This little four year old is thinking about her birthday wish.   Knowing her as well as I do, she is probably wishing for a Magic Room that you can step into and emerge with long, blonde, stick-straight, goyeshe hair!!! 

I don’t think she is dreaming about design – not quite yet.   That wouldn’t start for another two or three more years. 

Welcome to my world!

It’s been ages since I’ve written anything really personal.    I’m not sure why I don’t write about personal things much anymore, probably because my life seems so BORING these days! 

I started this story planning to write about rooms that have made me “gasped” over the years.   While I was writing the story about Carolyne Roehm’s Charleston house, I realized that I said “I gasped when I saw this room” a number of times.  And it’s true – I actually gasp when I see a room that moves me.  Next I’ll scream – "on my God!!!” 

To write the “Gasp” story,  I looked at almost every photo saved on my Blogger account, which holds tens of thousands of images – and as I was pulling the “Gasp” photos, I decided to change the story to “Interiors That Have Influenced My Aesthetic Over The Past 63 Years,”  all of which are “Gasp” designs.

Obviously if you are reading this, you are into interior and architectural design.  Were you always that way?  I know that I was - and assume I was born with a gene to obsess over interior design. 

I think my very first dip into design was my best friend’s house.  It was two stories with a lovely (I thought) staircase and endless rooms.  They were a large family and upstairs, there were two large bay windows, one of which was her bedroom – with no door. 

To that little girl with the endlessly curled hair, living in a bay window was dreamy and exotic.  Almost as exotic as their Easter egg hunts in their large, wooded backyard.  I jealously watched from the sidelines, fresh from praying on Passover about being held in slavery by the Egyptians and wandering in the desert for 40 years.  Don’t get me started on how sad and morose Jewish “holidays” are!  If only we could hunt pastel eggs left by a huge white furry bunny instead of reciting the 10 Plagues bestowed upon our people, diseased livestock and boils being my favorite plagues!!

But, I digress…

My friend’s two story house was my first obsession, then it was magazines.  Somehow, and to this day I don’t know how, my elderly cousin knew to bring me stacks and stacks of old design magazines when I was just 6 or 7.  Excitement quickly turned to disappointment when I realized that the magazines were decades old.

When I was eight, my parents designed and built a contemporary house and my obsession for design began in earnest.  I pored over the floor plans for the new house and was even allowed to help choose things for my room – including a lavender sink and a lavender accent wall behind the bed!!   For years, I drew floor plans in school, designing my perfect dream house.  A magazine article about a contemporary home owned by a duPont was for years my ideal.   

I knew nothing of French antiques until my father married my step mother who introduced me to that style and ever since then, I’ve been hooked.  I wrote about Betty Rae’s important influence on my aesthetic HERE.

Another early obsession, which still remains today, was the White House.   I joined the Book of the Month Club, without parental permission, when I was about 12 (what a rebel!) and as an award, you got 10 books for free.  One I chose was a large coffee table book on the President’s House, which I still own to this day. I’ll never forget when that huge box arrived with all those books!  Somehow my horrified parents convinced the Book of the Month Club to let me out of their contract. 

Of course my favorite room was the Kennedy Blue Room, an early hint of things to come.

A skirted table!!!!


Back then, movies often spurred an obsession:

“Gone With The Wind” started a love affair of anything southern plantation house AND green curtains!


Another early love was “Dr. Zhivago.”

The ice palace!    For years I swore my daughter was going to be named Antonia or Tonya for short.


In high school, it was this movie house that occupied my mind:

The large multi storied house in “Goodbye Columbus.”   I must have had a thing for two story houses.  This house was my dream house for a few years.

In college I always tried to make my dorm rooms cute.  My first apartment was an early Shabby Chic but I didn’t know there was a name for it.   When it came to decorate my first marital house,  I was inspired by this photograph:

It wasn’t until some years later that I learned the room was designed by Dan Carithers.  

Of course I could copy the inexpensive striped linen – but to duplicate the gorgeous architecture - that was another story!   But this photograph started a long love affair for the late Dan Carithers.

There was rarely a room a designed by Carithers that I didn’t love.

Like this house he designed, shown in Southern Accents – I loved this.

