Dreaming of My So-Called French Life

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Is spring really here?  Really, is it for sure spring yet?    It has been such a cold winter for Houston and everyone is so tired of it.  I know it can’t compare to what those in the north have to suffer through, (and suffer you must surely do!)  but still, this winter it was actually cold here – and for a long time.   Most winters, we have spells where you can wear T-shirts around during the day, but that didn’t happen this year.    And yes, while  I do consider anything lower than 65 degrees to be freezing – it’s all in what you are used to.     March is usually when we start wearing our summer clothes in Houston, but not this year.   And how about this – every time you think winter is truly over and you pack up all those sweaters and fleece, isn’t it always sure to bring on that one last cold front?  This summer when we will all be miserable and complaining, I know I’ll regret saying this, but – I’m so ready for hot weather!!!  My flowers are freshly planted and we’re holding out hope that our huge oak tree is going to make it, but it looks like we have to wait another year or two to be absolutely certain.   I planted a ton of caladiums last week and I can’t wait for them to peek out of the ground and unfurl their huge elephant-like ears!    Do they have caladiums in France?   I wish I had a French garden, with a row of plane trees growing outside a bastide made of limestone with light blue shutters.  And there would be lots of lavender and tall, cypress trees, and gravel paths lined with box.   One of my favorite blogs to read and dream about is Vicki Archer’s French Essence.  Vicki is from Australia, but she now divides her time between London and her house in Saint-Remy-de-Provence, the poor girl.   In Provence, where she and her family grow olive trees, Vickie wrote the book “My French Life”  all about her experience of falling in love with a French ruin and turning it into this:

 

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Vicki Archer’s house in Provence with its tiled roof and blue shutters and pergola surrounded by flowers.  “Mas de Berard” Vicki calls it, I call it a dream.

 

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Vicki’s terrace where they take drinks and dine – how gorgeous is this?

 

Vickie’s book “My French Life” has inspired me to think of writing about MY life.  After all – it’s just as glamorous.  Working titles are “Being Born in Galena Park Didn’t Hold Me Back.”   (Yes, I spent the first year of my life in that booming metropolis, Galena Park, near the stinky Houston Ship Channel.)  Or how about this title  “A Life Divided: Houston and South Padre Island.”    Wait, I have a few better ones:  “A  Grocer’s Daughter, a Landman’s Wife,  A Shopping Fool’s Mother.”    hmmmm – doesn’t quite have the same ring as “My French Life.”    OK, try this one:    “From Secretary to Interior Designer to Blogger – A Road Never Taken”   or  “Pretending A Spec House’s Backyard in Texas is a Lavender Farm in Provence.”    My favorite though is “My So-Called French Life.”     I’ll let you know the final  title when the publisher calls.

So, I don’t actually live Vicki Archer’s life (that’s for sure!) but I can dream, can’t I?   A psychiatrist once told me that when you get down or get the blues, you should imagine you’ve won the lottery and what you would do with it.    I hate to sound so superficial, but sometimes it works.  OK, let’s play.   What would it be like to move my family to Provence and tend to this garden?   It’s available!!!

 

“Le Dream:”

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Every morning I would get my bicycle out and ride down this gravel road to the village bakery for fresh hot coffee and a croissant.   If I can move to Provence, do I still need to cook?

 

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I’d come back laden with the daily papers and bakery goodies and have my butler Pascal ring that bell on top of the bastide to wake up my lazy  family (some things never change.)   We’d eat the pastries and drink the coffee and read the paper sitting outside under the umbrella.   Pascal’s wife Charlotte would whip up lunch for us to eat here too.   

 

 

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After breakfast, Pascal would set up a little bistro table with a chair for me to blog away on, right under the shade (we’d have wi-fi, of course.)  All the while my dog Georgie would be swimming in the pond and Sammie Jo would bark at the squirrels (do they have squirrels in Provence?)  Ben would head back upstairs to his bedroom, at the front, right, to sleep the morning away (probably nursing a migraine) and occasionally he’d wave at me down on the gravel terrace.  Elisabeth would be gone – driving into town for a bit of shopping!

 

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After lunch, Ben and I would go to the ruins for swimming under the hot summer sun.

