Lauren Ross – The Beginning

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I started emailing with a “Lauren” from Austin through the blog of course, and soon realized it was THE Lauren – Lauren Ross – of slipcover fame.   I was star struck at first – after all, I had long admired - no, make that lusted after - her decorating style.  It was in 2004 when Lauren first came to my attention.   A story on her house was in the local design magazine, Houston House and Home, and I studied every picture and description as if I was cramming for a final exam.   Lauren lived in my neighborhood – at least that was what our zip codes said, but her house was so different than my typical West University version.  Her street is without a doubt, one of the nicest in our small town, and her house was not new, but original to the neighborhood, a rather increasing rarity.   Lauren had promised the owners she would lovingly care for the once happy home where children had been raised.   And, she did.    She tended to the house, nurturing it just as she vowed.    It is on a huge lot for West U, a large lot for any inner city, really.  It is full of romance - small rooms with nooks and crannies so absent in today’s architecture.   There is a large, enclosed sun porch and a bright garage apartment, the bathrooms boast the original vintage tile, while the kitchen is a warm, happy spot – small and enclosed  – the way kitchens ought to be.  

When Lauren’s story was first published, I had no idea who she was, but I was determined to find out just who it was that had  a house full of wonderful slipped covered furniture, exactly the same pieces that I myself should have had instead!   Talk about envy!  It wasn’t hard to learn about Lauren  - the entire city was buzzing about her house, it was just that magical.  And Lauren was perfectly suited for the role as its caretaker – a precious blond - intelligent and talented with four small children, and a handsome husband to boot.    Her life was as storybook beautiful as her house.  So, I stalked her, of course!  What design-crazed person wouldn’t have?  The first time I stalked her, I didn’t know the exact address, but her street was short so I took a chance and at dusk (the best time for these things) set out.  I sat in my car and stared at the wrong house for about 30 minutes before I realized my mistake.   Driving by her charming house just to gaze at it became part of my daily routine.   The landscaping and pink roses were certainly an allure, but I was particularly taken with the scrolled iron railings that guarded the French doors.     It’s strange when you stalk a house – you know all about it, but the owners are blissfully unaware of its suitor.    It all came to an end one day when Lauren, et al, upped and moved to Austin, a move I felt so sorry she had to make!       My heart ached for this woman I never had met.    How could she leave her beautiful house that she had poured her heart and soul into?   In truth, I’m sure it was somewhat bittersweet, but the Rosses were excited to embark on their new adventure in a city that most Texans would prefer to live in themselves.      The most pathetic thing is I still stalk her former house and pretend it all looks the same as it did when she lived there and grew her antique roses and tended to her overflowing window boxes and rested on her white day bed in the back yard.   No, the house isn’t the same without Lauren there, her personality and style is too large to be replaced so easily. 

Her move to Austin provided another opportunity to flex her design muscles.   Her house there is the opposite of what she had in Houston.   It is new.   It is Austin-styled – with lots of creamy limestone and charming, large living spaces.  Yes, the house is different, but it is just as beautiful, if not more so.  Of course the magazines came calling again, and Country Living did a spread on Lauren and her wonderful  slipcovers.  Today, I see Lauren everywhere.  It seems that many design bloggers have pictures of her Austin house and every  week or so, I forward another blog to Lauren to show her how much we all adore her.   As much as I love her Austin house, the Houston three-story will always be special to me.   Oh, to have been able to afford it, I would have bought it in a heartbeat and lived out the fairy tale for Lauren.   And so, while everyone in blogdom is  familiar with the white slipcovers from her Austin house, her Houston house is fading from memory.  Here, for your enjoyment, is the Houston house of my fantasies and Lauren’s reality.   But have no fear, soon I will show the Austin house, as seen through Lauren’s eyes.   But for today, enjoy the house that was magical if only for a few short years:

 

 

image The house was built in 1936.   Lauren painted the brick and added the copper canopy and window boxes, the so sweet iron railings, the walkway, the French doors, and a wonderful family room onto the back.    At the right is the large, enclosed sun porch.   The architect on the project was Byrlan Shively.

 

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The back of the house.  The sun porch is on the left.  The large room coming out from the back is the added on family room with a game room above.  And separate from the house is the charming garage with an apartment upstairs.

