Laura Kirar's Artist-Driven Penthouse in Dallas

W Penthouse Photos by Sean Gallagher

Artist at heart... New York-based designer Laura Kirar recently teamed up with Dallas developer Mark Molthan to design this glamorous $2 million turnkey penthouse in the W Residences.

I interviewed the delightful Kirar, who has also teamed up with Dallas' own Mark Moussa of Arteriors Home, to produce a whopping 90-piece collection that recently debuted at High Point. (My original story appeared in the May issue of Modern Luxury.)

Kirar designed all the furniture for the W project. “I’m influenced by turn of the century Vienna, Orientalism and Danish modern,” she says. Kirar collects vintage furniture and lighting from flea markets and thrift stores in every city she visits. When designing a room with a view of the city, Kirar pays attention to where the eye rests, keeping art and accessories to a minimum. The chandelier in the dining room (above) is a vintage mercury glass piece she found at a flea market in Europe.

Armed with degrees in sculpture and interior architecture from the Art Institute of Chicago, Kirar turns out rooms that are sculptural and materials-driven. She often teams up with local artisans on projects, and for this 31st-floor Dallas condo, Kirar tapped Dallas metal artist Robert Wohlfeld to carry out her design for a patinated zinc wall and a bronze plate fireplace surround (above and below).

Kirar also holds licenses with Tufenkian rugs and Baker Furniture, among others. This Baker chair is one of Kirar's own designs, while the rusted chain link table was a team effort between Kirar and metal artist Wohlfield. The rug is one of her designs for Tufenkian.

Kirar and Molthan, who met a couple of years ago in Dallas at a party for Kohler, wanted to create something sophisticated and artisan-driven, she told me, but that also gave a nod to its Dallas and Texas roots.

"We designed it for an imaginary client from the standpoint that I wanted to design something serene and calm that played up the view. Mark wanted to do something different for Dallas that hadn't been seen before, but he wasn't sure what that would be. I was happy to be the one to tell him what it should be," she says, laughing. The apartment has recently sold to a couple from out of state.

A room divider in the entry is made from a blown up photo of a tumbleweed (her homage to Texas) and developed on semi-translucent film, by artist Amanda Weil. You can see a glimpse of the master bedroom wall behind it, created from "tiles" of hair on hide.

Says Kirar: “There’s so much going on outside the window, you need places that are contemplative, such as the zinc wall (shown below). Inside there’s not a lot going on, but there are a lot of materials and detail.”

Kirar also has licenses with Kallista, and this gorgeous master bath shows off her talent for designing just about anything.

All of the wood in the apartment, including the bath, is bleached wenge wood, a look which Kirar developed after seeing how beautifully a Christian Liaigre wenge wood armoire in her NY apartment had bleached in the sun. Says Kirar: "When I design an interior, I'm thinking about what it's going to look like in 10 or 15 years. I don't want it dated. I want the materials to age well. I specified my Kalista faucets in this apartment in an uncoated bronze finish, so the pieces start out with a dark brown patina and over time as your hand touches the levers, the highlites the golden ness comes out."

As a trained artist herself, Kirar has hands-on experience working with lots of materials, including textiles. She designed a floating wall, which also serves as a headboard, from stitched rectangles of hair on hide. The effect is beautifully mosaic-like.

"I do find that my artist background allows me the benefit of a real knowledge of materials," she explains. "While I was studying fine art I took weaving and pattern work. It makes a difference to have physically had your hands on the materials and literaly made a product before trying to convey to an artist how to do it."

Arteriors product images photography by Don Freeman

This blown glass metal chandelier is from her massive debut collection with Arteriors. "I felt like I was in a candy shop working with Arteriors," she says. "So often one can be realy limted by a company’s resources, but the world is my oyster with them. I could do leather, inlaid mother of pearl, carved marble, whatever. There was almost too much choice." If many of the pieces in the collection are made from metal, it's because "that’s where my heart is," says Kirar. "I was a metal scultpor, my grandfather was a welder. There's so much history in my family working with metal."

Kirar’s Tufenkian rugs collection which launched last year, The New Moderns, consists of nine wool and hemp carpets inspired by contemporary artists such as Gerhardt Richter, Richard Serra, and John Cage.

Laura Kirar photo by James Weber