Mimmi O'Connell

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White walls, symmetry, tufted ottoman used as a coffee table, ticking used for upholstery, black iron accents, seagrass matting: elements used over and over again.


In the 70’s - there was a designer in London who started a trend that lives on, 35 years later – the cornerstone of this trend was oriental furniture imported from the far east. The young designer combined these eastern pieces with large accessories: wooden boxes that doubled as coffee tables, bowls, blue and white porcelains, and eastern baskets, to name a few. She used mostly cotton tickings and rolled up mattresses instead of bolsters. Her beds were made of black iron and they usually were four poster. Her look was one of high contrasts: lots of darks and lights. She used red as a neutral, her walls were always white, her rooms always had black accents. Her look was new and fresh and very innovative. It still is today. Her name is Mimmi O’Connell.

Mimmi was never a household name in the United States. Most images of her work come from English books and publications. Through the store she owned, Port of Call, she started a look, the fusion look, that is still going strong today. She combined relatively inexpensive eastern furniture that she imported with inexpensive fabrics to produce a look that was strongly visual and rich, texturally. Through her design work, O’Connell was the force behind using seagrass and bamboo blinds in settings other than orangeries and sunrooms. Her look has spawned hundreds of imitators, her business helped launch others: OKA in England comes to mind immediately. Her use of cotton and linens and tickings is oft copied today – you would never see a room that O’Connell designed using chenille and mohair and brocades. It’s just not her style. Despite the enormous impact she made on design today, O’Connell rarely receives press or recognition for her work. Apparently, she’s still active, still in business, but it’s been a while since any current work of hers has been seen. So, take a look at her portfolio and keep in mind, many of these images are from years and years and years ago. And remember, the next time you see a room with an iron four poster bed swathed in tickings or oriental chairs mixed with bespoke upholstery on seagrass, give a nod to Mimmi O’Connell, wherever she is today.


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An iron four poster bed, hallmark of Mimmi's style. High contrast black and white.


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Traditional Mimmi: white walls, eastern chairs, blue and white porcelains, large, spare accessorizing

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The previous room seen from the other side. Large, tufted ottomans are often used as coffee tables.

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Heaven to Mimmi: rolled bolsters, blue and white ticking, plaids, iron furniture, seagrass. The striped poles seen in the corner are frequently used in her designs.

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High contrast black and white, iron furniture, highly edited spaces.

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Red is another favorite, as is wicker.

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Outdoors styling: black iron, oversized votives set a romantic atmosphere.


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Quintessential Mimmi: black iron canopy, white walls, ticking, plus white bedding.

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Her Italian country home in a restored school house.

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Mimmi at her best: symmetry, black iron, high contrasts, oriental furniture, tufted ticking, oversized accessorizing, baskets, corner poles, black iron curtain rods, and white wallss.

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Italy meets Zen.

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Port of Call merchandise: antique oriental furniture and accessories.

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Mimmi: iron day beds used as sofas, ottomans used as coffee tables, iron bistro chairs, ticking, tufting, garden seats, symmetry, oversized accessories.


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Again and again - her recognizable design.


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Here the architecture becomes the design: high contrast black paint vs. the ever present white walls, seagrass matting, reds mixed with black ticking.


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A Mimmi kitchen: eastern influenced chairs and table, eastern baskets and buckets, the plates provide the usual symmetry and black color, iron drapery rods, white walls, red checks for curtains.


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A departure for Mimmi: aqua painted chairs!!!!

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This room looks Rose Tarlow-ish to me. Notice how even in a library/dining room, the ticking is present, the walls are white, the symmetry is intact.

Names Can Be Deceiving: Shabby Slips

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Veranda's September 2007 cover story features Houston designer Renea Abbott and her work - a large, Provencal-inspired home built in California. The finished product is the culmination of years of toil: construction alone lasted over three years. This project catapults Abbott into the upper echelons of the design business, something she truly deserves. The "farmhouse," as it is referred to, is a study in timeless design - aged materials were used throughout and careful attention was given to the most minute details in order to ensure authenticity. The result of all this labor is a home truly deserving of recognition for its designer. Rather than doing interiors that are faithful to its farmhouse style, Abbott's choices are instead sometimes surprising and yet, always fresh. The front cover with the Cy Twombly over an 18th century mantel epitomizes Abbott's eclectic "look" - the modern mixed with the antique. Both ends of that spectrum are represented by sophisticated pieces. This type of design mix is familiar to Houstonians long aware of Renea Abbott.

Best known as the proprietress of the store Shabby Slips, Abbott has garnered much local press, mostly showcasing her own frequently changed dwellings. The store started out with a simple premise - slipcovers handmade to cover the plush, down-filled sofas and chairs that filled her shop. Everything was white back then, but things at Shabby Slips are different now. The walls are a deep, dark shade. Wonderful, period antiques have taken over floor space formerly reserved for the masses of cushy upholstery. In fact, slipcovers are no longer even offered to the public. The direction of the store, but not it's name, has changed completely and this is probably somewhat confusing to the uninitiated. Regardless of the misleading name, the changes at Shabby Slips could not be more gorgeous. Large, gilt chandeliers glitter over the gilded finishes of the antiques. Mid century lacquered pieces vie for attention with rustic oddities. Exotic lamps are fashioned from rock and crystal. The atmosphere in the store has taken on the air of an exquisite jeweled box. Elegance, certainly not shabby, is the key word here. Always in motion, Abbott has branched out with additional Shabby Slips in Austin and New Orleans. And in Santa Fe, her mother Barbara Carlton runs a store there with a decidedly different, more western feel. If visiting Houston, Shabby Slips should be a must stop on the antique shopper's agenda.


