Cal-a-Vie: French Romance in Southern California

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Remember this house designed by Cote de Texas Top Designer #7 Gerrie Bremermann?   The house is owned by Terri and John Havens, of New Orleans.   The couple moved their permanent home from Houston to be in New Orleans and hired Bremermann to design a kid-friendly home, even though they had no children at the time.   Now, parents of three children, the choice to hire Bremermann was no accident.  Terri Havens is a committed Francophile, as Bremermann herself is.    Around seven years ago the Havens won an auction item for a week's vacation in California at the famous health spa Cal-a-Vie.   Located 40 miles north of San Diego in the hills of southern California, Cal-a-Vie's 200 acre property resembles more a Provencal countryside than an American one.   The couple was hopelessly hooked.    They bought the spa and embarked on a massive restoration and remodeling, turning the picturesque property into a French dream. 

California is famous for its legendry spas, the Golden Door and La Costa among them.  Cal-a-Vie has quickly caught up.  The spa wins all sorts of awards each year, including Travel and Leisure's #1 Destination Spa of 2008.  Suffice it to say, it's now considered one of the top spas in the world.   The Havens trek to France each year to collect furniture, construction materials and even buildings to bring back to Cal-a-Vie.  The result?  A gorgeous spa with a decidedly French atmosphere.  Although staying at Cal-a-Vie is very expensive, it is all inclusive - including pedicures, massages, and every imaginable treatment you can think of.  It's small - the capacity is only 24 guests and the ratio is 4 staff to each person.   If a vacation to France is too far away to manage, a quick trip to Cal-a-Vie in southern California may just make you feel you went abroad anyway.

 

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The valley where the pink stucco, red tiled roof guest rooms are concentrated.  The surrounding hills provide hiking trails for early morning treks.  The Pacific Ocean is just a few miles away.

 

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To get there, first you drive over a wooden bridge, then you enter the property through iron gates.

 

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The entrance to Cal-a-Vie.  Steps lead to the pink stucco main building with authentic French wood shutters painted green.

 

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The same inviting scene at night.

 

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The terra cotta steps leading to the main lobby.  Orange trees grow everywhere in southern California.  In nearby Rancho Santa Fe, most houses have their own orange orchard.

 

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The lobby:  filled with authentic French antiques brought back by Terri and John Havens.  The large lobby area has several distinct seating areas.  I love the settee and the tall tea table.

 

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Another view of the lobby from the back stairs.    Notice the beautiful Spanish style antique table just to the right.

 

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The bar area of the lobby, except no liquor is served on the premises!  Remember this is a health spa.  Guests may bring their own toddies, but most choose to stay on the Spa Plan and try to lose weight while here.  On the right is a massive, glorious  tapestry.

 

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Another seating area in the lobby next to the fire place.   The walls are limestone, the floors are unstained wood.   Large armoire doors flanking both sides of the fireplace are built into the walls. 

 

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A close up of the antique fireplace mantel imported from France.

 

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A massive crystal chandelier hangs over the center seating area.

 

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Notice the wood floors in the lobby:  I would guess that the Havens imported these ancient boards from France.

 

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Guests eat dinner around this large French table, underneath antique chandeliers.  The room is wall-to-wall boiserie, with a hand painted frieze above the paneling.  Notice the antique crystal candelabras on the table.  On the Spa Plan, guests can choose how many calories  per day they want to stick with during their stay. 

 

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Lunch is served in either this dining room or outside on the terrace.  The French chairs are slipcovered in cotton check.  Notice the beautiful large armoire with a grape gathering basket on top.  At lunch, many guests dine in their hotel terry cloth robes - ready to go to their beauty treatments during the afternoon.  Mornings are spent doing exercises.

 

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The grounds with a French fountain.    Notice the lone building on the hill in the back.