Another very early influence was Mimmi O’Connell – an important and influential designer in London.  She was a pioneer of the East/West fusion, mixing it all together.  She loves cotton stripes and metal beds, Oriental accents – the high mixed with the low.  For years I was obsessed with her look which I could only find in international magazines.  That made the hunt for her work all the more fun.


Mimmi’s bedroom in London – her metal canopy with long curtains, Oriental chairs, striped fabrics, and antique accents shows off her favorite elements.

Rose Tarlow’s aesthetic resembled Mimmi’s.  But, her new house was an eye opener.   I loved the architecture as much as the decor, but then – I think everyone did.  Was there anyone who didn’t love Rose’s new house with the ivy growing up the walls?

I’m not sure exactly when I started being obsessed with Rachel Ashwell. 

Shabby Chic and Rachel helped everyone to see the beauty AND practicality of white slipcovers.   I don’t think there is a Ashwell book that I don’t have. And, I don’t think I will ever live without slipcovers again.

Besides Dan Carithers, the other male southerner who was a huge influence on me was the late Charles Faudree.    Faudree was the complete Francophile and through magazine stories and his books – I tried to learn everything from him, including his dogs!

The first time I heard of Faudree was this story of his house in Traditional Home.  It was pure love at first sight!  Over the years Faudree moved a lot – and each time the magazines would feature his latest digs.  

This house had a long living room with mirror image fireplaces at each end.  At the center was a large round table.  This design became a favorite of mine.

Another Francophile was from New Orleans – Gerrie Bremermann.

Bremermann’s formula for curtains became my own.  Gorgeous!  I actually read her formula for curtains in a magazine, wrote them down and revised them to fit my own ideas.   I learned more from books and magazines than I did at college studying design.

Mario Buatta uses a mixture of French and English.  Here, a house he designed in Houston was perfection.   It’s just pretty.

The Buatta Houston bedroom.   This house was later sold and completely redone in a way that makes it unrecognizable from this.

Another one from New Orleans originally was Suzanne Rheinstein – she designed this house which remains one of my favorites of hers.   Pure French.  One client brought this photo to a meeting and said – let’s do this.  I tried.

Suzanne’s house in California was an obsession for years.   This was a favorite version of her living room – with the summer slips.

Rheinstein’s apartment in New York produced a huge gasp, thanks to the mural painted on its walls.

Suzanne has been such an inspiration – I love the way she uses beautiful antiques in all her rooms.  She has impeccable taste and  an unerring eye.

Lynn Von Kersting is a designer and the owner of the Ivy in Los Angeles.  She was an early inspiration with her love of French antiques and maximalism.

Another Southerner is Charlotte Moss.  Her earlier books were major inspirations.   She wrote books long before everyone else did.   I love her NYC townhouse.   Everything Charlotte does is inspirational to me. 

Similar to Charlotte’s townhouse is Alessandra Branca’s in Chicago. From Italy, Branca brings a European sensibility to her designs. 

Books written about just one house became my favorite and those are the ones that I poured over.

This book started the love affair with books written about one house.  I studied every photo in this book until I knew my way around a house I would never visit.  Total obsession for years.  Order HERE

Another love – Bunny’s country house.  This might be the most popular design book ever written.  Order HERE  She later wrote one about her beach house.

Charlotte’s house in Aspen was a French winter wonderland.  I never understood how she sold it!!   She started the green and blue trend years and years before it became popular.   Order HERE

Kathryn’s book on her house in Ojai was a huge obsession.  Order HERE

Betty Lou Phillips wrote a series of books featuring her designs and others.  I used to wait and wait and wait until her next book would be released.   The early books were like reading ten issues of Southern Accents at one sitting.

Houston Shops:

In Houston, there were several stores that helped shape my aesthetic and all of Houston.  Brian Stringer Antiques closed its doors, but it is  sorely missed.

Shabby Slips is still one of the best there is.  Outrageous gorgeousness.

Skelton Culver – the new shop at the former Babs Watkins Culver spot.   Babs shop was ground zero of the Houston Look.   Going there was better than going to New Orleans.

