My Design: Original Content Week


A shot of the living room looking towards the family room. Across from this arrangement is another seating group comprised of a tufted sofa and two more chairs.

In honor of Decorno's proposal that design bloggers celebrate "Original Content Week," I've dug into my archives and pulled out these shots of a highrise apartment that I worked on last year. My client is a single woman in her 80s with reddish brown hair and olive skin tones. Working around her coloring, I came up with the scheme of sage greens, terracottas, and caramels for her new space. My client looks wonderful in her condo because the colors blend with her complexion rather than fight it. This was the first time I had considered complexion in thinking up a color scheme and it is something I have continued to do. It was a real eureka moment in my design life and I highly recommend trying out the premise.

My client plays cards and lots of it and one of the most important aspects to get right were all the gaming tables. So, poker with the men, (and the ladies) takes place on the round, wooden dining table. We purchased a heavy, fold-up topper, backed with felt to cover the table when the chips are flying. Next, I purchased a smaller game table to seat four for a game of bridge. This worked beautifully until it was discovered that the mirror was reflecting the cards, so I designed a temporary cover out of the pillow fabric that is placed over the mirror when the bridge ladies come. I kid you not. Lastly, a larger game table that seats six was placed in the den to handle card games for between 4 and 8 players or to serve lunch on at all the games. Obviously, this is a woman who loves to entertain. Working on this assignment was challenging and took up the better part of a year. My client and I didn't know each other when we started, but by the end of the project we had become close friends, despite our 30 something years age difference.

A closeup shot of the living room, with it's sage and terracotta tones. I designed all upholstery here and in the family room and had it fabricated at Custom Creations in Houston.

A close up of the dining room. The light fixture is a beauty: a highly patinaed antique brass fixture from Belgium. The fixture was purchased at Brown, a unique lighting shop whose proprietor lived in Belgium for several years. Now back in Houston, she returns there several times a year for inventory. The light fixture is a stand out in the room - it's patina actually picks up the wall's color.

This is the family room with caramel tones featured in the wall color, the Rose Tarlow fabrics, the drapery, and in the geometric patterned sisal rug. The brass and crystal light fixture is from Circa Lighting. The two brass lighting fixtures on opposite sides of the large space play off each other: though one is contemporary and the other antique, they complement each other. The set of prints are black and white drawings of Galveston, Texas that I had framed to cover the alcove space above the sofa. Janus et cie chairs surround the mid sized game table.

Another view of the family room. I designed the bookcases to form an alcove around the sofa to create some architectural interest and to house the smalls collected over a lifetime. The red table to the right is actually an oriental drum, purchased from Area, a local store.

Beadboard UpCountry - Brenham, Texas

It's no secret that Texas is a huge state, just to drive from one end to the other is a journey that can't be done in a day. It is so large that we have 254 counties. Several books have been written about the architecture of all of our courthouses. There is even a web site, where a man named Ted has taken a picture of each of the courthouses. Many of them are old buildings that are registered with the Historical Society while others are newer structures that replaced the older, smaller courthouse as the county grew more populated.

Drive through any small town in Texas where the county has it's seat and you will find the proud courthouse erected right in the middle of a small, antiquated downtown. One of the prettier counties in Texas is Washington County whose name to Texans will evoke visions of rolling hills and fields of bluebonnet flowers. Brenham, Texas, the county seat of Washington County, has a population of just 13,500 and is also the home of the famous Blue Bell Ice Cream. Unfortunately, Brenham's courthouse, pictured above, is not one of the old ones as it was built in 1939. The downtown of Brenham is being revitalized and it's filled with charming shops, restaurants, coffee houses, and a few romantic B&Bs. In order to satisfy the design needs of all the ranch owners and chic people who either live here or have a second home here, a new store, Beadboard UpCountry opened up last year, right on the town square across the street from the courthouse. Location in Brenham doesn't get any better than this.

