Webb Design: The Albans House



Last fall, my neighbor directly across the street approached me about decorating her house. What a job! Across the street – who can argue with that? I absolutely loathe taking jobs across town, and as I have gotten older, I am really not accepting work outside the loop – well, outside the beltway I guess. My days of traveling past the airport for work are over, especially now with the blog. I just don’t have the time to spend it fighting Houston’s horrendous traffic. So commuting by foot is definitely tempting – and I gladly accepted the job. My neighbor has two dogs, one senior citizen and one puppy (who once ran away and I had to chase after him for thirty minutes with no luck – even dangling What-A-Burger fried chicken as a bribe, which he scoffed at. Now there’s a new invisible fence around the perimeter of their front yard for the maniac bird dog – but, I digress.) So, with two dogs, two daughters under ten, and lots of entertaining, my client wanted – can you guess? Slipcovers! OK. OK. I am BEGGING my anti-slipcover stalker to just quit reading this now. It’s going to be all about slips from here on out. When you have two dogs and two children, slipcovers are truly the only way to go and yes, I have heard all about the miracle fabrics available, but I happen to prefer NATURAL fibers!

Besides slipcovers, my client also wanted seagrass. Of course! She lives in West University and everyone here either has or wants slipcovers and seagrass. This client was easy. And no, I’m not talking about her morals. She was easy to please and quick to make a decision, in other words – THE BEST KIND!!! Thank you God for small favors!!! I think we decided on the total overhaul of her downstairs in about 2 hours or less. And with a smile! So nice. AND, as if it couldn’t get any better, her husband is actually funny! Like funny ha-ha laugh out loud funny. Which is much better than the husband who hovers and wants to see all the bills and bids and proposals. I’ve been lucky lately, it seems I just keep getting the best clients in the world and my neighbors top that list. Besides the slips and seagrass, the client was firmly decided on white linen and aqua colored walls and black granite, and these were her only requests. She casually mentioned that she wanted a bold second fabric, not bold in color, but in design, something youthful. I knew what she was thinking about: Kelly Wearstler’s Imperial Trellis fabric – but please. Please! Enough of that. Let’s give other famous and fabulous interior designers-turned-fabric designers a chance.

image Windsor Smith’s family room as seen in September’s House Beautiful. This picture served as an inspiration for me when designing the new project.

It just so happened that while we were planning the design, the September House Beautiful magazine featured Windsor Smith’s wonderful new house. Before Jill Brinson’s house, Windsor's was my favorite, especially the family room with her famous double sided sofa covered in her new pre-washed linen fabric from Kravet. I had seen the line at the Decorative Center and fell head over heels in love with it, bringing home samples of all the colorways. Once my client mentioned the “trellis” type fabric, I knew that Windsor’s Riad was going to be the one. And it was. Said nice client agreed immediately. And so, apparently, did every other client in the United States. After the publication of the House Beautiful story, Kravet had sold out of her fabric, thousands of yards of it. We had to patiently wait until December to finally get our order. Do you think I ever heard a complaint about the wait? No, I never did. And I never heard a compliant about the wait for the bamboo shades either.

image Windsor Smith’s fabrics by Kravet – Riad on the left and Cap Deluca on the right. My client chose both fabrics, the stripe will be the curtains and the Riad will be used for the slipcovers.

While waiting for the fabrics to arrive, we were busy with a small kitchen redo – new matte black granite countertops, appliances, Shaw’s sink and a creamy subway tile backsplash was installed. In the living room turned study, we built a wall to wall computer desk for the girls with shelving. That room was painted a warm chocolate brown to offset all the seafoam paint throughout the downstairs. The dining room was redone too with new seafoam paint but in a deeper, more luxurious tone. In the family room, we reconfigured the built in shelves to hold a nice, huge flatscreen – allowing us to ditch the former faux-antique armoire hiding a large TV. Ah...I loved getting rid of that piece! And so did my client, of course – she’s nice and easy! And then we waited and waited and waited. Until today, when I finally installed the family room furniture and part of the dining room. Unfortunately the before pictures are missing from my computer for some reason. But to explain how it used to look, the downstairs was painted yellow, with deep red walls in the dining room. The fabrics were all reds and greens. The decor was typical West University 1990s, except now it’s now 2010. There were mini blinds on all the windows in the back and beautiful wood shutters on the front windows. The breakfast room is connected to the family room and there was a light oak colored table with matching chairs along with two iron bar stools. In the family room there was an assortment of brass lamps and a skirted table. Of course there was the Pottery Barn rattan chair and ottoman. That must be their most popular item ever! The many bookshelves held even more framed pictures. Thinking about the installation, last night I could hardly sleep, I was so excited. I really wasn’t worried about it, like I usually am. But, it’s been a few months since I’ve had a full install like this (times have slow for moi) so that added to the excitement. The truck was due at 11:00 am. I woke up at 10:15 am – I TOLD you I wasn’t nervous!