 

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This shows the sun porch, the living room, and to the right – the family room. 

 

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The space between the house with the garage on the right. 

 

 

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Lauren added these garage doors for extra romance.

 

  

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Under the porch of the garage, there is an assortment of antique iron furniture, painted white, with white slipcovers, of course.  Look how charming the window boxes are!  The patio was added by Lauren.

 

 

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I apologize for some of the pictures which were taken with a cell phone!   But walking into the house – this was the view from the dining room, looking through to the foyer, then to the living room, on past to the sun porch.  Lauren uses seagrass rugs, custom cut to fit around the room almost like wall to wall, but not quite – exactly as it should be.   All the furniture in this house was brought to Austin and was used in her new home, so you might recognize certain pieces from Country Living magazine.  

 

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The breakfast room was wallpapered in a damask, and had corner cabinets – this room was added on along with a master sitting room above it.    Lauren’s style is introduced here:  seagrass, white slipcovers, and crystal chandeliers.  Almost every room has all three design elements which keeps a continuity throughout.

 

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You can see the wallpaper better in this picture – taken with a cell phone!

 

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The living room again has white slips – here two small settees face each other in front of the fireplace.  The sun porch is through the two sets of French doors flanking the original, scalloped mantel.  This photograph came from the book, New Cottage Style,  that featured the Ross’ Houston house. 

 

 

 

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In the front window, two antique fan chairs in white, a Swedish Mora clock, and a French armoire.    The slips had not yet arrived for the chairs when this picture was taken, but I think they look fabulous even without them!

 

 

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Looking the other way, against the wall is another slipcovered sofa and two slipped armchairs.   This is the most colorful Lauren was in her Houston house – in  Austin, everything is predominantly white now.  

 

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The sun porch adjoins the living room.  With French doors and windows on three sides, the room is very bright, perfect for morning coffee with its eastern exposure.  Here Lauren used white slipcovered furniture and antique white wicker.   The ceiling is beadboard, the floor is painted wood.

 

 

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The other side of the sun porch with its slipcovered sofa and white wicker rocker.

 

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Another view of the sun porch.

 

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Lauren’s kitchen was all white, with the focal point a wonderful center island that she skirted.    This island was my favorite part of the kitchen!  The kitchen looks original, but it was gutted and rebuilt.    Tile was used on the counters and backsplash – just as it would have been originally.

 

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Did Lauren have the first Shaw sink in Houston?   Maybe!   Notice her charming wall mounted faucet and what looks like original doors under the sink.   The pass through was originally a window before the room was added on. 

 

 

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The family room that was added on to the back of the house.   A bench is against the windows with shades and white linen.  I love the window treatments in this room.  

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The other side of the added on family room with the gameroom above it.  All white slips, seagrass, and crystal chandelier mixed with English bamboo furniture.

 

 

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The master bedroom is upstairs with a large adjoining sitting room that was added on when the Ross’ remodeled.   Lauren wallpapered the sitting area and filled it with seagrass, white slipcovers, and a crystal chandelier.  The bed is reflected in a large, white painted armoire.  The pillow on the bed is Bennison linen.

 

 

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From the real estate photograph, you can see the beautiful armoire better.   I love master bedrooms with adjoining sitting rooms – what a luxury!

 

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The Princess room!     With one daughter and three sons, the Princess gets a pink wallpapered room with blue accents – to match her bathroom.

 

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The other side of the Princess’ room with her vanity and slipped chairs.   Lauren designed the built ins and window seat using pictures from the era the house was built.

 

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The Princess’ bathroom – with the original turquoise blue tiles.    Lauren put in the pink toile wallpaper.  I think this bathroom is to die for!  She skirted the sink, and notice the wonderful tufted chair on casters!  A closed off door became a toiletry closet complete with chicken wire and fabric.  What a wonderful bathroom!!!!!  

 

 

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And one more sitting/game room area upstairs with white slips, burlap,  and seagrass – do you see why I love Lauren’s style?

 

 

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And finally, one of my favorite spaces, the upstairs room over the garage.  Lauren used this room as her office.  The floor is painted white.   I adore how she furnished this with wonderful pleated slips that allow the antique feet to show.    In the back, the desk is styled like the kitchen island,  an old wood top with a skirt.  Dreamy.

