Luxury home furnishings store Madison is moving to ‘the new frontier’, the Dallas Design District

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Madison, a popular gift and homeware store in Highland Park Village for more than two decades, has moved to the Dallas Design District.

Sisters and owners Kelli Ford and Kirsten Fitzgibbons wanted more space to display their finds from around the world. They have moved from 1,200 square feet to 8,000 square feet and housed their retail and interior design businesses under one roof.

The small store in Highland Park Village was packed from floor to ceiling, steps away from luxury brand storefronts, nestled in the land of million-dollar homes.

Now, Madison is in a converted warehouse with a storefront of freshly painted brick in its signature navy blue. A large sign has just been placed above the door of 114 Express St. Inside is an elegant oasis in a neighborhood without sidewalks, lined with identical trees that light up at night in Highland Park Village. There is a bodybuilding company next door.

“We’re definitely going to get rid of some of the walk-in traffic and people waiting to get into Mi Cocina,” Fitzgibbons said. “But Madison on Express Street is a true destination.”

“We’ll take the Mi Cocina,” Ford said. “It’s a bit like the new frontier. When people come here, they will see that it is much more accessible than they think.”

The Design District is rustic and industrial, and its nondescript buildings are home to some of the most interesting art galleries, interior designer storefronts, and antique shops. Many companies that sell lighting, flooring, tiles, and kitchen and bathroom supplies are retail-oriented. The Design District says on its website that it has 370 shops, showrooms and restaurants along the streets bordered by Interstate 35 and the Trinity River. Dallas-based online retailers Gardenuity and Classic Whimsy create and ship container gardens and children’s clothing from there. Brands’ home offices are affiliated with stores that are open to the public, such as Lucchese Boots and BuDhaGirl bracelets.

“Now we can do whatever we want size-wise,” Ford said of the move to the larger space. “Now we have no borders. We can buy a bed, sell the sheets and have the monogrammed linens on display.”

The company name is a nod to New York’s Madison Avenue, where home fashions include cashmere throws and cool trash baskets. After growing up in New York and working with their interior designer mother, Dorothy Olsen, the sisters followed her into the decorating world.

Ford moved to Dallas in 2001. Her husband is Dallas billionaire and financier Gerald J. Ford. Southern Methodist University’s football stadium is named after him and his contributions.

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Fitzgibbons still lives in Manhattan and they talk together 30 times a day, always on their devices.

Ford, 56, and Fitzgibbons, 60, count billionaires among their clients, including Theodore J. Forstmann, a founder of private equity firm Forstmann Little & Co.

Madison at 114 Express St. in the Dallas Design District. The storefront is painted in the retailer’s signature blue. (Azul Sordo / Special Contributor)
The new 8,000-square-foot Madison store offers space to display furniture and more home accessories, including coffee table books. (Azul Sordo / Special Contributor)

Fitzgibbons said he was one of their first customers early in their careers. “We were scared then.”

For five years they worked almost exclusively for Fortsmann. They were commissioned to redo the work of designers they admired at his Beverly Hills home, his New York penthouse and his South Hampton home. They quickly converted one of his dining rooms into an African motif when Nelson Mandela came for dinner.

“We have been published in Architectural summary“It was a busy time for us,” Fitzgibbons said.

They designed a townhouse on Marlborough Street in Boston for one of the founders of Priceline.com.

“We love buying furniture and are addicted to china and silver,” says Fitzgibbons. Their new store features a wall of monogrammed napkins. It’s a specialty of theirs. They design embroidered napkins that match a porcelain pattern or a special occasion. They make promotional gifts, including embossed leather, and count the Dallas Cowboys among their customers.

“We had one person with 15 Hermès suitcases that he wanted to give to his teammates for Christmas,” Ford said. “We’re stamping their monograms and he was so nervous about how they would turn out. We do a lot of these kinds of things.”

Madison has a large textile and embroidery company. The designers will create napkins to match porcelain patterns. (Azul Sordo / Special Contributor)

The sisters believe the atmosphere suits them well in the Design District.

What do these native New Yorkers really think of this unknown, but emerging part of Dallas?

“It’s like leaving Dallas in a way,” Ford said. “You can see the sky and have a lot of space.”

“In New York, it’s like going to Tribeca or Soho or something,” Fitzgibbons said. “I mean, it’s just very, very exciting and interesting. It’s more creative. It’s a bit out of the box.”

“Right around the corner you have restaurants, Carbone and Vino,” Ford said.

They have watched the change for twenty years with a 600 square meter workshop/warehouse in the neighborhood. Now they are part of the change.

“It’s a natural progression for us to go there,” Fitzgibbons said.

“It’s not that far from civilization, so to speak, or from Highland Park Village,” Ford said. “It takes ten minutes to get here.”

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