 

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That building, shown here, was bought by the Havens in Dijon, France and imported to California, stone by stone.  It is a 400 year old Chapel from the Convent of the Carmelites.   Today, it is the oldest building in San Diego County!   The Chapel is lit only by candlelight and is used for weddings and private dinners.  The couple is also rebuilding an imported Orangerie from  France which will serve as a reception room.   The stones in the front of the picture form a labyrinth where guests walk the circles in silent meditation.

 

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A close up of the restored Chapel, with its heavy wooden doors and arched windows. 

 

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Inside the Chapel, decorated for a wedding dinner - so beautiful!

 

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Another view from the outside.    I wish my daughter Elisabeth could get married here one day!

 

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The grounds outside the guest rooms were landscaped by the Havens after they purchased Cal-a-Vie.

 

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The same view - with the massive fruit tree in full bloom.

 

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The 200 acre property consists of hilly terrain.  A golf club adjoins Cal-a-Vie and the Havens recently purchased it to combine the two properties - making a total of 400 acres.   The golf club will be completely renovated - the French atmosphere will be carried over from Cal-a-Vie, although it will have a more masculine feel, according to John Havens.   He states that he and his wife are passionate about Cal-a-Vie and they are thrilled to be able to combine the properties and preserve the land and views.  More renovations are still going on at Cal-a-Vie:  all bathrooms were recently updated and additional exercise space is being built.  The spa gets many Hollywood stars, including Oprah Winfrey and Sharon Stone, who are frequent guests.  The actress Sharon Gless holds the record for staying the longest time - 3 months!  Most guests stay either 3 days or one week.  

 

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A guest room with the bright pink bougainvillea that lines the highways of southern California.

 

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The same guest room, at night.

 

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The guest rooms have been decorated by Terri Havens using French fabrics and antique furniture.  An arched window makes this room especially appealing.

 

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This room uses a combination of toile, check and ticking fabrics. 

 

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Blue and white French toile, check, and stripes! 

 

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A tone-on-tone damask was used in this guest room.  A graceful antique French day bed sits under the shutters.

 

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Traditional blue and white toile and checks along with French antique furniture was used in this guest room.

 

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This guest room has antique French leather armchairs imported by the Havens.  Even the lamps throughout the property are antiques. 

 

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The bathrooms in all the rooms were recently renovated with travertine tile surrounded tubs. 

 

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This room has a balcony that overlooks the hills. 

 

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And this guest room has a patio for outdoor dining.

 

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Even the spa is decorated in the French tradition with antique mirrors, sconces and buffet.    Antique terra cotta pavers were imported for the floor.

 

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The spa bathroom is as beautiful as it gets with a stone vessel sink, mirrors, sconces, and traditional blue and white tile.

 

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The spa:  heavenly!   Notice  the tile back splash.   Antique cabinetry holds the towels.  Just beautiful.

 

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A mural is painted behind the Jacuzzi, while a painted console holds the details that make Cal-a-Vie a feast for the eyes:   blue and white porcelain and white ironstone. 

 

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Even the beauty shop goes French with a trumeau and sconces.  In typical French fashion, the trim is painted gray while the walls are a creamy peach.

 

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Of course the Boutique would be charming too!  Terri Havens must be in heaven doing all the shopping for her property.  I would be!!!  The iron chair is adorable.

 

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In the boutique the French atmosphere continues with the fireplace decorated with a French mirror and candlesticks.

 

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Chandeliers are for sale here too!  Cal-a-Vie will soon be launching an online store on their web site.

 

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Early morning hikes are taken on the hills that surround the property.   The Pacific Ocean is nearby and acts as a natural air conditioner as the winds blow the air over the cold  water.

 

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Leaving Cal-a-Vie must not be fun!  Agapanthus line the walkway out the iron gates to the wooden bridge that leads back to San Diego.

 

If you plan to go, be sure to book extra time to explore southern California.  The nearby cities of La Jolla and Del Mar are especially charming and so is Catalina Island.  The neighborhood and small town of Rancho Santa Fe is a great place for drive-bys!  The  Cal-a-Vie web site contains information about rates, special theme weeks and guest lecturers and teachers that are scheduled. 

