Update the Metroplex - A luxury lifestyle blog by Briggs Freeman Sotheby's International Realty.
From My Perspective

How much do you know about augmented reality?

AR, as it is often known, is a revolutionary, interactive technology that allows you to create an environment whereby real things and spaces are augmented — overlaid, in a sense — by computer-generated imagery when viewed through a device. It is used in everything from video games and medicine to city planning and architecture design.

And now real estate. Sotheby’s International Realty® has introduced Curate, the first real estate AR app for digitally furnishing a home that is for sale to your liking. It works whether the home you’re considering is empty or furnished. You just scan the floor of a room with the camera in your phone or tablet and the fun begins. The furnishings within the app — in styles from modern to traditional to rustic — come from a variety of retailers. You can move your chosen furniture around or change it entirely. Think a bedroom might be better as an office? Change the furniture. Would that dining room be a better den? Furnish it and see. You can even take screenshots of the rooms, to save or share. It is amazing. Even better, if you purchase a home you’ve furnished using Curate, you can buy any or all of the furniture easily, right through the app. Get Curate by Sotheby’s International Realty on Google Play or download it through the Apple app store: There is nothing else like it in the real estate market.

In a story called A Manager’s Guide to Augmented Reality, by the Harvard Business Review, it is said that AR experiences allow consumers to form more-accurate expectations, which increases confidence in purchasing decisions and even shortens the sales cycle.

The Curate app is a significant differentiator for the clients and agents of Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty. Augmented reality unites fresh innovation with our longstanding commitment to exceptional service. For prospective homebuyers, Curate allows them to envision a house as their own, as they explore it with one of our agents. And for our agents, Curate gives them an even more meaningful role in helping a client imagine a house as a home.

That is what they’ve always done best — and always will.


ROBBIE BRIGGS, President and CEO

As seen in the Wall Street Journal’s Mansion section. 

From My Perspective

When Disruption Doesn’t Work

Business disruptors rule — or so we’ve been told. And while disruption can pose threats, it can also provide opportunities.

We all know the stories of upstarts such as Lyft, Airbnb, Houzz and Bitcoin. Transportation, hospitality, retail, currency and more: There are disruptors operating in nearly every sector.

But just because there is
calculated chaos in any given arena
doesn’t mean the upstart is destined
for success. Legacy organizations have outwitted disruptive rivals regularly, with new products, new services and new business models of their own. There are numerous success stories of companies that defended their turf and even grew in the process.

Remember when MP3 downloads were giving the music industry fits? Steve Jobs connected the technology to his computers via something he dubbed iTunes, throwing a lifeline to the music business and making tidy profits for Apple in the process.

Nestlé designed its Nespresso machines to make quality coffee at home — going directly after Starbucks — and has sold billions of capsules of coffee worldwide.

Another example? Walmart versus Amazon. If you thought the brick-and-mortar behemoth would roll over for the online giant, think again. It is currently matching Amazon blow-by-blow — the latest battle is over home delivery — in a fight that’s far from over. The “clash of the retail giants,” CNBC calls it. Stay tuned.

This we do know: A slow, non-aggressive approach to disruption can end in disaster. Traditional railroads all but gave up when airlines and highways took their passenger-transport business, rather than giving customers compelling reasons and features to stay on the trains. (Today’s high-speed rail is another story, entirely. Airlines fear the rise of those — and even lobby against them.)

Netflix, Redbox and video-on-demand played roles in Blockbuster’s demise. The fact that the popular movie store didn’t explore rentals-by-mail or streaming until too late in the game proved to be its death knell.

Clearly, there is no right way to respond to every disruption — and it doesn’t spell disaster in every situation. Imagine a disruptor is coming for your business. That’s a good way to think — every day.


ROBBIE BRIGGS, President and CEO

As seen in the Wall Street Journal’s Mansion section. 

