French Design in Houston: Pam Pierce

The living room: note the thickness of the doorway arches. Mirrors, iron tables, linen fabrics, down cushions - all add to Pierce's style.

This is the home of Pam Pierce, a well-known Houston designer who does French, Houston style. These photos come from the cover story of the May 2006 issue of Veranda. Pierce uses gorgeous period pieces along with non-period pieces, but, certainly, you will find no cheap reproductions here. Authenticity is the key. The look is spare, the accessories are highly edited, the mood is calm. Pierce uses lots of gold mirrors, peeling painted pieces, Santos, limestone, Swedish antiques sprinkled here and there along with an Italian piece or two, iron tables, down cushions, seagrass, stucco, and other details that when mixed together produce a visual that is breathtaking. She eschews any pattern in her fabrics and favors linens and checks.

The house is a gorgeous old Mediterranean in a very fashionable area of town within walking distance of all the great museums and the heady Rice University. Huge live oak trees, ancient hedges, and overgrown ivy all add to the Southern mystique and beauty of her circular street that lies behind an original, stately entrance. Pierce completely remodeled the house, using architectural antiques imported from France and Europe, mostly purchased by Chateau Domingue which is owned by her friend and client Ruth Gay. (Watch here for a future entry on her home to note Gay's version of French, Houston style.)

More living room: french day bed, the popular, must-have crowns on the side table.

Pierce and a small number of other interior designers from Houston have carved a niche out for themselves with this style. Their clients tend to be younger couples with enormous wealth who can afford this look. It doesn't come cheap. Several stores (mostly owned by these same said designers) provide the french antiques to fill the mansions (some are Mac-mansions) these young people inhabit. The oil & gas business which is headquartered here in Houston has been very good to us and these upper level designers have ridden the waves of this industry's ups and down. When the price of oil is low, they are scratching for clients. When oil is high, these designers are living in gorgeous Mediterranean villas themselves.

This indulgence does not stop in the house, it continues outside, of course. Pierce's yard is small by any one's standards, yet every square inch is manicured and furnished with centuries old pots and statues and with a small army of faux bois and curly iron work. Danny McNair is her landscape architect, and there are several other companies who do this look just as well: Thompson+Hansen for one. Truth be told, Gardens in Austin, led the way for these others to follow. Pierce is at the top of her game; these photos are the proof.

Chelsea Edition checks on slipcovers. That touch of pink. Layers of linen frame the bookcases.

Original large Santos greet visitors. Truly antique limestone fireplace from France. The photostylist is moving the pink flowers around.

The breakfast room: note how thickly she framed out the shelves. Large, vintage apothecary jars - the real thing.

The charming newly remodeled kitchen.

Outside with old faux bois, french fountain and gravel (probably imported from France?)

A secret garden lies behind the antique door.

Just a Touch of Pink

Pink is everywhere these days. Southern Accents reported that at the spring home show in Paris, the deeper pinks - the berry pinks - overtook everything and if you didn't have something in this color yet, you will by next year. Patricia Gray has a beautiful blog on pink today, so be sure to visit her!

Sometimes, though, all you need is a touch of pink to get the soothing effect that light pink gives or the pop of a brighter pink. Here are some pictures with just that touch.

Pink shows up on an accent wall and in the flowers.

Pink pillows on brown upholstery with the same pink caladiums that have overtaken my yard.

Charlotte Moss' gorgeous pink velvet settee with pink chairs flanking the fireplace.

Houstonian designer Pam Pierce uses pink, but just barely.

Ah, my favorite house by Kurt Aichler (see previous post): a daughter's bedroom with a darling Indulge headboard and pink wainscoting wrapped round.

Deeper tones on the ottoman/coffee table juxtaposed against all white.

Charlotte Moss brings out pink in the flowers and pillow.

Pink and yellow, a beautiful combination.

Note how the flowers pick up the hue in the atrium. Good photostylist.

