It’s always a pleasure to work with clients to pull together new pillows and linens or curate objects and accents to group atop mantles and coffee tables. We also love layering one-of-kind finds into our shops and providing space for clients to discover the perfect pieces that will make their own home—and hearts—sing. It is an all together different kind of joy when shop relationships grow into true collaborations.
When our beloved client, Emily, engaged us to take on a few projects, I knew we had a special connection. Emily has an incredible sense of style and seeing our pieces interpreted in her own home, the personality of her spaces, and how those elements come together to reflect her family is both inspiring and fulfilling. We recently had the opportunity to photograph Emily’s house and are excited to share a glimpse inside, along with details on the evolution and expression of her personal style.
Did you live in your house as-is for a while to see how your family utilizes the space or start making changes right away?
We have lived here almost 8 years and before moving in did a lot of painting, which I’m so glad we did—it’s impossible to live in a house while it is getting sprayed with oil based paint. At the time, I was making so many choices at once that I played it safe with lots of white. I have since added more color, such as the green kitchen floors and blue bookshelves in the living room. I layered wallpaper and curtains over time, as I figured out what made sense for each space.
How has your style, and the house, evolved over time?
I think my preferences evolve, but what drives most change is more practical—the needs of my family, budget, things wearing out and needing to be replaced. I enjoy moving things around just for fun, so the house is never static. My kids were 3, 1, and I was 4 months pregnant with my youngest when we moved into this house. So much has changed since then and part of what I love about this house is its flexibility. It feels spacious and has wonderfully big windows and lots of sunlight. The rest is a blank slate.
The assemblage of plates and vessels in your dining room is lovely and we loved perusing the living room shelves! How do you approach curating collections?
It is not strategic at all; I collect what I like and compose them in ways that seem to make sense. For a while the plates in the dining room were neutral. Then I added bright artwork and thought it would be more interesting to have a colorful mix of china on display. I had a few pieces of majolica that I was glad to see daily. I bought a few small pitchers on eBay, mostly to set in front of the plates so they wouldn’t fall.
In the living room, the shelves are constantly moving. The bottom few shelves used to be filled with kids books and toys like a Montessori classroom. As my kids spent less time playing with blocks and My Little Ponies, I swapped them out. I recently gathered various blue and white accessories from around the house and put them here. It looks much more formal and intentional than it did only 6 months ago!
What’s your process while shopping in-store or online? Do you game plan where pieces will land or buy based on your eye and then work it somewhere in your house?
I pay attention to the dimensions of items —bookshelves do best with relatively tall and shallow accessories and I like low bowls for tables because you can see over them easily. I also like unique pottery and textures, which feel strong but can also be relatively neutral.
What does your home express about your family? How does your daily lifestyle lend to design choices and projects?
I hope my home feels calm and comfortable for family and guests. That is what I am aspiring to for myself, too. I appreciate symmetry, balance, and organization. I like the cheerfulness of color and pattern, but only to a point. Some of the design decisions I debate most are whether to “go big” with color or choose a neutral; I go back and forth.
Our daily lifestyle as a family is busy, but orderly. We entertain a lot. I try to gear the house to be as easy as possible. The more organized and logical the house is, the easier it is for everyone to put things where they belong, find what they need, etc. I like styles that feel thoughtful, but are forgiving of natural wear and tear.
What design trends and movements are grabbing your attention?
I am really glad to see patterned wallpaper and fabrics, and bright paint, used more commonly. And I love the look of unlacquered brass for faucets and cabinet hardware.
Do you have a singular favorite piece in your home? Conversely, what’s the one item you passed on and still think about often?
There is a print of a magnolia in my powder room that I bought in college, and it is still one of my favorite things. I love the Swedish dresser in our entryway—also something I bought long ago when I was starting my first job. In terms of regrets, I am a big fan of old farmhouse tables. I have seen amazing ones, sometimes for amazing prices, but passed because I didn’t need one at the time… then when I was in the market for a table, I could never seem to find a great one.
You’ve also been working on a country home. How do your design choices differ from your city house, if at all?
The country home is a 10 year project, if not more. Right now we have a one-room cabin and are in the visioning stage for building the future house. I imagine it will have more cozy, old-fashioned proportions with lower ceilings and smaller rooms. I am tagging lots of styles I don’t quite have the guts to do in our city house, such as covering the dining room walls in painted tiles. I enjoy planning without yet needing to commit.
Your eye is incredibly discerning and you’re so talented at creating personalized, intimate spaces. Have you always tapped into your innate creativity through interiors? Does this also play into fashion for you?
Well, thank you! I have always loved thinking about and tinkering with my space. When I was in middle school I spent a week stenciling the walls of my bedroom! My actual work is very analytical, so my house is a nice creative outlet. For me, fashion is a bit more of a chore. I love beautiful clothes, but I tend to optimize for comfort with what I wear.
One of the first moments in your home that captivated me is the collection of pitchers on the painted wall shelves in the kitchen. Will you share how that came together?
I didn’t know that and I love those, too! I found the shelves at a warehouse sale, and I think they were $5 each. It was pretty soon after we had moved into this house, which is much bigger than our previous house, and there were so many blank white walls. I was looking for anything unique and reasonably priced to add some interest—the bar was low! The pitchers are ones that I had and put on the shelves as a bit of an experiment. As soon as they were up, I thought it was great! The rest of the room developed around them over time and it all came together when I added the curtains, the painted floor, and the greens in the sofa cushions.