B magazine

How an artist is bringing transformation to Chicago buildings

There are reasons that the private spaces of the 2018 Nasher Prize winner work their way into his compelling art. (And vice versa.) Jeremy Strick, the director of the Nasher Sculpture Center, reports from inside a singular, spellbinding world.

Principal photographs by Nan Coulter

Theaster Gates in a pottery room in his studio in Chicago. In his work, he incorporates sculpture, ceramics, performance, music and more.

Chicago is famed for its architecture. And while the Frank Lloyd Wright houses that dot the landscape from south to north are justly celebrated, the city most owes its reputation to the magnificent skyscrapers that cluster downtown, making Chicago itself an icon of modernism.

All of that seems distant from the low-lying neighborhoods on Chicago’s Southwest Side, some of which have been devastated by the legacies of racism and decades of regressive social policy. And yet, in one such neighborhood, Grand Crossing, remarkable redesigns are happening.

Buildings in Grand Crossing are being renovated and repurposed. These range from modest houses to a former elementary school to an abandoned bank. Only recently they sat abandoned, in states of extreme dereliction. Now they buzz with activity, some serving as cultural and community centers, others as repositories of collections of cultural and historical artifacts. Yet others are destined for housing, education and job training. And while these building transformations are designed primarily to serve the immediate community, they are magnets for visitors from around the world.

We might imagine that the impetus for these interior redesigns would come from a government planning agency, or perhaps a private developer. And indeed, the person responsible holds a degree in urban planning. But this person, Theaster Gates, is not by profession a developer or a planner. He is an artist, and is the winner of the 2018 Nasher Prize.

Gates grew up in West Chicago and settled into Grand Crossing around 2006, when he was offered a position at The University of Chicago. He was a firsthand witness to the neighborhood’s decline, and is dedicated to its revival. He is adept at identifying and pulling the levers of civic power and leveraging the resources of philanthropy to realize his vision. But that vision is as much — or more — artistic as it is social, and it is the artistic vision realized in these buildings that makes them so extraordinary.

Step into Gates’ Listening House, a modest domestic structure that now holds portions of the Prairie Avenue Bookshop archive, as well as the collection of a Chicago record store, Dr. Wax. These archives preserve an extraordinarily rich cultural and intellectual legacy, one that is far too little known. But these rooms, lined with shelves of books and records, look like no library you have ever seen. Walking into this house, you are immediately aware that you have entered a work of art.

Just part of Gates’ extensive book collection, in the bank building he has restored.

Not far away, Gates transformed a former Anheuser-Busch distribution facility to serve as his studio. The building houses Gates’ extensive personal library and includes a woodshop, pottery studio, printing studio and private and administrative offices. Of these, the interior design of its private offices is especially memorable. A true sanctuary, set in warm, dark tones of wood, punctuated with choice pieces of furniture — some classically modern, others of Gates’ own design — and surrounded by walls hung with Gates’ paintings, the offices offer a meditative space to retreat and re-center. The spare yet warm aesthetic reminds us that Gates lived and worked for a time in Japan, an experience that influenced his art and his thinking.

Perhaps Gates’ most ambitious project to date is the restoration of the Stony Island Trust & Savings Bank building. An imposing classical structure, its façade set off by massive Doric columns, it was built in 1923 and closed in 1979, after which for years it sat unoccupied and deteriorating. Gates purchased it from the City of Chicago for $1, with the promise that he would raise the funds required for its redesign. It reopened in 2015, rechristened the Stony Island Arts Bank. Uses of the bank are evolving: In addition to holding a range of archives and collections, the building accommodates meeting rooms, offices and gallery space, as well as the Black Cinema House, which holds weekly screenings of films by and about people of the African diaspora, and holds free filmmaking workshops for young people in the neighborhood.

Gates’ Stony Island Arts Bank, a former bank building now restored and used for archives, gallery space and film screenings.