J. Randall Powers - Houston's Finest

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Imagine the man who owns this closet - could there be anyone neater?  Just admire how he hangs all the white shirts on the left  - nary a print to mess up the order.  On the right, the light colored jackets are hung on the bottom rung, the darker jackets are on top.   And style?    Admire all those orange Hermes boxes, stacked neatly on the back shelf.  Yes, indeed, the man who owns this closet has great style.  On the top left shelf, Louis Vitton luggage is stored - something tells me its the real thing, no faux LV for this man.  Don't miss the mannequin in the center, with ties around its neck.  There's even a ceiling fan for those hot Houston days.   What a closet!  This space says this man has taste and style - oozing out from every pore.    The owner?  J. Randall Powers, or Randy, as his friends and clients call him.  Debonair and handsome,  interior decorator Powers is poised on the brink of superstardom, and Houston gets to claim him as a favorite son.

He's young.  He's been in the business for less than two decades.  There's nothing he can't tackle - there's no style he can't do, and he does it all extremely well.   Whether it's transitional, or ultra contemporary, eclectic or traditional, classic or chic - he does it all with style and aplomb.  The darling of the society set, his wit and personality make him fun to be with and work with.  His clients come back for more.   He's been published a zillion times - including a cover of Elle Decor, the equivalent of an Oscar in the design business.   Powers is without a doubt the hottest designer in Houston, bar none.  Everyone wants to hire him, and half of Houston already has.  Fabulously successful, his star is bright, so bright it might blind you - but that would be sad, for how would you enjoy his wonderful portfolio?    So, here, for your pleasure, is just a small sample of his work.  Powers recently launched his web site - be sure to visit it here and enjoy!

 

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The Oscar:  the cover of Elle Decor,  2007.   This magazine featured Power's work again this year.  Other publications he's been in are Southern Accents, House Beautiful, and Paper City - to name a few.

 

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House #1:   This high rise apartment featured in Elle Decor is the same room as shown on the cover - styled differently.  Elle Decor is notorious for staging their covers.  Which look do you prefer?  The cover or the  space shown here?

 

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Another version of the room.  I prefer it this way, but with the blue pillows!   The stunningly gorgeous cabinet and the coffee table were both designed by Powers.   Note the mix of furniture style: the antique stools with the more modern tables.  Powers' success lies in his restraint.  His interiors are never cluttered.  Each piece is placed with careful deliberation.

 

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Another living space in the high rise apartment.  Again, a mix of old and new - no set style - just a collection of beautiful pieces.

 

 

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The same room in the high rise apartment, styled differently.  Art work is a passion for Powers and is always an important element in his designs. 

 

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A seating area in front of the windows - notice the gorgeous Biedermeier chairs.  .

 

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Again, antiques mixed with mid century modern in a soothing vignette.  Powers' strength lies in his ability to pair desperate styles in wonderful combinations. 

 

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The master bedroom - simple, yet elegant, as each space in this high rise is. 

 

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A close up of the bookcase in the master bedroom.  The books are placed with the spines facing inside - leaving the gold leaf of the pages to glisten.  This treatment caused so much interest with letters to the editors - that Elle Decor featured Powers' bookshelves  in a later issue.  

 

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Here, in a different home, Powers again used the same technique for books.  It is a great tool to unify and soften the loud colors created by books.

 

 

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House #2:    The entry to a high rise apartment once owned by Powers -  he has since moved on.  Here is classic Powers at work:  a fabulous antique chest with exuberant hardware juxtaposed with pop art.  The contemporary lamp balances out the bronze.  Powers has amassed an important collection of art as his interest in the subject has grown.

 

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A vignette in Powers' former high rise apartment.   All fabrics are white which lets the furniture frames take center stage.

 

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The same view at night, overlooking the city of Houston.

 

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The dining room resembles more of an art gallery than a place to entertain with dinner parties.   This is a wonderful way to treat a dining room in today's age when most dinner parties take place at restaurants.

