Dallas Design District, Rediscovered

The revitalized Design District is enticing visitors with an energetic mix of retail, restaurants and community.

“It’s the Soho of Dallas.”

That sentiment, expressed by a showroom owner and shared by many more, perfectly describes the Design District, an area located slightly northwest of downtown and just a hop away from Uptown and Oak Lawn. For years, the district maintained its reputation as a venerable warehouse and trade destination, drawing in the industry’s best designers and artists from around the nation and the globe.

Now it’s a thriving, urban neighborhood, still populated with showrooms and shops but welcoming to all who wish to spend an afternoon discovering treasures and picking up on the exciting new energy. From antiques and curiosities to fabrics and flowers, vintage clothing to home furnishings, the spectrum of shops on Slocum, Dragon, Riverfront and other streets runs the gamut from elegant to eccentric. That’s half the fun of entering these once-forbidden warehouses and showrooms: You never know what you might find.

At Scout Design Studio, Art Deco acrylic chandeliers might share space with groovy chairs and tables. Like most of the businesses in the area, inventory changes constantly. Antèks, on the other hand, is the must-visit mecca for everything Western chic. Cow hide, leather, wood silver and other materials combine (at your personal design, if you so choose) to create the very definition of rustic elegance.

Poking around Griffing Trading Company can yield everything from conversation-starting trinkets to large-scale furniture and props (set decorators frequent the shop to find just the right mood-setting piece for movies and TV shows). At Smink, the upscale atmosphere and clean, modern lines of the furniture and accessories are reflected in the fine art that’s also available for purchase.

American Fine Art & Frame, Dallas Design District

Approximately 30 art galleries call the Design District home, and they too are benefitting from the increased visitation and interest in the area. American Fine Art & Frame, Dallas Contemporary, Dragon Street Glass Gallery, Conduit Gallery, Holly Johnson Gallery and others make the perfect backdrop for one of the many art walks that take place, encouraging people to duck in and marvel at some of Dallas’ best fine and contemporary art.

The owners of many of these Design District’s businesses, a great deal of whom have been neighborhood staples for years, talk excitedly about the regeneration of the area. That kind of camaraderie is rare in the business world, where corporations so often dictate the buying and selling of property and can heavily influence the feel of an area. Here, everyone is friends.

It’s par for the course for one owner to send a shopper down the street to another business, with a recommendation in-hand and a friendly greeting to serve as an introduction.

And it’s not just out-of-town visitors who are taking notice of the Design District’s new attitude. Locals heading over to Trinity Groves, the culinary wonderland located nearby, are noticing that the District’s streets are now buzzing with activity, and are quick to take a spin around the area before continuing on to their original destination.

Dallasites are moving into renovated lofts and newly built apartments, enjoying the close proximity to downtown and the unbelievable views of the twinkling skyline and Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. The trails by the Trinity River, which curves alongside the Design District, attract joggers, bicylcists, dog-walkers and those simply out for a stroll. Through The Trinity River Project, the area is being beautified and made safer for all to enjoy.

Nearby, establishments like The Meddlesome Moth, an acclaimed gastropub and beer-lover’s heaven, and Oak, a fine-dining jewel with an adventurous menu, beckon the peckish. FT33, Matt McCallister’s farm-to-table hotspot, and Pakpao Thai, the well-reviewed Asian restaurant, round out a list of eateries that also includes nostalgic favorites like Mama’s Daughter’s Diner, The Purple Onion and Taco Stop.

With it’s almost instant cult-like status, Ascension Coffee dabbles not only in craft caffeine, but also serves up wine and pastries. Community Beer Company’s laid-back vibe—its tasting area feels more like your friend’s living room, if your friend’s living room could accommodate so many people—reflects its name, and adults and even dogs gather to kick back and relax. Bowlounge, a retro 12-lane bowling alley with food by burger barons Twisted Root, is an option for those seeking (a little) more exercise.

As word of its welcoming attitude and beautiful wares begins to spread, the Dallas Design District may not remain the secret it once was. Better say you were an early and often visitor.

Lindsey Wilson
About the author

Lindsey is the former Texas editor for Where. She has lived in the West, East, Southwest and Midwest and has now land...