The Fabulous Flea


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The Fabulous Flea:  French antiques on Bammel Lane in Houston


Everyone loves their home, that goes without saying.  Your home is a reflection of who you are, what your style is, what colors you like, what kind of furniture you are drawn to.   Your home is your refuge, your safe place, the one spot you can go to and be with your family and feel contented, protected, and sheltered against the world.      We make our homes our nests and we're happy there.  But......(of course there is a but!) have you ever been  inside someone else's home and felt a pang of longing and desire, a thought that says "gosh, I could live here and be very happy, in fact I WANT to live here!"    And still more, "Gee, she's talented! What great taste she has.  Why haven't I ever done anything as stylish as she has?"   It's not a jealousy, it's an appreciation of beauty (ok, maybe it IS a jealousy - I'll be honest!)   And then, after your visit to this fabulous house, you go home, to your own beloved house that you've worked so hard on and fretted over, that you've designed and furnished .........and you think........"is there a gun anywhere?   I want to shoot myself!" 


I had just that feeling today while out antiquing.   A glimpse into another home, another style, another design aesthetic that gave me pause and made me think:      " hmmm.....can I please start all over again?"   Mary Daly lives in just that home, a wonderful resort inside the city limits, an architectural gem of a place, designed and built by none other than Houston great and legend Kurt Aichler.   I've yet to see an Aichler home that I haven't loved and this one certainly didn't disappoint.


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Isn't this the cutest license plate?


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Even the delivery  truck is cute!


So, why was I torturing myself at Mary Daly's house today?     Mary is an antique dealer.  She goes to Paris several times a year to meet up with her partner Pat  Sadoux, Ohio born, but for the past 45 years, a French wife and mother.  Together Mary and Pat scour the countryside of the south of France and the flea markets of Paris, and just about everywhere in between to gather up a unique assortment of antiques:  some refined, some more rustic, some just fun, but all wonderful.   The business is called the Fabulous Flea and for a few years they showed their wares at Antiques and Interiors on  Dunlavy.  That was until there was turn of events:   Mary's elderly next door neighbors moved out and the Daly's purchased their lot.  At that point, Aichler was again recruited  to design a guest house and an outside entertaining pavilion along with a pool.  The  newly built guest house now houses the Fabulous Flea and fabulous it is.  One day, when Mary and Pat are through with the antique grind, the Dalys will turn the shop into a either an apartment for their children, or a place for their guests -  whomever needs it first.


So, today, I found myself shopping at the Fabulous Flea as  Mary and Pat were showing their new shipment before they pack it all up this weekend for Round Top, the Texas antique fair.  If you are going to Round Top, be sure to visit the Fabulous Flea.  They'll be in Marburger Farms, September 30 through October 4th, Tent B Row b6.  But, be sure to get there early - things tend to sell out fast.    If you can't make it to Marburger, call Mary for an appointment in Houston when she gets back home.   And if you don't live in Houston, enjoy these pictures and shop from their web site


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The compound:  On the left is the Daly house:  The front door is through the arch.  On the right is the guest house aka The Fabulous Flea.  Behind the stucco wall is the garden, swimming pool, and outdoor pavilion.  This wonderful compound was designed and built by Kurt Aichler.


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Close up of the guest house aka The Fabulous Flea.  You can enter the Fabulous Flea through either the "front door" under the awning, or through the carriage doors on the right.


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A lantern hangs next to the Fab Flea's front door.   Vintage theatre seats, slipcovered in linen sit outside along with other items. 


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I went in through the carriage doors.   Be sure to notice the doors - large and arched, with handsome hardware, they open in the middle. 


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The view going in through the carriage doors to the first room.


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One of two large rooms filled with  newly arrived purchases from France.  Along the back door behind the bookcase is a smaller pair of carriage doors that lead to the back garden. 


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Matching lanterns in two sizes. 


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This Swedish demi lune is one of a pair - they can be used as consoles or together as a table. 



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A beautiful, painted armoire.


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An extra large,  antique buffet, laden with  books and small, iron planters.  Slipcovered stools are underneath.


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Across the back carriage door, an assortment of furniture.


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Hanging are a pair of black pendant lights.


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Looking from the  first room  into the second - notice the paneled doors that lead into the next area.


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The large, second room, with an assortment of French antiques and accessories. 