Ha - my porch! Styled with pink flowers. Now THIS is the work of a great photostylist!!

Pale pink flowers to tie in the pale pink slipcover and drapes.

Peonies and blue and white porcelain, the best combination.

> Wow! A home for sale in Houston. Those are some azaleas! I love the blue pool against the pink. Do you think they keep those gorgeous daybeds out there all summer? Beautiful.

Just a Few Seconds Earlier....

This is a personal entry that has nothing to do with decorating, or French things, or anything else so material.

Yesterday, my husband and I went to Marble Falls,Texas to pick up our precious 16 year old daughter from summer camp. On the way home, we stopped for lunch and then headed back on the road when it started to be a typical Texan monsoon. We were in the hills and my husband was driving rather fast, I thought, so I asked him to slow down because of the torrential rain. He told me to forget it, he knew how to drive in the rain, so I buckled on my seatbelt and dozed off for a few minutes. This is what happened right before us. Had we left lunch a few seconds earlier, this would have been us.

Ben stopped the car and got out and called EMS (which took about 30 minutes to get there it seemed). Four people ended up being life flighted to Austin with life threatening injuries. Four cars were involved in the wreck. Ironically, exactly one month ago, three teachers were killed in a wreck in this exact same intersection. In fact, there were still flowers marking their wreckage site. So many people had stopped to help, that after Ben finished pulling the debris off the highway, we decided to leave. It was still pouring rain. A pickup truck was tailing cars and swerving from lane to lane, going around 80 mph, as if he hadn't just witnessed the same wreck that we had. Some people never learn.

As we reached home, Ben said we should thank God that we were home and that we were safe.

Wallpapers to Love


This dining room by Fiona Newell Weeks in this month's Southern Accents is my personal favorite right now. I love this room and in trying to figure out exactly why I love it so, and why it speaks to me, I decided it was, without a doubt, the Farrow and Ball wallpaper. This vivid blue and cream paper is probably not one I would ever choose for myself, yet, I absolutely adore this room! What makes it work so well is the bright paper juxtaposed with the calm furniture. A ying and yang effect that is just perfection. The caramel colored drapes against the blue paper, the beautiful, carved wood chairs, the dark table, the whimsical boat chandelier that seems to be everywhere these days, the oval mirror - all these elements combine together to make this dining room my #1 current fav. Here are some more rooms where the wallpaper makes the room. Imagine these rooms without the paper.

Marshall Watson's use of a glorious Cowtan and Tout wallpaper.

Eric Cohler's blue dining room.

Charlotte Moss' use of her own line for Brunschwig and Fils. Note the touch of pink and green.

Carolyne Roehm uses one pattern for everything.

I love how the corner cabinet matches with the wallpaper.

Black and white toile sets off turquoise gingham. Wow!

Red and White damask used on just one wall.

A wide, open damask picks up the colors of the fabrics and even the flowers.

Books: Beta-Plus Publishing

Quiet and spare: A beautiful style.

Beta-Plus is a publishing house located in Belgium. Their books are simply beautiful to look at, which is a good thing because there's not much in them to read. Each book is themed like: Country Living, City Houses, Timeless Renovations, and Exceptional Gardens. Be forewarned, they are very expensive picture books. But, what exceptional pictures! Usually there is only one picture per page and since only a few houses are featured per book, you really get a sense of the house because so much of it is photographed. Very few places in Houston carry the books - I've only seen them in two places - which makes their web site all the more vital.
Note the design of the door.

The majority of houses pictured are in Belgium, it seems and that in itself is puzzling to me: I never knew so many wealthy people with exceptionally good taste lived in Belgium. After a while, the names of the architects and interior designers whose work is featured in these books become familiar. Apparently, it's a small family of professionals who work on the houses and gardens featured. The pictures are hauntingly beautiful, very quiet and spare, like the interiors themselves. Oversized furniture, huge accessories, and no clutter seems to be what goes for chic in Belgium.

