COTE DE TEXAS: A Tale of Two Houses

A Tale of Two Houses

One of Houston's more famous interior designers, Ginger Barber, is known for her spare, neutral interiors.  She eschews patterns and fussiness and prefers her designs to be calm and soothing with a sprinkling of pine, concrete, seagrass, stucco, iron, and linen.  Practicing in Houston for over 30 years, she has cultivated a "look" that  is very casual with  plushy down chairs and sofas covered in basic linens -  no silks for Ginger.  Her interiors have a decidedly English look crossed with a Texan sensibility.  Barber owns a small design store that sells English antiques and accessories, creamware and wicker baskets.  It's called The Sitting Room and it's styled exactly as she would her own living room, with  textures playing a major part of the design.  The laid back style would fit right in with a country home in the Cotswold's.  Two of Barber's publicized projects are actually for the same client.  Both houses are presented here for comparison.  Which do you prefer - the early English version or the new more Mediterranean, eclectic look?


The original home:  typical Barber design:  large blanket chest doubles as a coffee table, plump slipcovered, down cushioned chairs and sofa, pine fireplace, seagrass rugs, and lots of wicker accessories in the shelves.  Notice the painted blue armoire to the right, it shows up in the new house!


Original home:  antique pine table and painted chairs, various English styled antiques scattered about.  The wood floors and antiques are honey colored  - a look Barber prefers.


Original home:  Dining room piece doubles as a buffet.  Wicker baskets, religious statues, painted woods, botanicals - all typical of what Barber loves and uses time and again.


Original Home:  converted light fixture, slipcovered French chairs, large hutch with a collection of brown and white transferware.  This muted, monotoned look with honey colored woods is typical of a Barber design.


Original home:  this picture is somewhat distorted, but upholstered headboard, muted bedding fabrics, and checks - Barber loves to use checks and Bennison, but who doesn't?


The New Home:  white limestone floors, iron banister, iron candelabra and light fixture set the tone in this client's new home.  The dark hardwoods on the stairs are covered in seagrass.  Immediately, the differences in the two houses are apparent just here in the entry.


The new home:  a three story townhouse designed by the fabulous Southampton Group brothers.  Here the look is more refined and elegant than the previous house, yet it still is very casual.  Blue and white dhurri rug, bold brown and cream check on recovered slipcover chair from previous home.  Lacquered coffee table replaces the blanket chest.  Small french antique chair comes from the older home.   English antique bamboo table, linen colored slipcovers, painted wood pieces, gold candlesticks - all are trademarks of Barber's.


Close up of living room in the new home.  Notice how she uses baskets and pots in the shelves.  Here Barber uses unmatched chairs as opposed to the former house.  The unmatched chairs look lighter and less bulky in this setting. 


Dining Room:  same chairs as the former home,  but they have been painted darker and wear new light blue slipcovers.  Blue armoire is now in the dining room as opposed to the family room in the former house.  New iron and limestone table.  This dining room is much more elegant than the former one, but still, retains the casual look.  Out of view is a crystal chandelier, replaced the former wood light fixture.


The new kitchen boasts gorgeous antique tiles with limestone tiled countertops.  Creamware pieces are typical of those sold at The Sitting Room, Barber's wonderful design shop.


Barber's usual tablescapes are heavy on concrete and large oversized pieces - nothing dainty or feminine about Barber's look.


Landing in the new home:  note how much darker the wood floors are stained compared to the older home. 


View of the hall with the cream linen drapes that are used throughout the home.  They are full and flowing and quietly lend a luxurious feel.  Pine bench with pillows made of Bennison fabric.


View from the other side of the hall.  Seagrass covers this walkway.  Note the interesting English bookcase on the right.  The large, overscaled hanging cabinet adds to the atmosphere of the hall.  Note how interesting Barber has made a space that could have been "just" a walkway.  Instead, it is a visual treat to take in when moving from one side of the house to the other.


The new home's master bedroom appears to have the same bed and bedding.  The toile pillows are Old World Weaver's famous oriental toile.  I love the casual sofa between the windows and the red tea canister lamps. The painting above the bed appears to be the same painting above the fireplace in the previous home.  As throughout the house, the walls are a sofa cream which match the linen drapes.  The wood floor is left bare - the dark provides a contrast against the light walls and drapes.

Which look do you like better?  The casual, English influenced first home, or the more elegant, slightly Mediterranean look of the new home?  Myself, I prefer the new home!



  1. I'm with you, Joni - I love the new home. However, there is something so comfortable about the first home - perhaps because I have saved pictures of Ginger Barber's houses for years! She just has a great timeless style - there really isn't anything too trendy, yet the second house is fresher, more current, isn't it? What a fun comparison.

    Also, thanks for the stories on Megan - loved reading that post and learning about "Walk with Sally" what a sweet, sweet charity.

  2. Both homes are really beautiful although the blanket chest as a coffee table is a bit heavy. At least in the picture, the coffee table becomes the focal point instead of the fireplace.

    The second home seems to be a little fresher and the architecture is beautiful. I love the linen draperies and the monochromatic look of the hallway. It appears to have a lot of natural light as well.