Maryanne Flaherty, the brainchild behind Beadboard UpCountry, runs the store with the help of her husband. Their store has helped put Brenham's downtown revitalization on the fast track. Last week it was announced that the 2007 recipient of the Best Commercial Interior Design Award, given by the Texas Downtown Association (TDA), is none other than Beadboard UpCountry! Maryanne is a friend of mine and she emailed me to share the exciting news. The TDA, the organization behind the revitalization of downtowns around the state, hands out several different awards each year, and Beadboard UpCountry is most deserving of their top award. Located in a former bank building, Maryanne worked hard to restore the space into the charming, sunny shop it is today. To Maryanne, a chic redhead, her shop is the culmination of years of dreaming and planning. Prior to opening her store, she commuted the hour to Houston to work at local furniture stores. Now, her clients travel to see her. Beadboard UpCountry is bright, with high ceilings, and white stucco walls. For sale is bedding, tableware, accessories, candles, and furniture in white and linen slipcovers. The shop is so atmospheric, you might just think you are actually in France instead of a small Texas town.

The charming storefront: outside a chalkboard advertises the specials inside. I adore the awning almost as much as the store's name. Who could resist coming inside?

The walls are stuccoed white, with the old brickwork peeking through.

Against one wall are shelves of creamy plates and assorted tableware.

A view towards the back, you can see how high and airy the ceilings are. Notice too, the black and white mosaic tiled floor.

Besides accessories, Maryanne sells furniture and offers interior design services.

My favorite: a big round slipcovered ottoman that doubles as a coffeetable. Behind it is a white, slipcovered sofa. Seagrass, linen and white slipcovers: I am in heaven!

A view of a tablescape with shelves of goods in the background. The tableware is mostly either white or cream.

Friendly and chic Maryanne, the proprietress of Beadboard UpCountry. In this picture, you can just see the restored wooden ceiling.

If you would like to visit Beadboard UpCountry, it is located at 1o1 South Baylor Street, Brenham, Texas 77833. You can call Maryanne at 1-979-830-8788 or you can email her at If you are planning a trip to the Round Top Antiques Fair this April, be sure to visit Maryanne as Brenham is just a short drive from Round Top.

Most Influential Blogs - My Picks

Congratulations go out to the newly named Top 10 Influential Design blogs. The blog Home Rejuvenation hosted this contest and bloggers around the world voted for their favorites. With much fanfare, the winners were announced yesterday. Mazel Tov to the Top Ten!

Though in agreement with all the winners, I still felt there were several glaring absences from the list and I just couldn't let the day pass without paying these blogs special notice. I am sure the votes were tight and these following blogs were undoubtedly very high up on the list. Of that, there is no doubt. To me, these blogs below, along with the winners, represent the very best that design blogging has to offer: information, eye candy, and personality. They blog day in and day out and always with something visually pleasing or intellectually stimulating in the mix. These blogs spurned me on to create my own and I look to them for guidance and inspiration daily. First on my list is Absolutely Beautiful Things.

World famous, with more hits a day than the Beatles at their prime, Absolutely Beautiful Things lives up to its title. Written by the Australian interior designer, Anna Spiro, her blog is bright, fun, and pink. Her style of interior design is utterly infectious and young, which isn't surprising as Anna only recently turned 30. A store owner of much regard, her accomplishments are legendary in Brisbane and the blog world. Anna's blog sends so much traffic each day to my own blog, I will be indebted to her always. If you've never visited Absolutely Beautiful Things, be sure to do so soon, it is truly the tops of the design blogs. No one does it better than Anna.

Anna's interior design and furniture store in Australia. Known for it's show stopping window displays, Black and Spiro is a landmark in Brisbane.

An example of Anna's interior design style, I love her sense of color. Who else but Anna would successfully place a pink sofa in a living room? I love how she repeats the black color of the coffee table with the black color on the back wall. Anna is known for using a riot of bright colors in her designs. Her rooms are fun, yet sophisticated, bright but not garish. She is such a great talent, that I'm convinced one day her name will be known world wide.

The next blog deserving of much attention is Style Court. Blogged daily and sometimes three and four times daily by Courtney Barnes of Atlanta, Style Court was my ideal when I started blogging. The first time Courtney left a comment to Cote de Texas, I was thrilled and proud beyond belief. Style Court is filled with design ideas culled from sources all over the world. Her first love is textiles and they figure prominently in her blog. Courtney loves fabrics, especially from KWID and Lulu, and she also has a particular fondness for all things chinoiserie. She's partial to young designers like Ruthie Sommers and Anne Coyle, yet she has an appreciation for seasoned designers like Michael Smith.

