Paris in Houston, Part Deux


My favorite landscaping company in Houston, pictured above, is Thompson + Hanson. Yes, you read that correctly, I said landscaping! The best part about shopping for plants at T+H is their antiques. OK, that sounds strange, I know, but believe me, their antiques are more gorgeous than their plants. Culled from trips overseas to France, their assortment of goods includes: armoires, chandeliers, settees, chairs, mirrors, bath goods, candles, and books, among other things. New or old, there is something here for every part of your home and body. The building, an old, restored stone-clad structure - is a delight in itself. If I were to start over and build a house today, I would base it on this design. It is a gorgeous space, the ceiling is raised to the rafters, the windows are all steel french doors that open onto an outdoor pergola-covered patio. The floor is stripped to its bare concrete foundation - cool on a typical hot Houston day. I want to live here, I say every time I come.

Outside, the walkways are paved in small crushed stone, just as is done in France - the basis of their design sensibility. Because the landscaping is French in feel, you won't find a lot of bright, blooming plants here. The focus is more on grasses and succulents than on azaleas and crepe myrtles, the typical mainstays of Houston landscaping. Large pots made of stone or tin are filled with grasses that quietly sway in the breeze. A large fountain is pouring water into what appears to be a huge animal bath, made of iron, not the usual stone. Nothing is typical here, nothing is expected. And no one does this better than Thompson + Hanson. Located on Saint Street in the hot, new upcoming design area of town. Neighbors include Indulge, Design District, Pile, Chateau Domingue, Krispin, and the soon to relocate, M. Naeve, featured yesterday.

The gorgeous interiors - hard to believe their main business is landscaping!

French antiques are everywhere - I love this daybed.

My reason for coming back time and time again: the up to date collection of Betaplus books, the only place in town you can buy them.

This gorgeous screen would look so good over a sofa.

Swedish antiques peek out amongst the French ones.

Typical elements of Thompson + Hanson design: stones, succulents, and perennials.

Their plants take on a contemporary feel, as do their landscapes.

No bright colors or new gauche pots, the simple - the better.

Modern pedestals contrast with antique urns.

Massed for effect.

The wildly inventive fountain.

Entry to the nursery is through a pergola holding up a water tower.

Evergreen wisteria climbs up the patio's pergola.

The best part: picnic table and wicker chairs set under a gorgeous antique chandelier. Takers, anyone?

Paris in Houston, Part I

I've been shopping in Houston this week, just making the rounds of some of my favorite places. First stop is the romantic antique store M. Naeve, eponym for Margaret Naeve, a darling, twenty-something who actually looks more like a teenager. What's most astounding about Margaret being the owner is how does someone so young acquire such excellent taste? M. Naeve isn't the place for those who go for KWID fabrics or trendy colors. Her shop is cool khaki all the way, though Margaret giddily confesses her own apartment is bathed in shades of lilac. Margaret purchased the storefront and it's contents from the older, previous owner, but the store under Margaret's watch never looked this good before. Her impeccable eye helps when she's in France on buying trips. The carefully edited inventory is limited to peeling, painted finishes and pale wood pieces, huge, ancient fireplace mantels, crystal and wood chandeliers, and oversized accessories. What she's bought for M. Naeve is exactly what Houstonians of means, taste, and desire are buying these days. If you lucky enough to hire one of Houston's top designer's - you'll probably be the owner of something from this store.

Margaret's a doll with a bright future ahead of her. It's a pleasure shopping here among such beautiful and exquisite things and not be treated snobbishly or rudely, a rarity in the upper echelons of antique stores these days. She delights in the beauty of her hand picked pieces and her attitude is infectious.

Chandeliers, wood and crystal, pots, and lamps from M. Naeve.

Pale woods are the norm here. Large accessories like this clock face are favored.

Gray painted corner piece, unusual garden chaise, oversized mirror all add to the romance of M. Naeve.

I'll take two of each: sconces and botanicals.

There's a match to this chaise, with the arm on the right side, perfect with a table between them.

Pale woods and lilies, chairs with interesting backs

The mood at the store is so serene, calm, almost hushed, until Margaret's giggles pierce the quiet.

Interesting displays of furniture piled to the ceiling, gorgeous mirror.

Margaret has all her lampshades custom made in Paris, of course!

Besides French furniture, Swedish pieces abound - like this day bed piled high with linens.

Stunning candelabra, table surrounded with chairs with a 'lone star' motif.

The only color - gorgeous green!

Even her flower arrangements are to die for, creamy roses surrounded by lavender colored roses.

"Something's Gotta Give" at House Beautiful


This month's issue of House Beautiful is a beauty, story after story, I'm loving it. There's a spread on Suzanne Rheinstein's fabulous new fabrics. Suzanne is looking good these days, younger and younger! She's unrecognizable to me in this issue. Then there's a great story on Belgian design and another one on a fabulous apartment by Joe Nye. The Peak of Chic already showcases that story here, as does the House Beautiful web site.