Joyce Horn – everyone would line up when a new shipment came.  A must for French furniture with great, honest prices.

Another love is Olivine.  I’ve followed Helen from Woodway to Uptown to the Rice Village. From now on Olivine will be in a Galveston location!  Stay tuned for info on her new address!

Houston Designers:

Everyone knows that I adore Houston designer Carol Glasser’s former house.  Featured in many magazines – I once wrote this was The Perfect House!   It was a major obsession and major influence.

How many  people copied Carol’s collection of blue and white transferware?  I know I did.

Her next house was so different – but every bit as pretty!

The late Babs Watkins, another Houstonian designer, influenced everyone through her shop and her magazine photoshoots.   This house was an obsession of mine for years and years.  I loved the way she cut her seagrass for this house and used it as a springboard for my own custom cut seagrass. 

In this new beach house – Babs introduced shiplap, years and years before Joanna Gaines.  Another introduction was seaglass green.  This was the first time I remember that color being used so extensively.

Ginger Barber moved a lot and each house was featured in a magazine.  Her shop was around the corner from me for a while, and I used to stop by to pick up accessories.   I love her casual style and use of fabrics.

Ginger’s style is always welcoming – here, she was a bit more dressy.  That leather tufted settee is to die for!  I love her aesthetic.  She needs to write a book!

Tara Shaw was a Houston shop owner for a few years and thank God!   I bought some important antiques from her.   She has an incredible eye for buying wonderful antiques.

Tara Shaw’s house in New Orleans – beautiful!

The Gray Door’ Donna Gray’s former town house.  Her shop moved to the old Made in France location and Donna moved upstairs.   HERE

Upstairs at The Gray Door.  Her gallery wall is one of the best I’ve ever seen.   Gorgeous!

Chateau Domingue is known for its architectural elements, mostly old, but some are new like tiles and windows (see Kathryn Ireland’s latest house.)  Ruth Gay’s house is her laboratory.   With help from the great Pam Pierce who started Milieu Magazine, she turned her house into an old Provencal manse.

One of the prettiest designs by Pam Pierce.   I don’t think I’ve even seen Pam design something that I didn’t love!   Now she concentrates on Milieu instead of taking on clients.

Shop owner Kay O’Toole had one of the best Veranda covers ever – her wonderful highrise apartment.   That rug on the table!!  Divine!!!

Kay later moved behind her shop in an enfilade designed by Murphy Mears Architects.   Oh, I would love to live there!!!

Jane Moore is another Houston legend.  She designed this house for her daughter who started Wisteria catalogue with her husband.

Jane had a charming shop nearby another great Houston shop Brown who specializes in lighting fixtures and antiques.  There are so many other shops in Houston that shaped my aesthetic and the town’s.  There is Area and M. Naeve and Boxwood and Indulge Decor and Neal & Co. and Carl Moore and Lam Bespoke and their upholstering division and there is Segreto Finishes whose wall treatments did more for beautifying Houston houses than probably anyone!   I know there are many others but my age is making me forget!!

It was a neighborhood home tour of this house one Saturday that made me change everything about my own decor.  I went from khaki and red to all white – that following Monday.

Inside, here it was decorated for Christmas.  The owners moved to another house and then another.  I still want their candelabra because I know they don’t have it anymore!!!   This house was a huge inspiration – the architect was Kurt Aichler. 

The house has a wonderful layout, with human sized rooms that make it seem like an older house rather than a new one.

Along with several local magazines like Houston House & Home and Paper City and several that are now shuttered, two other magazines were incredibly influential to me:

It was a sad, sad, sad…sad day when I heard that Southern Accents was shutting down.   WHY?!?!   I’ll never understand it.

Veranda has made great use of their photographs, putting them into numerous books, but why hasn’t Southern Accents done the same?

They should digitalize their photos and put them on the internet for everyone to enjoy.  It’s a huge waste not to do so. 

Thankfully there is still Veranda.   It’s not nearly the thrill that is once was when the new Veranda arrives.  Thanks to the internet and all the images that are now online, magazines are no longer such a necessity. 