A few favorites of Style Court's: Interior designer Schuyler Samperton and suzanis. I think if Courtney had this bedroom to sleep in, she would be in heaven!

Elephants and anything of eastern design particularly appeal to Style Court. Here is a new prized possession of Courtney's.

Another influential blogger is The Peak of Chic. A lofty title which it easily lives up to, Peak is written by Jennifer, also from Atlanta. Jennifer blogs on topics in a style that is easy on the eye, yet intellectually stimulating at every turn. The young and beautiful Jennifer writes a very informative blog, covering every aspect of design from traditional to transitional. A true Southern girl, she admires the classics in design which is apparent from the decorators she chooses to cover. Many times her posts are very thought provoking as she asks her reader to contemplate and discuss a particular topic. Her readership is large and her comment section is one of the largest and most engaging I've seen.

Recently The Peak of Chic posted this rare shot of an Albert Hadley living room that no blogger had seen before. Typical of Jennifer's posts, her readers became involved and many comments were made over Hadley's flower choices!! Spirited debate ensued, with everyone taking part in the fun. This picture says it all about Jennifer: her love of Hadley, her love of the classic and the chic, and her love of research.

A favorite designer of The Peak of Chic, Miles Redd's bedroom is pictured above. Redd represents the younger spectrum of the design world that Jennifer presents in her blog. The Peak of Chic has gotten national press and it is very well deserved. This blog is more interesting than many of the magazines Jennifer frequently writes about.

The following three blogs hold a special place in my heart. The women behind these blogs trade emails with me and I have come to consider them friends, though we have never met. We support each other's blogs, ideals, and happiness.

Canadian Interior Designer of note, Patricia Gray is in a league all her own. Of all the multitudes of design blogs out there, perhaps the most talented interior designer writing one today is Ms. Gray. Her superior intelligence is obvious with each topic she chooses to write about. Her interior design work is featured in many design publications, including Architectural Digest, and she counts John Travolta as one of her clients! Without a doubt, her blog is a true must read. Armed with an impeccable resume, Patricia uses her blog to explore her inspirations and design processes. Highly respected by bloggers and clients alike, her blog is an example of what true genteelism looks like.

My favorite room that Patricia has designed. A sitting room filled with Italian designed chairs - where most designers would have placed only one chair, Patricia fills the space with four. These chairs have become a symbol to bloggers of Ms. Gray's design aesthetic.

Another view of a brilliant design by Patricia Gray. Note how the colors of the floor are repeated in the colors of the cabinets and in the ceiling thus breaking up the masses of white that are present. The granite slab repeats the same color tone while becoming a piece of art in itself. The lighting fixture adds a touch of whimsy. This kitchen is so gorgeous, so streamlined, so carefully edited, it is at home in an open concept living space without being obtrusive. As interesting as Patricia's blog is, be sure to visit her web site to peruse her amazing design portfolio.

Jackie Von Tobel is the blogger behind Jackie Blue Home. An interior designer by trade, she is now a writer with two books under her belt and two more in the wings. Recently she produced the massive Window Treatments, a large directory of window covering designs. Even more notable is the fact that she designed and drew all the illustrations herself, a massive feat when you consider the volume of the book.

Jackie's blog is full of her unashamed critiques of the design world. Never one to hold her tongue, she created a firestorm recently taking on the magazine Domino and one of its cover stories. My favorite fun fact about Jackie is that she is the better half of the person who wrote and produced the great ad campaign: What happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas.

A sample from Jackie's new illustrated book. Page after page is filled with her painstaking and charming drawings. On the road now publicizing her book, she fills her blog with tales of her travels. Warm, witty and fun, Jackie's good heart shines out through her blog.

Beach bungalow 8 is the brainchild of Megan Samuels, a gorgeous LA interior designer who is better looking than most of the actresses that toil in her town. She started her professional life as an illustrator and she decorates her blog with her handiwork. Her posts are fun, her voice is witty, her tongue is sharp. Megan brings a constant stream of hipness to her blog, showcasing artists, both starving and not. Her blog is as much about fashion and art as it is about interiors and it is a riot of color, sound, and pattern.

