Home is a foreign affair for Michelle Nussbaumer’s family. Enter her Bluffview estate, shared with husband Bernard, and you’ll see why. The seven-bedroom, 1940s Regency-style house harbors the couple and their four kids — ages 23 to 15 — in an atmosphere of luxe antiques and flea-market finds.
Nussbaumer, a Dallasite known for her Dragon Street interior design store, Ceylon et Cie, marries her love for theatrical and exotic pieces with an eclectic mix of goods that “have traveled back and forth across the ocean.” With a degree in theater set design, Nussbaumer uprooted herself from Dallas and moved to Rome with her Swiss film-producer husband shortly after their marriage 25 years ago. Italy set the new mom afire with inspiration, driving the start of her successful career in interior design.
Back in Dallas — as of 18 years ago — Nussbaumer set out to put her stamp on the family’s abode, as well as the Dallas design scene. Despite the curiosity of her young children, Nussbaumer vowed to keep her home’s fashions functional and stylish with a grand, European feel.
“Our house has always been a place where the kids and their friends can feel at home,” she says. Family members (who freely share space with six dogs) spend time chatting, reading or enjoying a view of the backyard from the elongated living room, located in the center of the home. Filled with colorful Middle Eastern textiles, framed 20th-century line drawings (one by Pablo Picasso) and European antiques, this room houses a pair of low-backed couches that are protected from the wear and tear of children, pets and visitors under neutral-colored slipcovers. “I have washed the covers hundreds of times,” Nussbaumer laughs, adding that her motto in design is “form should not have to suffer due to function.”
The aesthetically apprised mom travels the globe in search of timeless treasures to adorn her clients’ homes and her own. “I can be attracted to something extremely valuable or something that’s not very expensive at all,” she says, noting the family’s collection of esteemed artwork (with names like Bernard Buffet) and textiles she picked up for pennies at a Moroccan bazaar. “At the end of the day, it makes no sense to me to have nice things that you don’t use. Even when the kids were little, I was never the type to only use sterling silverware on holidays. I’ll use it every night at the dinner table, and then stick it in the dishwasher,” she explains. “I want everything to be used out by the time I’m gone.”
Nussbaumer’s design vision stays true throughout her home — from her dining room that houses a custom-made Tony Duquette daybed to the breakfast room’s antique church pew dining chairs. “I’m sure you can look around and see scratches or cracks, but that’s because everything is used. No room has ever been off limit to the kids,” she explains.
Upstairs, Nussbaumer created custom-made spaces to reflect the personalities of her children. Durable natural-fiber carpeting and burlap curtains add masculinity to her oldest son’s room, made complete with bookshelves made by mom. “The books on the shelves are fake, and the doors open up to keep all of his junk hidden from sight,” she details. An inherited Gilioli Emile tapestry hangs over her son’s bed. “I think it’s important for children to be exposed to art, even if it’s a print of a good work of art, because it’s a great learning tool — especially modern art. It really makes kids think outside of the box,” she says.
Nussbaumer’s teenage daughter spends time with friends in her turquoise-and-white room (pictured at left), fitted with custom fabric by her designer mom. The duo crafted a headboard and selected turquoise and bleach-white accent pieces to offset the room’s backdrop.
While the mom admits that her house is a conglomeration of things — collected in Dallas and around the world — she adds that, all in all, it’s the people in her house who matter most. She says, “I really value time spent with my family and friends. If we can gather comfortably together at home, that’s when I’m happiest.”