Cote de Texas's Top Ten Designers - #10


Domino Magazine comes out with their Top Ten Designers each year, so why shouldn't Cote de Texas? The difficult part of my list was naming just TEN designers. I could have gone on and on and I left out some that on another day might have made the list. There are at least two designers that aren't on here but deserve to be so, I'll probably add them in as a "runners up" position - it's too painful to leave them out! In the end though, this list comes from my heart. Each designer making the list, I have followed for years - none is new to me, nor new to design either. There's a whole group of younger designers whom I adore, but they don't stand out individually as much as my TEN do. There aren't any surprises to my list - I've talked about each and every one before on my blog and sometimes more than once, or even twice. These TEN are the ones whom when I see their work in a design magazine, I get a a little flutter. The ones on this list who have written books - their books are my favorites, the ones who haven't written a design book, I wish they would. There's no one on my list I wouldn't love to work for or with. I would turn my house keys over to each one, no questions asked - just saying "redo it, I trust you!" That is, of course, if I won the lottery. None on my list comes cheap, they all command top dollar and they all are worth every cent of it.

And, finally, I must confess I didn't come up with this idea of naming my Top Ten. It was Holly of the beautiful design blog Things That Inspire who gave me this idea when I confessed to her I was suffering from writer's block. It was also Holly's idea that I should space it out and just name one designer at a time. So, thanks Holly - great idea!! I hope you enjoy reading about my Top Ten as much as I did writing it - I would love to hear who YOUR Top Ten is - leave it in comment, if you can! And, if you do play along - leave your #10 choice only, then with each installment add the next - when I name my #1 - so will you! So, here goes - #10 on my list (even though the order doesn't really mean all that much - putting my TEN into any kind of order was harder than coming up with the list.)

#10 - Alessandra Branca

Alessandra Branca, born and raised in Rome, Italy, now lives and works out of Chicago - though I'm not sure how or why she ended up in the Windy City. Her grandfather was an art historian for the Vatican's museum and her mother is a well known painter of botanicals, which Branca frequently uses in her designs. Art and design is in her blood, you might say. About her youth, Branca says she was "Obsessed with the way things ought to look, moving the bedroom furniture around and, for the longest time, caring far more about art and architecture than about boys." Known for her bold use of color, Branca attributes it to her childhood where she was surrounded by Renaissance art. She sums up her work in design this way when she compares it to portraiture: "The designer creates a three-dimensional likeness of the client that is meant to reflect, to entertain, to amuse, to comfort, to impress, certainly, and to serve."

Branca is somewhat young and thus, works with a lot of young families with children. She prefers to use bright, joyful colors and reds and blacks are constants in her designs. Her homes are accessible - warm and friendly with a mix of the antique and the traditional. She loves fabrics and uses lots of patterned linens and toiles. Much of the upholstered furniture she places is of her own design. Branca's designs are classic, yet there always seems to be a touch of whimsy about. She is an avid reader and likes to visit house museums. She has a shop, Atielier Branca, attached to her Chicago office where she says she buys only the things that she will never see again. Summing up her aesthetic, Branca declares: "Mainly, I believe that you don't need things to be flashy to have them feel elegant. So many people misinterpret elegance. It isn't rich or fancy. It's comfort. The best luxury is comfort."

Atelier Branca
1325 North State Parkway
Chicago, IL 60610


For this family with young children, Branca took a large curved window and placed a plush seating area in it. I love the ottoman with its loose cover. The colors throughout the apartment are cream, blue and red. Note the small sconces between each window. Branca uses the black pedestals in many of her designs. Branca pays attention to the smallest of details. Here, she curves the sofa's skirt on the side edge to provide just a hint of interest where normally there would be none.


In the dining area, the chairs wear slipcovers in case of childrens' spills. The boat chandelier lends a sense of whimsy to the room. An eye for detail: note the red ribbon trim added to the slips' skirts.


View of entry with its painted secretary - note the red interior of the desk.


The master bedroom with its hand painted wallpaper. The dust ruffle is made of striped silk. The upholstered headboard is trimmed in light blue velvet. I love how the french door replaces a more traditional interior wood door.


The apartment's blue color flows into the kitchen with it's blue and white tiled backsplash and fabric in glass doors.


The breakfast table is a casual antique. The banquette is made of vinyl coated fabric to protect against spills and to facilitate easy sliding in and out. The fireplace mantel sports the same blue and white tiles as the kitchen backsplash. A rug in the reds and blues of the apartment warms up the space. Note again, the french doors in place of wood doors.


A bed enclosed by toile fabrics provides a cozy sleeping nook. The walls are painted in a subtle horizontal stripe.


His and Hers Dressing Rooms: Here, the ladies side where her clothes are stored behind french doors.


The man's side is all dark woods befitting an English gentleman's room.