 

 

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After the Ross Family sold the house,  they moved to Austin, a short 3 hour drive from Houston.  There, in a house with a distinctive Austin look, Lauren used all her furniture, barely having the replace anything.    Next, we will tour her new house seen through Lauren’s lens – her own camera.   Be sure to check back to see the warm, cozy home she has created in Austin!

What’s In Store?

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I get a many emails with questions about items I show – where I got it, or where something like it might be bought.   So today, I am going to try to answer the most frequently asked questions.     One thing I own that I’m repeatedly asked about is the pair of  lampshades in my family room.    These paper shades show the famous antique map of Paris and were bought in Houston at Watkins Culver.  Unfortunately, they weren’t inexpensive -  an impulse buy paid for with funds I had recently made on a design job.   In other words, it was money that was burning a hole in my pocket.   Sssshhh – don’t tell Mr. Slipper Socks Man!!   Truthfully, I’m too embarrassed to say what I paid for these, even though it was two or three years ago – but I suppose they were worth it – they still look brand new and I still adore them.  Watkins and Culver had some in stock the last time I was there, but the inventory was very low.

 

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I love these too – they remind me of mine, but I think these are much better looking – this sunroom is in Carol Glasser’s former house

 

 

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After this picture was posted last week, I received several emails inquiring about these lamp shades.  This room, designed by the incredibly talented and much in-demand designer from Dallas, Shannon Bowers, has shades that are similar to Glasser’s.   I’m crazy about these and apparently you were too, judging from the emails.  I only wish I knew where they were from, but the answer is – I don’t have any idea. I’m sure they were custom made by an artist working on a small scale and who sold them to an antique or specialty decor store. 

 

 

 

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Other shades I adore are these Fortuny shield shades.   These can be found at Maison de Provence in New Orleans.  In Houston, Ronnie Jubula makes fabulous drum shaped lamp shades out of Fortuny (along with the best candles!)   If you love Fortuny and need a lamp shade, Ronnie’s the man to call :  713-523-6838.

 

 

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For clients  I usually make custom shades out of a fabric used in the room – like in The Tanglewood House bedroom.  I used the toile to cover the drum shade here.  I think it adds a custom touch to a room, especially a bedroom.   My partner, Monica Hancock, is the one who manages all my soft goods, curtains, bedding, pillows, etc. and she handles the lamp shades.  To reach Monica for a fabric shade, call 832-443-1931.  Her prices are very reasonable.    Hi Mimi!!!

 

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In this bedroom, I covered the Blanc d’Ivoire sconces in the toile fabric for a little extra detailing.   Monica Hancock, again, fabricated the shades, bedding, and curtains. 

 

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So, what are good alternatives to interesting shades at a great prices?   These shades are new at Pottery Barn and I think they are fabulous looking!  Made of thick parchment showing a map of San Francisco, they come in three sizes and are just $29 - $49!  A steal! 

 

 

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Also new at Pottery Barn are these linen-cotton shades with silk grosgrain ribbon.  Again three sizes, and again $29 to $49. 

 

 

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Pottery Barn – these natural fiber shades would be fabulous in a family room or library:  three sizes, and yes, $29 - $49. 

 

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Target gets into the burlap craze with a lamp shade for just $19.99.   Don’t worry, by Thanksgiving, there will lots more burlap goods at Target, but for now, these shades are it.   Go here for more information.

 

 

image And speaking of burlap, of course, Pottery Barn is already well into the craze – these pillows are proof.  If you are looking for just a little taste of the trend, this is the perfect way to whet your appetite for burlap without spending a fortune you’ll regret next year.

 

 

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After the lamp shades, I’ve gotten many emails asking about my new lantern.  I bought mine at M. Naeve and she just got a new shipment in, but I think she might have just one left, if at all.  They tend to sell very quickly Margaret told me.   Where can you buy reproductions of French antique lanterns?  I found a few sources:

 

 

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This is a good size and a fairly good reproduction.  From Bellacor, here.     It’s hard to find an authentic reproduction lantern that is large and at a reasonable price.  This is high at $629, but it is large enough to make a presenceI kept looking for something less expensive.