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Sparse, yet elegant hallway in the Californian farmhouse.



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The dining room.


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The master bathroom with the double shower placed behind the tub.


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Beautiful Californian garden with limestone table and Rose Tarlow chairs.


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Shabby Slips: gilt antique furniture, contemporary fabrics.



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More antiques with a surprising Global Views table.


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Crystal obelisks on lacquered trays.



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More gilt, more modern.



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A lamp with a modern rock crystal base.



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Another interesting lamp base.



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Finally, a sofa meant for slip covers!



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An unusual zebra upholstered chair.



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A typically untypical Abbott tablescape.


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The mix that Abbott is known for: slipcovered furniture, antique crystal chandeliers, rustic coffeetable.



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The old mixed with the new.



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Out back, behind a gate, through a back yard - Shabby Slips recently expanded into a neighborhood house.




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In the house annex, things are definitely more casual.



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Someone could move right into the shop's annex.



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Notice the rug from Creative Flooring. This is my favorite 'skin' pattern.



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Wonderful card table with a mix of chairs.


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I love how the curtains are tied back in this room.


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And lastly, Abbott's attempt at being hip: two pink, Palm Beach inspired chairs.



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Shabby Slips in Santa Fe - more rustic than the Houston locale. Religious santos and crosses are popular here.



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Antlers and horns are sold in Santa Fe with it's more western ambience.



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Slipcovers are still emphasized in Santa Fe, unlike in Houston. Two Shappy Slips staples: club chairs with linen slips and down cushions -the best combination ever!!!

Yurdan, suzani, and me

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I recently was asked by friend and blogger Style Court, whether I had ever ordered anything from Yurdan, and if so, whether I had been pleased with the company. The answer to both questions was an enthusiastic "yes!" As soon as I replied with my answer, Beach Bungalow 8 chimed in to say that she, too, had ordered from Yurdan without any success - she never received her order. Well, that just wasn't my experience. Yurdan, an ethnic trading company operating out of Istanbul, Turkey can't afford unhappy customers at this point. Their press has been phenomenal, given that they've been featured in these magazines recently: Domino, 3 times, House and Garden (with a personal shout out from Gwyneth Paltrow), House Beautiful, Woman's Day Magazine, and even USA Today. Why all the fuss about a company based in Turkey? Suzani is why. Suzani, an embroidered fabric handmade in Uzbekistan (don't ask me what the name of their country used to be) is the hottest textile in the decorating industry today. Everyone is clamoring for a suzani and the magazines are hot on the heels of this Major Trend Alert. The Californian decorator Michael S. Smith is really to blame for this hysteria. Forsaking the ubiquitous down-filled duvet at the foot of the bed, he started placing colorful suzanis in its place. It's taken a while for the trend to take off, but boy, has it ever gone crazy now. Which takes us back to Style Court and Yurdan. While Yurdan has gotten the most press as THE place to buy relatively inexpensive suzanis, there are several other trading companies with better and bigger selections.

Of course, the best place to start when ordering a suzani is eBay. Most of the major trading companies have eBay stores and using PayPal gives one some modicum of security when ordering from a company based in a third world country. My advice, if you are looking to buy a suzani or an ikat (another Major Trend Alert textile),would be to stick with eBay, and order from an eBay store like Yurdan, Then, start slow. It took me three or four tries before I actually purchased a suzani I was happy with. Word to the wise: stay clear of the velvet suzanis (no explanation needed - think Elvis). Also, if the background looks shiny in the picture - stay clear of these too. Try to buy new, unless you are willing to shell out $1,000s+ for museum-like quality. Otherwise "antique" means holes, tears, and dirt. But be forewarned, some new suzanis bear pencil and pen marks where the embroiderer went out of line, just as a child would while coloring! Lastly, shop around Yurdan's web site. They sell a large range of exotica.



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Michael S. Smith, single handedly started the suzani craze with bedroom designs such as this one in a New York City apartment. He forever banished the down-filled duvet in favor of the colorful, embroidered suzanis.


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Close-up of a favorite suzani of mine. I'll keep it draped over my wine table during the winter only.


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I bought this piece of kilim upholstered luggage from Yurdan. It's almost too cute to use!


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Yurdan sells lots of kilim upholstered furniture like this ottoman. Pieces like this are reminiscent of the famous George Smith club chair, also upholstered in kilim.

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Another stool from Yurdan.

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Yurdan sells a large range of household goods like vases, plates, glasses, jars and tiles.

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They sell several different kinds of rugs, here - a striped kilim.

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And here, a more traditional kilim. I love to layer kilim and dhurri rugs over seagrass.

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They sell a large range of wool mohair blankets. Mostly striped, these would look great in a boy's bedroom or a country home.

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Of course I would love these shoes with jeans. I ordered the bottom pair, but they are too tight - anyone want them? Free to the first one to speak up, size 9!

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This Yurdan suzani in my bedroom is very muted - which I love. The colors are pink and green and very soft - totally different than the black and pink suzani in my family room.

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A large suzani tote from Yurdan. This would be perfect the beach.

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This is from Antiquarian Textiles, a great Ebay store for suzanis, new and old.

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Another one from Antiquarian Textiles, is at a Buy It Now price of $425.00

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Agvgera, has this suzani for sale in his Ebay store.

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In my guest room, the dreaded "shiny" suzani I warned you about. I wish someone would have warned me!!!

If you have any further questions about suzanis, Yurdan, or eBay, please e-mail me and I'll be glad to help out.

cote de Texas