The Inside Man: Michael’s Home in the Design District

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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
Name: Michael Brandes

Location: Design District, Dallas, TX

Style: New contemporary construction in need of character

With the help of
Valspar Paint, I’m helping five guys across the country re-do a room in their home. Michael recently moved to Dallas from the Northwest and has yet to paint over the accent wall left by the previous tenant.

Michael’s living room/dining room area off of his kitchen is a smallish space and I’m working with a lot of things that don’t necessarily go together. The job involves finding one common thread that is a happy expression for Michael, which I can use to harmonize the whole space.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)


Michael’s walls posed a challenge because there was already a strong accent color in the room that Michael didn’t like, but it worked well with the room, being a warm color. I had to find another warm color that Michael would like and that would be really different from the deep Chinese red that you see in the first pics.

After a really good tour and conversation about possible inspiration, Michael pulled out a photograph from a magazine that he really liked, showcasing the side of a rustic Italian room with a dusty rose color on the walls. The color was very unique and warm and carried an ancient feeling about it. It was also a lot lighter than the Chinese red, which meant that it would significantly brighten the room.

Then Michael pulled out a lovely old map that had been his grandfather’s, and I found a similar color in it. Working off of the inspiration in both places, I was able to isolate a few colors that were very close, and which I felt would work. Here they are below.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

• Dusty 1 –

• Dusty 2 –

• More Orange 1 –

• More Orange 2 –

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

After working on the color, I set down to figure out how to detangle this little room. The arrangement that Michael had going on felt awkward to me, but there didn’t seem to be many options. After a good deal of work, I was able to find two more, both of which give the room a wider feeling. One of the big problems in the room is that it is relatively long and narrow from windows back to kitchen, and it is easy to create a “hallway” effect straight from the door to the living room windows. Michael already felt that the room was cramped and narrow feeling, so I wanted to emphasize the lateral motion between the two bedroom doors to offset this. Therefore, both of my arrangements are meant to stop your motion as you enter into the living room and have the activity be SIDEWAYS across the room, instead of towards the windows.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Michael’s Kitchen/Living/Dining Room is going to get three big shifts:

    1. A New Accent Color – While the room is already accented, we’re going to replace it with a much brighter and more pleasing color that will keep the warm palette, but reference a more rustic and historical feeling. We’re going to start with paint, but the furnishings and accessories are going to further carry this historical feeling to balance the newness of the apartment.

    2. New Horizontal Arrangement – We got a good start on this while I was visiting and settled on the second of the two arrangements we tried. This gets the TV out of your direct line of sight as you enter and moves the sofa to the right, into the “thicker” part of the room. We really wanted the living room to be accessible to the kitchen so that guest could be sitting there and still talk to Michael if he was in the kitchen. Michael entertains a good deal, so this was a real consideration. In addition, he often serves dinner, so we moved the dining table/console back to the left, where it could easily now seat someone on either side.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

    3. New Furniture – Michael has a hodge-podge of furnishings that we need to edit and upgrade in a consistent way. Due to all the lovely historical art and traditional pieces he has, I decided this was the way to go. Our only traditional room, I’m nevertheless going to make it feel contemporary by adding a little funkiness to it. The key pieces that are going to define the room going forward? The old map is going to be framed and hung over the sofa, which is going to be replaced, and the vintage chest which is under the TV is going to be moved directly into your line of sight, becoming a side table for the sofa. Oh, and we’ve got to get a new rug! Michael’s rug is super bright red, almost primary, and we need something with much more character. I’m thinking kilim here.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

    4. Picture Rearranging – Michael loves pictures and he has a lot of them. We’re going to edit them a bit, get the best ones on the walls (and off of the surfaces) and use the 57″ rule to bring some balance to all of the rooms. Right now, the pictures in the living room are a bit higglety pigglety and too high on the wall.


  • Sofa with a more traditional feeling
  • Kilim rug 6×8
  • 2 table lamps on either side of sofa
  • 1 side table for the far side of the sofa
  • Light off-white curtains and rod for window
  • 1 small chair to fit between the windows and give the room 3 seating positions
  • Media console to hold the TV and hide all of the devices
  • 1 table lamp on dining table


When we finished, I left only a bit of homework for Michael:

  • Paint up the various red samples that I am going to send
  • Find a good framer for his vintage map
  • Call the cable company and arrange to have them move the cable to the other side of the room

Now the clock is ticking! Time to get to work. See you next month when we reveal the final room.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)


We’ve teamed up with
Valspar Paint to create The Inside Man, a special feature dedicated to daily (Monday – Friday) posts from Apartment Therapy and GQ about men’s color conundrums and style questions. From sofas with cup holders to brilliant bachelor pads, we’re focusing on the décor dilemmas men often bring to us.


• See my introduction to Michael

• Read more about guy style at

• Check out GQ’s guide to guy style at

Photos: Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan