Continuing with the series Readers Kitchen, today we have a newly remodeled one to show.   Enjoy!


BEFORE:   This kitchen had lots going on creating a busy looking design.   Elements that added to the business include:   dark wallpaper, ivory countertops mixed with the dark stone topped island,  and a collection of brightly colored roosters.   More business comes from the angled wall – with three arched windows.  While the wallpaper seems dated, I do like the painted beadboard island and the tumbled tile backsplash.   But, the homeowner wanted something totally different – something quieter and more sophisticated. 



AFTER:   Wow, it’s hard to believe it’s the same space.  It looks so sophisticated now.  The different countertops were replaced with granite.  I love this light colored granite.  It’s a great substitute for those who desire the white marble look but want the ease of granite.  Granite is one of nature’s hardest stones, so it really takes a beating in a hard working kitchen.   The backsplash was replaced with a cream colored subway tile, simplified from all the different sized tumbled tile of before.



In this view, you can see the angled wall with the three arched windows.  All the appliances were stainless before, so those didn’t need to be changed.  Nor did the cabinetry.  Not changing out these two things was a huge savings in the overall cost of the remodeling.   The biggest change after the countertops is the dark painted walls, replacing the even darker wallpaper. 



Looking from the breakfast room, another change is the wine rack above the refrigerator was removed and a flatscreen was placed there instead.   Over the island, a wooden Italian styled chandelier was added.   This one looks like it might have come from Aidan Gray – they make a number of these in several different styles.    With all the roosters gone, the kitchen is sleeker looking and less country.



Another big change was the addition of the farm sink with a new plumbing fixture.   New pulls – a combination of round and bin pulls were added.   In this picture,  you can see the granite up close.



Along the back wall, the butlers panty was updated with the granite and subway tile.



This view shows the adjoining breakfast room.



A few last changes are the counter was extended in between the kitchen and breakfast room, allowing for bar stools and the row of small shelves next to the counter was removed – further streamlining the look. 

This kitchen was certainly usable and not that dated in the before picture.  The main problem was the dark wallpaper which made it seem like it was designed in another decade.    The homeowners probably could have just replaced the wallpaper and called it a day, but they went a step further and replaced the Corian with granite and the tumbled tiles were replaced with subway ones.  These changes made a huge difference in the design.   Luckily, the appliances and the cabinetry didn’t need replacing, which kept costs down.   The only changes to the cabinetry were the removal of the wine rack and the small shelves that ran up the wall in between the breakfast room and kitchen.   The sink was a costly change, but again it really updated the kitchen and ties it in with the beadboard island.   Finally a trendy light fixture is an unexpected touch, yet it adds to the new look of sophistication in this once busy, but now much quieter kitchen!

A huge thank you to the homeowner who graciously agreed to share her new, beautiful kitchen with us!  


More Readers Kooboo Chairs:

I still get pictures from homeowners showing off their Kooboo wicker chairs.  Not that I blame them!  I like to show mine off too.  Below, are two homeowners with their newly purchased Cost Plus World Market Kooboo chairs:



This homeowner used four Kooboo chairs around a gray painted table.  I love the lantern mixed with it and the soft linen curtains.  It’s such a mixture of textures, which creates the interest.



Looking the other way – I love the set of framed leaves. 



Delores Arabian who writes the wonderful blog Vignette Design recently bought her Kooboo chairs for her breakfast room.  I love the way she styled her table with the linen runner.  Sooo pretty!!!!



Her house is so beautiful.  She’s lucky to own two – this, her main home and her vineyard home in Sonoma.     Delores is really talented and her houses show this.  Her blog is very interesting – highlighting her two different lifestyles – one in the city and one in the country.  If you don’t read it, you should HERE.






If you read this blog, you know the story well.  A few years ago, after replacing my kitchen’s tile countertop with white marble, my yellow walls looked horrible.  Since all the rooms downstairs open up to each other,  I was forced to paint them all a new color -  Feathered Gray by Pratt and Lambert – which is a warm gray shade that looks taupe in certain light.  But after the walls were repainted, nothing went together anymore.  My yellow silk curtains looked terrible against the new paint color, as did all my other fabrics. 