For another project, Branca uses her signature reds and black and toiles.


For this project, Branca mixes toile and plaid in an unusual, but pleasing pairing.


Branca's store Atelier Branca, which is attached to her Chicagoan offices.


The designer with her trademark glasses and blond hair confers with an employee in her office library.


Here, a shot of the library in the trademark Branca reds and blacks. Note the brass shelf lights at the top of each section.


A drinks table is dwarfed by Branca's inspiration board.


In this office, the walls are upholstered in a large red paisley pattern. Another inspiration board looms dramatically over the space. Note the doors made of red felt and brass nailheads and hardware seen just to the left.


Another view of the office with it's bold black chairs and red and white buffalo check. Notice the light fixture within a fixture.


In this child's room, Branca pairs a bold blue and white stripe with a toile fabric.


For this Showhouse dining room, Branca pairs a large scaled paisley wallcovering with striped drapery fabric. The Swedish chairs wear red. The chandelier is covered with a whimsical "hat."


Branca redesigned a suite at The Peninsula Hotel Beverly Hills. A table with four stools divides the large room into two areas. Again, red and black are used as accent colors. Note the black pedestals on the left wall. Branca uses these often - this is the third time they have been used in these photos alone!


The other side of the hotel suite. A large mirrored screen covers the back wall. The camel back sofa wears yellow and cream stripes.

I will be posting the next chapter - The Top Ten by Cote de Texas - #9 in a few days. I hope you enjoyed reading about my first choice!


  1. Good job Cote, although she is not in my top ten. Since you asked number 10 is Mimi Williams of Atlanta who is contemporary yet traditional. I love the way she always uses good contemporary fine art!

  2. Ohhhhhhh Joni - this is going to be an all time favourite series of posts! I can feel it!

    And where has this designer been all my life? She is absolutely fantastic!

  3. Okay, Joni, I am DYING! I love this designer and the idea of featuring each one in individual posts! You really are so good - I know I have said it before, but this just tops everything you have written.What a great, fun idea!

    Writer's block? I have "time block"! I wish I could write half as well and as often as you do, but the next best thing is checking in on Cote de Texas when I am procrastinating - we have the realtors' caravan tomorrow morning and I should be "fluffing" my house - oops this is getting too personal for the comments section - anyway, LOVE the post and can't wait for the next one! Oh, and one of my favorites is Cindy Smith in Charlotte, NC.

  4. What a great blog idea! I can't wait to read through your favorites!!! Thanks for sharing with all of us! BEAUTIFUL!

  5. Wonderful blog idea - looking forward to the next 9 and the runners up. Vicente Wolf is one of my favorites.

  6. One Girl and a Right BrainApril 7, 2008 at 6:45 PM

    Oh yeah. She's one of my favorites too. I like her more refined work vs. the toile. I remember seeing those baize wrapped doors in a magazine somewhere....can't remember which mag, though! I would like to incorporate some of those details into this house instead of say, french doors :) Yes, I totally love her. Can't see what you come up with next, Joni!!

  7. I knew you would do this right! I recognize so many of these pictures, and love her style, but I swear I never knew her name. As I told you, I react to the spaces, not to the particular designer (except for my favorite designer, which I will wait to tell you when you get to #1. I am sure you have no idea who it is!).

  8. Only one thing is much they charge, and/or what their minimum $ job is. That is one of my favorite parts of the Domino article! Some of them have a minimum of $125,000 for a job budget, for example, some charge by the hour, some charge cost + 25%, etc, etc.

  9. You have/find some of the most wonderful photos of interiors. I am familiar with Alessandra Branca but haven't seen many of the photos you posted!!

    Thank you!

  10. Oh, I enjoyed this sooo much. Thank you. Now I can't wait for more

  11. Great choice Joni! And these are probably most of my favorite rooms that she has done. Wonderful idea!!


  12. Great (colaborative) idea, I love this - it's like Dickens! I've seen some of these pictures before - House Beautiful comes to mind - but I wasn't paying attention and didn't know the designer. It's interesting that she was born in Rome but raised in North America b/c her rooms really don't seem to reflect anything Italian (except for the bottles of San Pellegrino!).

  13. What a smashing idea to do a personal top 10 list! Absolutely loved her library and office area!


  14. Great idea, and a great place to start!

  15. love this post - especially the memento boards - or inspiration boards - my business is picture frames and memento boards - just started my blog - am a novice, just learning to post pics, found you thru mrs. pve

  16. Enjoyed this post. Some photos are familiar. Black and red are so striking. Looking forward to the next installment!

  17. Great pick for one of your top ten, I really love her style and all these pictures to go with is perfect! Can't wait to see the next 9!!