Beach bungalow 8 is named for the adorable cottage she lives in with her two daughters and dogs on a "walk street" just steps from the L.A. beach. She's a surfer, but she claims that San Francisco is her "real" home. She recently blogged about her childhood neighbor and schoolmate, Kate Spade. Funny to the bone, she keeps me up at night belly laughing, Instant Messaging me until all hours. Engaged to be married to the man behind the wonderful charity organization, Walk with Sally, we're eagerly awaiting pictures of her wedding in Mexico this spring.

Perhaps Megan is best known by bloggers for this picture, though she'll kill me for saying that - a view of her beautiful beach bedroom with it's paneled walls and it's antique door, beyond which is her bathroom.

And lastly, you probably wouldn't be here reading my blog if it weren't for Ronda Carman of All The Best. One day I was pleasantly surprised to read her blog as we had very similar design loves, both being Texans, although Ronda now lives in the UK. At that time, my readership numbered two, myself and my best friend Lisa. Ronda likes to showcase new blogs and she chose, to my utter surprise, to write about me in her blog one day:

Today I came across a most delightful blog - Cote De Texas. It’s always so much fun when you find a kindred spirit. The blog is written by an interior designer in Houston, Texas who lives, lusts, and covets anything French. The blog was created to indulge a love of French antiques, French furniture, and anything else pertaining to France! See you yourself. Très Bien!

I owe Ronda a debt I could never repay, an audience that includes you, and for that I will always be grateful and indebted to Ronda. Be sure to check out her blog, if you aren't already a dedicated reader. Known for blogging about interior design and fashion and food in equal parts, she is perhaps most famous for landing interviews with leaders in all these fields. Interesting and well researched, All The Best brings an air of culture and class to the design blogosphere.

I hope you've enjoyed reading about MY top picks, but truthfully it was hard to keep it so brief. On the left of my page, you will see a list of blogs that I read daily. The list is long, but it is edited to what I consider the very best out there in the design blog world.

Vermeer and the Camera Obscura


The new Vogue Living magazine has a photo spread on Dutch Interiors. It shows how you can reproduce the atmosphere of a Vermeer painting. Vermeer, the artist who painted the hauntingly beautiful "Girl with the Pearl Earring" which inspired a book and movie of the same title, was not enormously prolific. His entire portfolio consists of just 30 some paintings, yet he remains one of the world's most famous artist. All of Vermeer's paintings were created in what is believed to be the same room and it is just this room that Vogue Living tries to recreate, as seen below. While I looked at this feature story, I was reminded of a book I read several years ago, a book that forever changed the way I looked at art, at Vermeer, and at all the Great Masters in general.

Vogue Living attempts to recreate a Vermeer painting.

Secret Knowledge, written by the great British artist David Hockney, espouses a theory that the art of the Great Masters was done with the help of a lens, a camera obscura. Lenses, which have long been rumored to have somehow been used by the Great Masters, are extensively examined in this book. To help illustrate his theory, Hockney developed a wall of art, where he hung art works from the beginning of time up until and through today. The middle section of this wall of art, which is pictured on the cover of his book, is the era of the Great Masters such as Vermeer and Caravaggio. The wall of art helps to put into perspective the phenomenal realism with which the Great Masters painted. The changes in artistic expression from the Renaissance period to how the masters painted is staggering. How was this done? What precipitated the changes? How did artists suddenly and profoundly begin to paint in a style that was so realistic the art truly looked like photographs?

Hockney spent years developing his theory and was met was great resistance when his book was first published. He postulates that these great works of art are truly tracings of images projected by a lens, or a camera obscura, that produced what amounted to a modern photograph.

Another researcher who studied the artist Vermeer exclusively and his use of the camera obscura is Philip Steadman. You can read a synopsis of his theory here. Steadman recreates the room in which Vermeer painted his masterpieces and proves, without a doubt to many art researchers, that Vermeer's paintings, which although are undoubtedly masterworks, nevertheless, are actually tracings of photographs produced by the camera obscura.