The single most impressive space in the bank is its main-level atrium, just off the entrance. A vast, vaulted space, intended originally to express grandeur and power, the atrium speaks now to the aesthetic and historical themes that underlie much of Gates’ art. In restoring the atrium, the least expensive solution would have been to strip the ceiling of its coffers, many of which had fallen away. Instead, Gates chose the far more difficult and expensive course of keeping the ceiling as it was, while also determining not to retouch the atrium’s walls and arches, the paint on which was badly flaked and mottled. The idea was to preserve and reveal the building in all its complex history, to make of it a center of contemporary life and culture that spoke unflinchingly of its past. Like a ruin, the space possesses a beauty that might seem romantic, and that beauty is in no way diminished by the urgent realism that underlies the enterprise; for the very causes of the bank’s near-disastrous disrepair are brought forward in the bank’s collections and programs. The beauty of this architectural space, like in so much of Gates’ art, results from a powerful aesthetic sensibility brought to bear upon a difficult social and personal history.

While the buildings Theaster Gates is transforming are rooted firmly in their neighborhood, the materials he finds in that neighborhood often find their way into his paintings and sculptures, and then find their way back into his interiors — and into museums and private collections around the world. Their powerful yet subtle beauty illuminates the artist’s approach to art, and the densely meaningful nature of his project.

Theaster Gates is the 2018 recipient of the Nasher Prize, presented annually to a living artist who has had an extraordinary impact on the understanding of the art form. Each winner is chosen by a jury of renowned museum directors, curators, artists and art historians and receives a $100,000 prize, conferred in April of each year. More information here.


JEREMY STRICK has been the director of the Nasher Sculpture Center since 2009. He was the director of The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles, a senior curator at the Art Institute of Chicago and has held curatorial posts at the Saint Louis Art Museum and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

From My Perspective

The Best Birthday Song, Ever

For many Americans, Fourth of July celebrations go hand in hand with our brilliant “Star-Spangled Banner,” particularly when it comes to fireworks displays. There’s nothing like a grand show, filling our skies with colorful lights, punctuated by that rousing song and bombastic explosions of sound.

Part of that tradition dates to July 4, 1777, the year after the Declaration of Independence was signed. There was a magnificent celebration in Philadelphia, then our nation’s capital. It saw 13 cannons being fired from ships dressed in red, white and blue; a spirited band performance; bells ringing throughout the city; and a grand exhibition of fireworks that night. “Every thing was conducted with the greatest order and decorum,” reported the Virginia Gazette, “and the face of joy and gladness was universal.”

But, interestingly enough, “The Star-Spangled Banner” wasn’t written until much later. Amateur poet Francis Scott Key penned it as a poem first, after witnessing a violent siege on Baltimore’s Fort McHenry during the War of 1812, and seeing our flag still flying over it the next morning. His first glorious verse:

O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,

What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,

Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight

O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming?

And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,

O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Key’s poem was eventually set to music — a popular English drinking tune, in fact — and in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson declared that it should be played at all official events. Fifteen years later, in 1931, the poem that became a song became our national anthem.

This weekend, and next Wednesday — July 4 — there will be fireworks displays all over North Texas, from Fort Worth to Dallas, Fair Park to Plano, and everywhere in between. As you look to the sky and see those rockets’ red glares, remember the historic events that set all this in motion.

Happy birthday, America. At 242 years old, you’ve never looked better.


ROBBIE BRIGGS, President and CEO

As seen in the Wall Street Journal’s Mansion section. 

B magazine

What is your furniture saying about you?

They’re not ‘just things,’ as some will try and tell you. Your home furnishings telegraph all kinds of messages and meanings — and not just to those who come to visit. The journalist LEE CULLUM does some translating.

Dining Room Furniture, Home for sale

THE LOOK: 308 Kings Lake Drive, McKinney, Texas (click image to see the home)

“Things contain people.” So said Dallas-born novelist Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey. They also contain ideas, memories, places.