Here’s a look at the family room. Pictures of the kitchen and dining room to follow next week:

image The Family Room

First we covered the entire room, including the breakfast area with seagrass, custom cut 3 inches around the perimeter. The client’s sofa was remade with two new back cushions and one bottom cushion. Her chair and ottoman were slipped in the Windsor Smith fabric, as were the two black caned chairs. The curtains are Windsor Smith’s striped fabric. All Windsor’s linens come prewashed. The kitchen is to the left, behind the curved bar. We replaced the countertops with a matte black granite that is highly textured. (To see the entire picture – be sure your browser is maximized!)


Looking towards the other direction, instead of having two end tables, we opted for a sofa table to put the lamps on. Bookcases flank the fireplace. Two white garden stools are used for drinks tables.

image Each window is covered with the Cap Deluca Windsor Smith fabric and bamboo blinds, which we raised to the ceiling for a cleaner look, extending the visual line and hiding that dead space between the window and the ceiling. The curtain rods are the smallest matte bronze rod and rings I can find. The curtains and blinds really made the biggest impact on the room. I know I say this all the time, but it’s true: curtains and blinds are so wonderful to cozy up a room. The blinds cut down on the sun’s glare and gave the room a soft glow.


The breakfast alcove.

The black wood table and chinoiserie inspired chairs came from Noir L.A. The Windsor Smith fabric was used to make slips for the chairs. I put two dozen faux green apples in a large clam shell on the tabletop. The knock-out in this area is the lantern from BROWN in Houston, the best lighting/decor store ever!!

A note about the design process: the client wanted two things – a black granite countertop in her kitchen and bar, and seafoam colored walls. At first we toyed with a Belgian inspired design, using limed woods and painted gray furniture. But with the black countertop and aqua walls, it seemed more natural to go with the black furniture. In the end, I’m really pleased with all the black accents – I think it grounds the room and is a good foil for the white and seafoam linens and paint.

image The view from the breakfast area. The lamps came from Ballard Designs and the shades are from Pottery Barn. The barstools from Noir L.A. are covered in burlap with nailhead trim. All the ceramics came from Legends of Asia.

image The view from the kitchen, looking over the bar and bar stools. The sofa table from GO Home Ltd. is metal with a white marble top. The mirror above the mantel is 19th century from Tara Shaw Antiques.

image I bought the zebra rug at Round Top. The cane chairs came from Furniture Classics LTD. The leopard throws are for when the dogs are lounging on the sofas, it will keep them from having to clean the slips all the time.

Note: I tried the photography tip from Michael J. Lee here. On this week’s Skirted Round Table, he advised taking pictures while sitting down.

image Looking towards the kitchen. Along that back wall, I used the set of 3 wicker baskets from Artesia there. Eventually, the client wants to find an antique for that spot, so until that happens, the baskets will do. The lantern is from Vintage Vagabond – which Olivine carries. The coffee table was the client’s.

image The client’s chair and ottoman were first recovered in muslin and new cushions made, then they were slipped in Windsor Smith’s Riad fabric. The client owned that darling plant stand so I added the blue hydrangeas.

image Closeup of the slipcovered chair and ottoman. All the seams are 1/4 inch flange.


View of the right side of the family room.

imageOld Faithful: Custom Creations by Monica does all my soft goods – curtains, bedding, etc. We’ve worked together from my very first job to my last. To see Monica’s web site, go HERE.


Next week I’ll show the dining room and kitchen. I was too tired to style them tonight, plus the curtains weren’t installed yet!

