Redo in Tanglewood



Of all the questions I get from people about my blog, the most asked is – do you make money from it? The answer is always the same – No! Then comes the lengthy discussion of why not: because it’s hard to make money on blogs. You first must have a huge readership to get advertisers willing to pay you more than $25 a year for the privilege of turning your site into a cluttered billboard. And then there is this reason: I started this blog as a labor of my love for interior design with absolutely no expectations of making any money. That hasn’t changed these past two years. Why would I want to turn my labor of love into a advertising free-for-all for Google ads or Amazon books or the latest green cleaning agent? And still – I don’t want to have to keep up a posting schedule that an advertiser might impose on me either. Nope. I’m ad-free now and hopefully forever, thank you very much!


There is this other oft asked question: does your blog help your interior design business? Do you get clients from it? Oh boy, yessiree I get clients! I have many, many readers who send me pictures of their house with questions on furniture arrangements or curtains or questions about seagrass (a lot of those) and slipcovers (even more!) or how about this one: how can I get my musty antiques to quit stinking up my house? Yes, I get clients. The problem with these kinds of clients though, is they aren’t paying ones. Usually their request for help can be answered in one or two emails, which is no real bother. In fact, I actually like those emails – it’s fun to look at readers’ houses and give my advice, though why they would want it is beyond me. As the blog has grown, so have the email requests and sometimes it does take a toll on my time. Have I ever gotten a true client from my blog – a paying client that actually lives in H0uston proper? While I’ve gotten a fair share of inquiries for true design work - most never go further than the initial email. They either live too far away from me as Houston is a very large, spread-out city. Or, they get a severe case of sticker shock when we start to discuss budgets. But, I have had a few clients that came to me from the blog, where everything worked out and the job was actually started and completed. This is a story about one such reader, who sent me an email asking for design help. As usual it came accompanied with pictures. And as we talked, she revealed that she was the reader who once left me a Kenneth Turner candle on my porch after I had blogged about them. Could any designer want for a sweeter client?


It started slowly. She and her husband and sons live in Tanglewood – one of Houston’s finer neighborhoods. Her house is an older two story, about which they were debating whether to tear it down and rebuild, or remodel, or just move. Their final decision was this: they would do a small remodeling job, wait until the boys went off to college in a few years, and then they would tear it down and rebuild. Maybe. The main issue was the problem of their master bathroom. They wanted to gut it and turn it into a smaller, but more efficient bathroom and add a separate powder room. Could I help her pick out marble and tiles? Hmm. I guess. Truthfully, picking out tile didn’t sound too promising or really worth my time. It sounded like another wild goose chase where the potential blog client is at first all excited, then gets cold feet, never to be heard from again. But this one was a little different and she actually had architectural plans for the bathrooms, and hey, I wasn’t too busy.


We worked on the two bathrooms and had the numerous and typical set backs and issues with contractors and stone tiles that turned mysteriously pink when installed. Try picking a paint color for that!! While work was being done on the bathroom gut jobs, my client confessed that she had recently purchased a sofa for her family room. Could I help her with fabric choices? Why, yes, as a matter of fact, I can. The two bathrooms are finished now. The master bedroom is still being worked on. Today, we finished the family room. So you see, in the end, it was worth my time. I gained a friend, and a client who turned out to be exceedingly nice and polite and very fun to work with. You know – that perfect combination. And I am learning something important. The BEST part about getting clients from my blog is that they already know my style. They’ve seen my work and obviously like my taste or they wouldn’t be hiring me. Without me even realizing it, much less planning it, my blog has become a portfolio for potential customers to peruse. After years and years of working with people whose style is so vastly different than mine, it’s refreshing and extremely exciting to work with a client who knows my look and wants it for herself! Here’s the story of her family room redo:


BEFORE: She had decorated it with some help a long while ago. The room was nice enough - cozy, and warm, just outdated for the 21st century. The walls were green, though it doesn’t look like it here. There were two groups of matching chairs, a dated brick fireplace and mantel, 60s type paneling and layers of nick naks built up from years of married life. And, there were no window treatments at all. What she wanted: the same cozy, warm room, just updated. The client actually had architectural plans for a major remodeling of this area of the house, but in the end they opted for redecorating instead.


BEFORE: The room is long and narrow with French doors on each side.


BEFORE: At the back of the room there is a table and chairs. With two teenaged boys, internet surfing is allowed downstairs only – in plain view of their parents. This became the main issue of the redo. The boys’ computers and gaming equipment (cleaned up for this picture) had overtaken the room. Clearly, something had to be done to provide them with a place to work, yet it needed to be somewhat hidden. A computer armoire? There are two boys, two computers, but two armoires in one room? Not a viable solution.