    I'd love to curl up on the living room couch with a good book. The slipcovered sofa looks so inviting.

    I love your blog.

  3. I love the fresh look of the new home and I love reading your blog.
    You are great and have unique ideas beautifully presented!!!
    Your last post was very touching.

  4. Joni,
    I prefer the newer home. I love her use of the linen curtains and the pale limestone and darker (ebonied?) floors.

    The only thing I wasn't crazy about where the use of limestone tiles on the countertops in the kitchen...but that's just me, since I hate tile on countertops.

    Thank you for posting this.

  5. I like the new home, that dining room is gorgeous!

  6. The new home does it for me hands down. I really like what she does with the hallway and the landing, spaces that might go unnoticed and under-used otherwise. There are some great ideas here! (As always.)

  7. Well, my day wouldn't be the same without a visit to your blog...gosh I have so much to learn from you, I love those homes, and I'm taking notes, I can say you are a wonderful teacher!

  8. Hmmmm....gosh I really like different elements from each home!!! Of course my inability to choose shows in my own home so pay no attention to my ramblings! LOL.Such gorgeous and lovely homes...thanks for sharing!

  9. It's a tough choice!

    I think that, even though I am a serious anglophile, I am with you and I prefer the more airy new house!

  10. Loved the tour. It made me want to "get to decorating." But then it seems that I'm always decorating, either inside or outside. But this was a feast for the eyes. Thank you.

  11. The newer home. The look is fresher and lighter.

  12. I guess I stand alone....the first home invited me to cozy in and relax. Both are just lovely.

  13. Both versions are charming and comfortable -- but the newer one seems a bit more elegant. Thanks for the wonderful posting -- as always -- a visual treat and a great lesson in design!

    Jan at Rosemary Cottage

  14. Love the new home!!! Love your blog!!!

  15. Both homes are tasteful, but I do prefer the new place. I am partial to the Mediterranean look and love the white, the limestone and the iron.

  16. I like elements of both, although probably the new one is more open and airy. She has wonderful taste!

  17. I think the old house got one vote, several maybes, but the new home is winning hands down!!! I agree with you all - I love the builders. I am planning to do a blog on the builders but their website is down, I hope it doesn't mean they went of business (!) They build and design the most gorgeous houses in Houston right now for specs, maybe even custom.
    Thanks everyone for the comments, as usual = it means the world to me.


  18. I loved the second home, but also found the first one quite charming. Since I am a painter, I was delighted to see that she uses "real" works of art rather than reproductions. Sometimes it is really the only color in the room. Where can I see more of her work?....have looked at her website. Thanks for such an instructive post. Love your blog. Connie Snipes

  19. I'm liking the new home also! It reminds me of one of my aunts homes, spare and airy, but also comfortable. Nice!

  20. Joni - I'm going for the first home.

    Unfortunately for the first home, French is very "fashionable" at the moment but I think that long term it'll be English. Plus I grew up with Laura Ashley And Cath Kidson and my parents home is choc-a-block with English and Australian antiques.

    Now this is just my humble opinion and no offense to my VERY stylish French blogger friends.

  21. I'm for the first home - the second one was a bit too much Spanish mission/nunnery in parts - I expected to see a few French sisters (dressed in those really big hats like Sally Field in the Flying Nun) coming around the corner - not all the shots but certainly that hallway.

  22. The idea that french is in now but long run it'll be english is interesting. After all, so much of "english" is also french. But I love the clean lines and pulled together elegance of the new home, although the earlier one also had some nice things. I would have thought the first one more country french than english myself, while the second one has a whiff of modernism to me, and maybe what I think of as London style.

  23. Can't I have them both? No? Well, then I guess I'll pick the newer home solely on the living room and darker floors. But I do have to say that the little chest with botanicals above in the first home is my favorite picture.

  24. Katrina, no you can't have them both- choose!!!!

    Thanks to you all of you for the comments.

    Balsamfir - another vote for the first house! That's two now.


  25. Like the majority, I love the second home more. More to my personal European taste.

    Anna ;)

  26. Nope, I voted for the second home. But there were things I liked in the first.

  27. I'd have to say I love the first English influenced classy and traditional.


  28. I have been in a few Barber houses in Houston (3 to be exact and the one pictured above was not one of them) and always brown checks are used in the family rooms...????What is that about?

  29. I have been in a few Barber houses in Houston (3 to be exact and the one pictured above was not one of them) and always brown checks are used in the family rooms...????What is that about?

  30. Anonymous - email me! I'd love to talk to you:

    Obviously, Ginger loves brown checks. She used to use lighter checks, but lately she has been using darker brown, more vivid checks.

    email me!

  31. I like the second home better; the dark floors, the arched doorways and doors, the wrought iron. But I don't like the tile countertops, limestone or not, don't like the plaid chair (don't agree with every room should have some plaid) and I hate that headboard found in both houses! In the first house the shelves look too cluttered to enjoy the cool pieces in them and there is too much pine! Sorry don't mean to be the negative one in the bunch - her style is a little formulaic for me. But I do like your blog a whole lot!!