For the past two years, I’ve been slowly changing out the curtains and the fabrics so it looks more like a decorator with some sense of color lives here.  The last room that finally got its new fabrics was the dining room.    Thinking back on all the dining rooms I’ve ever had – starting with my first single girl apartment -  I realized that I’ve always had a skirted dining table.   This actually surprised me, I hadn’t been aware that I’ve been using the same design element over and over and over again.   Was there a lesson in this?   I suppose if you really love something, you should go for it, regardless of what the current trend is.   If I listened to trends, I would have replaced my skirted table with a Rough Luxe unstained wood table that so many of the young are buying these days.  

So, today, I thought I would bore you to death by looking at the evolution of my dining rooms through the years.  Actually, I probably should say the non-evolution of my dining room skirted table.  Enjoy!!


The Rough Luxe table by Restoration Hardware that everyone under 40 wants to buy.




Twenty two years ago, right after we were married, Ben and I rented this cute, tiny cottage.  For the dining room, I brought my skirted table that had been in my pre marriage apartment.  I updated it with a new, cream faux silk poly-something fabric with a huge puddle that I spent hours arranging “just right.”  I added the set of French chairs that my aunt gave me and a painted secretary from my parents house.   We happily lived here for two years - Elisabeth was born while we rented this house. We loved the two bedroom, one bathroom house, but mostly we were thrilled to be living in West University – our dream location.  I had gone to look at this house after seeing an ad in the paper and when the landlord answered the door, I said “I’ll take it” without even stepping inside.    Not that there was much to tour, you could see everything from the front door.  The rent was $600.  We were so excited to live in our doll house.   My father though, was less so.  He took one look at it and said “I worked my whole life to get you out of a house on concrete blocks.”   He didn’t see the charm of living in a house without a solid foundation like we did.  We left this house to move to Ft. Worth – which was supposed to be for a lifetime.  Instead, we only lasted  1 1/2 years away from friends and family before we moved back to Houston.



In Ft. Worth, we bought our first house – a brand new patio style home.  While I copied Dan Carithers taupe and white linen living room, I used my old dining room set up.   I did add an antique chandelier from my parents house and two woodcuts also borrowed from them.  I don’t think we ate one meal in this room, instead we always used the breakfast room where we had a French wood farm table. 



And finally, we ended up in our present house in West University.  I don’t have a picture of the round skirted table with the draping cream cloth, but I know I used that same set up when we first moved into this house.  I do have an early picture of a party tablescape.  I had Shabby Slips make up a table skirt out of taupe and white plaid linen to fit over a conference table for when we entertained.  I topped that with a white tablecloth.  Those French chairs were actually from my breakfast room.   Overhead we used the same chandelier.  And here, you can see there used to be a window in this room instead of the French door that we installed a few months after we moved in.  It looks so strange to see the old window there!



A few years later and I’m still using the conference table for entertaining.  The French door is now in place instead of the window and by then,  I had bought that antique hutch to hold my newly acquired collection of blue and white transferware.  Of course I stole that idea from design great Carol Glasser.  I bought those vintage cane chairs from Lewis and Maese.  Still no curtains and no rugs.   Elisabeth is modeling her outfit of the hour – my bathing suit sarong which she turned into a long skirt.  NOTE:  After this party, everyone went home with red knees from the cotton table cloths!  Be sure to wash those cottons that come from India first.



Sorry all these pictures are no bad!  I had no idea I would have a design blog when I took these photographs all those years ago.  Here, I had finally started to get somewhat serious about my dining room.  I had an oval table custom made to fit the room and seat 8 – so, now I could finally quit dragging out the conference table whenever I entertained.  For the skirt I splurged on a Bennison fabric which cost more than a dining room table would have.  But, as you can see, I’ve always just preferred a skirted table in the dining room over a wood one.  There something so romantic and soft about a beautiful skirted table – and I’ll probably never have a proper wood  table.  Over the years, the puddling hem was drastically shortened, and the glass top was eliminated.   When this picture was taken, I was still using those old German woodcuts which I later replaced with more plates.  And, I had put up sconces – that today are in my office.



About six or seven years ago, I decided to change the Bennison cloth out for this silk plaid in yellow.  At this time, I also painted all the walls a soft golden yellow with gray trim.   Along with the paint, we finally got silk ticking curtains in the living room and dining room and custom cut seagrass throughout.   The curtains and the seagrass made a huge difference (as did a new camera.)  My parent’s antique chandelier went to the breakfast room and I bought this fixture from a friend who was redecorating her house from English country manor to Swedish.   New sconces from Tara Shaw were added. 