Creating An Inspired Home




Anyone who reads Cote de Texas knows that one of my favorite go-to’s each morning is the blog - The Lettered Cottage.  Layla writes her blog while her husband does the renovating to their darling cottage.  She’s a bundle of energy and has really shown all of us bloggers just how far you can take this medium.   She has created something truly special with The Lettered Cottage and it’s an real inspiration.   Each day, there’s something new going on thereWhether it’s a funny video of the two of them ripping out yet another ceiling, or her showing us her latest flea market acquisitions or just trying to find a stray cat a home, Layla keeps it interesting and always humorous.  I look at her with awe and respect, she’s incredibly talented and also, she’s very, very sweet.  I know that one day I’ll be watching her on TV saying, “I knew her when” and I’ll be thrilled for her.  


image Layla’s Dining Room:  Lettered Cottage Chic


When Layla started The Lettered Cottage, she mostly went it alone.  Her popularity quickly soared and now, just over a year later, her blog has a huge readership.  Along the way, husband Kevin joined her in the endeavor and it’s a true partnership now.  Together Layla and Kevin have taken design blogging into another realm, illustrating that with tons of hard work, determination and lots of laughs, a blog can be something much, much more.   Recently Layla’s been excitedly telling me about an E Book she’s been writing and today  “Creating An Inspired Home” is finally on-line!    It’s a how-to book, all about renovating and decorating,  filled with tons of tips and before & after pictures that show how you can create your own Lettered Cottage look.    It’s available for just $11.99 HERE.   If you are like me and can’t get enough of Layla and her cottage chic – be sure to stop by and check out “Creating an Inspired Home” today!

Congratulations Layla and great success to you and Kevin!

The Lettered Cottage blog HERE.

E Book: Creating The Inspired Home HERE.

Skirted Roundtable: Michael J. Lee



image Linda’s newly remodeled kitchen, photographed by Michael J. Lee


This week we welcome architectural photographer Michael J. Lee to The Skirted Roundtable.  Lee is kind enough to discuss the ins and outs of professional photoshoots.  Lee is a personal friend of Linda’s, having shot several of her projects (see above.)   Starting out as an interior designer, Lee brings an extra element to his photoshoots.   Most architectural photographers don’t have the design background that Lee has and this gives him a distinct advantage over competitors.  He is able to style the interiors, as well as photograph them, which is a rarity in this business.   During his interview,  Lee gives out helpful tips about how to take better pictures.   He claims it’s not the camera that makes a great shot!  Well, snort, thanks for telling me now, after I’ve spent a small fortune on cameras and lenses trying to get better shots for my blog!  Something tells me that he is being just a little humble.  Lee has a fascinating story to tell about first spending years working with the best designers in New England before he shifted gears in midstream, starting over again, shooting interiors instead of creating them.  It’s a good one this week, even if you aren’t into photography!  Be sure to listen, you’ll enjoy it!



image This photograph had us all wondering exactly how he shot it – Lee explains!


To listen to this week’s Skirted Roundtable and our guest Michael J. Lee, go HERE.

To peruse Michael Lee’s web site,  go HERE.

Giveaway On The Skirted Roundtable




Jackie Von Tobel’s fabric line, including these darling pillows.  The dog is NOT for sale!!! 


This week we have ANOTHER give away at the Skirted Roundtable HERE!  Our guest is Jackie Von Tobel, artist, interior and fabric designer,  and author.  Jackie is also a blogger – which is where the four of us met.    All of us started our blogs at about the same time, except for Linda who started HER blog ages and ages ago, Linda is the grandmother of design bloggers.   For the past three years, Jackie has been very busy writing two huge reference books on window treatments and bedding  HERE.   She was gracious enough to offer her two books for the giveaway.   The contest ends tomorrow night, so if you haven’t already entered, be sure to go to the Skirted Roundtable HERE and read the instructions.  



image I love these pictures of Jackie’s home studio, where she writes, draws the illustrations for her books,  and creates her fabric line.  What a neat and organized artist!


While you are entering the contest, be sure to listen to the interview.  Jackie is a fascinating woman, full of a joie de vie that most of us only dream about!!!   She is highly inspiring and I think you will be very motivated after listening to all she has accomplished in her life.  She’s an incredible person and the three of us were left a little exhausted after talking with her!!!



Birds & Branches ~ Coffee - Click Image to Close

My favorite fabric from Jackie’s line is this one – Birds and Braches in Coffee.   Jackie CLAIMS she designed this fabric with me in mind!!  Sure, Jackie!!!! 