For Hailey, it was all of those when she furnished The English Room at her house in Los Angeles. In it, she put pieces that she and her husband, Oliver Hailey, a playwright, had collected from shops in Rudgwick, West Sussex, for Eames House, a treasure of the 16th century that they bought and renovated. (The kitchen was redone thanks to her phenomenally successful first book, A Woman of Independent Means.) Generously apportioned and with radiant roses in front and back, Eames House was down the street from the pub and the Anglican church. There were bedrooms for everybody: Hailey and her husband; their daughters Kendall and Brooke; his mother, Hallie Mae; and his brother Thomas, stricken with polio as a child but who, from a wheelchair, lavished attention on politics and chess.

“When they first came to Rudgwick,” recalled Mr. Tilley, who sometimes drove the Haileys to theaters in London, “they were so full of life, every one of them.” Hallie Mae lived in the room in L.A. that later would recall Eames House, and now guests enjoy the fold-out bed and the ambience of antiques stores, where the Haileys found a drop-leaf dining table and six chairs — their first purchase — and a chaise longue called a duchess chair, Hailey’s favorite, now in her L.A. living room. Though Eames House has a half-timbered Tudor façade, the family’s taste, Hailey tells me, “ran to Bloomsbury, inspired by Charleston, the farmhouse in East Sussex where Virginia Woolf’s artist sister, Vanessa Bell, lived with, among others, the painter Duncan Grant.”

Dining Room Furniture, Home for sale

THE LOOK: 5131 Shadywood Lane, Dallas, Texas (click image to see the home)

 It is not unusual to find special parts of oneself via another country. Interior designer Emily Summers, in her own Dallas house, has resonated with the elegant restraint of Germany’s Bauhaus modernism and, in her courtyards, with the gardens of Japan. Her styles of furniture, she says, range “from the ’40s to the ’80s.”

Paula Lambert of the Mozzarella Company has infused her new home with the colors and light that I associate with Italy, where she learned to make cheese. A spectacular coffee table, however, began in London at the restaurant NOPI, where Lambert was having dinner. She peeked beneath the tablecloth, admired very much what she saw and sent a photo back to her interior designer, Dan Nelson of Vision Design. Without telling her, Nelson drew a replica as a coffee table and had it built in Dallas.

For biblical scholar Marjorie Currey and her husband, Fred, it’s the Middle East and their enduring hope for its three great religions of the book: Christianity, Judaism and Islam. A magnificent archway leading from the entrance hall to the living room is inscribed thus: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” On the other side is this from the Koran: “There is one God. His name is Allah and Muhammad is his prophet.” Everything in both rooms has been selected to support the idea of cultural convergence.

Then there is Garrett Boone, co-founder of the Container Store and now chairman of TreeHouse, the Dallas and Plano home-improvement stores that are highly focused on green living. The Dallas Morning News featured Boone’s own Walking Table, an irregular slab of wood mounted on slender wood legs with feet moving ahead, filled with purpose, and his Jonah Bed, with its partial canopy inspired by the rib of a fish he found somewhere, hugging the shore. Both of these exuberant creations of his — made in his own woodshop across town — grace the Turtle Creek condominium he shares with his wife, Cecilia.

Furniture style, Dining Room Furniture, Home for sale

THE LOOK: 3821 Beverly Drive, Highland Park, Texas (click image to see the home)

And what could be more inviting than dining in the round, at a table that envelops a group and encourages intimate conversation? Bonnie Wheeler, director of medieval studies at Southern Methodist University, once had a long, splendid groaning board of “diamond mahogany and rosewood French Art Deco,” she explains, with “multiple leaves that could be extended to 22 feet — enough space to have dinners for whole classes of students, but also cozy enough for just a few friends when brought down to its basic size.” All this she traded to a round mahogany table, large enough to seat 12, worthy of King Arthur and his knights, though it’s from the much more recent 18th century.