Finally, I changed out my blue and white transferware for some creamware – trying for a quieter look.  I honestly thought I would keep this dining room setup forever.  I still love the way it looks, but the yellow just didn’t go with the gray walls or the new ivory linen slipcovers in the living room or the white marble in the kitchen.   So, new curtain and tableskirt fabrics were ordered to tie it all together.    Here’s how the dining room looks today:





The biggest change to the room were the new fabrics – gray taffeta for the curtains and a white matte taffeta for the table.   The only expensive fabric was for the table – from Rogers and Goffigon -  but the draping and the matte look were important to me and I couldn’t get that look with a cheaper fabric.   The silk taffeta at the windows is Schumacher and that fabric was very reasonable.


The chair slips are actually two pieces, one piece covers the back and one covers the seat.  There is a down cushion inserted into the bottom slip to make the chairs look and feel softer.   Ties run down the back of the slips.  The skirts are double pleated for extra frill.   The checked linen is Chelsea Editions and is very, very reasonable. 



The view of the hutch with the creamware collection.   I wonder if I should trade this out for a gray painted Swedish hutch.   Maybe in a few years!



A closeup of the back of the slip with the ties.



Here you can see how pretty the seat crowns with the attached down cushion. 



We left the wood arms exposed on the host chairs.  I like that small touch of wood showing through.



On the table, I added some creamware plates to make it look casually styled.  Where is Eddie Ross when you need him????



Two of my favorite things in the room – the sconces from Tara Shaw and the antique barometer I got for a steal on 1st Dibs.



While all the changes made a big difference, the slipcovers made a huge, huge difference.  I am really happy with the way they turned out.  They make the room look dreamy and feminine and so soft.  Right now, I am in love with them!!! 

So, that’s it.   It took a while to update all the fabrics downstairs.  They always say, when you change one thing in your house, it all dominoes and that was true with me.  The white marble countertops dictated the way my entire downstairs looked – something I hadn’t really thought about when we made that initial change, but truthfully,  I probably was just in denial.  Changing out the fabrics room by room made is easier on the pocketbook.  Plus, Ben wasn’t really aware of what it all cost in the end since it was such a drawn out process.  He loves the way it all looks now, but if I would have come to him and said – I’m redoing every room next month, he would have had a heart attack and had me committed.  It was more subtle this way.   He likes my decorating style, he just doesn’t like what it costs.  AND, he is under the misguided impression for some unknown reason that slipcovers are cheap!  SSSSHHH – let’s keep it a secret, ok?  Thanks!


I’m wondering if I’m alone out here, using the same design element over and over and over again – like the skirted table?   That’s really the only thing I can think that I’ve used since I had my first apartment up until my current house – over 30 years of using skirted dining room tables.   Do you have an element or style you use over and over again?  Something you have loved since you left college, married and had children?  Let me know what it is – I would love to hear what you are addicted to!!!





If you are a Rachel Ashwell fan, you will love her new book.  It’s really beautiful – filled with flowers everywhere and gorgeous shabby chic styling.  It features the home of many European friends this time – a switch for the Californian Rachel.  It also shows her new Texas property, The Prairie.  It’s totally heavenly.  So, if you are a Shabby Chic lover, I highly recommend it  HERE.





Last year I showed a house that I had decorated that was across the street from my own house.    In the breakfast area, I used a large, contemporary styled lantern.



The lantern came from BROWN, a fabulous lighting and decor shop in Houston owned by the talented Jill Brown.   Afterwards, Jill was kind enough to host a giveaway of the same lantern here on Cote de Texas.   Needless to say, the giveaway was a huge success and many of you entered in hopes of winning. 



Here's the lantern we gave away.  The winner had the choice of the 4 lights or 1 light with an Edison bulb.  She chose the 4 lights, if memory serves me correct! 




BROWN is located in Houston in a charming house-like setting with Zen styled landscaping.



Jill has a certain aesthetic and everything about her and her store reflects it.  She is a true original, with a great sense of style and presentation.  Here, for a party for the magazine Garden & Gun, she set up an old-timey store on the covered front porch.   These were the goodies for the guests. 



