsey lightened the kitchen’s barrel-vaulted brick ceiling and installed a custom stainless-steel island, which he paired with barstools from American Leather. Photos by Douglas Friedman.
In the formal living room, a 10-foot-long sofa of Dorsey’s own design, upholstered in Brentano mohair, and white leather Barcelona chairs are combined with the client’s own pieces: a tiger-print stool and a Chinese armoire. Photos by Douglas Friedman.

Striking such a balance is a hallmark of his, one that can be traced to Dorsey’s home bases: He launched his eponymous firm in Dallas in 2018 and, about a year later, opened an office in Los Angeles. Living and working part-time in California translates to an aesthetic that is “a little bit more casual,” he says of a distinguishing quality that infuses his work, regardless of the locale. “I think that makes it more fun.”

The entry hallway features plaster groin vaults and, like the rest of the home, is painted in Vanilla Milkshake by Benjamin Moore. Photos by Douglas Friedman.
Dorsey kept the existing dining-room chandelier, mating it with a round table and chairs of varying styles.
Photos by Douglas Friedman.

This particular homeowner was acquainted with projects he had done in both states. The client herself is well versed in the lifestyles of California and Texas, having previously owned a winery in the latter and currently calling the former home (along with a place in Florida that Dorsey is designing, too).

A corner of the family room is appointed with furnishings that Dorsey found in the client’s garage.
Photos by Douglas Friedman.

Although trained as an architect, Dorsey abstained from structural changes. And the residence’s Spanish-style features—including arches, wood-beamed ceilings and limestone flooring—remain intact. “I really love this house, and knew I wanted to work on it the moment I walked in,” he says. “Each room is open, so you can see from room to room, but every room is defined. The architectural nature of the home drove the fact that the furnishings could be more spare and more eclectic.”

Elsewhere in the family room, Dorsey placed a couple of iconic designs: a Saarinen table and a Barcelona chaise.
Photos by Douglas Friedman.

The 12-foot ceilings—which are vaulted even higher in some instances—and expanses of metal-framed glass convey a sense of airiness. Dorsey updated the walls throughout with Benjamin Moore’s Vanilla Milkshake, a hue he describes as “warm yet bright.” (The white paint that previously covered the walls had cooler, blue undertones.) The designer also adjusted the palette in the primary bathroom (the brown vanity was stained a rich ebony, creating added contrast with the existing statuary marble) and in the kitchen (the brick on the ceiling was lightened).

Dorsey completed the project in six months, a surprisingly short turnaround considering the many challenges presented by the pandemic. Relying on vintage and antique pieces that could be carried away on the spot, rather than waiting for supply-chain issues to get resolved, no doubt helped his timeline. Fortunately, Dorsey has long coveted such finds—not only for his clients, but also in his own abode—and, over the years, has developed a compendium of sources, from showrooms to fairs.

The primary bedroom’s sitting area includes a Kravet bouclé-covered sofa, a Materia chandelier, a Brutalist coffee table and writing desk that Dorsey discovered at the antiques fair in Round Top, Texas. Photos by Douglas Friedman.

“I try to incorporate things that are both modern and traditional in every space,” he says. Items from the client’s own trove aided him in this endeavor. A Chinese armoire and a stool upholstered in a tiger print, both of which already belonged to her, are joined in the formal living room by a 10-foot-long gray sofa of Dorsey’s design, upholstered in a Brentano mohair, and a pair of Barcelona chairs by Mies van der Rohe in white leather. In the dining room, the two-tier chandelier predates Dorsey’s involvement with the house. “It felt right and the scale was right,” he says of the decision to keep the ornate fixture.

The family room further showcases Dorsey’s skillful blending of articles of varying provenance. A Saarinen table occupies a corner, while a Barcelona chaise in black leather offers “a landing spot to look at the fireplace or outside to the courtyard,” says Dorsey. Another corner is appointed with a baroque wall mirror and a pair of chairs that were plucked from the client’s garage.

The client’s sleeping quarters are anchored by a 10-foot-tall headboard that Dorsey conceived; the bedding is Society Limonta.
Photos by Douglas Friedman.

Although the design scheme is decidedly serene, in the primary suite especially, Dorsey sought to foster a spa-like environment. Hence, the whitewashed ceilings and white linen window treatments. A sitting area, appointed with a gently curved Kravet bouclé-covered sofa and Materia’s Forchette chandelier, is separated from the sleeping quarters by a cased opening. Dorsey devised the upholstered, three-panel headboard that stands 10 feet high behind the bed and is upholstered in a Perennials fabric. Nearby, a pair of Edward Wormley mohair slipper chairs provide another opportunity to rest.

As he did in the adjoining bedroom, Dorsey whitewashed the cypress ceiling in the primary bathroom for a spa-like feel.
Photos by Douglas Friedman.

Ultimately, by harmonizing the custom and handcrafted with the found and familiar, Dorsey brought a new perspective to the interiors. “We took this beautiful house, where the furnishings weren’t really working, and we edited things that we thought could work to make them feel more special and contemporary,” he says. “You can mix in items that you love and make something that is a statement in not being so perfect. It needs to be livable and luxurious to the person that lives there.”