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A Charles V settee sits against the window over looking the garden and the main house.    You can just make out the antique door that leads into the house.   


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Through these doors, lined up on an axis, is the outdoor pavilion. 



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I loved this table, but it was already sold. 



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Everywhere are beautiful vignettes.  Here a painted chest with mirror and flanking sconces.


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An arched window sits next to a French chaise.   The metal display case holds jewelry and silver utensils. 


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A hanging, painted console with mirror, one of a pair.   Reflected in the mirror is more merchandise.


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And looking back into the first room, a pair of standing lamps flank the large doors.  Be sure to notice the hardware on the doors and the ceiling height  in the first room.  Beautiful!


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OK!  Enough shopping!  I want to go see the backyard!  Here, outside the double doors is the path back  into the Fab Flea.  You can see Mary on the left, and Moi on the right, unfashionably still in white linen.  Mary and Pat refused to have their pictures taken for some reason odd reason - they both looked adorable I thought!    Be sure to notice the pathways lined in pavers against gravel. 


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The outdoor pavilion over looking the pool and the main house.  The large arched building has an outdoor kitchen, dining area, and seating area.   Large lanterns flank the arches.  Through the arches on the opposite side  is a large courtyard.  To the right of this building is the Fab Flea. 


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Inside the seating area.  Notice the beautiful ceiling.  To the left is the pool and  main house, to the right is the courtyard area. 



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Close up of the fireplace.  I love the stacked wood on each side.   The horns above are just perfect for the space.  Isn't this wonderful?


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The eating area.  Through the opening is  the door to the Fab Flea.



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The view from the outdoor pavilion looking across the swimming pool into the main house.   Before the Daly's neighbor's sold their lot, the fence between their two properties was right at the edge of the swimming pool.  Hard to imagine now!    The pool, the outdoor pavilion, the Fab Flea guest house, and the courtyard area were all conceived by Aichler who designed and built the house and the additions.    




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Going back into the Fabulous Flea through the back carriage doors in the first room.  Mary's beautiful daughter, Grace, is there to help.  



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Inside the same door, looking out to the courtyard.  To the left of the courtyard you can just make out the outdoor pavilion.  The paths around the courtyard are gravel.



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The very friendly and sweet Gracie, helping her mom and Pat at work.    Gracie is enjoying her second week off from school due to Hurricane Ike, Monday will be her first day back.   The Dalys also have an teenage son. 


So, where's the main house?   Well, Mary gave me a tour of her house, and I was afraid of being too pushy and obnoxious, so I didn't dare even ask for pictures.  Suffice it to say, the house is beautiful -  understated and elegant at the same time.  The wood  floors are bleached, the walls are white stucco.  The interior is all linen and slipcovers with seagrass rugs, so you can imagine how much in heaven I was.  The details of the house are magnificent - the baseboards for example, I've never seen such wonderful baseboards!  The kitchen, well  - to die for.  The house is casual and comfortable, the rooms are human sized, not over scaled.  The ceilings are high and some are paneled.   Mary says that the more time she spends in France, the more she wants to edit, but surely she must know, that her house is already wonderfully edited.   Of course Mary was gracious and humble, but truly, I was overwhelmed by how perfect the house is.  I could have asked for the keys and moved in there today and never looked back on my own house.....eekkk!!!!  I have to go BACK there to live  forever??????  NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!    This feeling rarely happens, I don't usually fall so in love with a house, but I promise you, you would have too.   The Daly's house hasn't been published yet, but, not that they haven't been asked.  Hopefully, it will be soon and then you will get to experience it firsthand too. 


I had such a great time today with Mary and Pat and Gracie.  They were wonderful hosts and eager to hear all about blogging and such.    Since I wasn't given the keys to the house, I did want to take a piece of it home with me to remember the day.  So, what did I choose?  Can you guess?  It's something  in the picture below.


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If you are going to Round Top, be sure to stop by the Fabulous Flea at Marburger, September 30 through October 4th, Tent B Row b6.  Otherwise, contact Mary for an appointment at the Fab Flea in Houston.    And also, be sure to peruse the web site for information and prices of the items shown here:

Harrison and Me!



A mosaic of four watercolors from Harrison Howard's Chinoiserie series.

