Twenty-five years ago, the Dallas Design District saw a steady stream of local professionals, but few people outside the industry knew about the area, with its industrial feel and to-the-trade showrooms.
One of the city’s most successfully re-branded destinations, the Design District today contains more than 300 specialty merchants offering art, furnishings, and design goods, as well as trendy restaurants, upscale bars, art galleries, and museums.
As of late December, it has its first hotel, which positions the district, adjacent to downtown Dallas, to play a more integral role in the overall area’s experience.
If ever there were a hand-in-glove fit, it’s this. Virgin Hotels Dallas fuses seamlessly with the local landscape, from an external mural by Drew Merritt, which draws on inspiration from the city itself, to items from district shops throughout every part of the property. There’s a lot of space for them, with 268 “chambers,” a fourth-floor rooftop terrace with pool, multiple dining and drinking outlets, and more than 15,500 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space.
“The location was a huge inspiration, as it really underscored our designer to select pieces with a strong design point of view and lasting quality,” said Joslyn Taylor, Partner at SWOON, The Studio, which was the interior designer of record. “Design, for us, is about beauty and functionality – we think the Design District celebrates that same ethos.”
SWOON, The Studio, worked in collaboration with Austin-based Joel Mozersky Design, envisioning a vibrant, colorful, and inclusive atmosphere. They accomplish this through a festive, layered look: Think pink feather light fixtures; colorful, hand-crafted furniture pieces; local and national art; and custom-designed carpets woven with whimsical Texas motifs. 5G Studio Collaborative served as the architectural firm.
On the exterior, a geometric façade creates a striking design element for this high-rise new-build at 1445 Turtle Creek Boulevard. Nothing like this “skin” has ever been done on a building of this size anywhere in the world, said Bill Hutchinson, President and CEO of Dunhill Partners and Developer and Owner of Virgin Hotels Dallas.
"The building went through over a dozen different iterations, starting with a black glass box, and eventually ending with the white building design as you see it today,” Hutchinson said. “It looks like It is a piece of art rarely seen on a high-rise building, but it was crucial to look special since we are in the middle of the Dallas Design District.”
Throughout the hotel, note the displayed art, meticulously curated by Dallas artist Lesli Marshall for Hutchinson, who took a personal interest and even donated some significant pieces from his personal collection. The goal was to create a fun, but significant collection that is impressive to amateur hotel guests and art critics alike, Hutchinson said.
“I feel like we accomplished this goal – The Virgin Hotel now proudly displays internationally acclaimed, museum-quality art pieces alongside locally sourced fun pieces created by undiscovered Dallas artists,” he said.
The hotel’s aesthetic celebrates the city’s arts and cultural scene and creates a strong sense of place tied to the Design District. In the chambers, for example, you’ll find warm textiles and district-sourced accessories and lighting, like Woodall Torchiere table lamps from Arteriors, plant stands and pottery from Global Views, and custom area rugs and throws from Loloi. Clean lines and sumptuous textures contrast handsomely.
Located on the ground floor, the Commons Club encompasses a restaurant called The Kitchen, concepted by local celeb chef Matt McCallister, and a chic bar and lounge. In The Kitchen, local design elements throughout include dramatic Scott + Cooner chandeliers, a marble bar top from Aria Stone, and banquettes, dining tables, and wait stations from Storgio Ventura. Function and flow form a harmonious relationship, moving guests easily into the adjacent areas.
The bar and lounge feel like a modern social club in a sophisticated environment, but never get too serious or single-minded. To illustrate, take a peek at the swanky “Shag Room,” a 70’s inspired space ideal for intimate gatherings with its curving green leather banquette, mirrored walls, sumptuous feel, and privacy curtain.
The ground-floor Funny Library Coffee Shop feels both cozy and jolly with walnut wood-paneled walls, a coffered ceiling with brass inlays, and a display of whimsical books and games. Checkerboard tables from Scott + Cooner create a playful environment, with other seating and tables from ModShop, B&B Italia, and Storgio Ventura.
Magic happens on the fourth-floor rooftop pool with its skyline views. The Pool Club bar will be a place to be seen this summer, with its sliding glass walls, brass seamed terrazzo flooring, a bar covered in different marbles, and a dramatic black steel-and-glass vitrine full of plants.
A nearby “secret garden” is in vines and can be accessed through a custom-designed gate, which echoes the design of the custom rugs inside with their Texas clichés. The pool area features roomy cabanas, greenery, and trees hanging with Moroccan lanterns. Design District shops that helped create this look include Made Goods, Scout Design Studio, Allan Knight, Arteriors, Janus et Cie, Smink, Nomads Loom, and Lee Jofa.
Virgin Hotels Dallas is the third for the brand, which includes Virgin Hotels Chicago and Virgin Hotels San Francisco. Locations in Nashville, New York, New Orleans, Miami, Palm Springs, Edinburgh, Las Vegas, and others are to follow.
This article appeared in the June 2020 edition of Mod Citi Dallas magazine.