Tomorrow is the last day to enter the giveaway – so hurry!!!  Go HERE to listen to the interview and leave your contest comments there.  Please do NOT leave your contest entry comments on this blog, Cote de Texas!  All entries MUST be left on the Skirted Roundtable blog or you won’t be eligible!!!!


Jackie asked that I add this information about her collaboration with Minutes Matter:

If you heard my recent interview on The Skirted Roundtable or read some of my posts about design software you may be interested in learning more about how my designs are used in STUDIO graphic design software.  My friend Merlin (yes, that is her real name) who is the official wizard over at Minutes Matter and I would like to cordially invited you to attend a FREE, 30 minute webinar sponsored by Minutes Matter Solutions on Thursday, March 4 at 1 PM Eastern. You’ll see Merlin use Studio, our graphic design program, to translate the fabulous draperies and valances from my book, The Design Directory of Window Treatments into elevation renderings filled with fabrics, colors, and textures. These complete designs can also be broken apart quickly and mixed and matched for an infinite variety of styles. Never be stumped again how to treat your client’s windows – watch how easy it is to drag and drop these beautifully illustrated images to create drawings that your clients will want show their friends.   To register for this free event on March 4 at 1 PM EST , please click here:


for more information, please visit the Minute Matter website:



And finally, next week we have design photographer Michael J. Lee who is full of tips on how to get that perfect photograph of your house! 

Enfilades and Lanternes

image Kay O’Toole’s house as seen in the March Veranda, pictures by Tria Giovan.  What roses!!!  I just adore the soft lavender color of the chair fabric.  Notice how thick the walls are, easy to see this where the windows are placed.

image  The enfilade view from the bedroom past the entry hall into the living room.  Notice the gorgeous doors!  The front of the house is on the left.

This picture of Kay O’Toole’s house taken from the architect’s web site shows the skylight and the design on the wooden floors – both elements that are found on the above floor plan. 

image A collection of antique oil paintings hang over a settee.  The chinoiserie tea table is so beautiful!

A charming French house found in Provence.

I have long been obsessed with enfilades – especially French ones found in the southern region of that country.   What exactly does enfilade mean when used in architecture?    Simply, an enfilade is a building where the interior doors are aligned with connecting rooms along a single axis.  When the doors are all lined up  – you can see from one end of the house to the other.   The history of the enfilade is a long one.  From the Baroque period on, royal palaces incorporated enfilades - state rooms would be lined up on one axis while private apartments would be on another.   Great houses in England used this floor plan – Chatsworth House and  Blenheim Palace are two famous examples. 

Chatsworth House’s state rooms are lined up on an enfilade, one room flows into the next with their doors placed in a long line.   Here you can see from one end of Chatsworth all the way down to its other end. 

Blenheim Palace:  a long enfilade on the upstairs private bedroom wing.

The 17th century Tsarkoe Selo, an imperial palace in Russia, has a particularly beautiful enfilade due the lavish wall treatments.  The Tsarkoe Selo is home to the famous Amber Room. 

Maison de George Sand, home of the French author, has an enfilade of rooms.

image Here, in this Swedish house, the enfilade is short, just three rooms deep.  So pretty!

Palaces traditionally have enfilades on their state floors. 

Juan Pablo Molyneux’s house has a gorgeous enfilade of rooms. 

 image Another Swedish enfilade.

A country French house with beautifully carved doors between its rooms.

imageThe window at the end of this long enfilade is especially pretty. 

A modern interpretation of the enfilade by Thad Hayes who used beautiful doors to separate these rooms.

Another new version of the building style in Rosemary Beach – here arches separate the rooms, not doors.

David Adler, the famous architect, used enfilades in many of his designs.  This lineup of rooms is found in the 1925 Lasker house on Chicago’s North Shore.   Again, arches not doors separate the spaces.   

Limed wood doors and parquet floors update this house, giving it a more contemporary look. 

c image
Not France, but America by William T. Baker, thanks to Things That Inspire.   I would love to see the plans of this house to see if it is one room deep.

Traditional enfilades are not always fancy or large.   The New Orleans “shotgun house” is such an example.  Here, in the French Quarter,  is a rare but charming shotgun house, so called because a bullet would travel from the front door out to the back.

The shotgun house floor plan is a enfilade – all its doors are lined up.  The view at the front door would end at the back yard.