 

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Another space in Powers' former  high rise apartment.  The unique root chair is accented against the sleeker elements in the space.

 

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The same space, styled differently. 

 

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The master bedroom - again, all white and creams.  A large sunburst clock is the focal point above the bed.

 

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Powers, as many interior decorators do, has moved quite a few times.  Follow these two antique chairs on their journey from house to house.  Here they sit before a beautiful chinoiserie chest.

 

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Here, they sit across a brass table.

 

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House #3:    And here the antique  flank a fireplace.  This room is fabulous.  Notice the two oriental chests with large vessels on top.   The floors are are ebony stained - the furniture appears to float above it.   This room is heavenly!  Perfect job by Powers!    The living room is located in an historically important house which was renovated and remodeled by Powers.  For his efforts, he was honored with the prestigious Good Brick award by the  Greater Houston Preservation Alliance.

 

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The exterior of the house that Powers renovated.  Built in 1929 by Katharine Mott, the house had suffered several unsympathetic additions that Powers sought to rectify and make less conspicuous and more in keeping with the original design.  Mott's houses are famous for her lavish use of tapestry brick,   asymmetrical facades, casement windows, and designs done on a large scale.   

 

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This picture shows the rear of the house with the addition that Powers renovated, adding the intricate brickwork that Mott houses are famous for.    Upon completion of the remodeling, Powers and his partner sold the house and moved on to the high rise apartment, which also has since been sold!   Typical of many interior designers, is the need to change their environment as their aesthetic is always evolving.  Oklahoman Charles Faudree is the winner in that department, though.  He's moved over 20 times during his career. 

 

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A sitting room next to the living room above.  You can just see the oriental cabinet in the doorway.

 

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I love this!  I believe this room belongs to the Mott house.  I adore this - the accent chinoiserie chair is gorgeous.  The mix of  the shades and curtains, the warmth of the wood against  the light upholstery fabrics,   the adorable bamboo foot stool and the wonderful oriental box all  help make this room warm and inviting.   This photo shows the breadth of Powers' talents - his ability to go from stark contemporary to wonderful classic English Manor design. 

 

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The dining room in the Mott house.  Again, English Country style all the way.  The light fixture appears to be the same one as used in the high rise apartment.   The urn is seen in the high rise too, but the table and chairs are long gone, replaced by the more sleek and sophisticated look that Powers lives with today.

 

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This picture of a library came from Powers' web site.  I'm not sure, but I believe this may be from the Mott house!  The style matches the English Country Manor look of the rest of the house.  I love the lamps in the bookcases.  But, the painting is my favorite element in the room.

 

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And finally, the kitchen in the Mott house.  White carrara  marble (which is scarce and impossible to find today!), period tile, farm sink, commercial style range, and white ironstone collection make this an authentic kitchen for a house built in the 20s.

 

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House #4:   Featured in Elle Decor magazine this year is this house  -  Powers'  latest home.  Powers and his partner lusted after it for years and finally were able to buy it.  Here, the living room is shown.  Notice the famous two antique chairs on the back left.   Powers' own designed coffee tables are used at each seating group.  Again, white fabric allows the art work and accessories to take center stage.   The dining room is seen through the open doorway.

 

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The living room is made up of two seating areas - this is the one on the right.  The series of works on paper are by Cy  Twombly.

 

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The left side - this painting by Peter Sullivan is phenomenal.

 

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The dining room -  j'dore the oversized lantern!  The table is Dessin Fournir and the chairs are by Knoll.

 

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The library:  the coffee table is vintage Kalef Alaton, a personal favorite of Powers.  Notice people:  the sofa is Z Gallerie!!!!!!  The zebra pillows are Oly Studio.  This proves that good style can be affordable and had by anyone with the eye to find out.  The painting though, is for the lucky few:  Jean-Michel Basquiat.

 

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The study's armchair is by Dessin Fournir.  A Biedermeier sofa, upholstered in white.  Notice the scale - the height of the statue plays off the tall armchair.  Interesting, as always!