In the years since Hockney's book was first published, his theory has met with less and less scepticism. His book is fascinating and easy to read with pages upon pages of illustrations that show how Hockney reached his conclusions. If you haven't read it and you appreciate the art of the Great Masters, please consider giving the book a try. You will be fascinated, but be forewarned, you won't look at this body of art in the same way again.

Steadman's book on Vermeer and his use of the Camera Obscura.

A page from Hockney's book which juxtaposes the changes in which faces were painted during the Renaissance and later by the Great Masters. The bottom two faces look more like photographs than paintings.

Here in a page from Hockney's book, he reproduces how a Great Master may have used the camera obscura. The book is filled with other examples of how Hockney tries to prove his theory.

An example of the camera obscura and how it works.

Two Musts - Elle Decor & Vogue Living


The November issue of Elle Decor is out and it is especially beautiful this month. I would suggest you run over to your favorite bookstore today and pick it up. And this month, don't wait for your subscription copy to arrive. My copy is already a mess, totally trashed out from schlepping it around with me. The cover shot is from the Boston Black Bay street apartment of designer Frank Roop and his wife Sharon. Photos from this living room and study are worth the price of the issue alone. Also featured are the design team of Sills and Huniford with an art filled NYC apartment. But wait, I haven't even gotten to the good stuff yet:

Blogger favorite Steve Gambrel shows off his latest, above, a glorious NYC apartment located in a 1895 building. Two standouts are pictured here: the custom Troy rug and the yellow Clarence House silk drapes. Do NOT miss the custom brass art lights which become sculptures in Gambrel's hands. And another not to be missed, the master bedroom closet. Any man would die for a closet this gorgeous. Gambrel's success here shows how he takes something utilitarian and turns it into art.

But my favorite story in the Elle Decor, possibly of the year, is Alex Papachristidis' Manhattan apartment. A riot of color, pattern, art and exotic "Grand Tour souvenirs" - the home is cluttered perfection. Fortunys, ikats, and antique suzanis coexist as if they were taupe and cream linens instead of vibrant reds, pinks, yellows, and greens. There are enough up-to-the minute trend alerts here that it's obvious the space will be outdated next year. But still, I'd spend a year here, living quite happily.

Vogue Living is special, too, this time around. In what has become a publishing trend, magazines come out with quarterly "design issues" and it appears that Vogue has Oprah and In Style beat by a mile. The articles are typically Vogue thought-provoking pieces, and story after story is filled with fresh ideas to ponder. There' s a great take on design books, an interesting pictorial on Vermeer decor, and an excerpt from Polly Devlin's new book: A Year in the Life of an English Meadow. The features are particularly enjoyable: an English castle, an Arabian tent, and a peek into Jennifer Garner's french styled garden. My favorites? Kathryn Ireland's new home. Having just published her first book, Classic Country (highly recommended!), she moved into a "cluster of 1920s stable buildings" in Ojai. I adore her style - casual, warm, and cozy, totally without any hint of pretension anywhere. But, saving the best for last:

The star of this issue is Carolina Herrera, Jr. and her husband's Spanish estancia, pictured above. If this shot of their bedroom doesn't send you out rushing to see more, we definitely have different perspectives! That's ok, I guess, but how can you not love a room with a balcony overlooking a view such as this, the Pierre Frey Le Coq toile, an antique dressing table, the beamed ceiling and terra cotta floor along with a fireplace thrown in just for pure romance? Heaven!

Round Top, Texas


Round Top, Texas - population 77, except for the first two weeks in April and October each year. This is home to one of the largest antiques fairs in the United States. Started 40 years ago by Emma Lee Turney, the festival has grown from one location into a festival that overflows to all the tiny towns that surround Round Top. During the festival, large temporary, makeshift tent cities spring up where thousands upon thousands of dealers sell their wares. Once, the Round Top Antique Festival meant Americana and Texana antiques. Today, French, Swedish, and English antiques have overtaken the prominence that Americana and Texana once enjoyed. Now highbrow antiques share space with the very lowbrow: vintage, bric a brac, and just plain junk are plentiful in areas where the rent for stalls is cheap. If you love antiques and love to have a good time - Round Top is something to experience at least once in a lifetime. Situated between Austin, San Antonio and Houston, Round Top is a few hours drive through gorgeous countryside. The spring show is an especially nice time to go because the Texas wildflowers are in full bloom and the fields are a vibrant shade of blue from the bluebonnets. Until Round Top has been experienced, it's hard to explain the vastness of it all, and yet, despite it's size, it's still just down home Texas at its core. Web site of the Round Top Register is a good place to start if you plan to come next spring.

