At Home with Robert Edsel of The Monuments Men

MonumentsMenFoundation.org

MonumentsMenFoundation.org

I’ve called Dallas home for over two decades.  I’m drawn to its bigger-than-life swagger and can-do spirit.  Yet, much as I adore this city’s focus on the future, I’ve also lamented its tendency to replace the old with new faster than you can say, “How do I get to Neiman Marcus from here?” Although I like shiny, bright as much as the next person, there’s much to be said for homes with history because of the stories they tell and the design integrity they reveal. 

So my heart skipped a beat when I my editor at “Modern Luxury Interiors Texas” magazine asked me to write about Bellosguardo, a secluded 1920’s estate near downtown that’s been brought back to life by Robert Edsel.  According to her, this very private author, philanthropist and patron of the arts had never opened the doors to Bellosguardo for publication…until now.

Robert Edsel with George Clooney and Grant Heslov

Robert Edsel with George Clooney and Grant Heslov

Robert Edsel is the New York Times best-selling author whose book, “The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History,” has been turned into a movie by George Clooney (opening in theatres on February 7).

SonyPictures.com

SonyPictures.com

Clooney also stars in the film (as do Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Bill Murray and Hugh Bonneville of Downton Abbey fame). It tells the real-life story of the extraordinary efforts taken to protect Europe’s great works of art from the Nazis during World War II.

Everyone’s buzzing about the movie and the book on which it’s based. The story of the Monuments Men is extraordinary.  So, too, is the story behind Edsel’s restoration of Bellosguardo and I’m delighted to have been chosen to tell it. Here’s an excerpt of what’s in the magazine.  I’ve also included a few photos you won’t see in the story but which I discovered during my research.

Dave Perry-Miller, dpmdifference.com

Dave Perry-Miller, dpmdifference.com

Bellosguardo is so discreetly tucked away behind these carved doors and foliage-covered walls that I drove right by it the first time.

Dave Perry-Miller, dpmdifference.com

Dave Perry-Miller, dpmdifference.com

The 6,000 square foot Mediterranean home was the second residence built in the Turtle Creek area after the iconic Sheppard King Mansion, now the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek.  You’d never guess from its  elegant exterior that this house is made entirely of poured concrete and stone composition (except for its blue tiled roof)–something quite unusual in Dallas.

Dave Perry-Miller, dpmdifference.com

Dave Perry-Miller, dpmdifference.com

Despite its historic importance, this house needed work after 80 years of existence under twelve previous owners. Each made their own changes/updates (some good, many not so good).  For example, Edsel discovered that the living room had a false dropped ceiling (installed in the early 1980’s).  Above it was a soaring view and these 25-foot high oak beams which were original to the house.

ModernLuxury.com

ModernLuxury.com

In the dining room, Edsel’s black walnut table often doubles as his research table so it made sense to convert the alcove beyond into a library.  In the alcove is one of Edsel’s favorite paintings. It’s part of his extensive collection of world class artwork.

ModernLuxury.com

ModernLuxury.com

As an antique tile nut, I must confess–this staircase (topped with a frescoed dome) is my favorite design element in the house. I was surprised to learn that all of the tile was intact when Edsel bought the estate.  That’s amazing given the age of the home. Lovely as this staircase is in the photo, it’s even more stunning in-person.

ModernLuxury.com

ModernLuxury.com

A covered terrace wraps around two sides of the master suite. Its lush view hints to the spectacular grounds below.

ModernLuxury.com

ModernLuxury.com

Bellosguardo (Italian for “beautiful view”) aptly describes this backyard view, from the top of the dramatic dome to the lush landscaping with ivy treillage and tiled fountains.

Dave Perry-Miller, dpmdifference.com

Dave Perry-Miller, dpmdifference.com

Edsel redesigned the pool, then tiled it with glass tiles custom-made in Murano, Italy.  He also added the dining pavillion which overlooks Turtle Creek. This bucolic setting makes the estate feel far removed from the busy metropolis in which it’s located.

After spending an afternoon at Edsel’s home, then hearing from him about its remarkable transformation, I’m more firmly convinced than ever that homes with history and design integrity – like Bellosguardo – are worth saving.  Each have a story to tell that’s as relevant today as when they were first designed.

To read the full story about Bellosguardo, pick up a copy of “Modern Luxury Interiors Texas” magazine (on news stands throughout Texas) or go to  “One Man’s Monument” on ModernLuxury.com.

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