  18. Girlfriend - yet again you need to be bitch slapped !! - When are you going to give up your insecurities and just accept the fact that you are a very good writer and an even better judge of design talent. Beautiful presentation and awesome research. I have no doubt that I will enjoy your top ten more than I will Domino's picks.

    This is a first class post and you are making it very difficult for the rest of us to keep up you stinking over achiever!!!!!

    Much love and jealous admiration

  19. Wonderful eye candy as always! Nope I'm not gonna pic a favorite...not gonna do it!! I can't wait to see more posts to see how YOUR list evolves however :o)LOL

  20. The first picture is one of my favorites. I assume I first saw it on your site. Thanks for pointing out some of the details I had missed, like the scallop on the side of the sofa. I also adore the blue stripe bedroom.

    I'm anxious to see your remaining top 10.

  21. I have to agree with have raised the bar sooooo high! No one will do it better!

  22. What a stunning post! I am anxiously awaiting this whole series. Love your first choice.

  23. Absolutely BEAUTIFUL Interiors. Thanks for the inspiring posts. What a great resource for my Design business.

  24. wow I bet these rooms smell like money. Love it.

  25. For some reason your posts are never sent to my reader. So I am always late to the fun.

    I LOVE this designer. There are very few that I love consistently but she is definitely one of them. I think I have every single one of these photos saved somewhere.

    Great work, Joni! And what a great idea. I love top tens!

    Happy day,

  26. Hi everybody - I am stunned by your comments - so so sweet and supportive! I am overwhelmed by them - seriously, overwhelmed.

    Thank you - your comments mean everything to me and make it all worthwhile.

    AND to my subscribers - there was a glitch in my Feedburner account and all the subscriptions went off line for days before I even realized it and then it took days for me to figure out how to get them back. You should be receiving your subscriptinons now. I hope!


  27. A wonderful idea -- and your list will be simply wonderful! A great choice -- Branca's office is simply marvellous! I've watched her works for years -- and she always turns out an intelligent design for her clients -- beautiful AND livable too! Thanks for this post!

    Jan at Rosemary Cottage

  28. FUN Joni! Ditto what Jackie said. We should all be so good!

    OK, now onto the game. I had a very hard time limiting my list...and i agree that it may be necessary to add a few to the list. I think I was able to pin down my top pick, but everyone else is muddled together. Here is my #10: Victoria Hagan. I have admired her classic pared down style for a long time, and I love that she has branched out into furniture design.

    Looking forward to your next pick!

  29. If this is your #10, then I can't wait to see your #1!!!

  30. You are amazing! I am relatively new to your blog site, but I have told a dozen folks about it...anyone who would listen! I love this #10 on your list of top ten designers!!

  31. Love, love, love. I love this post and this designer. Thanks for bringing her to my attention. I will return to this for inspiration. She uses my favorite things, stripes, buffalo plaid, etc, but in such a fresh way. I like her irreverance and wacky scale play. Is that large paisley on two rooms Les Indiennes?
    thanks! Libby

  32. Fabulous post as always!!!

    Happy Spring

  33. Oh how I look forward to this series of posts!! I know I will be inspired and tickled and swoon. A lot.
    This is one designer that I actually do know about and love her work. Those his and hers closets are fantastic and would be my daughter's dream!! Heck, they are MY dream too!
    The red and blacks and toile are delightful. I must say that those sweet nooks are favorites, as is the lovely, crisp blue and white bedroom.

    Thank you for this post and those forthcoming!

    How special and fun!


  34. For the umpteenth time- great post!!! I'm with you on Alessandra- love her work! But, on my list she would be much higher than #10!

  35. Fabulous! Oddly enough my favorite pictures are of the his and hers!

    I can't wait to see who is next!

    rue :)

  36. Great concept, Joni! I am looking forward to the other 9. Alessandra is one of my long time favorites. I admire her style and taste.

  37. This is a fabulous post... I have come back to read it again and again over the past few days. Your pictures are soo great and the info you give to your readers is such a great great gift. Thank you so much for your inspiration.

  38. Joni, I love this idea and love how you are posting the designers, one at a time. I'm so happy I came by after a busy couple of days. This has been a real treat!


  39. wow, your posts are going to be great...its so hard to put them in a list of just 10...i'll say jay jeffers #10 'cause he isn't afraid.

  40. I love when people post their personal favorites like this! Also, hilariously, I justjust saw a boat chandelier in a shop window on the via Giulia in Rome (I say this less to name drop and more because I wonder if she sourced it from somewhere like that), and found myself staring at it, wondering how one would go about applying it in an actual room. I agree with her general thesis on comfort, but wish she would use a little less toile, although I really like how (despite the flowers and draped stuff) her interiors walk her talk; they're uncluttered and comfortable. I'm looking forward to the next one already.

  41. I will follow your post and your choice !
    This post is fantastic ! I love her work , her style ..HER DECORATION

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