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What a Feeling
By Helen Thompson | Photo: by Charles Davis Smith | April 13, 2017
Like all houses designed by Bodron+Fruit, this art-filled home in Bluffview offers a special experience for all who enter.
For Dallas architect Svend Christian Fruit, great buildings can’t just rely on their looks. “They have to feel right too,” says the co-principal in the renowned architecture and interior design firm Bodron+Fruit. “They have to feel right when you are walking through, when you are sitting down in a chair, when you are having a conversation with another person.” The firm, which also includes business partner and architecture-trained interior designer Mil Bodron, seems to exceed its own high standards with every house it designs. Bodron+Fruit has also carved a niche for itself renovating midcentury houses designed by some of the country’s greatest architects, including Frank Lloyd Wright, Edward Larrabee Barnes, Philip Johnson and Howard Meyer.
As a recently completed residence for downsizing repeat clients quietly testifies, the duo’s signature is a virtuosic attention to detail, nuance and restraint. The 3,400-square-foot limestone and glass structure in Dallas’ Bluffview neighborhood sits on the far side of a black crushed-granite driveway. It demarcates the separation between the street and the discreet building, which is anchored by a dramatic two-story-tall chimney. The chimney is a statement piece that’s positioned midhouse and looks like it might be the missing segment folded up and back from the open-air entry courtyard. The chimney, though, is an architectural exception. “This is a low house,” says Fruit. “I wanted to emphasize the horizontality.”
Never one to belabor a point, Fruit offers a way for arriving guests to experience the width of the house subtly, via a horizontal entry that extends from one side of the house to the other. Each end looks out onto its own courtyard with a floor-to-ceiling window. “They add scale,” he says of the windows, “and make the space seem a lot bigger.” A contributing factor: Architect and designer chose to use the same materials on both the exterior and interior walls. “It’s important to pull the outside surfaces inside,” Fruit says, “to have that relationship between inside and out.”
Considerations such as these go further than just paying homage to detail; they venture into the realm of nuance, where the effects of scale, proportion and composition become the “feeling” that the architect so values. Because interior designer Bodron is involved with every residential design the minute it begins, the furniture, finishes and hardware—elements often dismissed as mere accessories in the design of a house—are critical to the architectural composition. “We start with a generic furniture plan from day one,” says Fruit. “There is nothing worse than seeing really great architecture and the furniture doesn’t fit.” The Bluffview house fits together with the refined composure of a couture garment.
“I select everything for the proper balance of the room,” says Bodron. For this two-bedroom house, plus study, with an open living area at its heart, that meant choosing a neutral palette that answers to the soft-white tonality of the limestone slabs on the floors and the limestone bricks on the walls. Most of the furniture shapes—such as the living room’s two swivel chairs—are rounded or slightly off-kilter. The irregularly six-sided coffee table affords an antidote to the rectilinear lines of the modern house. Bodron’s plan for the sofa, which floats midroom, was just as well thought out. “The back is low and disappears,” he says about the piece that owes its loungelike heritage to the sectional sofa.
Bodron insists that his interiors should not draw attention. “My work is all about the architecture and the art,” he says. The homeowners have worked with Dallas art adviser Michael E. Thomas for years to build an impressive collection, which Bodron prominently displayed throughout the house. Fruit and Bodron allowed for expansive walls for display, situated furniture away from walls to provide the best views of the art and made room in the middle of the back terrace for Richard Long’s 12-foot-in-diameter cut-slate inset “Funfair Circle.”
Occasionally, though, the designer treats some pieces of furniture as if they are art. The oblong Knoll dining table takes on sculptural clarity in its post in front of Danby statuary marble slabs that define, as well as disguise, the kitchen beyond. In the master bedroom, Arthur Ou’s gray-toned “View 10” could be an extension of the bed’s gray upholstered headboard; Linda Ridgway’s delicately tangled bronze swirl hangs on the bedroom wall just above a John Saladino chair—the curve of its back a perfect counterpoint to the arc of the swirl. Don’t think for a second that those matching curves just happened that way. It’s no accident that a Bodron+Fruit room feels good to be in. It was all part of the plan from the very beginning.
Svend Fruit and Kevin Mut
Mil Bodron and Dustin Penney
S.H. McCombs Company
Mary Ellen Cowan
Gisler Metal Works
Porta Romana lamps in master bedroom
Tables in master bedroom
Side chair in master bedroom
Bed in master bedroom romanthomas.com
MARIO BELLINI TENTAZIONE
Chairs in dining room
Piero Lissoni sofa in living room, Kettal chairs and Bruno Fattorini table on terrace
Rug in living room
Flooring and masonry throughout
Cedric Hartman reading lamps in living room