Meet Dallas Designer Pam Kelley

Interior Designer Pam Kelley at home

Southern sophistication . . . In May, designer Pam Kelley took a road trip through the Old South, visiting battlefields and historical towns from Asheville, Vicksburg, Savannah, Charleston, and Atlanta, then back home to the Park Cities by way of Louisiana. In Asheville, Kelley toured the world's largest home, the Biltmore Estate, where "every nook and cranny was an inspiration," she says. "In Charleston, I admired all the wonderful old houses on the sea, and the charming architecture of Savannah, which is all built on squares. The trip really got me excited again. More of us should get in our cars and travel the United States, because you get to see the people and how they live."

Living room designed by Pam Kelley

Kelley, who founded her design firm Pam Kelley & Associates in 1974, has a design style that is firmly rooted in southern tradition. She's known for creating signature vignettes using collections that have been passed down for generations in families. Or at least making it look like your collections have been inherited or gathered over time. Sister Parish is a muse, as much for her tenacity as for her use of color and the understated English country house look she made famous. "She never took no for an answer," says Kelley. "Even if people told her it couldn't be done, she figured out a way to do it.

Bedroom designed by Pam Kelley

Dining room designed by Pam Kelley

Although she can't name her clients for privacy reasons, she's worked on projects with the top builders and architects in town including Robbie Fusch, John Sebastian, John Chamberlain, Larry Boerder, and Bill Booziotis . Kelley's interiors have been published in Traditional Home, Windows and Walls, Better Homes & Gardens, Southern Accents, D Home, and Interior Designs. Chosen by Interior Design magazine as a Rising Star early in her career, Kelley is licensed by the State Board of Architectural Examiners and a member of the American Society of Interior Designers. Her specialties include home staging and holiday decor in addition to full service interior design.

Bedroom designed by Pam Kelley

Chair detail by Pam Kelley, inspired by the
classic country houses of Sister Parish.

Dining room designed by Pam Kelley

"The largest home I worked on was 25,000 square feet, and I did everything from the hardware to the sheets and towels," she says. "The smallest was a 1,500 square foot fishing cabin on Little Sandy that had been in the client's family for generations. Nestled into the woods, it was like stepping back in time. It's just as much of a challenge to do something small because there's no room for error." Kelley lined the walls and the ceiling of the 1906 cabin with reclaimed rough sawn cedar, softened with a lime wash. The homeowners' grandfather had brought back a pickup truck full of antique Mexican tiles decades earlier for the cabin's floor. Kelley used extra tiles, discovered underneath the cabin and used as stepping stones around the garden, for the floors of a small mudroom/laundry and dining room that were added. "Those are the things that make a project special," she says.

Kitchen designed by Pam Kelley

While she draws from classic design styles, Kelley says she isn't mired in the past: "You have to stay current, and I prefer a clean traditional look over a cluttered, fussy one. I always let the architecture of a house lead me, and I'm as comfortable doing modern as I am traditional." She's smitten by Nancy Corzine's crisp lines and the hint of sparkle in her lamps and upholstery, and admires the comfortable modernism of Thomas O'Brien's architecture, chairs, and lighting. She's a big fan of Jan Showers' pale color palettes and sleek rooms. "They're simply elegant, just like she is," she says.

Hand-painted Dutch tiles in the kitchen of a house designed by Pam Kelley

These authentic Children's Games kitchen tiles, above, were hand painted by the Holland-born client of Kelley's. "I was working on a house in Preston Hollow with architect Larry Boerder and builder Bob Thompson," remembers Kelley, "and the client told me she was going to paint the tiles for her kitchen. We said 'no way you can do this' but she did, and painted hundreds of them. She was 70 years old at the time!"

Bathroom in lake house, designed by Pam Kelley

A Colorado ranch designed by Pam Kelley

Details designed by Pam Kelley for a ranch in east Texas

"I don't do goop, I don't do cute," says Kelley, who designed sophisticated tooled leather hardware and iron sconces for a ranch designed by architect Larry Boerder in east Texas. Murray's Iron Works crafted the pieces.

The mudroom of a ranch designed by architect Larry Boerder
in east Texas. Room designed by Pam Kelley

Kelley is currently working on four different projects, including a large house in University Park for a Dallas Stars player, which she describes as "Barbara Barry transitional clean," and a job in Highland Park, "which I'm taking from the 1980s into the current decade," by redoing all of the main living areas. With so many new clients, Kelley views this as an uptick in the bad economy.

"I'm excited about what I'm seeing. Like everybody else, I've been in a long, hard, dry spell. But there are actually human bodies in the Design District -- you'll see designers with plans rolled up under their arms, placing orders. The stock market is so uncertain, but people are hunkering down, enjoying their houses. Whether they are doing a little or a lot to them, they're doing it with a lot of careful thought."