With the gorgeous weather that Houston has been enjoying (and let us please enjoy our few days of gorgeous weather!) spring fever is definitely in the air.   Now that Daylight Savings Time is in effect, thoughts of roses and bluebonnets and hydrangeas are replacing those of roaring fires and early, dark nights.   It's time to start planting spring gardens and planning summer vacations.   Those who are lucky to be taking a trip to France this summer, might just want to think about visiting St. Remy de Provence.   A small hamlet built on Roman ruins in the south of France, St. Remy is where Europeans of means have summer homes and where American tourists come to soak up the sun and  go antiquing in the surrounding areas.   It is here that Diana, the Princess of Wales, was once rumored to be buying a summer house and it is here where  Princess Caroline of Monaco and her children came following the death of her second husband.  The famous seer Nostradamus was born in St. Remy.  And it's most famous resident, Vincent Van Gogh, was treated for mental illness at a psychiatric center here.   Another famous summer resident is Pierre Berge, longtime partner and once lover of Yves St. Laurent.  Berge  has spent the last two decades remodeling and refurbishing the two homes and gardens that make up his summer estate.  Originally, the estate consisted of the Farmhouse Theo only.   Over time, neighboring gardens were added.  In 2002, another addition brought the Farmhouse Vincent (the houses are, of course, named after Van Gogh and his brother) into the property.  Berge hired the architect Hugues Bosc and landscape designer Michel Semini to make the disparate farmhouses and gardens into one glorious country estate.   Here, thanks to Cote Sud and the photographer Nicolas Matheus , are pictures of his summer paradise:


The Farmhouse Vincent, the larger of the two, is built of native limestone.  Note the quaint birdcage and white doves on the right.  I love the potted plants going up the stairs on the left.


A covered porch serves as an outdoor dining area.  Today, the famous pink roses of the estate are being arranged on the metal garden table.


The property is made up of two houses surrounded by extensive gardens.  Here, to the right, is the smaller farmhouse "Theo."  The pool house, with arched doorways,  over looks the "Pink Garden"  and swimming pool.    At the left, a statue, Neptune, surrounded by yellow irises, was purchased at Sotheby's in New York.  


The farmhouse "Vincent" overlooks the aromatic gardens with views to the Alpilles mountains.


An arbor holds up the estate's famous pink roses, Pierre de Ronsard, which are planted throughout the property.  Note the candle lanterns that light the way at night.


In the large living room of the Farmhouse Vincent, slipcovered furniture is by Christian Liaigre.  The floor is made up of ancient Burgundy flagstone. Most interesting are the niches that are carved into the walls flanking the fireplace.


The kitchen at Farmhouse Vincent has cabinets made of stained glass.


The smaller Farmhouse Theo is more provencal in appearance and furnishings than Farmhouse Vincent.  The furniture came from nearby antique haunts.  The plate above the mantel is signed by Picasso.  I love the traditional French decor in this room.


A bed is piled high with typical provencal quilts or boutis.


Portrait of St. Joseph and the armoire were found at Isle-on-the-Sorgue,the famous antique destination in the region.


The bathroom has a tiled floor and claw foot tub.  I love the European bath fittings, including the sponge and soap holder across the tub.


Under the shade of old mulberry trees, a long cement bench is made more comfortable with antique Army mattresses.


An antique cement pergola is set in the gardens outside the Farmhouse Theo.  Lunch and dinner are often served here.


Apparently,  Pierre Berge has decided to spend more time at his St. Remy country estate.  He recently sold his American Pied a Terre, located in the Pierre Hotel, NYC.  The $7,500,000 (plus monthly maintenance fees of $7,080)  abode was designed by a trio of famous men:  Jacques Grange, Peter Marino, and the late Jed Johnson (wonder how that went down and who did what?)  Interestingly enough, Berge, partner and former lover of Yves St. Laurent, sold the apartment to Giancarlo Giametti, the business and life partner of Valentino.  Thanks to the Real Estalker for the information.