There is one story in this issue that is very strange, though. As you may remember from my previous blog on the movie, Something's Gotta Give by Nancy Meyers, the Hampton house that starred in that movie actually upstaged Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton. Scores of articles have been written about the Hampton house, and people have designed their own homes based on it. Why is it so universally loved? It could be the soothing blues and creams, the famous striped dhurri rug, the ironstone dishes in the dining room with the Bennison slipcovers, the Swedish Mora clock, the dark wood floors, the fabulous soapstone counters in the even more fabulous kitchen - I could go on and on about why that house appeals. So, I was thrilled to see an article in HB by the interior designer of the famous Hampton house. Or is he?

The living room with the striped rug, dark wood furniture, and Mora clock that stole a movie!

James Radin is profiled showing a beautiful home that he designed for a young couple with three daughters. Interviewed by Donna Paul, she starts off with this question:

"You've designed houses in two hit movies by director Nancy Meyers, Something's Gotta Give and The Holiday. Are you a set designer or an interior designer who also does sets?"


I've always believed that the Production Designer of Something's Gotta Give was Jon Hutman and the Set Director was Beth Rubino. James Radin's name has never been mentioned in any articles that I've read on the set design. Jon Hutman is also listed at the Production Designer for "The Holiday", another movie of Meyers' where the set steals the show.

The dining room with the Bennison slipcovered chairs and wonderful ironstone collection.

Continuing, Radin's response to the statement that he designed these fabulous homes for Meyers' movies: "I'm an Interior Designer. I designed Nancy's own house and she asked me to help the production design team with Diane Keaton's house in Something's Gotta Give. She wanted it to look professionally decorated, like Diane's character would have."

The much talked about soapstone countered kitchen from the movie set.

Paul brings up the movie several times throughout the interview and it's mentioned in the notes accompanying it's pictures. There's even a TV with, you guessed it, Something's Gotta Give playing on the screen. House Beautiful definitely wants the reader to believe that Radin was the credited designer on the two movie sets.

Another view of the living room with the leather ottoman and slipcovered sofas.

What's going on here? It seems strange. When I first read the article, I was excited thinking, wow - this is designer behind that fabulous house. But I kept thinking about Beth Rubino, the famous set designer. Wasn't she the designer here? A detailed Google search for Something's Gotta Give and James Radin showed only one hit: on the credits, Special Thanks go to James Radin. It leaves me wondering, who's scamming who here?

Another shot of the dining room, dark wood floors, seagrass rug

Below are a few pics from House Beautiful of Radin's admittedly beautiful home, regardless of whether he is THE designer of the famous Hampton house or not.

For much more detailed reporting on the movie set of Something's Gotta Give see Surroundings' blog

Radin's master bedroom, serene in whites and creams with touches of blue.

The lady of the house's walk in closet. Now this is luxury.

Living With Dogs and Slipcovers


My favorite dog book, Living With Dogs, isn't really a dog book, per se. It's about design that pertains to dogs: dogs in art, dogs at home, dogs as collectibles, and so on. Written by the husband and wife team, Larry and Carol Sheehan, it presents dog owners, dog memorabilia collectors, dog breeders, and dog enthusiasts in essays about the lives they spend with their dogs at home and work and at leisure. A must for anyone who loves dogs, I'm now on my third copy. One went to my sister in law, who, like me, owns Springers, and one cover was destroyed by my puppy. We're unashamed dog lovers in our family.

Two dogs live in our house, an English Springer Spaniel named Georgie who looks exactly like the dog on the book's cover and Sammie Jo, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Of course, being the design freak that I am, Georgie came to live with us first and when the time came for a new puppy, I wanted a lap dog. The only lap breed that matches the coloring of a Springer is a Cavalier, so, that's how we ended up with Sammie Jo - she's a miniature Georgie. They do look cute together, I have say. Before these two dogs became Webbs, we had a few beagles along the way - stupidest dogs on the planet - and a couple of cats too. I learned the hard way that the only way humans and animals can happily cohabit a home, is if you have slipcovered furniture.

Now, before you hold your nose and say "I despise Rachel Ashwell" and Shabby Chic-less, slipcovers don't have to be loose and wrinkled. You can have slipcovered furniture that is very tailored, and you certainly do not have to have white sofas with piles of rose covered pillows. Give me a minute or two and let me show you that slipcovers can be dressy or even contemporary. If you plan on having custom made slipcovers (the only ones I would recommend), you should wash your fabric before the covers are sewn. If you choose a fabric that doesn't wash well, you can just dry clean the covers once they get dirty. I would never again live with furniture that wasn't slipcovered, even if I didn't have animals. Once you have had the ability to toss your upholstery in the washing machine, it's hard to go back to having it steam cleaned by some clueless employee of Steamomatic.

Aw, isn't she cute? Sammie Jo, the always hungry, stone deaf, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Here's she licking her lips thinking the camera is a big steak.

Georgie, the shy, sensitive one - totally scared of the camera. That's Ben's big stomach in the blue shirt that Georgie is burrowing her head in trying to escape the mean camera. Georgie's too smart to fall for my tricks like Sammie Jo.

