Altered States

Interior decorator Rob Dailey resurrects — and finds pro tem sanctuary — in a Turtle Creek town home.

Amy Adams. Photography Cesar Ramirez.
October 02, 2012

Architect Bud Oglesby, 1978. Renovation, David Alkire DMAC Enterprises, 2011.

Tackling a dwelling whose interior was preserved in the decorative equivalent of amber requires no small amount of vision, even when said habitat was originally conceived by noted architect Bud Oglesby. Fortunately, Rob Dailey saw the possibilities that lay beyond its 35-year-old façade. And in less than a year, he placed his own unique thumbprint on the two-story town home before ultimately deciding to make like a rolling stone, list his creation and sell it — a feat that only required five days on the market. But the vision and ideas live on in his mind’s eye and in these beautiful photographs.

“It was obvious this space had very special bones, so it was just a matter of listening to what it wanted,” Dailey says. “Granted, it was cool, but I didn’t want to do the whole revisit-the-’70s thing.” With that in mind, he enlisted the help of David Alkire, a contractor he had collaborated with in the past. One of their first tasks on this particular project involved the original giant curved staircase that dominated the entrance. While it was clearly a unique feature, Dailey decided to replace it with a sleek custom-designed steel-and-white-oak staircase that now leads to a stunning glass bridge that connects the two upstairs bedrooms. The result is a cathedral-like gallery with an air of quiet grandeur. “I’ve had friends who refer to it as a holy place,” Dailey says.

Its hush is unbroken by the appearance of an old church pew from his parents. Dailey left the bench outside for nearly seven years to let nature take its course; the beautifully weathered wood offsets the piece’s somewhat severe lines, and it now exudes the approachable dignity of a favorite elder statesman. The gallery’s overall solemnity is interrupted by the appearance of a happy little message from artist Trenton Doyle Hancock: “Wow, That’s Me.” Add a weighty table loaded with design books as well as interesting objets, and you have an entrance that captures the depth and dimension of Dailey. It certainly conveys a sense of permanence, but with a sleight of hand and a little pre-planning, the space can be — and was — converted into the setting for many memorable dinner parties.

The juxtaposition of vast openness with the intimate tableaux found throughout the home is a Dailey signature honed over his almost 30-year career as an interior decorator. Beckoning from tables, cabinets, dressers and counters, each eye-pleasing assemblage includes items ranging from his grandmother’s pencil box to an unusual piece of scrimshaw — some fun, some sentimental and all incredibly beautiful.

The lengthy list of Dailey-induced changes throughout the domicile contains a certain alchemy of organic touches and modern elements that has always marked his professional work. He raised the galley kitchen’s ceiling and opened up the entire back wall with glass to create a conversation between indoors and out. Gently curved edges soften the steel-clad fireplace. New gallery skylights mean shadows and sunbeams interact throughout the day. The spa-like master bath includes a subway-tiled shower room with a soaking tub and a frosted-glass wall that overlooks neighboring treetops.

Furnishings he’s had for years were repurposed to fit the new digs, such as the brown velvet sofa — cut down from its original 16-foot length — in the charming living room and the Dailey-designed acrylic coffee table that enjoys new life as a bench at the foot of his bed. Artworks from Nicolas Alquin, Deborah Grant and Alex Remington range from a soothing ink-on-rice-paper rubbing to a hyper-realistic photograph of a getting-ready-for-her-close-up drag queen, which Dailey refers to as “Norman Rockwell meets David LaChapelle.” Together, they contribute to a space
so inviting and personal that it is impossible not to take an immediate liking to its (former) owner.

It’s difficult to fathom leaving a place like this behind, but it’s obvious Dailey creates beauty wherever he goes. His favorite quote by Marcel Proust says it all: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

He has currently set up temporary camp in another Oglesby-designed space nearby, the perfect setting for his ongoing exploration. We’ll assume there won’t be a ’70s cliché in sight. Just lots of faith in the future.