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Rambling Manse

Emily Summers transforms a University Park Tudor into a house where art is part of the family.

In the living room of the University Park house of Nancy and Clint Carlson, a Tudor arch window frames an 18th century Gustavian sofa bench. The side tables are Donald Judd’s Stool #95. A pair of occasional chairs by Axel Einar Hjorth and an Antony Todd coffee table complete the seating area. The rug is a custom Emily Summers design by Beauvais Carpets. On the wall: “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters” by Yinka Shonibare.

The home of Nancy and Clint Carlson is a showplace for fine art without being showy. It’s a meticulously designed homage to light and color, shape and texture, form and function—exquisitely proper with a playful side and a laid-back personality displayed in rooms that converse pleasantly with one another rather than compete for attention. It’s a treasure trove of midcentury classics in a 1934 Tudor Revival-style estate.

The Carlsons bought and renovated the house, on a lush 3.5-acre lot in University Park, in 2007. They are the third owners of the house originally designed by Clyde Griesenbeck and John Danna. The team of principal designer Emily Summers, project designer Mary Elizabeth Johnson and project architect Jessica Stewart Lendvay worked with the Carlsons for the update. They created a house that is at its heart a series of first loves—rooms built around key pieces, with delightful results.

In the living room, for example, an 18th century Gustavian sofa bench provided the starting point, Johnson says. It is set against a stately backdrop of stained-glass-accented Tudor arch windows and flanked by Swedish occasional chairs the couple brought from their previous residence in Highland Park. An Antony Todd coffee table and fireplace seating area with an Edward Wormley for Dunbar chair come together in a synchronized whole. A grand piano framed by a bank of diamond-paned windows grounds the southern end of the room, and a Yinka Shonibare photograph near the entrance adds drama to the serene space. In addition to the indoor appeal of the house, the Carlsons were drawn to the spacious yard and its possibilities for their three boys, now ages 10, 17 and 19.

“The owners are interested in design as art,” Johnson says. The house, where art is a presence at every turn, is itself a canvas for Nancy, who is involved in cultural organizations, including serving as chair of Art Ball 50 this coming April and outgoing chair of The Arts Community Alliance. In addition to her philanthropic commitments, Nancy works with Clint in the family firm.

The Carlsons began their relationship with Emily Summers Design Associates 15 years ago when they moved to Dallas. “Emily and I just immediately clicked,” Nancy says. “She understands what I’m thinking before I’m thinking it. And Mary Elizabeth is totally on my wavelength. Many times I’ll show her a picture and she already has the same thing in mind. They just understand me.”

The living room flows into a sitting room with a view to the grounds, which the woman of the house describes as her favorite. Here, an Emily Summers custom sofa covered in watery shades of Carleton V fabric and the iconic Table Bleue by Yves Klein, acrylic filled with paint pigment, bring the outdoors in.

“I just love the colors in that room, how you can sit and look at the yard. The greens and the blues are all kind of coming into the house,” Nancy says.

A stunning duo of rooms completes the formal wing of the house. The solarium walls feature hand-printed wallpaper panels by Emery & Cie. Half of a four-piece vintage amorphous oak table takes center stage, while a custom chandelier from New York antiques dealer John Salibello gives an earthy vibe to the otherwise cerebral room.

“Interestingly the tables were from one of the national park lodges that for some reason decided to sell their beautiful furniture,” Nancy says. A colorful rug by Vivienne Westwood for The Rug Company warms up the room with its magnolia tree pattern, while four Gallery chairs by Soane surround the table, including a solo chair with a look-at-me carved leather backside with custom hand-cut reliefs by Helen Amy Murray.

The three dining areas move from subtle and soft to bright and bold. Glorious white gauzy panels sourced by Summers in Milan adorn the dining room windows for a ball gown effect, bathing the vintage Hans Wegner table in filtered sunlight. Custom slipcovers top Garouste and Bonetti dining chairs of velvet and leather.

An intimate dining area lies off the foyer, with graphic floral-patterned Parsons chairs in Schumacher fabric underneath the edgy Ron Gilad-designed Dear Ingo chandelier by Moooi. And just off the bright-white kitchen, the family enjoys casual dining on orange Ion chairs, designed for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair.

The family room, with its vintage Warren Platner chair and side table, Patricia Urquiola Tufty-Time sofa from B&B Italia and the statement-making Anemone chair by Campana Brothers, manages to be comfortable enough for kicking back while still packing the eclectic refined style of the rest of the house. Recently redone, it is a favorite spot for the family. “It’s where we hang out most of the time,” Nancy says.

Upstairs are bedrooms for the boys, a boys’ den with custom wallpaper by Porter Teleo of Kansas City, a guest bedroom and the master suite.

Now that one child has gone to college and another is on his way out of the nest, it’s time to seriously rethink the youngest son’s bedroom, Nancy says. The couple is also searching for a landscape architect to revamp the outdoor spaces.

“We really wanted to maintain what we loved about it being an old house and bring a contemporary feel to it,” she says. “We like very clean, streamlined things in general; we wanted the contrast among the art, the house and the furniture. We’re just so pleased with the whole package. We have lots of room for the boys, and the part of the house we use every day is all together and flows nicely.”

Design Details

Single-family house

University Park, Dallas

Emily Summers, principal designer; Mary Elizabeth Johnson, project designer

Jessica Stewart Lendvay

Dallas Sight and Sound



John Runyon

B&B Italia
Tufty-Time sofa by Patricia Urquiola in family room

Beauvais Carpets
Rug in sitting room

Elegant Additions
Guest and kids’ bath faucets by THG

Wood flooring

Grange Hall
Floral treatments throughout house

Door hardware

The Rug Company
Vivienne Westwood magnolia-patterned rug for The Rug Company in the library

Fabric on formal breakfast room chairs

Master and powder bath faucets