Round Top is a charming, tiny town halfway between Houston and Austin. Usually it's a sleepy, quiet place.

Round Top, before the invasion, nice and quiet.

The Big Red Barn. And no, that woman is not in my party!

Country Home Magazine always has a booth up front.

and Mary Emmerling always comes to sign books.

White ironstone is everywhere. I love ironstone and collect it.

Garden antiques and furniture were popular this year.

Trend alert: Silver domes.

My idea of heaven: English ironstone, Staffordshire, transferware and Mason.

I collect Mason ironstone and just had to buy a few pieces for my collection.

And two transferware plates. Notice the vendor excitedly adding up my purchases in the back.

Leaving the Big Red Barn, we head to a different area of vendors. Stuff is everywhere, overflowing.

A pumpkin patch of antique vases.

This tent city advertised itself as European Antiques, one tent of many.

Swedish sofa and French chair. At this point I am wondering why I wasted two hours in the Big Red Barn.

French settee. Painted antiques are much more in demand now than those with typical fruitwood finishes.

A Swedish tall clock. I want one of these, but pass this up.

Another booth with more painted French antiques.

This booth was huge and specialized in European antique linens.

A petite French woman owned this booth filled with both Swedish and French antiques. She has stores in L.A. and Dallas.

A yard full of muslin covered furniture.

Further along, we come to Marburger Farms. Relatively new to the Round Top festival, this tent city has grown from one tent to six huge ones.

A booth at Marburger Farms. Known for a more European look than that at Round Top, Marburger Farms has become a huge presence at the festival. It takes at least two days to cover it properly. I tried to do it two hours and only made it to one tent.

Of course this sign lured me in here.

Trend alert: large clock face.

Antique books by the yard. Had to pass these by, no more room for books that only look good, but won't read.

This statute was a standout at Marburger Farms.

Trend alert: Faux deer heads and intaglios.

This booth was one of my favorites. African and Eastern goodies. Kelly Wearstler has dozens of these Chinese calligraphy brushes in her home. I have one now.

More African goodies.

Ethiopian crosses. George Cameron Nash showroom sells these at quite a markup.

The best was outside behind the booth. A stack of zebra rugs which I could not say no to.

Now, this is a gorgeous chandelier: wood, gilded column and crystals. Too pricey, but a one of a kind piece I hated to leave behind. At this point I'm really regretting the money I spent at the Big Red Barn. Note to self: skip the Big Red Barn altogether next time.

This sofa reminded me of my new one.

Display of antique bottles.

I love French settees. If I had the space, I would have a settee in every room.

This dealer became incensed when I politely asked if something was a reproduction. Sorry, I still don't believe him. His prices were too cheap. All I could think of was how disappointed in me House of Beauty would be!

Hollywood Regency: there is virtually none here at Round Top and there is no mid century modern that I saw except for the junk from grandma's attic type.

Leaving Marburger Farms, tent cities pop up all along the way to Warrenton, Texas.

Only in Texas: A suburban with a longhorn rack on it's hood. Edit: Liberty Post asked me whether I saw the Junk Gypsies, a trio of vintage-styled glam ladies who set up shop in Warrenton during Round Top. This suburban actually belongs to them. Thanks Liberty for the reminder. Check out the Junk Gypsies' web site for all kinds of wild merchandise: chandeliers, t shirts, pillows and coffee mugs are a small offering.

Warrenton, Texas: fields and fields of vendors everywhere. Lured by the low rental rates, thousands of people sell mostly bric a brac and vintage goods in Warrenton. You couldn't see it all even if you spent days looking.

Going home: Wait, one last stop! The Lone Ranger sells Swedish antiques out in the open in Warrenton. He informed me that he had sold a truckload that morning to top Houston interior designers who had beat me there. I couldn't say no to a gray Swedish clock that is now living on my landing. Imagine how I felt when I got home and discovered the insides had been replaced by a battery operated chime. Ebay anyone?