 

 

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This is a good looking lantern to bring indoors – from Shades of Light catalogue here.   This lantern is less expensive, but it is small.   It would be good over a kitchen table or island or sink.   It’s not big enough to handle a large family room, though.

 

 

 

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From CSN Lighting, here, – this is good looking and very large and at a very good price at $297.   After looking at 1,000s of lanterns, this one was probably the best looking for the size and price!

 

 

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The third item that I get many questions about is my dining room fixture.  Not my light fixture in particular – but one like it.  What is it exactly?    While mine was sold to me as an antique, I have my sincere doubts about that.   Whenever any antique suddenly floods the market, it tends to get my antennae up, although this one was bought around 5 years ago.  But still.   Today, you can find pricey “antiques” like this everywhere you look, whereas several years ago, you never saw these.   The style is Italian – if you look closely, the middle is actually a candlestick upside down.   Or, that is what it is supposed to be:  damaged, burned candlesticks from the churches turned into chandeliers.     The true antiques are quite gorgeous, with peeling paint and chipped wood.  They are delicate and feminine with all the scrolling iron work and dangling tassels.  I bought mine from a friend who was redecorating, so I got it at a good price, but still – how can you get this look without paying a fortune?   That’s a good question and one I am asked probably at least once a week.  The problem is that even the reproductions are pricey!

 

 

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Is it old or a reproduction – I can’t tell, can you?   

 

 

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Houston interior designer Carol Glasser had a beautiful Italian chandelier in her former living room.   I’m sure hers is authentic.

 

 

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Gerrie Bremermann’s fixture.  Surely hers would be antique, right?

 

 

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This is being sold on 1st Dibs as a 19th century antique.  Yet if you read the description closely – it says:

Antique Elements  (antique elements!)   A large impressive decorative French 9 arm candle chandelier comprised of antique wooden elements with painted and gilt metal.  $7,000.  

This just amazes me – it’s not an antique chandelier.  It’s elements put together and called a 19th century chandelier.   And the price!   This is why I would never buy an antique one – they just aren’t!  Almost every description of an “antique” says “antique elements!”

 

 

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Tara Shaw’s – admitted - new chandelier.   For much less than the supposed antiques, it does need electrifying.  Hers is a beauty – it comes in large and extra large versions.   Why pay for an antique that isn’t an antique? 

 

 

 

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This Curry and Co. fixture, new, of course, is quite beautiful – but even this is expensive for $1,550.   Here.

 

 

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This great reproduction is only $799 here!!!  It’s not large, but it is a great way to get the look at a fraction of the cost.    Be sure to look at all the Italian chandeliers this company sells. 

 

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The only versions I found anywhere that are somewhat reasonable are the Aidan Gray copies.  This one here, is $1350, again no bargain but not nearly expensive as the phony old ones.

 

 

 

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This Aidan Gray is $1350 retail here, cheaper than the Curry and  Co. but still not quite cheap!   

 

 

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We used the  Aidan Gray fixture in the Tanglewood House dining room.

 

Judging by the amount of emails I get about this fixture, and the fact that Aidan  Gray is totally sold out of the Italian Chandeliers, someone could make a fortune by producing a chandelier like this for what it really is worth!   If someone could make this at a retail cost of $700 or $800, which is probably very reasonable, they would be a millionaire!   Artie, from Color Outside the Line is actually making this fixture.  He isn’t through with it yet, so he wasn’t ready for me to show it to you,  but I can’t wait to see how it looks when he is finished.   If he lets me, I’ll show you how he did!

 

 

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And finally – I buy these silicone tipped light bulbs for all my sconces and chandeliers.  They tend to run high, but recently I found these, here,  for almost $1.30 each!     I stocked up on them.  If you go on the internet, you will find these same bulbs for anywhere from $2. up to $6.oo a piece!   So $3.94 for three is a really great price.    I prefer these bulbs to the kind you get in the grocery stores because with the silicone tip, the bulb is softer looking and more flame like.   If you have never used these bulbs, give them a try – you won’t go back to the regular chandelier bulbs again!

 

 

image My sconces with the silicone tipped bulbs.

 

I hope these sources help if you are one of those with questions about some of the things you have seen on Cote de Texas.  I tried to find realistically priced copies – but it wasn’t always easy!    If I missed something, or you have a better source, please send it in to me!    Thank you all, as usual for your support!