14 February 2008

Houston Swedish Design

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An antique Swedish Moro Clock sits in the hallway between the den and kitchen.

Last April, House Beautiful featured a Houston home that had been remodeled in true Swedish style.  The story made the cover and it was great fun for me because the owner is a friend of mine.  As is probably true of each story in a design magazine, there is always a more interesting tale that isn't told in its pages.  The home is located in Avalon, a section of River Oaks, Houston's toniest neighborhood.  But, this home isn't a mansion, it is a very livable 3,500 sq. ft.  The home is original to the neighborhood, so it is probably over 50 years old.  When the owners first moved in, they had just sold everything from their former house and they immediately got down to the business of amassing  an amazing collection of English antique furniture and paintings.  They spent years acquiring a house full of furniture - piece by piece.  Each purchase was deliberate and thoughtful, a process between the owners and their designer, Carol Glasser, one of Houston's finest.  It was a fascinating process to watch from the sidelines and one that could  cause great envy! Imagine the scenario - starting over completely from scratch and placing inside your home only that which you truly love -- no dreaded hand-me-downs and no make-do furniture.  This style of decorating is one at which Glasser excels.  She doesn't mind waiting years for just the "right" table or the "perfect" lamp to turn up.  This style might not be to everyone's liking, but these owners proved to be the perfect clients.  They embraced Glasser's style and, as a result, the finished project was perfect:  a cozy English, country-style home, filled with authentic antiques, Italian oil paintings, wall to wall seagrass, faux painted yellow and red walls, toile wallpapers, Bennison fabrics and Kenneth Turner candles.  It was an open, fun house - the site of many parties where people gathered around a roaring fire and lounged in the deep George Smith sofa, all the while remarking on how warm and inviting the home was.  So, it was a great surprise to many, including Glasser herself, when the wife declared she had changed.  She no longer loved her home's decor, she wanted a new look - a Swedish look - and not just a Swedish antique here and there, but a total, complete Swedish home.  And so, for the second time, everything in the house was either sold or was stored and they started the process of decorating their home, completely from scratch, again. 

On the sidelines, I looked on with amazement.  It was so exciting to watch - trips made to Breaux Bridge, Louisiana to visit an obscure, yet fabulous antique dealer from whom they purchased, amongst other things,  antique portraits of  unknown, serious Swedish citizens.  Piece after piece of beautiful peeling, gray painted Swedish antiques were procured from the ends of the earth.  The owners were ahead of the current Swedish trend and it worked to their advantage.  Glasser immediately enlisted the help of renown interior designer and author Katrin Cargill

from England.  Cargill's input in the project was formidable.  She had, after all, written a book on Swedish style. The house was taken down to it's studs and every single inch was changed - from the roof to the floors to the windows to the walls.  Nothing was usual or common, it was all custom and proved almost too difficult a job for the Houston builder who worked on the project. Cargill held to her guns and insisted on a certain degree of authenticity.  Their house is, without a doubt, the only house in Houston with limed, Canadian pine wood floors. 

Interestingly, the house had been a cover story before - the English interpretation was in  Country Living magazine several years prior.  Included here today are some of the pictures from that original story, although, unfortunately, there are a few missing.  Personally, I made out like a bandit in the switchover to the Swedish decor:  I now own a wonderful down-filled love seat in my bedroom that once lived in their sunroom, a glorious antique bulls-eye mirror from the French Quarter is now over my fireplace, my dining room chandelier once hung in their bedroom, and even some of my fabulous tortoiseshell blinds were once in their home!   What this couple did is something most of us will never be able to do:  to start over, with no baggage, and have only that which you absolutely love in your home, that is, until you change your style to - well, let's say something like - Indochine Chic.

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The family room:  this half of the room is more dressy - antique French mantle, Swedish portrait to the right, antique Swedish table and chairs.

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Family Room:  the other half with contemporary sofa upholstered in typical Swedish checks.  Authentic Swedish roll up shades, antique sofa faces "dressier" half.  For some unknown reason, no pictures were shown in the magazine of their beautiful living room.

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Another view of family room from Cargill's web site.

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Again, from Cargill's web site - blue family room with contemporary checked sofa.

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The dining room:  Antique Swedish chandelier and sconces, buffet and mirror.  Chairs are reproduction Swedish.  Table is one of the only remaining pieces from the former English decor.  Moldings below are wood, above - painted.

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From Cargill's web site:  dining room with antique faux Swedish stove on the left, view towards the family room.

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Small sunroom is a highlight of the home.  Gray and white botanicals were photocopied, pasted on the walls and then handpainted to glorious effect.  Antique Swedish sofa, chair, demilune tables, and chandelier.  Checks are used again as they are in every room in the house.

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The breakfast room is charming:  antique Swedish chairs, table.  Banquette is covered in checks, French linen used for shades.  Wallpaper is a red and cream Swedish pattern.

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The kitchen has Carrera marble countertops, Swedish shades, and a turquoise, contemporary pendant fixture.

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From Cargill's web site - same view, unstyled.

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Another shot of the kitchen with it's custom hood.  Close up of wood paneled walls used throughout the home.

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Close up of Swedish portrait of a lady in the family room.

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Set of white French dishes with owners' initial.

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The entrance hall, from Cargill's web site.  Note the doggie door that leads to a secret hiding spot.  Cargill inserted touches like this throughout the home.

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One of the daughter's bedroom with antique furniture and red checks.  Note how the rug is actually three separate pieces. 

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The master bedroom:  House Beautiful did not show any pictures of this room.  It is captured here from Cargill's web site, unstyled.   The room has Chelsea Editions fabric wall covering along with Chelsea Editions curtain fabric and furniture.  To the left, you can barely make out an antique Swedish sofa.

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Country Living Magazine:  From the first incantation - the English version of the blue family room with its wonderful slipcovered furniture.  Coffee table was a tufted ottoman atop false books.  Italian paintings, Oushak rug over wall to wall seagrass.  Walls were faux painted yellow.

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The original kitchen:  antique center island, freestanding range, large hanging pot rack and red and cream toile wallpaper.  Floors were painted hardwoods.

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Unseen in House Beautiful, the original living room:  Originally there were faux painted red walls, antique mantel, center ottoman, antique sofa, Colefax and Fowler chintz draperies.  Bullseye mirror over fireplace lives over my fireplace now!!

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Original dining room:  same table, Kenneth Turner center basket, antique tole chandelier, leather French chairs, Oushak carpet over seagrass, antique mirror and sconces.  In the new Swedish remodel, doors were removed for cleaner lines and in order to create enfilades.

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Original front facade, covered in ivy.  Rose garden to the left.

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New facade:  while windows are in the same place, they are new ones, new door color, ivy and shutters are long gone.  The biggest difference is the landscaping.  A landscape architect from England, brought to the project by Cargill, changed the center walkway.  Now an alee of clipped, square shaped trees creates a path up the center of the lawn.

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The "official" walkway up to the house is now on the right side of the facade.

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My family room with the antique bulls eye mirror now resides over my fireplace.

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My dining room chandelier moved from the owners' bedroom.  Hi Sammie Jo!!!

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And last, my bedroom with the love seat on the right under the tortoiseshell blinds moved from the owners previous sunroom.