View of Central Park from Berge's Pierre apartment.


The entry hall of the apartment.  Mahogany woodwork creates a masculine club-like atmosphere.  The bench is a gorgeous antique.


The living room with French empire antiques and blue leather upholstered sofa!


One of two master bedrooms.  This bedroom has a gorgeous antique rug.


Whereas this master bedroom has a leopard carpet!   Notice how the bathroom door is screened off.


Both bathrooms are fitted out with marble and mahogany.

Need I ask?  If you won the lotto, which property would you buy:  The  St. Remy country estate OR the Pied a Terre at The Pierre Hotel in New York City?   I'm sure I don't have to tell you MY choice!

Evolution of a Style



This magazine cover from Veranda remains one of my favorites from 2007.  Showcasing the work of Renea Abbott, this picture reflects her aesthetic precisely:  eclectic mix of the antique and contemporary, monochromatic scheme, glamour, and authenticity.    Abbott is one of Houston's finest interior designers and her star is rising higher each year.  She attended the New York School of Design AND the Fashion Institute of Technology - at the same time.  Following a stint working in New York for Keith Irving's design firm, she came home to Houston.  Today, along with her hectic design business, she owns Shabby Slips (featured on this blog here), a furniture store that is filled with pricey European antiques along with the most comfortable down filled upholstered pieces, many of which are slipcovered in Abbott's favorite material - white linen.  A stranger might be dismissive of the store - mistaking it for a Rachel Ashwell -Shabby Chic clone.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  When Shabby Slips first opened, Abbott made slipcovers for anyone who walked in the door.  But today, the price list to slipcover a chair or sofa - which was charmingly displayed inside a gilt picture frame - is no longer visible.   Instead, the focus of the store is European antiques and contemporary accessories.  Shabby Slips'  look  has evolved through the years, just as Abbott's has.  To witness firsthand Abbott's design evolution, take a look at how she once lived and how she lives today.  Images are courtesy of Shabby Slips' beautiful and comprehensive web site - finally released!

HOME #I:  An early Abbott owned apartment was photographed while she was still living in a highrise that is home to many of Houston's interior designers, retail store owners, and the glittering social set.   This apartment was published in Southern Accents - 2002:


In this early Abbott apartment, the floors are a wonderful ebony color which pops all the white slipcovers.  Here, Abbott brings three different sized chairs around the antique Spanish refectory table.  Each slipcover is monogrammed in her oversized initials.


The living area of the apartment featured Shabby Slips' mohair sofa and chairs.  Abbott used a skirted table, Odegard rug, and artwork by Olivier Debre.


French antique mirror and sconces combined with an oriental demilune reside in the entry hall.

HOME #II:  This move to a new space in the highrise was published in the book Spectacular Homes of Texas:


The living room of the new space features white linen slipcovers.  The coffee table, a Shabby Slips original, moved from the former apartment.  New to the mix is an antique french day bed.  Barbara  Berry ottoman is in mohair.


In the dining room, there is a huge change from the previous space.  Totally contemporary now - the table is from Thomas O'Brien and the chairs are Barbara Barry.  Two Fortuny lights, from Creative Flooring (owned by Abbott's husband) are overhead and the triptych by Ford Beckman grabs all the attention.


The family room shows the start of the evolution to a more glamorous space.  The velvet sofa is from Holly Hunt, the chair and end table are Barbara Barry, and the slipcovered chairs are from Donghia.  Mirrored table is from Shabby Slips.  Only the candlesticks are familiar from before.


The bedroom features a Baker four poster bed and Barbara Barry end tables.  The leopard carpeting is from Creative Flooring.


HOME #III:  And finally, a move from the highrise to a townhome gave Renea a chance to really showcase her evolving style.  A nod to the Hollywood glamour of another era, Houston's Paper City published the Manteris' home in 2005:


The shell encrusted commode comes from Watkins Culver, Shabby Slips' neighboring antique store.  The antique urn is from Shabby Slips.