BEFORE: It was decided that a cabinet would be built in the back of the room along these two walls. There would be two computer stations hidden behind doors. With a plan in hand, fabrics were chosen, paneling was painted, the dated mantel was removed, doors were replaced, and everything was purchased new in the room, save for a coffee table and a gate leg table.


AFTER: In the entry hall, we painted the walls a cool toned, greenish taupe. The stair handrail was painted black to pop it. Two black lanterns were hung – one by the door and one in the stairwell. I found her an antique gate leg table and a new lamp was ordered from Aidan Grey. Seagrass will probably be going on the stair treads – if the bid will ever come in!


The dated shutters were replaced with bi-fold paneled doors. In fact all the doors in the house were replaced and then painted black. I like to do this when a house needs some extra architectural detail. Plus, I think the black paint gives the hollow core doors of today some much needed richness. The client was instructed to stay away all day and finally at 4:00 she was allowed home for the big reveal.


AFTER: The family room is now painted a rattan color, slightly yellow, slightly green, slightly creamy. The floor is covered with custom cut seagrass which extends to 5 inches away from the walls. There is an Os-de Mouton French sofa, slipcovered in a rattan colored linen, held in placed with long ties. There are two French styled wing chairs on swivels for easy TV watching along with a tufted top ottoman. For extra seating there is a French styled chair, in a Chelsea Editions check. The pillows are velvet and the curtains are a F. Schumacher print, which my client chose as the inspiration fabric. You can see the L-shaped built-in with the two hidden computer desks behind the sofa.


Another view. Since space and cluttering were concerns, we opted for two floor lamps next to the sofa instead of side tables. The coffee table will be used for drinks.


Looking towards the fireplace, we removed the mantel and placed a convex mirror there. Next to each chair is a vine table for drinks which was bought at the new Mecox store in Houston. In the existing bookcases, we added thickness to the shelves to update their appearance. In this picture, on the right, you can get a clear view of just how close the seagrass rug is cut to the wall, perfection!


Close up of the curtain treatment. This is actually one French door with two side windows. In order to hide the wall space between the doors and the windows, I used four panels instead of the usual two. Each panel is two widths of fabric for extra fullness. If space allows, three widths is even better! To fool the eye that the ceiling is higher, I placed the curtains right under the crown molding and the deep brown shades were brought up to that height also – thus eliminating the visible wall space between the French doors and the ceiling. The F. Schumacher fabric is a linen that resembles a Bennison but without the price! At a quarter of the cost, my client was able to get the look of a fine fabric and not break the bank. At our initial design meeting, my client was presented an edited array of fabrics and this was her first choice. The entire color scheme was built around it. The rattan linen fabric on the upholstery is a Dogwood, also very cost friendly. The linen is actually a blend, therefore the slips will be laundered when necessary, not washed. And last, outside the window is a courtyard in the middle of being landscaped.


Close up of the sofa. The seams are a 1/4” flange. The back cushions are cut in the same shape as the back of the sofa.


And looking towards the right side of the room.


Behind the sofa, we placed the client’s large gate-leg barley twist table along with the two desk chairs for the boys to use at the computer desk. Instead of typical bulky office chairs which would totally ruin the look, we chose these tufted red leather ones.


The bookcases are actually not completed yet. The center unit behind the doors houses the computer desks, complete with keyboard trays. These doors are getting chicken wire and will then be lined with fabric which will hide the computers when the doors are closed. The carpenter also has to finish the trim work below the center cabinet. Notice how the seagrass has been cut around the curves of the shelving unit. This is such an important aspect of getting your seagrass custom cut – these details around curves and fireplace hearths add so much!


The second side of the built in. Hi Mimi!!! You can see the chicken wire was attached on the right door. The boys are so anxious for their desks to be finished already. Some of the shelves’ accessories we ordered hasn’t arrived yet, and some of the books are still packed away.

Behind the scenes:

westu 085

My main girl! Monica Hancock of Custom Creations by Monica. Monica and I have been partners since my very first job! She does all my measuring and is the liaison between the workroom and my clients. Every drapery panel, pillow, duvet, and skirted table goes through Monica. I’m not sure I could be in business without her. She refused to pose for the camera because she hadn’t checked her hair or makeup first. Come on Monica, smile, you look great!!!!!!!!

westu 081

Drapery installer extraordinaire: Mr. Bennie Davis. Back on the job after open heart surgery last year, Bennie is an artist, though he said he hasn’t started up again painting since the surgery. Bennie has installed every single curtain I’ve had made, except for the jobs when he was recuperating. Always smiling, always in a good mood, and always humming!!!!!!!!!!!! He agreed to pose without looking in the mirror first, what a team player.