Although BROWN's specialty is lighting fixtures, one area of the store is set up for general goods.  It seems as if Jill sells everything - from antique copper pots to candles.



As always, everything has Jill's "look" about it.  She loves Belgian styling, but she also very much into American antiques.



Even the design of her web site is uniquely Jill.   You can view her web site at www.shopbybrown.



Or, you can choose to enter the website  by the fanciful THING-FINDER, located HERE.




Here is a small selection of her wares, as sold on 1st Dibs.  Jill sells antique light fixtures and a line of new ones that she designs herself under the label Far-Fetched.



The store changes often - it never looks quite the same from one day to the next.  It's like visiting a magical place, you never know what fabulous treasure you are going to find at BROWN. 

So, what is the giveaway you ask?   Have I tortured you enough? 




The giveaway today is this original light fixture from BROWN.  It's a little hard to see exactly - but it's made of hand carved wood, painted a distressed light gray - perfect for today's trendy look.  It has five lights that extend from the center column on gracefully carved iron arms.    Each arm has a hanging tassel, also made of painted gray wood.  The light fixture is hand crafted of antique wood and iron and has a retail value of $3,100.  Yes, $3,100.!!!!   And it can be yours - if you win the giveaway!



Another view of the gray wood and iron light fixture.



And looking up at it from the bottom.   Disregard the chains - they are just used to hold up all the chandeliers. 






All we ask that you do is visit www.shopbybrown and go to either the store or the 1st Dibs site or both.  Look around at what is for sale and pick one item that speaks to you personally.  Then, come back here to the blog comment section and tell me what you picked and why!  That's it!!!

If you really want to be nice and you have a twitter account, please be so kind to tweet about the giveaway as a thank you to Jill.

Remember,  if you post anonymously, be SURE to leave your name and email address in case you win!!   If there's no email address, you can't win.  :( 

The contest will run this week and close on Friday at 11:59 p.m.  

Good luck to everyone and a huge, huge thank you to Jill Brown for hosting this wonderful giveaway!!!


For a peek at Jill's house, read a story I ran several years ago HERE.  The pictures were taken before I knew what I was doing with a camera, so be kind!!

Reaching Outside The Box and Getting a Decorating Inspiration



NOTE:  So sorry to have been away so long.  I’ve had a rash of computer issues this week including Writers Live blogging issues, a computer virus (which is going around and is very serious!) and a crashed hard drive.  Makes me hate Windows and PCs and Sony Vaio.  I would love to switch to Apple, but Apple doesn’t support my blogging platform – so, unfortunately, I’m stuck with Mr. Bill Gates, a poor imitation of Mr. Steve Jobs. 

So, on now to decorating!

A few weeks ago, I wrote about regional decorating – or, a design look that comes to define a city, an area, a country.  Certainly, reading this blog, the “Houston look” of  slipcovers and seagrass is well known.   I’ll admit it, I am in a rut,  stuck deep in a certain “southern” look associated with magazines such as the late Southern Living and Veranda.   Some days, the appeal of Faudree and Carithers, et al,  seems more rooted in familiarity than approval.  In truth, I rarely step outside my box.  I look at décor in NYC by all the latest and greatest, still the Southern bred Charlotte Moss holds the most appeal to me of that lot.   Design in faraway environs like Seattle leaves me cold, just as mountain décor holds no appeal.   I’m a southern girl through and through, but do include the South of France in that equation.  So, I was surprised to find the work of a Canadian interior designer so appealing.   Canada?

While reading the blog of a fellow Texan, Get Grounded, I was introduced to the work of Jill Kantelberg, a designer who works out of Toronto.  Besides design, she also runs a popular décor shop that’s a must stop for all the decorators in her area.  Her merchandise is also found on the trendy 1st Dibs, which insures a certain cachet.



Kantelberg’s work is eclectic, it’s rustic mixed with antiques and contemporary shown before a backdrop of rough textures.    The cover of this issue of Canadian House and Home features the work of Kantelberg.  It’s appeal is immediate.  I was instantly drawn to the mix of the cool blue and white stripes against the raw wood walls and beams.  Is it a beach house or a country lake retreat?  Certainly, it’s not anything familiar rather it’s a totally new look and I find it irresistible.   Apparently, so did the Texas blogger Get Grounded and so do the Canadians.   Kantelberg is very popular and respected as an innovator with her rough luxe looks that predate the term and Restoration Hardware, both.