The extra high ceilings allow the silk drapes and chandelier to take center stage in the living room.  The antique Venetian fixture was bought from the estate of one of the founders of the Pebble Beach Golf Club.  The vintage 1940s style French sofas and chairs were purchased from Watkins Culver and are covered in white muslin.  Mirrored chests flank both sides of the limestone fireplace and the art work above is by Cy Twombly.  The rug, from Creative Floorings, of course, is Tibetan.


Close up of one of matching mirrored chests with the Cy Twombly above.  Antique santos and milk glass lamp from AREA round out the tablescape.


The dining room with the same extra tall windows, this time covered in silk taffeta draperies, is another stunning space.  The back wall is a mosaic of antiqued and distressed mirrored panels.  The table is from Panache and the beaded crystal fixture is from Dennis and Leen.  Chairs are Louis XVI style, again, covered in white muslin.


I adore this kitchen!  White carrara marble replaced pink granite countertops.  French iron top table from Joyce Horn Antiques with Clarence House zebra printed silk velvet covered french chairs. 


Abbott painted the iron staircase to resemble pewter.  A mummy folly holds a tray of cordials.  The runner is zebra patterned wool carpeting from  Creative Flooring.


The sitting area of the bedroom features an armless tufted sofa.  The velvet trimmed silk taffeta draperies are from The Silk Trading Company. 


Just about the only pieces that traveled from the highrise were this Baker four poster bed and the Barbara Barry night stands. 

In the article that accompanied these photographs,  Renea Abbott acknowledges that they probably won't stay here at this townhouse for too long.  I don't know if they still live there or not.  But something tells me to expect a newly designed space to be emerging sometime soon!  Do you prefer one home shown here over the next?   I think my favorite is a combination of spaces from all three!



What's New?




What's new?  Well, everything in the above picture, for one thing.  The new Wisteria catalogue is filled with wonderful new items including a line  called the "French Industrial Collection" - which the coffee table is a part of.   What else is new out there in catalogue and online land?


Wisteria:  new love seat, garden seats, and French Industrial Collection side table.


Great new antiqued tripod lamp for $450 fits right in with Wisteria's French Industrial Collection. African Kuba cloth pillows pop on their new white sofa with the distinctive lines.


Wisteria's wonderful small oval mirror mimics an antique, just $130.


Wisteria's new French styled chair is one of my favorites - a bargain at just $250.  The desk is new too.  I love the faux antique station clock - $150.


Wisteria's French Industrial Collection bookcases come in two sizes.  This large size is $799.


This sunburst mirror from Wisteria looks almost authentic to me.  $450.


This desk is not new, but it's been out of stock for ever.  Available now, finally, according to the web site.   I think this is one of the prettiest repros on the market today, especially for the price, only $980.


This metal table is great indoors or out.  I'd do the table with rattan chairs myself. 


Again, not new, but finally in stock after being unavailable for months.  Great look for $1250.


Last from Wisteria - stacking shelves for $500. These would be great in a kid's room, a kitchen, or as a buffet.


Pottery Barn is filled with surprises lately.  What's going on there?  The designs have stepped up a notch. These French styled metal chairs are fabulous!  So are the pendants.  The wood table isn't bad itself.


This bed is ingenious - the fabric pops out to change seasonally with the bedding.  I love the way the baskets fit underneath the wooden frame.  Great for a teenage girl whose taste changes monthly.


Pottery Barn's new architect desk and chair.  Pottery Barn?  $900 for the desk, I kid you not!  The chair is too cool.


From Pottery Barn again, a jute daybed.  Comes as a regular bed too.  This is a great look for a boy's bedroom.


Pottery Barn has expanded their painted pieces line to include different shapes.  My favorite is the white three drawer dresser that would make great nightstands.   Very affordable.  Lots of "look" for the money.