Remember this? In August, after a long series of dreamy beach houses, I planned a virtual beach house for myself - with two different decorative schemes - because as everyone knows - I'm terribly conflicted between the two: the first scheme, "The Cluttered Beach House" was perfect for the Hamptons or perhaps Nantucket in a gray shingled house. The second virtual scheme "The Uncluttered Beach House" was more restrained, slightly Swedish in feel and perfect for a house in Seaside, Florida. In both houses, I featured a series of watercolors from the uber talented artist Harrison Howard. The Chinoiserie series, above, was for the Hamptons beach house while, the Shell series below would be wonderful in the aqua-colored beach house in Seaside. Ah, to dream!


A mosaic of four water colors from Howard's Shell series.

In truth, Mr. Howard and I are email buddies, who like to champion each other's careers, when we aren't talking about our children. Harrison's only child is a son who is the same age as my only child, Elisabeth. When I was designing the virtual beach houses, I was thrilled to finally have a chance to showcase my friend's wonderful art. The first time I ever heard of Harrison was when the blogger The Peak of Chic featured him here, and then, the artist Annechovie followed up with an interview of Harrison on her blog. Ever since my initial visit to Harrison's web site, I've been lusting after his Chinoiserie series and wishing they were mine. Many visits to the web site later, I knew that at some point, I was going to buy a watercolor, or two, or maybe even four!! After much discussion back and forth, it was settled that I would get the four from the Chinoiserie series that I so loved. While I initially wanted the original work of art, Harrison assured me that I would never be able to tell the difference between the original and the print, except, that is, in my bank statement - and true to his word, I can't. So, he packed up the four prints I chose, with extra special care I might add, and home to Houston they came. When the prints arrived I was taken aback by how much more beautiful they were in real life as opposed to the computer screen! They were so vibrant and colorful - the details so perfectly executed by an artist with exceptional skills. In short, they were amazing. What I adore the most about the paintings is the subtle humor found within each image. Imagine a crab portrayed as an artist's canvas, or a beekeeper living a Sponge Bob Square Pants underwater existence!! After a couple of days of just enjoying the prints, they went to the framers (which can actually get quite expensive if you aren't careful) and a few weeks later, I have them back - where they are now hanging in my bedroom. The corals and pinks from the watercolors blend perfectly with my pink Fortuny print fabric, while the deep oranges and Chinese yellows are matched to the suzani on my bed. The various greens meld in with my very seafoam room. As I told Harrison last night, I couldn't wait to share his watercolors with you! Enjoy!

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Walking into my bedroom, the first thing you see is the bed against the back wall. A white linen bedspread and an antique suzani cover the bed. Blue and white porcelain vases were made into lamps. The sunburst mirror plays into the symmetry of the vignette. Seagrass, of course, covers the hardwoods, and while linen slipcovers are on the love seat.

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Turning to the left, is the large antique armoire which hides our T.V. On each side, I placed two of the watercolors. The colors in the my suzani at the end of my bed and the fabric on the chairs and bench are all found in the watercolors. Because the room is not very deep, it's difficult to get a shot of all four watercolors at the same time, but I tried! Also, unfortunately, the camera is picking up the glare in the frames' glass. You'll just have to come to Houston to see how good they look in person!

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A close up of the frames I chose. They are reeded gold in a matte finish, not shiny in the least. Harrison suggests a bamboo frame for his Chinoiserie series, but I couldn't resist these! The mat is creamy white with an inner mat in Chinese yellow. The lighting in these pictures is terrible - the yellow mat is actually quite vibrant.

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The view from the bed - all four together! The chairs underneath the paintings are lacquered chinoiseries, upholstered in the pink Fortuny fabric. I thought the black oriental styled chairs were a perfect foil for Howard's Chinoiserie series.

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On the other side of the room is my desk with a mirror and sconces. Notice that my bathroom door is painted black - actually all the doors in my house are painted black. I think its a great look and a very inexpensive way to make a cheap, builder grade, hollow-core, paneled door look impressive, if that is at all possible.

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A close up of the desk and chair which are hand-me-downs from my mother, Betty Rae. If you haven't read her tribute, please do so here! It's a portrait of my design mentor and the story of how I came to be a lover of French antiques.

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Next to the sofa is a chinoiserie mirror that came with the pair of black chairs. The set is actually my sister-in-law's. She has visiting rights, only. The curtain and headboard fabrics are two different sized checks from Chelsea Editions.