Oversized elements in a foyer.

Antique versus ultra modern in a bathroom.

Large antique dining chairs. Slipcovers are everywhere in Belgium.

Eye Candy for the Bloggers

While out today, shopping for a client (certainly not for myself!) at Area, a beautiful Houston interiors store on Kirby Drive, my eyes feasted on this site. It made me think of all my new blogging friends!!! Nice, isn't it?

My Design: Inspiration for a Bedroom

A project I am just starting on is a bedroom suite for a couple who have remodeled their house in stages. Last year they added a new kitchen and family room and this year, it's a luxiuous sleeping and bathing space off in a wing all by itself. The area is huge and we are starting from scratch. The husband is adament about the headboard: no upholstered ones (my current favorite), and no canopies (another favorite). Headboard shopping today is truly boring. There are a few different styles out there and the rest are just variations on a theme. Tacky. Multitudes of ideas were rejected by them, but one headboard did finally fit the bill: reasonable yet rich looking and unique enough, but still beautiful. It's from Baker Knapp and Tubbs. This is it:

Here is what the room looks like today. The beams will be light, the floor is very dark wood. There will be a limestone fireplace mantel and dark wood bookcases flanking the walls on both sides of the hearth. They both really like blue and thought they wanted aqua, but once they saw this one fabric, the entire room took off on a different direction. There will be a sofa facing the fireplace covered in a gorgeous Marine blue velvet. The drapes will be cocoa colored silk. I was just informed today by Monica that I will need 40 yards of drapery silk. And that's after cutting the order down from 3 widths to 2 widths of fabric. A cocoa colored wool damask by Nancy Corzine is the duvet fabric. There will be a rush seated bench at the foot of the bed with a linen blue/cream striped cushion on it. Still up for discussion will be a center table with rattan covered stools underneath. Two area rugs: one natural, one patterned. If it was up to me, I would just run seagrass throughout or a striped blue and cream dhurrie, but my clients don't always listen to me.

Here are the fabrics I will be using. The damask was the inspiration fabric. Do you see the new Jasper fabric on the right? Yes!!!

In my mind, this picture of a room from Michael Smith is exactly how I want it to look. I going to lobby for a chandelier, but I don't think they will agree. Wish me luck!

Preppy Does Dallas


The August issue of D Home (Dallas) landed in my mailbox today (I really don't remember ordering it, but I'll take it). Anyway, the title on the cover is "Go Preppy." All the articles feature very preppy interior designers from Texas and LOTS of pink. There's even a quiz on being Preppy. It's really a charming theme this month and I don't remember them doing themes before, but it's possible.

D Home is a great local design magazine, something that Houston doesn't have. The columnists are first rate. I even featured one earlier here, David Feld who wrote a hysterical column of the overuse of coral in interior design. Their web site is superb too and a great way to peruse old issues if you have the time. There are a lot of quality designers who never get any national press, so local magazines are a good way of discovering them. I try to pick up different "local" magazines whenever I'm at a newstand. Here are a few pictures from this month's Preppy Dallas. Enjoy!

Notice the children's portrait - a la Warhol does Preppy!

I love the way West Elm and Brocade show their daybeds for outdoor porches.

Quotes from Interior Designers


I stumbled on this web site today: Interior Design Quotes

Pick your designer for handy quotes or pick your topic, such as "dining room" or "accessories" and see who said what about it. Bloggers may be the only people in the world who would use the web site, but, you never know!

According to this web site, here's what Charlotte Moss had to say about decorating: Decorating is like math, a game of adding and subtracting.

Look at this picture of her bedroom and tell me, what did she possibly subtract???? Aw, that's ok. That's why I love her - the more the better!

One day, as soon as a client lets me, I'm going to steal her idea of a gorgeous antique mirror on an easel instead of a full length dressing mirror. Genius!

Notice the mannequin with tonight's dress on it, waiting to be worn. Who do you think actually puts the dress on the mannequin?