    Enfilade is also another name for a buffet with cabinet doors. This 19th century French painted enfilade with original hardware is from M. Naeve in Houston and 1st Dibs HERE. 

Kay O’Toole’s Floor Plans:   Enfilade AND a Lanterne

Looking again at Kay O’Toole’s floor plans, they reveal that besides being an enfilade, the house is also an example of a French Lanterne - meaning, the house is one room deep and the front and back windows are lined up – making the house see-through.  This style of house is named after the famous 18th century hunting lodge, the Pavillion de la Lanterne, located in the Versailles Park in France.   La Lanterne is considered a  most beautiful house and it has been widely copied throughout the years by different architects.   

image An earlier picture of La Lanterne.  The house is used as a country vacation spot by French President Sarkozy.   He spent his honeymoon there with Carla Bruni.   The romance of a Lanterne design is the ability to approach the house, look into it and out past it, onto the back yard.  Imagine at a dinner party, arriving at the house and seeing through it, straight to the back all decorated with candle lit tables.

image The gates to La Lanterne are topped by large deer heads. 

image A rare floor plan of  La Lanterne shows the courtyard its the two wings surround.  Here you can see the center part of the building with the windows that line up, making the building see through.  

image The layout of La Lanterne.   The famous blogger Aesthete’s Lament commented HERE that this view shows the “dreary landscaping, vulgarly sized tennis court, motel-blue pool.”  It does seem a shame that the grounds are not prettier. 

imageHere is a larger satellite picture of La Lanterne in Versailles.   You can see how close it is to the palace and the Petite and Gran Trianons.  

image Security is very tight at La Lanterne now.   There is now a metal gate between the deer head posts.  Another fence encircles the outer perimeter of the property.

Rare pictures of La Lanterne.  You can really see the essence of the see-through aspect of the house from these pictures. 

image The tennis court does seem horribly oversized – couldn’t it be moved to a more discrete part of the estate?  The pool, though, is not as offensive in this picture. 

A closer view of the two wings.

Many grand houses were built modeled on the original Pavillion de La Lanterne.  Here, in Lake Bluff,  the Carolyn Morse Ely house was built by David Adler in 1923.   Notice how the screens have marred the beautiful windows!   The facade is a faithful adaption of the original Pavillion de la Lanterne with its six windows and center pediment.

 image The Adler Ely house showing the opposite side of the house as above.

The floor plans of the Carolyn Morse Ely house, plainly showing the house to be a Lanterne design with its windows lined up with each other.  The center portion of the house is also an enfilade, all the rooms have doors lined up on an axis. 

In Newport, Champ Soleil was built, again based on La Lanterne.  Things That Inspire  took this picture on a tour of the neighborhood.   Again, the main section of the house is one room deep, with windows lined up from the front to the back, making the house see through.  The gates were recently refurbished at great cost to the homeowners. 

An earlier photograph, taken inside the gates show the shutters and front door stained.   Champ Soleil is not as faithful a reproduction as the Ely house.  The Ely house has six windows flanking the front entrance, exactly like the Pavillion de la Lanterne.  Champ Soleil has only one window flanking the front door, instead of three. 

This side elevation picture of Champ Soleil dramatically illustrates the one room deep aspect of the Lanterne design.

image In 1929, Horace Trumbauer designed another La Lanterne inspired house on Long Island for James B. Clews.   In 1952 the “Lanterne” center part of the house was demolished leaving the two wings to be converted into separate houses.  This facade is a faithful adaption of the original design – there are three windows on each side of the front door, exactly like the Pavillion de la Lanterne in Versailles.

The architects Bories and Shearron HERE designed a wonderful house based on the ‘see through’ style.   Sadly, this house has not yet been built.  This plan is not a copy of the Pavillion de la Lanterne, rather it is an interpretation of the style.  Notice the front door is not symmetrically placed, instead three windows are to one side of the door, while one is to its right.    

   And finally, a plat showing the layout of the house and gardens.

Reminder:  the new Skirted Roundtable is now online HERE.  This week we have as a guest, Jackie Von Tobel, author, interior and fabric designer.  Jackie is very inspiring to listen to – I think you will really enjoy hearing how she manages to do it all!   We are having a giveaway this week – two people will win one of Jackie’s reference books on bedding and window treatments!  Hurry to enter!