Do your children collaborate with you on their rooms?
The furniture in their bedrooms is mostly recycled from other spots in the house or from extended family when they downsized, so there isn’t a lot of choice there. For example, my son’s bed was in our prior guest room. But I do ask them, or try to guess, what types of art they want, what colors they like… My son is a big fan of Greek mythology and all things Greece. When I saw that blue pillow at Courtney Barton, I thought he would like the blue waves, and indeed it was a hit.
During one of our meetings to discuss drapery, your youngest daughter picked up a fabric sample and would not relinquish. So much so, that you decided a lamp shade must be made with it! The room (and the initial lamp base) has changed so much since that moment years ago, yet the shade still stands!
My daughter packs a lot of personality into her small size. She was just a toddler then, but she understood our activity was picking fabrics and she was going to pick one, too! Because the kids don’t choose the big things in their rooms, it seemed reasonable – and I also liked the fabric! She remains very committed to that lamp shade, so it is an anchor point for the room. But yes, the table and lamp base have changed… when I find something new that I like, there is kind of a cascade of moving things around as I rework the mix.
You collect samples and paint chips on your skullery bulletin board while thinking through selections and make sure everything works cohesively as a unit. Is there more that goes into how you develop your vision for a space or does one particular color, textile, object, etc lead the way?
I tend to work the process of furniture very differently than colors and patterns. For furniture, I like to have a mix of finishes and styles, and my approach is pretty utilitarian. I am mostly interested in getting the right floor plan and function, using what I have. I will add smaller pieces when I am shopping and something piques my interest, usually at a bargain price.
When I choose paint colors, wallpapers, and bigger fabrics, I am a little more careful. I still start by just choosing what I like, kind of as a standalone choice. But I lay out the different samples and colors and look at them together, against everything in the house. I have a box with samples of everything I have selected over time for this house. It helps me see what will feel blended and balanced, and feel confident that a bold choice will really work.
I then use artwork and rugs to further balance colors and textures in a room – and I often move them from one place to another. For example, I chose the fabric on the shades in our bathroom because I loved it. When I bought the chair in our bedroom, I had it reupholstered in lavender, which relates back to the shades. Then I rounded up the couple of pieces of art with purple tones that I already owned and hung them behind it.
You brought me in for custom draperies, upholstered pieces, and a few other bespoke projects. When presented with fabric suggestions, you took the samples and sat with them collectively, but always pulled the trigger quickly trusting that we did our job on the backend to present the best options in that initial meeting. What allows you to have such faith in giving that trust to me when you are so personally tied to the overall aesthetic of your home?
I think this mostly a compliment to you and the quality of your recommendations. I could tell right away that your work is fantastic, and your eye is different and better than mine, in a compatible way. But I do love collaboration, and a great team does the best work.
At work I am always part of a team, and I advise clients on their businesses, so I have a lot of experience with the sort of back-and-forth dialogue that enables good decisions. I appreciate how well you do that—bringing options, explaining your rationale, exploring possibilities together. Or sometimes you felt there was an obvious “best,” or something just really special, and I agreed with you. I don't think I would be thrilled with a simple presentation of 3 fabric choices. As much as I love tinkering with my house, I don't take it too seriously. It is fun to have your partnership and help to make our home even better.
To address your home’s interior proportions, you mentioned learning about scale and some trial and error to figure out what works in each room. What did that process look like and how did those pieces fall into place?
Trial and error is a fair description of the early process! I learned I needed to measure and do math, and trust the numbers. That is what decorators always say, so it is not a new insight, but I have certainly absorbed the lesson. For example, our powder room is small, but the ceilings are quite high. When I needed a mirror to go over the sink, I measured what I thought would fit the space, and realized what I wanted was closer to the size of a full length mirror than a typical bathroom mirror. I found a vintage option online that was the size I had estimated. When it arrived it seemed ridiculously tall, but once we hung it, it looked great! When I was starting to plan the gallery wall of art in the living room, I did some quick math and estimated I would need about 20-25 small and medium pieces of art to fill the space. That seemed crazy, but it was right. On the flip side, I really wanted to fit both a seating area and a dining area into the living room, which required being careful to get lean furniture - especially chairs. The dining chairs are from Home Depot. They are the most skinny and lightweight I could find, literally and visually, and I love how they look together. I could go on and on!
How would you describe your aesthetic? Have you found it’s changed as you become more entrenched in your home’s design?
I am always thinking about balance. I am not a minimalist, but I like simplicity. I like a mix of traditional and contemporary elements. I appreciate some structure and formality, but want the house to be casual and comfortable. Some elements of what I like are maybe more distinctive and consistent; I gravitate towards muddy colors, warm whites, natural fibers and finishes, and pinks and yellows versus cool blues and grays. I don’t think my style has become more narrow over time. If anything, I think what’s fun about a layered house is it can absorb juxtaposition and different styles without losing the plot on the core design.
Favorite local Houston spots? Favorite travel destination?
I recommend everyone spend time at the Houston Botanic Garden! It is only a couple of years old, and already very special. When we travel, I love to spend a few days exploring a new city and we usually visit the botanic garden wherever we travel, too. We were in Rio last summer and the architecture was amazing. It is energizing to see different things, and come home with new ideas and a fresh perspective.