 

 

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After the swim,  we would go back upstairs to change out of our wet clothes and shower for an early evening.   We’d wait for Lizzy to come home and then we’d watch the Purple Martins fly into their cute little house.  Or is that a dovecote?    OK, we’d wait for the doves to come fly back.

 

 

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Before dinner, we’d take a leisurely stroll through the  gardens, taking the time to actually smell the roses. 

 

 

 

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 And dinner would be set up here, with a white table cloth and lantern light, watching the sun set over the mountain range.    Maybe, just maybe we’d have a glass of wine for the occasion.    And then, it’s back to the house for a quiet night in, watching a few good oldies on DVD.  

 

 

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Just to wake up and do it all over again! 

 

I hope your weekend is filled with wonderful dreams that one day might just come true!    To read Vicki Archer’s “My French Life” go here.   To read Cote de Texas’ “My So-Called French Life" go here.

OY SUZANI!!!

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Sweet Artie, the voice behind Color Outside The Lines,  emailed me some pictures last week, saying he thought I would enjoy them.  Well, thanks Artie, you were right – though the word “like” is actually an understatement.     On so many levels – these photos present endless opportunities  to look, admire, critique, devour, learn, remember but certainly, not forget.    So enjoy!  And thank you Artie.  I owe you one!!

 

 

 

 

 

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Down a long brick drive, through wooden doors and a gate house, you enter the property.

 

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It is big, and it is old, very old.  There are also two guest houses and an underground garage for 15 cars.   The property is large – suffice it to say.

 

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The walls are white, the floors are black herringbone wood, and notice that the doors are painted black too.   The architecture is Mediterranean.

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No one lives here.  The house has been completely furnished so that potential owners might imagine how it would look to live here.  It’s called “staging.”  This is an example of mega-staging to the nth degree.

 

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The main room is all red, really, really red!   The carpet is a huge piece of seagrass, which shows how much color and texture seagrass actually adds to a room.  The golden rug becomes the second major color here, after the red.

 

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The living room is large enough for three separate seating groups.    There are many Moroccan inspired accent pieces of furniture, along with English antiques.  Suzanis cover the large sofas.   Blue and white porcelains are accents.  This room sets the color theme for the entire property.  Almost every room has a touch of red, golden-beige, black and blue  & white.  

 

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I think whether you like this room or not, will be highly personal.  It has started to grow on me, actually.   But I do feel that if some of the upholstery was covered in white, or the beige, it would have given the eye a place to rest.    Right now, all the red makes it hard to appreciate the antiques and the subtleties in the room.   

 

 

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The dining room is a respite from all the red – done in blues with again, the seagrass and the chairs’ caning playing a major roll in the color scheme.   Dyed grasscloth covers the walls.    Notice the   touch of red shows up in the painting!  Perfection!

 

 

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The breakfast room brings back the red and the mother-of-pearl furniture.  Ikats and stripes make up the curtains.  Again, the seagrass and the grasscloth tone down the bright reds.  There are actually two breakfast rooms in the house.

 

 

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The adjoining kitchen is nice and white with marble and light blue walls.   Again, everything is high contrast between white and black.

 

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The family room is next to the second breakfast room.    More suzanis – on the sofa and made into pillows.  

 

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The family room again – notice the blue walls, how warm they actually are, which is nice shade to mix with reds.  My favorite item in the room?  The red lanterns on the mantel!  I love those!

 

 

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The library:  Ahhhhh.   You can relax now.   Imagine if the big living area was done in these colors instead of the red, so much more restful!  I love this room.   The plain seagrass has been replaced by Starke’s diamond pattern in the library.   I love the patterned curtains and the pillows.   Beautiful!

 

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Another view, showing the card playing area. 

 

 

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The upstairs family room is white, black and beige, again – with zebra and blue & white accents.  The blue and white porcelains are a running them throughout the house.   Symmetry symmetry.                            

 

 

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One of the bedrooms has red accents and a Moroccan theme with more of the mother-of-pearl furniture.  This red is more of a persimmon shade than the truer red downstairs.

 

 

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Indienne cloth covers a skirted table.   Again, the rug provides the calming color against the high contrast of the red, black and white.