The house is located on the water, but whether it’s a beach or a lake is not specified.   This view of the family room with the blue and white striped sofas shows the ceiling is heavily timbered with planks and beams that run down the walls to flank the dark stone fireplace.   The walls, in contrast, are painted a stark white.  The floors are naturally shaped stone mixed with heavily distressed wide wood planks.   A wonderful antique console table divides the family room from the dining area and kitchen.

                               jill8    This view of the family room shows the matching painted cabinets that flank the fireplace.  Above each is a canvas painted a soft brown that picks up the color of the stone.  Now, if this was a southern decorator, there would be mirrors over those cabinets and the stone fireplace would replaced with a French limestone mantel.   Sometimes, it really makes sense to step outside the box, for once. 





This view shows the family room with the stairs behind the love seat. 



Behind the family room, an oval wood table is matched with wicker chairs.  The focal point, though, is the light fixture – a simple iron form with a crown of bleached limbs.




The plank and beam ceiling continues into the kitchen where the range is located under a mantel that resembles the great stone fireplace in the family room.   On the left, an antique store counter sits under a bank of windows.




A view looking straight onto the range hood.



In the master bedroom, the wood lined headboard resembles the design of the great fireplace and the range in the kitchen.  Brown and white and tan bedding continues the colors found throughout the house.  Beams are also found in this room, as is the heavily distressed wide planked wood floor covered in part by a soft cow hide rug.  The organic side table with wispy branches adds to the look.



A closer look at the unique headboard.




More rustic wood makes up the mirror and dresser.  



The bathroom features bluestone and a white vessel sink.  Antlers are made into sconces.




The guest room features a headboard made of old pine doors. 




It’s hard to piece together the pictures of Kantelberg’s work found on the internet, as the stories that accompany the photos are no longer available.   But, Kantelberg owns a 200 acre property in the Niagara escarpment outside of Toronto – whatever that means!!!  This gorgeous house and attached wing I believe is most likely her property.  The chateau’s design is influenced by both France and Belgium and it’s utterly charming.




Inside, there is a great room with a gorgeous stone mantel.  The room is a living area, a dining area and a kitchen – all in one.  A large iron fixture sits over the dining table.  Notice the French windows on the right and how on the left it is connected to a hall which links to another building.   The ceiling is a mix of timber planks and beams – so beautiful.



Here, a closeup of the wood beams that surround the French doors.  A large antique trumeau sits over a makeshift bar.  In the mirror’s reflection, an antique armoire is seen.







Past the dining table is the kitchen with its own large mantel over the range – which resembles the fireplace at the opposite side of the room.  An antique store cabinet acts as the island.   The refrigerator is hiding within an armoire on the right. 



A close up the range with its backsplash of terra cotta tiles.  I love the collection of pots hanging from the mantel.



The hallway that leads from the great room to another part of the chateau.  Damask portieres divide the two spaces.  Notice the faux deer heads that sit above each French window.   The door at the end of the hall is beautiful carved.   The repeating beams on the ceiling resemble steps.  Such a quiet, beautiful space.





Well, wow.  What can I say?  This is too pretty for words.   The antique console has such a gorgeous patina – its just stunning.  Atop is a collection of wood balls.  The romantic and feminine mural behind is in contrast to the masculine vignette.  I could look at this photograph all day.  It must be so gorgeous in real life.



Another gorgeous vignette, an entry hall perhaps with a skirted table and a French armoire.   A beamed and wood plank ceiling above with a terra cotta tiled floor below. 



The master bedroom has its own fireplace.  Again, a beautiful wood and beam ceiling.  A dressy antique English dresser mixes with a rustic canopy bed.   These two wing chairs are now for sale on Kantelberg’s 1stDibs store.





A terra cotta tile floor, a Persian rug, a wood ceiling, and a large mirror made from an antique door. 



Another beautiful bathroom that could be a sitting room.  Feminine and rustic at the same time.



Just when I thought I had Jill Kantelberg’s look down, I spied this wonderful French moderne dining room.



A close up of the wonderful chairs and table, and the triptych hanging behind a horse sculpture.  Totally outside my box, I find myself just loving Kantelberg’s aesthetic.  