White slipcovered sofa dressed up for a living room or a family room.

Here's a khaki slipcover, again dressy enough for a living room.

Loose white linen, good for a sunroom or den, Madeline Weinrib rug.

Home of a Houston purse designer, white slipcovers contrast with dark chocolate walls.

Another Houston home, this owner is an interior designer. I love the slipcover treatment on the french bergere. The tabs allow the antique wood frame to peek through.

My breakfast room chairs, scalloped slips in two pieces, the top is tabbed, again, to let the antique, painted wood, chair frame show through.

Here is the "new" look of Rachel Ashwell's Shabby Chic: more modern, less cottagey.

Again, Rachel showing leaner lines in her furniture. Although the chandelier, a Ashwell trademark, is a dead giveaway that it's Shabby Chic.

Classic Shabby Chic: ruffled slipcovers, white painted furniture, silver, and lace.

Alessandra Branca from Chicago designed these slipcovers to not be obvious. These slips are purely for pet and children protection, not to have a "slipcover" look.

Windsor Smith's slipcovered sofa has a pleated detail that can go from the living room to the bedroom.

Jackie Lanham's slipcovers are made to be noticed given the large ties on the back. This is a beach house, which is a perfect place to use slipcovers.

You don't have to spend a fortune on custom slipcovers if you are budget conscious. IKEA sells this line of furniture with many different fabric options. Above, the furniture is shown in khaki and white, and then the same furniture is shown with navy and white slipcovers. This line of furniture is SO inexpensive, making it perfect for a playroom or a second home. It's actually very comfortable and a great buy.

A company that sells more expensive slipcovered furniture than IKEA is Lee Industries. This sofa above is definitely a playroom or beach house candidate.

This cream slipcovered sofa, above, is also from Lee Industries. It can go in the living room or the family room. It was designed by Robert McAlpine, noted architect and interior designer. Lee carries several of his sophisticated furniture designs.

Mitchell Gold single handedly brought furniture to the masses with his designs and helped fueled the Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel furniture revolution. Basing his furniture on classic lines that mimic George Smith designs, he kept his wholesale price points low enough so that furniture no longer had to be "paid out" on credit. This advertisement shows an arrangement which a young married couple would put in their "dressier" living room.

In Houston, no one makes better custom slipcovers than Shabby Slips. Branch stores are now located in New Orleans, Rosemary Beach, Austin and Santa Fe. This picture shows the Santa Fe showroom, with it's more western accent.

Another small furniture chain that makes slipcovered furniture is Quatrine. Above is a typical slipcovered sofa, the trim is what makes it special.

Slipcovered dining room chairs from Quatrine. Dining room chairs are another great item to use slipcovers on, whether you have animals or not. After a messy meal, toss them in the washing machine. These ruffled slips show the more feminine side of slipcovers.

Here is a Quatrine showroom, showing their more contemporary slipcovered merchandise. These slips are tight, giving no hint of their practicality.

This dog won a nationwide photo contest that Quatrine ran. No need to worry about dirty paws or dog hair on this sofa. The contest makes it obvious that they target dog owners for customers.

Above, another retail outfit, BeachDwelling, has a store in Alabama, but they also do a large internet business selling slipcovered furniture to the second home market. Here, are some of the dining room chairs, furniture, lighting and accessories that they sell.

Again, BeachDwelling, this time showing a chaise lounge. Comfy!

No country does more slipcovered furniture, I believe, than Belgium. In every castle, country home, or city townhouse, most of the "decorated" houses are loaded with slipcovered furniture. The furniture in Belgium tends to be very large, very deep, and very severe in its lines. Below, no one does it better than Axel Vervoordt. Stunningly beautiful, very dressy, and yet, he uses a white linen slipcovered sofa. This is as far from Rachel Ashwell as it gets. Gorgeous:

Grey linen is a frequently used fabric in Belgium. The typical Belgium design features oversized furniture, oversized accessories, and antiques used sparingly but effectively. Wood is oftentimes not stained, but left its natural color.

More Belgium, more Axel, more slips, above and below:

Here's a lighter, slightly more cluttered Belgian living room. Not as severe as usual, the draperies lend a feminine touch.

This slipcovered chair and ottoman is oversized, and overly comfortable looking.

Gorgeous armoire, gorgeous wood floor, practical slipcovered dining chairs and skirted dining room table.

How long do you think this sofa is? Ten or eleven feet? Unreal! Belgium again.

Only Axel would put a antique tapestry and chandelier in a orangery. Another 10 ft. long Belgian slipcovered sofa.

Contempory Axel. The painting and the tree take center stage here. Again, the light, unstained wood, large furniture, linen slipcovers, and sparse interiors, are all hallmarks of Belgian design.

This month's House Beautiful features a home done in the "Belgian" style. HB declares that Belgian is the new Swedish, is the new Tuscany" etc. If you are interested in learning about Belgium design, try Betafish for gorgeous books on the subject. Additionally, Axel Vervoordt has a highly anticipated book due to arrive in the bookstores any day now.