I remember when I started blogging 10 years ago, many magazines did not even have web sites.  They looked to us to publicize their stories.  Today, all the magazines have very detailed and interesting blogs.  I can’t remember the last time an editor asked me to talk about an new issue. 

TIME marches on and things change.  I don’t really take any magazines, excepts on Zinio, the internet news stand.  In a few years I suppose we won’t have any more paper magazines or newspapers.


Over the years, there have been houses that I’ve loved, a lot of  houses.  Looking over my blogger photos – I found a few that stuck out.

I adore all of Oscar de la Renta’s various homes, but it’s the one in the Dominica Republic that really impresses.  Bunny Williams built her own beach house nearby.   I love this photo with the center table piled with orchids, candles and books.  I used this photo as a starting off point on my own center table, but alas, it never had this same fabulousness!    Still, can’t you imagine what it was like with the doors open, the breeze coming off the ocean, and the scent of the flowers and candles.  Dinner is waiting after cocktails.  Ready?

The room was long with mirror images at both ends – just like Charles Faudree’s first one.  Those lamps!

One more!!

Another house I adored was David Easton’s.   He sold this country house long ago, but the images remain.  It’s the same version as Oscar’s and Faudree’s – with a center table and mirror images on each end.

I wasn’t the only one who loved the house.  Interior designer Penelope Bianchi used this room as inspiration in her own beautiful house in Montecito, now crawling out of the mudslide that rolled through her neighborhood and property.

Penelope Bianchi’s great room wearing white slips with fireplaces on both sides and a center table in the middle.

The bay window in the middle of Penelope’s living room.

Four houses that I’ve loved with the same basic floorplan – one long room with fireplaces on each end and a circular table in the middle. 


If you are a regular reader, you know this house Villa de Limma restored by the great John Saladino.   I’ve been obsessed with this house since before the book was even released.

Another view of the living room.

Click on the book to order. 

One of the best books about one house ever.

OK.  I know I keep saying that!!!  But – I love these kind of books!

Bobby McAlpine’s house was an obsession that started an obsession with his firm and all his partners, his books, and his interiors.

For years all I wanted was to live in a McAlpine house with furniture personally chosen by him.  And accessories too!

McAlpine uses lots of leggy French chairs and leggy tables.  His interiors have a light, airy quality with metal and velvet mixed with muted colors and stone.

He is a true original.  Brilliant.

We interviewed McAlpine on the Skirted Roundtable and the three of us were stunned to silence by his brilliance.  HERE.

Click on his book.

This French house is owned by an American designer and it was featured in many magazines.   I loved it SO much, if only I could have afforded it, I would have bought it – and IF only the owners would have let me!

The bedroom and a magazine cover.

The owner Ginny Magher restored her house with Bruno and Dominique Lafourcade.

A similar manse in Provence was recently completely renovated, also by the Lafourcades, and I wrote a story about it called “The Prettiest House Ever?”  

Well, it might be the prettiest decorated house ever.  It’s all French antiques with French fabrics and to me, it is heaven on earth.

One of the bedrooms in the Prettiest House Ever.


I know that contemporary is in.  I know that tufted velvet sofas in bright colors mixed with loud wallpapers and modern chandeliers is what is “HOT” today, but nothing moves me more than a house like the one above, or a room like this, or furniture like this.   I wonder if there will ever come a time that antique French furniture will not excite me?   At 63 years old, I suppose the answer is “I doubt it.”

$20 Million will buy you this bedroom.  Which would you rather have?  The modern or the one in the Prettiest House Ever?

Hmmm.   Let me think about that.

And that answer is one of the main reasons why I don’t take clients anymore.   I can hardly stand to look at a Sputnik, much less sell one to someone and get excited over it.  There are a few that I think are nice – but it will never be like looking at this:

I love this antique chandelier from The Gray Door!!!  I would have one in every room!!! HERE

Tory Burch’s country house is another personal love.  This living room may be one of my favorites – ever! 

The living room was recently remodeled a bit with new slips.  Love.

The Something’s Gotta Give house was the start of a love affair with Nancy Meyer’s houses, even though it actually started with Father of the Bride and The Parent Trap.

But it was THIS house that became a national obsession with slips and blue and white rugs and white kitchens.