 

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The master bedroom -  the bed floats in the room in front of the fireplace.

 

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The guest room.  The bed is from Ironies.   The nightstands are from West Elm!  Again, good style has no price.

 

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House #5:    This home was published in Paper City.  Designed for clients who live in an English style townhouse complex - it's a favorite of mine.  The living room, all creams with touches of black.

 

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The dining room's square walls were curved by Powers.

 

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The kitchen, warm and inviting - I love the dark subway tile against the creamy yellow cabinetry.  The room is wallpapered in stripes.

 

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The other side of the kitchen is a sitting room. 

 

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I think this is my favorite room Powers' has ever designed!  The standout is the lavish use of one print:  Colefax and Fowler's Chinese Toile in brown.    My favorite wallpaper!  This inspired me to use it in my own powder room.  I love the touches of chinoiserie in the room.  The night tables are English chests. 

 

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The desk in the bedroom is covered with quill boxes.

 

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A closeup of one of the night stands.

 

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Here is a shot from Powers' web site.  A bathroom - does it get any better than this?  The chair!!!!!!  The marble wall behind the tub.  The hidden shower with it's seafoam glass tiles.  The acrylic table.  Perfection!

 

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House #6:    And finally - this summer House Beautiful featured this home designed by Randy Powers for  Andy Singer and his wife, Gayle.  Singer is the owner of  Visual Comfort, the trade lighting company whose retail outlet is Circa Lighting.   The house is the culmination of several years work for Powers and the Singers - which ended in a lasting friendship between them.  Powers has designed a line of lighting for Visual Comfort.   Though several bloggers featured this house before, no article on Powers could be complete with the inclusion of this wonderful home.   A clear departure from the contemporary look so many of Powers' clients want - Randy says that he loved getting the chance to do a traditional design.  Here - the family room.  A large back to back sofa divides the room into two areas, one for TV watching and one for lingering around the fireplace. 

 

 

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The fireplace side of the living room.  The kitchen sits behind the arched brick wall.  Seagrass matting covers the floor.  Rogers and Goffigon striped fabric.

 

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My favorite room in the house - the breakfast area.  Bennison fabric on the pillows.  Love this room!!

 

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The front study.   Again seagrass matting, white walls, and crisp brown fabrics.  The Peak Of Chic spotted a visual connection between Bill Blass' style and this room.  I see it.  And quite a compliment too!   The walls of the house are filled with beautifully framed prints. 

 

 

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At the front of the house, across from the study, is the dining room.  All lighting fixtures are of course from Visual Comfort!  Love the lantern sconces. 

 

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Another view of the dining room.  Of course I adore the skirted table buffet.

 

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The study.  Area rug placed over the seagrass.   The mix of furniture  styles in this room is unusual and exciting.  Notice the wonderful striped wallpaper.

 

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The guest room, adjacent to the study.  Paisley covers the upholstered bed.  Again, a collection of framed prints provides interest.  Notice how Powers used a pedestal to break up the expanse of prints. 

 

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The covered loggia, an outdoor room next to the swimming pool.  Very inviting.

 

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The master bedroom.   I love how Powers placed the settee in front of the bed creating an intriguing vignette.   Again, framed prints line the wall behind the four poster. 

 

 

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And finally - the master bathroom.   The focal point of the room - the cabinetry.  Only Powers could take what is usually a boring part of a bathroom - the linen closet - and make it a highlight.  Flanking the bullseye window, two columns of shelves meet in an arch.  The round shape of the window is repeated in the back of the chair's shape.  The sunburst mirror in the window is genius! 

 

I hope  you have enjoyed seeing the diverse and prolific portfolio of J. Randall Powers.  Young, with years ahead of him - the possibilities for the future are endless!  Imagine another decade or two or three of work - how exciting to think about!    Powers' has done Houston proud!   Good luck Randy - we can't wait to see what you've got up your fashionable sleeves!