Zebra has made it to PB.  Besides the pillows, they are selling zebra towels and sheets and rugs.  Sheets and towels come in leopard in case you're getting sick of zebra. Personally, I still love zebra.


Williams Sonoma Home is a much pricier catalogue than most.  But their furniture is a cut above their cheaper counterparts.  I love this chinoiserie inspired bench.  It comes in cream or black and also comes in side and arm chairs.   From Hickory Chair Collection via WSHome.


"Folly corner chair" from WSHome, Hickory Chair Collection.  I love this chair for the corner or not.  Comes as a "regular" chair, also. $950.


Sleek, glamour filled vanity from WSHome.  Hard to believe a piece so stylish is from a catalogue.   Not cheap, but at least it looks it's $2450. price tag.



A red French chest from WSHome would pop in a family room or a bedroom.


Here's how WSHome displays their French chest and chair and blue stripe dhurri and bedding. 


Lulu inspired silk pillows with coordinating back fabrics.   These are just two choices of the many hip and trendy pillows from WSHome.


New from West Elm:  the spine bookshelf, seen just on the back wall to the left.  At $150, this Design Within Reach knockoff is much cheaper at West Elm.  I just bought two of them to try to corral my design books now that I am out of shelf space.  It's amazing how many books it holds.


Ballard Designs has a new wood and tufted coffee table that looks pretty good on paper at least.  At $700, it's probably worth it.



Ballard's has great indoor outdoor polyprophelene rugs.  I sell these kind of rugs for high traffic areas - they are indestructible.


Ballard Designs is now making these great sheer slipcovers for their cane folding chairs. 



 The Elysee Collection from France has a new line for women designed by women called "An Evening in Paris."   Not a catalogue, but an online company  that sells beautiful French reproductions.  The owner emailed me these new pieces which I think are adorable! 

Here, Marie Antoinette is painted on a chest.

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Two more chests from the new collection - aren't these the most adorable things?




Circa Lighting from Houston debuts Michael S. Smith's new line.  Here is my favorite of the pieces.


The line includes sconces and chandeliers in silver, brass, and bronze.


This Michael S. Smith designed lamp has received lots of advertising in all the magazines this month.


Smith also designs for Kallista - here is his version of a stone farm sink.


And Smith designed what has to be the prettiest toilet around - with it's wood seat and lid!


Another favorite of mine in the line is this kitchen island that Smith designed.  You can view all his collections on his web site here.


Anthropoligie recently added these two new mirrors.  One oval, one square, both with gilding and both only $148.00  Great for a powder room or over a small vanity.




One of my favorite furniture companies that sells online to the trade just came out with a Swedish reproduction line.  Most Swedish repros are outrageously priced.  These pieces are more than reasonable and look like they are of the great quality that G.J. Styles is known for. 


Here is a typical Swedish couch with upholstered seat and sides.  I would recover this in blue and white checked Chelsea Editions fabric.


A nice sized foot stool with an upholstered top.  This would be a great way to bring in a little Swedish to a room without making a big commitment.


This day bed is such an authentic reproduction, it's hard for me to believe it's new.  Beautiful.


Farrow and Ball, the world's best wallpaper and paint company, has released some of their papers in new, vibrant colors, as seen here.   Quite a department for the normally staid company.


Along with new wallpaper colors, Farrow and Ball introduced new paint colors.  Here, a trendy mauve color, cinderrose.  Mauves and lilacs are this year's aqua.


And last:  Brocade Home recently began carrying wallpaper.  Since this color, peony, is impossible to find anywhere, BH must be selling it by the truckload.  Every teenaged girl client of mine is wanting lilac, mauve, or purple these days.  It's the hottest hue going.

These are my favorite catalogues, online, that I like to shop.  Have I missed your favorite?  If so, let me know for next time's
"New Items"