The dining room was an inspiration for work.  The fabric, the slips, those ties, the white plates – were all used in jobs for clients.

This house was owned by the English actor Tim Curry, his design was photographed for Architectural Digest.  It’s a fabulous house in Los Feliz.  Of course I became obsessed with it when Rob Pattinson bought it for himself and his girlfriend Kristen Stewart.  I think I know more about it than its current owner, comedienne Jim Parsons.

The back yard is prettier than the interiors.  Read my opus about Curry’s house and garden HERE.

This English country house Turville Grange, owned by Princess Radziwill aka Jacqueline Kennedy’s sister, is about dreaming and wishing and hoping.  Who wouldn’t want a courtyard filled with centuries old cottages used as guest houses?\


The interiors were more English than English decor.  That sofa – the down cushions are HUGE and plumped up so high.  They don’t make sofas like that anymore.  I actually had one just like this, inherited from Betty Rae.  Stupid me gave it away when I was 25 because the fabric was old.  It was a gorgeous chintz – similar to this.  What an IDIOT!!!  It had only two bottom cushions, made of down, just like this one.  Today that sofa would cost a fortune.  IDIOT!

I wonder what happened to it?   Who got it?

I replaced it with a cheap cream sofa made of some fake knobby fabric that I paired with orange and navy pillows AND a skirted table.  It was cute for sure – but that sofa….WHAT AN IDIOT!!

For years, Grey Gardens captivated my imagination – living in squalor with Jaqueline Kennedy’s close cousins!   Of course, I would only want to live there when it was the center of social life in the Hamptons before the war. 

I wrote about the house a few times, HERE & HERE

Sally Quinn and her husband Ben Bradlee bought the house when it was a complete horror show.  She completely redid and only sold it last year after her husband died.  They used it every August and rented it out the rest of the year.   The new owners love the house, but they are redoing it – hoping to make it look exactly as it once did. 

Every piece of molding is being numbered to be put back in place.  New radiant floor heating is going in along with new mechanics.  The house was raised to make room for a nwq basement that includes a wine room, of course, an exercise room, double of course, and a huge recreation room.  Why would you need all this at the beach?

Sally’s interiors stayed the same all these years.  Love her chintz!  Oh, I would love to decorate this house!!!

The porch was removed and the terrace on the right is open to the elements.  Sally had redone the porch so perhaps the new owner will put it back as it was originally.

Kathryn Ireland renovated this ranch in Ojai then promptly sold it.  Reese Witherspoon bought the ranch, got married here, redid it again, then promptly sold it.

Reese’s interiors were in Elle Decor, and Kathryn wrote her book about the house.  The ranch is paradise – filled with cabins, lots of bedrooms in outbuildings, a big stable and even a forge.

OK.  This ranch is like a summer camp and I have such great memories of my camp – Echo Hill – that it would be a dream to live here and pretend like it was a summer camp for friends and family. 

I still don’t understand why Reese sold it.  It is not even a 2 hours drive from L.A.  She’s a type A personality and maybe she just couldn’t relax at the ranch.

Plus, she was married right here!!!  Now someone else is living where she and her latest swore eternal love to each other.

Only in Hollywood!

Diandra Douglas has exquisite taste.  When married all those years ago to Michael, they had a beach manse in Spain and this house in the states.  Both are sold today.  These were the real estate photos of her house and I was obsessed with it of course – white slips and zebra.  I once had zebra rugs but Elisabeth’s dog Lucy likes to nibble on them.

I am still obsessed with this room several years after first seeing it.  Shannon Bowers designed it and I love the yellow touches which just pop in the room and make it sing.   I love the delicate antiques mixed with a few contemporary touches and the round table in the middle with the two stools.  And I love the mantel.

This room by Min Hogg was in both Milieu Magazine and in its photographer’s book Haute Bohemians by Miguel Flores Vianna. 

Click on the photo.

His book was the most beautiful of the year, filled with some of the more intriguing interiors – like Min’s.   I love her use of stripes, especially the rug and the red mixed with the pink.

Carolina Irving’s NY apartment was a continuing inspiration long after she sold it, especially with her blue and white striped rug and chintz slipcovers.