 

 

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Another of the bedrooms with the light blues.  Seeing a color theme yet? 

 

 

 

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The upstairs library has the white upholstery again which pops against the dark floors and the wood paneling.

 

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The master bedroom is the most calming room in the house.  Warm blue, not quite an aqua, with beige carpet, and white and black accents.   Notice the perfect symmetry on the window wall – the small frame above each French door, the sconces and chairs  flanking the middle door. 

 

 

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I love the framed wallpaper panels that flank the bed and the touches of ikat fabric.  I just love this bedroom!    And – I think this is the first room with absolutely no red in it – yet it ties in with the rest of the house through the blues, white and black accents.

 

 

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The tufted chairs with wheeled feet are wonderful.  And the fireplace with a black framed mirror and crystal sconces add perfect symmetry. 

 

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The woman’s master bathroom is all white marble and even has a fireplace!

 

 

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The open air loggia connects the main house with one of the guest houses.  Notice how the outside window of the guest house is curtained in red!  And notice the tiled fountain – it  picks up the house’s color theme.

 

 

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The entire loggia is decorated in blues and white with touches of yellow.

 

 

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The main guest house has a rotunda where the staircase is located.  Just as in the main house, it is decorated with black hardwoods and white stucco walls.

 

 

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The main guest house contains a combination media and game room.  The furnishings are white with black accents, the textured rug again adds the important color.

 

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The second guest house acts as the pool house and has a gym and more guest bedrooms.  There is another smaller pool outside the gym.  And not to worry – there is a wine cellar and servant’s quarter.

 

 

 

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And finally, the pool house is furnished in the same color scheme as the main house, black, white, red, and khaki.   Love the two lanterns – love the curtains, love the room!

 

OK, now that you have seen the Suzani House – do you have any clue as to who the interior designer is?   Any guesses?   I would bet a million dollars on whom I think it is – that’s how sure I am.    Would you?

The Lettered Cottage and a Few Other Interviews!

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I love blogs that tell the story of a house – from the less-than-desirable beginnings to the oh-so-beautiful reveals!  Those kind of blogs are so fun to follow,  watching the homeowners struggling with their choices, broadcasting their mistakes, and then finally, proudly showing off the finished product.   And even more impressive about these renovations, is that all the labor is usually done by the blogger and  her DH (dear husband to you and me) –  amazing.   The Lettered Cottage is just that blog – it tells the story of a cozy cottage in Alabama being transformed before our very eyes.    

 

But there’s a lot more to The Lettered Cottage than just the cute house - add into the mix a practicing interior designer who specializes in online-renovations:  you email her photos of your house and then she sends you back a plan, with photoshopped pictures of what your new room will look like and she even includes sources for all the furniture you need to buy!   She’s been blogging for just under a year, and she’s one of the most popular out there – you can’t help but love her infectious spirit and boundless energy.   She adores the coastal style – all beadboard with burlap and linen and touches of blue and black, with seashells and baskets mixed in with stripes and tortoiseshell blinds.  She especially loves the look of  letters and numbers and has a company that specializes in her hand-made products.     She’s a rising star in Alabama and on the blogosphere as well, and soon, hopefully, hopefully! on TV. 

 

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Her name is Layla, and yes, she was named after Eric Clapton’s Layla – so you can guess how young she is!   She’s as beautiful as she is talented and I was thrilled when she asked if she could interview me – beyond thrilled!    I’m always bugging Layla with questions about her photoshop skills – she’s become quite adept at it – so I leapt at the chance to pay her back for all my bothersome emails.     But mostly I admire and adore her (who doesn’t?)  -  so I am so happy to be a small part of The Lettered Cottage for a day.   The interview is here – be sure to check it out – the questions were thought provoking and interesting, just like Layla!  

 

 

 

Here are a few pictures of the transformation of Layla’s Lettered Cottage:

 

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BEFORE:  The Lettered Cottage’s kitchen as it was when Layla and her musician husband Kevin bought the house.   OK – so what would YOU do with this?  How would you remodel this kitchen?