Custom cut seagrass. Yes, it CAN be seamed – and I dare you to find the seam later. The seagrass was cut and the binding was glued, all on the job, causing the day to be extra, extra long. OY.


And finally: BEFORE


and AFTER.





The master bedroom should be completed in a few weeks. I’ll take pictures of it, along with the two new bathrooms!

The Conservatory House


image The third and final house in the West University Festival of New Homes 2009 Series is the Conservatory House.   Lest you think that the festival is pathetically small with just three houses, you would be mistaken.  There were actually eight houses in the showcase, but I was taught if you can’t say something nice…….  And even that sounds overly harsh.  My mother, the famous Southern tastemaker Betty Rae, called to say how beautiful the Octagon and Provence houses were.   “So many houses with white walls, so much seagrass, so many slipcovers!   I had no idea how popular that look is!”   Well, not exactly Betty Rae.  You see of the eight houses, only three actually fit that bill.  The other five weren’t white or linen, or with a slipcover and seagrass style.  They were more the chenille and silk, oriental rugs, murals and lots of crown molding kind of houses.  Though in all honesty, one was a craftsman style house – all black and white high contrast with a bright lime green glass chandelier in the dining room.   It’s all personal – I’m sure many of you would have preferred  the other five houses to my three picks.   There wasn’t anything wrong with them, they were all actually quite lovely – they just weren’t Cote de Texas houses.    These three houses were.



westu 108


The third house, The Conservatory House, was different than the Octagon or Provence house.   It was smaller than both by over 2,000 sq. ft – so it seemed more “realistic,” more attainable.  It was less expensive (though I suffered sticker stock when I casually asked the builder what he was asking!)   It was more “normal” – it wasn’t breathtakingly, achingly beautiful.   You wouldn’t go through this house and just die if you couldn’t own it, or go home and give your husband grief over it, but still – it was special - with several areas that made you notice it and think - “Wow – what a great house this is.”   And though its lot is typical for West U, it is just a bit wider than standard, allowing extra space to offer a little bit more than most.   Its facade is deceiving.   At first glace it appears to be an old house that has been renovated and, in fact, it fooled even me for a few minutes.   Its brick has been painted a soft taupe – something you see done to vintage houses usually to cover up a deep, almost burgundy colored brick.  The arch over the front door seems reminiscent of a house built here in 40s.  In other words, the Conservatory House blended into the street – a street where many of the original two story houses still stand.   And so, though the Octagon House almost caused a suicide, and the Provence house was the stuff of dreams, the Conservatory House seemed like home.   It also didn’t hurt that the builder chose  Ginger Barber to help with the selections and furnish it for the show.    btw – that’s my friend Jordanna at the front door with her husband!



westu 113

The floor plan starts off like a typical West University floor plan with a front loading garage:   long entry hall with stairs, living room on the right, then dining room, then kitchen along the back sharing the space with the family room.   The wood floors flow throughout the downstairs and upstairs, which is really nice – no carpeting at all!    (Full floor plans are at the end of this post.)



westu 114

To the immediate left of the front door, Ginger used this table with a rustic lamp and the wonderful paper shades with the map of Paris.  Watkins Culver in Houston carries these.



westu 152

The view looking back towards the front door – the front porch, and door are both arched, as are most of the passageways downstairs.




To the immediate right of the front door is the formal living area, but with Ginger Barber, nothing is ever too formal.  Here she used a lantern and slipcovered sofa.  Demi lunes flank the wood mantel fireplace.  The trumeau was particularly effective.  If this was mine, there would be curtains, of course, and taller lamps in the window, and I do think I would elect for full length windows in this house – most are not.



westu 112

Close up of the fireplace – clean lines, very simple.


westu 158

Looking from the dining room – you can see the large arch that separates this room from the entry hall.




 The next room – through the living room is the dining room.  Carol Piper supplied the area rugs in the house.  Ginger matched fancy French chairs with a more rustic table.  I really like the long buffet with, again, a wood trumeau mirror.  As is now obvious from this house and the Provence house, Barber likes to use mirrors more than art and  I couldn’t agree more.   I love old Italian oils and they are so pricey – it’s just cheaper to substitute antique mirrors for fine art!



westu 162 

A close up of the dining room, showing the arch that separates it from the stair hall.



 westu 163

And looking back towards the living room – this was one door way which wasn’t arched because I believe there is a pocket door here – why I can’t imagine.




westu 116

Dining room close up:  typical Barber accessorizing – large and spare.  To the right, you can see the arch that leads to the butler’s panty and onto the kitchen.     I really like the drum shades on the lamps.  Drum shades really are an updated look.   If you are looking to freshen up a room, consider changing out your old lampshades to drums.   