I think I must really love blue and white striped rugs!  So many of my favorite houses have one in it.    Furlow Gatewood bought property in Georgia and moved a collection of houses onto it – he decorated them all, then wrote a book about it.  At 90 he was still going to India with John Rosselli.

You can NOT name your favorite house on his property – they are all perfectly imperfect, just like this one. 

Oh to be his friend, like Bunny Williams is, and to stay in one of his guest houses! 

His book is another great one about one…piece of property!!  Not just one house!!!  Click on the photo.

This large Irish mansion Ballyfin because a boarding school and then a fabulous hotel.   If you plan a trip to Ireland – you should visit for a day or two or three.  I was so obsessed with this house, I wrote not one, but two stories about it HERE and HERE.

This is just one of their bedrooms.   Who could resist this???

And this house led me to another Irish house that Martyn Bullard is now decorating.  It should be in Architectural Digest soon – but until then, read my story about it.

Martyn’s design for one of the rooms at Capard House.  Blue with green.  Oh, his decor in this house is just perfect!!!   I am so anxious for this to land in Architectural Digest!  It’s coming, I know!!  Read my story HERE.

New interiors that have caught my eye seem to all have something in common.  Blue.   James Howard.  Dreamy.

Another pretty one from Windsor Smith.  Blue.  Again.

I love the blue velvet mixed with linen.

This one is a new favorite that will last as one forever.  What’s wrong with pretty???   What?  Tell me!  Why does everyone reject pretty today?

Another beyond gorgeous room by a favorite, Cathy Kincaid.  Kincaid is another designer who loves pretty decor.   I am obsessed with this room – I see something new every time I look.

For instance – at the back of the room, instead of doing something symmetrical, Kincaid balanced the large mirror with a screen, which is just as high as the mirror.

In the end – it’s all about obsession.

If I were to design a house, I think I would copy this one by designer Serena Crawford in South Africa.  HERE

I absolutely love the layout of the first floor in her house – the kitchen/dining room open to the living room that opens to the library – each room is separated by French pocket doors that let in the light even when closed. 


The middle room with glass pocket doors – and the view towards the library.  I love the rough wood floors and the wood ceiling and stucco walls and all the large antique wood tables, one of which is used as a bar. 

Those sconces – looking towards the library.

The view towards the kitchen/dining room.

She’s always rearranging the furniture.  Don’t even ask about the foyer with its black and white floors, the terrace room, the pool, the upstairs, the bathroom.

I would bring a toothbrush today and never leave.

I’ve never talked about this before, but the obsession with a photo or a house is usually what drives my stories.   If I have to write about something that isn’t an obsession, it’s just not fun.   Sometimes I think I will never have another topic to write about and then I innocently watch a movie or look at a magazine or read a book and there it is, an obsession that becomes a story.    Many times, the only way to get an obsession out of my system is to write a story about it.  For a week or two, it is all I think about and I am consumed with creating a complete scenario from A to Z.   Finally, I have to say to myself ‘stop’ and then I hit “publish” and move on to the next story. 

Thank you for reading these stories, you’ll never know how much I appreciate it.

And, now I want you to leave a comment and tell us all what rooms/houses/designers/shops/books are your obsessions and what influenced your aesthetic????

AND, one last word:

With all the blue & white interiors so trendy now – understand - it’s against what is being pushed on us by people who make decisions about what color  fabrics, furniture and accessories will be and what will be shown at the next market.

The popular blue & white trend is against what we are supposed to be buying.

There was Mark Sikes book which featured blue & white interiors and whose look has helped caused the trend.  There was another new book about blue & white by William Yeoward.

                             Click on book.

A few days ago, Mrs. Howard, aka Phoebe, sent me her newest book, which is about blue and white, featuring her own designs.  The book is interesting because each chapter is about a certain shade of blue.  Besides photos there are how-to’s for pairing the color with different shades.


If you love Mrs. Howard, you will love this book!

The book shows all shades of blue from sea glass to indigo and in between.

OK – I LOVE that headboard!   And, I had to show another blue and white striped rug – of course!!!

To order, click on photo!

Thank you Mrs. Howard!!!