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My collection of blue opaline. To learn more about this French glass, go here.

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One last glimpse of the four as you leave the room, out the door to the left.

Thanks Harrison! The three of us love them - and they look fabulous!

Be sure to visit Harrison Howard's web site at to learn more about the artist and to peruse his portfolio.

Group Sibuet - Romantic French Hotels, Part 1



Jocelyne Sibuet, author of the popular decorating tome,  "A French  Country Home, Style and Entertaining," has been called the Martha Stewart of France.  But while Martha  concentrates her efforts  around the home,  Sibuet's forte is hotels.   Both Sibuet and her husband Jean-Louis hail from families in the hospitality business, so their interest in hotels came naturally.   In business now for over twenty years, their first effort was located in the west, high in the French Alps, where they renovated and restored a neglected property.  Today, they own a number of small, boutique hotels in the ski resort town of Megeve.   About eight years ago, a chance trip to the South of France, opened their eyes to the possibilities of a new venture, and they now own two hotels in the region. It would be a dream of a lifetime to experience each one of their hotels for a week or how about for a month - hey, as long we are dreaming, let's dream big!   To start, today, we'll visit La Bastide de Marie, the couple's first foray in hosting guests in the same area that Peter Mayle immortalized in A Year in Provence.  La Bastide, with 12 guest rooms,  is located in a centuries old farmhouse in Menerbes - just 24 miles east of Avignon in the Luberon Mountains.   The property is 37 acres, much of which is comprised of the Sibuet's vineyard that produces their label Domaine de Marie.   The atmosphere of the hotel is rural to be sure, but definitely not rustic.  Jocelyne's deft touch is everywhere:  from the fresh flowers, to the lush towels, to the linen napkins,  to the votive candles - the atmosphere is heady with the scents and sights of the Provencal lifestyle.   The Sibuet's goal is to make their guests feel as if they are actually at home here, that they belong here, rather than they are just visiting.


Jocelyne is not formally trained as an interior designer, yet La Bastide's interiors are an integral part of its charm.  Eschewing the popular Provencal bright yellow, red and blue Pierre Deux mini prints, La Bastide de Marie is a vision in griege, that perfect shade somewhere between gray and beige with just a hint of green.  The interiors are real.  There is no faux country French here, and certainly, there is no Americanization of that style, as some other boutique hotels in the area are.  The rooms do not appear to be staged, rather they seem to be rooms you might find in a private home, an effect Jocelyne has strived hard for.   Each room is different, as is each bath.  And each was thoughtfully pulled together by Sibuet who searched the countryside looking for  furniture in the nearby antique markets.  The ever present linen, in that wonderful griege color was culled from fabric houses such as Pierre Frey,  Canovas, and local artist Edith Mezard.  The rooms each have their owns  names inspired by their fabrics:  Gris de Sauge and  Miel d'Oranger - to name a few.   Jean-Louis was in charge of the restoration of the farmhouse and the renovation took just over a year to complete.  Guests have their choice of staying in the main hotel or in one of the two outbuildings located slightly further away.  There is a spa on the property, as well as two swimming pools.  Day trips include visits into town or to nearby areas such as L'Isle sur la Sorgue, the world famous country antique market or to nearby St. Remy.  Not surprisingly, Jocelyne reports that most guests prefer to stay put and revel in the quiet, lazy days of farm life.



The nearby town of Menerbes - the closest neighbors to La Bastide de Marie.  Who is Marie?  The Sibuet's  daughter!



Jocelyne, the French Martha Stewart, and Jean-Louis on the grounds of the Bastide.




Gravel roads to the hotel are lined with tall cypress trees and lavender in the summer.  The Bastide is open spring through fall, and is closed for the winter.



An aerial shot of the ancient farmhouse, built of native limestone with terra cotta tile roofs.  Here you can see neatly planted rows of the vineyard that produces Domaine de Marie.



An overhead shot of the Bastide.  The  vineyard surrounds the hotel on all sides.



This large window leads to the area that was once the barn and today is the main lobby.



The same view,  taken in fall - isn't this gorgeous?



One of the pools, located inside the walled area next to the former barn.



Another shot of the romantic walled swimming pool, built to resemble a grotto.



The hotel has two main swimming pools.  Here, is the second one which terraces down from a fountain.