 

 

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AFTER:   Well, you could do what Layla did – put in new hardwoods, nice and dark, take off the cabinet doors and paint them black.   Then add a crown to the upper boxes and put decorative corbels along the bottom.   Install beadboard, new hardware,  and accessorize!  I can just hear Layla now:   “I’m going to put in stainless appliances and a new countertop next!”  There’s always something she has plans to soon do.   Take your time - I think it’s beautiful just like it is – and an incredible makeover, don’t you agree?

 

 

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A close up showing the new corbels and recently installed beadboard.  I love how Layla accessorizes – with baskets and white dishes and her beloved letters and numbers!  The corbels cost just $9 each – but the change they madeto the room is enormous!

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The other side of the kitchen has a hutch which she redid with new hardware and a lime green interior.

 

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This could be a picture from a magazine – it is styled so perfectly!

 

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BEFORE:    Seriously –what would you do with a room that once was a bathroom and measures just 6’ x 6’?   Look at it as it was when Layla bought her house – before she turned it into the Reading Room! 

 

 

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AFTER:  How cute is this?   Layla calls it the Reading Room, I would probably take naps here!  Notice how she painted the walls in white and taupe stripes which help to visually widen the tiny room.   Instead of a door taking up precious space, Layla uses burlap curtains, inside and outside.   She added bamboo shades for texture and the bedding is perfect!    Of course she has a list of things she wants to add – a chandelier, a quilt – but to me,  I just ADORE this room!!!!!!!   (Layla this would make a cute nursery?  haha!!!)

 

 

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BEFORE:   The living room with old white carpet and knotty pine, which of course, Layla will turn into an asset.   She looks so busy here – plotting and planning!

 

 

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AFTER:    Look how gorgeous the pine is painted white!   It really adds such a cottagey and beachy feel to the house.   And the piano adds a touch of glamour – remember, her husband is a musician who travels the country with his band.    The large mirror reflects the media cabinet which is painted black and accessorized with baskets.    The hardwoods were stained dark brown, but Layla was recently hinting she may make them a little lighter brown to match her tortoiseshell blinds. 

 

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Another view of the gorgeous paneling and such a cute lamp!!!   

 

 

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I love her shades – she gets hers from Bed Bath and Beyond.  I get mine at Target!   I think I like hers better than mine!

 

 

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This isn’t the first house Layla and Kevin remodeled together.   Check out her blog to see the mid-century styled house they just moved from.  The transformation is amazing, for sure.  Also, when you visit her blog, be sure to see all the before & after pictures of her virtual and real-life design jobs she’s done.    Thank you Layla so much for the including me in your blog – it is such a thrill for to be a part of the The Lettered Cottage.

 

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AND:   just in case you need more of Cote de Texas (I know you are just dying for more!) – read my interview with Click 2 Houston’s Lauren and Owen here.  Lauren Freeman and Owen Conflenti anchor the morning news on the local NBC channel here in Houston.   Lauren recently gave birth to a precious little boy and she shows us his nursery – not to be missed, people!   You HAVE to see his Fortuny-laden bedroom.    Only in Texas!    Thank you Lauren and Owen for including Cote de Texas

 

 

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AND- wait, there’s more!!!!!    Southern Accents magazine – my absolute favorite - (someone please kill me if they ever stop publishing), recently started a column called “Miss Gracious Living” and yep! – they interviewed moi (here), the most gracious host and southern belle of all times.   Stop laughing!   I really came up with some good tips for this one - I am giving out helpful hints on entertaining (gotta love that one!) and housekeeping, all done very graciously, of course.  In all seriousness, editor Karen Carroll pleasantly surprised me (shocked would be a more accurate word) when she asked me to be the first Miss Gracious Living!    As you all know, Southern Accents is my bible, so I was more than happy, make that ecstatic, to be included in their online site.   Alas, good things must end, and I had to graciously relinquish my title to Courtney of Style Court and return to my slob-filled life.    My reign was short – but walking around knowing that I, Cote de Texas, was Miss Gracious Living, made me just a little bit more polite and soft-spoken for awhile.    Thank you so much Karen, for including me, I hope I didn’t disappoint!!   As an aside, Southern Accents web site just gets better and better.   It’s become a wonderful addition to the magazine and a must-read for me.   If you haven’t visited it in awhile, take a look around, I think you’ll be very pleased with it!