Gail Thomas, a founding fellow of The Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture and the former CEO of The Trinity Trust Foundation, now the Trinity Park Conservancy, and her husband, Bob, a lawyer, have explored plenty of urgent issues at their dark circular table, hand-painted at the center with rich and glorious color. She found it at AOI Home, formerly Art of Old India, in the Dallas Design District years ago and around it has led full and fluent conversations — “soulful conversation,” Thomas would say — ever since.

So, things — especially those that bear witness to our most closely held moments, to our love — do contain people, places, ideas and memories. Our home furnishings testify to our enthusiasms, our emotions, to the quality of our intellect and the lasting impact of our lives.


LEE CULLUM, a Dallas native and Southern Methodist University graduate, is an award-winning journalist and the host of CEO, a series of interviews with business leaders, on KERA. She is a contributor to The Dallas Morning News.



From My Perspective

That Boom You Hear

robbie briggs, briggs freeman, wall street journal

“Dallas And Austin Lead The Surging South.”

That’s the unforgettable headline of Forbes’ latest ‘Best Cities For Jobs’ report, its annual ranking of more than 70 of America’s largest metropolitan areas.

For the second consecutive year, Dallas is at the top of the list, driven in considerable part by our area’s astounding growth in jobs since 2006: almost 26 percent. What’s more, says Forbes, “Dallas has logged double-digit percentage job growth since 2012 in almost every major economic sector we measured, from information to construction, energy, finance, and professional and business services.”

It is worth noting that Forbes includes Plano and Irving in its definition of Dallas. The key to the whole area’s success, it says, is that “it’s a great value proposition, with affordable housing, a favorable regulatory climate, low taxes and an increasing array of cultural amenities beyond the Dallas Cowboys.”

Our brokerage opened in Dallas in 1960, when the population was less than 700,000. It’s almost double that now — and in 2017 it went up by another 2.02 percent, the highest of the 10 largest areas on the Forbes list. The number of jobs went up even higher: a solid 2.8 percent.

Austin is second in the ranking. Its jobs are up, too — the biggest jump being in professional and business services. Following Texas’ capital city are Nashville, San Jose (Silicon Valley), Charlotte and Orlando.

The clear standout, though, is Dallas. Says Forbes: “Perhaps nothing proves this more than the large number of companies that have either moved whole hog to the Big D or sited significant operations there in recent years, including the likes of Toyota’s North American headquarters and Jacobs Engineering, both from Southern California, as well as Jamba Juice, Pei Wei and JetSuite. Many more have announced major expansions there, including Boeing, OKI Data and Louis Vuitton.”

This is all good news for North Texas, which continues to show consistent growth in many categories. “Simply put,” Forbes says, “this Energizer bunny just doesn’t stop.”

Big D is booming, all right — in more ways than one.


ROBBIE BRIGGS, President and CEO

As seen in the Wall Street Journal’s Mansion section. 

B magazine

The micro manor | How to decorate a tiny space

Does the 18th-century French barometer work? It’s a reasonable question to put to John Bobbitt, longtime Dallas interior designer, antiques dealer, Maple Terrace resident and collector of superb curiosities. Well, it could work, Bobbitt says, but first he’d have to replace the original glass tubes with new ones custom-made by the one man in the country who restores old barometers, in Maine. Then he’d have to figure out how to safely buy and install the

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B magazine

Fort WORK, Texas | An inside look at Dickies

Essay by Rob Brinkley          /          Photographs by Mei-Chun Jau

It’s a rags-to-riches story — where the rags are played by denim. We open in Fort Worth, 1922, where two men have just shaken hands on their new company. Their big idea? Bib overalls, made of tough cotton denim, the fanciest ones striped in fine lines of blue and white. With one of the men’s son, the three grow it into a mighty fine business. But some plot twists are necessary: The Great Depression will be a doozy, followed by World War II, wherein the company will be sequestered by the United States Armed Forces to make millions and millions of uniforms. Most of the civilian production will grind to a halt, all in the name of duty.

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