The hotel has its own spa, but massages can take place outside under the trees!  Nice!     



A  dining terrace overlooks  the vineyards.  The tables are set with the white and griege linen cloths that Jocelyne so loves.  Atmospheric candles are set about  in glass votives  and in lanterns.      I love the curved black iron furniture.



Past the terrace, chairs   lined with scalloped matelasse, are set up on the lawn.  Notice the baskets and votives - details of Jocelyne's that make La Bastide de Marie unique and authentic.



The large lobby, or living area as it is called, was originally part of the barn.  The huge fireplace is a natural gathering place.  The upstairs library is reflected in the mirror above the mantel.




A close up of the massive stone fireplace in the lobby area.




The staircase in the lobby leads to a library.



A closer view of the stone staircase and library.   The floors and stairs are native French limestone - to die for!



The large window, once most likely the barn door, looks out onto the dining terrace and the countryside beyond. 



Lounge chairs are set up in front of the lobby's big window.  The shelves are filled with antique objet d'art and old books that Jocelyne collected for the Bastide.



  Another living area in the lobby, surrounded by antique chairs upholstered in linen.



Lunch is served outdoors, on shaded tables covered with white table linens and baskets of fresh herbs from the garden.  The kitchen is at the back through the limestone arch.




Setting the table:    Jocelyne designed the hotel uniforms with their long linen aprons, khaki skirts and crisp white shirts.   Notice the scalloped tray that hold the napkins - darling!  No detail is too small for Jocelyne.



The kitchen, where guests are welcome to come and take cooking lessons.



Tables are set up in the kitchen for meals.  Beautiful antique chairs surround a long, wood table.



The dining room.  A console with scalloped sides holds a sculpture and lit candles.  Potted rosemary substitutes for fresh flowers on the tables.



At night, tables are lit by candlelight in another area.



Each room in the main Bastide is decorated differently.  Here, a native boutis covers the iron canopy bed, draped with linen.  The floor is terra cotta pavers.  A wainscot is painted a rich persimmon. 



The other side of the bedroom, showing a beautiful French settee sitting under the oval mirror.



This bathroom has two large vessel sinks.  No cabinet doors - the griege linen covers the pipes!



This suite has an iron canopy bed, with linen curtains.  A writing desk steps in for a  night table.



The other side of the suite, showing it's own fireplace and slipcovered sofa with seagrass rug - my favorites!




The suite's bathroom is set behind paneled walls - open at the ceiling.  Linen curtains substitute for doors.



This room is decorated with a toile inserted wood headboard.  Linen curtains hang from the bed's corona.  The bath is behind the half wall to the left.



A vignette in one of the guest rooms.



This bathroom is below, reached by a set of winding limestone stairs - how romantic!  To let in light, a small window was carved out of the stone next to the tub.



Red toile and white and griege linen decorates this room.



An antique mirror and claw foot tub are the highlights of this bath.  The wainscot is faux marble.



This chicly uniformed employee carries a basket of towels to the Bastide's outlying building - the private guest house located off the property.



The two outbuildings, pictured above, further away from the main Bastide are available for let - for those who desire even more privacy than the 12 room main hotel provides!




The staff, bring linens to the outbuildings in authentic french wicker baskets.



Gorgeous lavender lines the walkway to the private outbuildings.  Just beautiful!!




The outbuildings come with their own pool.  Ahhhhh.



The main living area of one of the outbuildings.  Each of the two outbuildings holds 10 guests.  The limestone stairs lead to guest rooms.



A dining room  in one of the outbuildings.   Guests who stay here  may have their meals delivered to their room, or they may join the other guests in the main Bastide.  Each outbuilding has it's own kitchen.   At the hotel, all meals are included in the room price, except for lunch. 



This living area has bookcases painted gray - here all the books have white or cream paper covers.  I love that look!



One of the bedrooms in the outbuilding. 



Another bedroom - with a view towards the bathroom.



One the bathrooms in the outbuildings.



The map showing the towns where  Group Sibuet has hotels.  La Bastide de Marie is located in Menerbes, in the south.


I hope you've enjoyed our virtual visit to the South of France!  Hopefully, one day, we can all go in person.  Be sure to visit the web site for La Bastide de Marie here.   And to order Jocelyne Sibuet's book, go here