The kitchen is very large and has a contemporary feel to it.  Very clean lined.  the countertops were soapstone. 



westu 153

Another view – so much storage!  I would have not put the upper cabinets along the back wall if this was mine.  That way, you could have put more windows along that wall.  In fact, I would probably have moved the range to the side wall and left this for the sink and a large expanse of windows.   But, alas, no one asked my opinion!



westu 121

Another Shaws farm sink – best sink in the world!




What makes this house special:   off the kitchen is this breakfast room – a true self-contained room with a clerestory window on the ceiling.  To further give this room a conservatory feel, antique bricks were used on the floor.  The walls of the room are brick – and it really makes it seem that this room was added on to the house – continuing the illusion that this is actually an older house instead of a new one.


westu 123 

Ginger chose a trendy metal table paired with painted rush seats.   Elliptical French doors made up three sides of the room.  This space is a true show stopper – it was gorgeous!  So unexpected!   I have never seen a new, typical West U home with this type of breakfast room – but it makes my wonder – why not?   I would love to do this to my house. It was just beautiful.  After the show I spoke with several people about the different homes and so many named this room as their favorite of the show!  It was just that great!



westu 124

A view of the elliptical doors with the clerestory window.  That ceiling fan would be coming down so fast if this was mine!


westu 127

Ginger used an antique butcher’s table and lantern.  Notice the brick walls which make the room look added on.



Through a large arch is the family room.  You can see the breakfast conservatory through the left side of the kitchen. 



westu 130

Slipcovers and mirrors, candlesticks and wrought iron, painted woods and baskets:   Ginger’s style.  The simple lined fireplace is actually two sided – it adjoins a screened in porch, another great surprise to the house. 


westu 134

I am crazy about this muted striped flat weave rug that Barber chose to use here.  The coffee table is great too.   The shelving unit is a style that I keep seeing more and more of – rustic wood and iron married together.   I suppose this could be the Belgium influence.  Through the open door is the screened porch which leads to the outside. 



westu 136

In this picture you can really see how the builder handled the trim – very sparingly.   No fancy crown molding, something I am loving more and more these days.  Just a great, tall, plain baseboard.  The entire house was trimmed out this same way.     And,  I love this stool Ginger used – a dressy French piece upholstered in antique petit point. 


westu 137

Owning to the somewhat wider lot, the extra footage allowed for this wonderful screened porch with the painted brick walls and antique brick floor.  Again, this porch adds to the illusion of the house’s age.   Through the door is the wide back yard.



westu 138

The fireplace that is shared with the family room. 




With the family room in the middle  - here you can really see the breakfast room/conservatory with the clerestory window on top.    Doesn’t it look added on?    And I love the short brick wall which separates the terrace from the yard. 



A closer view of the conservatory.  I love how Ginger decorated this terrace with loom chairs and a teak bench.   The yard is actually deeper than it looks here and I suspect the owners will be putting in a long lap pool.


westu 140

Looking from the other side – again – the perils of  town living in West University:  close by neighbors!


westu 141

Going back into the screen porch – through the French doors is the study, which is off the main stair hall.  Love the blue bootie that someone lost along the way.  The builders make you put them on during the tours!




The study is another surprise in the house – a great space for an office.  I love how Ginger used a table instead of a desk, something that I think is so practical and much prettier!   The walls and all the trim are all painted in the same shade.  Also – notice on the built-in how thick the shelves are – giving it a more updated look. 


westu 148

So pretty!   Just needs a simple window treatment, imo!


westu 170

Going upstairs, the dark, wide planked wood floors are continued throughout.  As with the Provence house, these rooms weren’t furnished, not even the master bedroom – which was a huge disappointment.   There are four bedrooms here, along with a large media room/playroom.



westu 171

The master bathroom – two separate vanities.


westu 173

And a beautiful tub.


westu 175

Behind closed doors in the master bedroom was a surprising office.


westu 176

And finally, the upstairs laundry room had this adorable checker floor.




And for the architects and interior designers and especially Stefan, the floor plans.


And so, it’s the end of the West University Festival of New Homes until next year.  I  hope you’ve enjoyed seeing the three houses that really spoke to me.  With each house I toured – I came away thinking “This is the ONE!” – how fickle I am.   You see, I visited a open  house this weekend and let me tell you – boy, was it beautiful.   I’m thinking the open house I toured this weekend was the ONE!!!    Does anyone know the name of a good psychiatrist in Houston?   Specializing in new-house-itis?    I’ve been struggling with this disease for a long time now and my husband is insisting that I get cured, quick.