I mentioned before that I had first seen this picture on the blog of a fellow Texan, Get Grounded – where Robin writes mostly about landscaping.   Robin had first seen this photograph a few years ago and immediately fell in love with it.  In fact, she gasped when she first saw it.  I have to admit, I did too.   What makes this room so appealing?   Robin writes: 

“The striped couches! The incredible architectural barnwood ceiling and doors! Sisal rug over wood flooring. My signature aqua colors. Minimal accessories. The rustic, beachy, comfortable feel, oh my.”

Robin contacted Jill Kantelberg who was kind enough to email her back and forth with ideas on how to get this look.  Robin lives in a 1979 builder’s tract house in Austin that looks nothing like this expansive lake house in Canada.  Yet somehow, she wanted this look for her own.  How to emulate it?  How to do it on a strict budget?   Robin looked at all the elements and decided that rough wood was important to the décor.



And of course, blue and white stripes were very important to the look.   Let’s take a look at how Robin is putting together all the decorative elements in order to get the atmosphere of this room in her own home.



Here is what Robin started with.  She loves the Shabby Chic look and had already started decorating in that style.



First, and what I think is a stroke of genius on Robin’s part., she added the two rustic wood bookcases to the back wall.  This is how she brought in the wood element into her room!  The bookcase doors have chicken wire which further adds to the rustic look.   She found them at this store and they were very price friendly.  Now, if I was Robin’s designer, I would tell her to add one more cabinet and place them side by side to get more of the look that the wall is paneled.  Perhaps she could save up to add one more.  I think these cabinets are so very important to the look, I would go the extra distance and add another one.  On the floor, she installed Shaw’s sisal look alike carpet to mimic the seagrass look in Jill’s room.  Now, you know me, I love the real thing, but Robin told me in person this really looks like seagrass! 



Next, Robin needed the striped fabric.  She found this striped fabric at Calico Corners, and then found someone on Etsy who made the pillows!  So far, she really is getting the look of the lake house.  Luckily her curtains match the striped fabric perfectly. 



And, here, without her beloved ottoman that she knows has to be replaced to continue on her journey. 



And here is the table she bought at Cost Plus which really fits the look perfectly.   It almost looks like driftwood.  Robin says she wants to get new lamps and blinds which she’ll do soon.  

I was really impressed with Robin’s drive.  She saw something she loved with all her heart and decided to claim it for her own.  Faced with a limited budget, she shopped carefully.   The striped fabric is perfect and really brings in the feel of Kantelberg’s room.  And, the bookcases with their rough wood and chicken wire doors go a long, long way to further that atmosphere.


Have you ever seen a picture that you loved and then tried to copy it for your own?   I did, about 20 years ago.  I’ve showed this before, but one more time won’t hurt!  I fell in love, really deeply love with this Dan Carithers’ room, which I STILL love to this day!!!



The original inspiration – taupe and white linen fabric, slipcovers, sisal rug, and lots of blue and white porcelains. 



I was lucky to be able to get the exact fabric in taupe and white linen stripes.  Hey Ben!! Hey Reggie!!(Poor Reggie was run over and died a few months later. Sad smile)



I bought this coir rug – they hadn’t heard of seagrass in Ft. Worth at this time.  I had the chairs slipcovered in the same fabric.  I used to LOVE those candlestick “lamps” that I got at Bombay.  Loved them!



I added this wicker chair – the cushions in the striped linen hadn’t come in yet.  To the right you can see my two French chairs upholstered in the same striped fabric.  Those chairs are still used in my living room today.  Instead of blue and white porcelain, I used my budding blue opaline collection.  I wish I had a picture of the entire room, it was really kind of cute for its time.  I was proud of myself and thought I had come pretty close to my inspiration room – considering that my house lacked any of the gorgeous architectural details of the Carithers house.


Have you ever used a designer’s photograph to decorate a room?  Send in the pictures – I would love to see them!!!  I think working off an inspiration picture is still a good idea.  When I meet with a new client, I always ask them to bring in photos of rooms they love. 


I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing Jill Kantelberg’s work and stepping out of the box with me.  To see her web site, go HERE, and to visit her 1st Dibs store, go HERE.   And a HUGE thank you to Robin of Get Grounded for sharing her newly decorated living room!!! To read her story, go HERE.