By: Malcolm Mayhew
I step into the Seitz Design office, and the first one to greet me is Faith, the six-month-old resident rescue dog. She follows us around as we check out the space, and I quickly learn she’s the canine version of the design – black, white, elegant, playful and, as part Border Collie/part German Shepherd, an elite mix.
She’s the companion of owner Justin Seitz, the McAllen-born founder of Seitz Design, who’s responsible for everything from the minimalist outside of the building I’m standing in, to the extensive remodel and every inch of design inside. He bought the building, which sits at the corner of Foch and Weisenberger streets, at the end of 2013. He decided to buy after having luck with commercial real estate before, once with a building on Park Place and with another off of West Fifth Street.
“This was the last pocket of undeveloped property in this area,” Seitz said.
The area, technically referred to as Linwood, is still undergoing changes. It’s insulated by the surge of The Foundry District to the east, West Seventh to the south and White Settlement to the north. There are signs of the continued redevelopment immediately adjacent as old homes sit with “For Sale” signs next to new apartment and condo buildings.
Seitz took a winding path to this office space. The 41-year-old founder grew up thinking he would be a doctor – so sure that he’d be a physician he went to a medical magnet high school. It wasn’t until he had three and a half years as a pre-med major at Baylor under his belt that he switched to interior design.
“When I made the switch to design, I wasn’t so concerned with how successful I’d be financially,” Seitz said. “It was a wise decision.”
He moved to Fort Worth for an interior design internship in 1999 and has been here ever since, founding his namesake company in 2001. Coming from McAllen and Waco, Seitz relishes in the inspiration provided by Fort Worth and the Cultural District museums. “Life is more aesthetic here.”
Seitz’s natural inclination to his current profession oozes out of the gallery-like space where he now offices. Although his firm is in the hub of Fort Worth (and his satellite office is in Austin), the majority of Seitz clients are not. Rather, they’re scattered all around Dallas, Colorado, Central and South Texas and Mexico. Seitz is responsible for some major local commercial spots you might be familiar with. The firm worked with Tim Love on his riverside Woodshed restaurant. “The shell was there, and we took the shell and handled the finish out,” Seitz said.
The Seitz team also designed several corporate offices including the Grubbs dealership in Weatherford. But, mostly, his team handles high-end residential — a fact that’s clear as you weave through the 6,000-square-foot office space. The conference room doubles as a dining room where the firm’s 10 staff members often share meals; various small sitting areas appear throughout the space; and the kitchen, complete with a glass Chihuly-like chandelier and lacquered cabinets, rivals that of any high-end residential home.
“When we bought the buildings, they were nondescript brown brick with no windows,” Seitz said, referring to the twin building next door that he doesn’t own but also remodeled. The exterior now boasts white brick walls with ivy and steel gates. Additionally, the buildings had “horrid” carpet and fake wood paneling. The Seitz team handled all of the architecture and interior design and construction, contracting all work themselves. The renovation took about a year.
“The courtyards were created so we can get a lot of natural light throughout the building,” Seitz said. “We gave up square footage to do that. But, that’s the real wow of these buildings — the entry court.” The team also curated the space with limestone floors, white walls, and steel windows and exterior doors. “It’s an amazing space,” Justin adds.
It shows lighting well — a fact that was not ignored when designing the interior. Seitz opted for atypical gallery-grade lighting as opposed to the kind of lighting one would usually see in an office space. That move won the building a lighting design award in 2015.
Great attention was paid to the decorative light fixtures also — almost all of them were designed before 1950. The sconce above Justin’s personal office is a 1920s design from a French designer; two alabaster sconces in the gallery are from the 1930s. Most of what fills Justin’s office he purchased at auctions all over the world. He describes himself as a “hunter” who looks for specific things and follows their path until he can buy them for himself. A bronze sculpture by Andrew Lord sits in his office. He spotted it in a magazine article in 1995, and it wasn’t until 14 years later that he was able to buy it for himself. Other furniture Seitz contracts through local cottage furniture makers — something he says sets his firm apart. “We’re creating bespoke interiors instead of having showrooms where people walk in and pick up pillow cases.”
When asked to describe his own style, Justin says it’s a little odd. “I tend to like edited, pared-down design, but I like things to be a little off-kilter,” he said.
The striking front foyer embodies his taste well. A Robert Rauschenberg sculpture mixes with a table from Paris and Egyptian-style Revival side chairs, creating the perfect elegant-meets-midcentury-modern vignette to welcome clients (and nosy journalists). Another vignette in the communal office room, where the employees sit, leans more modern, grounded by a Damien Hirst spot painting from his famous acid series.
At first glance, the office, which Justin describes as “energizing, bright and airy,” is all form, but the Seitz office was also designed with function in mind. “Working on a project, the space becomes a huge mess,” Seitz said. So, the middle area is lined with polished white cabinets that hide all of the samples needed for clients, while the back of the building has a large storage and staging area.
In all, the Seitz office is part gallery, party office and even part investment. Seitz intends to stick around for another few years before putting the building back on the market. Until then, the Seitz team will use the space for function and inspiration as they service their clients near and far.
“The No. 1 mistake people make is [designing] on their own and not engaging a professional. More often than not, people get themselves down into a mess and then ultimately bring in a professional. They wouldn’t pull their own teeth so they shouldn’t design their own house,” Seitz says. “People have a tendency to stretch their pennies and dollars until they ultimately get a watered-down project.”
Seitz shares this advice before adding something that embodies what he’s done at 213 Foch St.
“Design should be more intentional.”
By: Malcolm Mayhew