Houston, We've Got Power! ! or How The Noise of My Neighbor's Generator Almost Drove Me Mad!




After five days and nights without power, that big, electrical man in the sky bestowed the greatest gift on us tonight!  Yes, we have power!  I can finally get out of my car and join the human race of the living.  My heart goes out to all those still off the grid, my sweet sister Melanie especially!   We are lucky, very lucky to have gone just five days without power - I know a lot of other people are going to be out of luck for weeks.  And, not to rub it in, but - double the fun - even Comcast came right on!  So we have cable, Internet, and lights tonight.  Of course, our teenaged daughter has left to go to a slumber party where they have NO power, which makes absolutely zero sense to her Dad and me, but whatever, we're happy tonight!  I promise, this will be the last word about Hurricane Ike that I write, but here's how it all went down:


Ike 003

Our driveway, the morning after.

What we are grateful for:   We are all alive and safe, after hunkering down together this past week.  The three of us stayed downstairs and even slept there together the entire time.  We made a pallet for Elisabeth to sleep on.   The first night, we were worried about our tree crashing through the roof into her room - so she put on her eye shades and slept blissfully on the floor, for about 15 hours all through the storm.  A few times she woke up and told Ben and me to be quiet!  The storm started getting really bad around 11 pm Friday night and once that happened, the noise of objects hitting the windows was pretty scary.  Ben and I stayed up most of the night, but I finally passed out around 5 am, missing the more horrific winds.   The death toll is remarkably low for the amount of damage, storm surge, and wind.  We are amazed and grateful that so many people are safe and survived Ike.


Ike 025


Elisabeth's bed for the past week.  Flashlight and eye shade are on her blue blanket.  The fan is waiting for her.


More Things We are Grateful For:   Our oak tree made it!!!  In fact, she proved stronger and more grounded than most of the other trees around her.  I'm so proud of her!  She only lost a few little branches and one slightly bigger branch.  But that's it.  She was pretty busy that night, swaying in the wind, bending to and fro, but she stayed her ground.  Mr. Hurricane Man announced he even noticed some green acorns on her - all good signs she may be healing, he declared.   Other trees were not so lucky.   West University planted Chinese Tallow trees all over the city when it was first developed because the trees are so fast growing.  But, as we now know,  any fast growing tree is also a short lived tree and decades later, all the tallows are on their last limb, so to speak.  Both my neighbors have tallow trees and they were all very damaged.  Huge limbs fell in our yard from their "trash" trees, as West University's Forester has declared the tallows.   And most interesting  is to see these large tallow tree limbs  - totally hollow inside!    West University was out early on Saturday morning, clearing the streets of downed trees.  Again, the benefits of living in a small town inside a larger metropolis.  Yeah West University!    Our little enclave wasn't hit nearly as hard as other areas of West U, though.  Just a mile east, three and four story tall trees were uprooted in massive numbers.  We used to be known as the City of Trees, but I'm not sure that still applies after the hit all these decades-old trees took.



Ike 017

 My neighbor's prized banana tree, clinging for dear life flung over on our fence.  The rest of this fence fell over.


Damage:   Besides all the downed limbs from the tallow trees, my neighbor's catalpa tree ended up on my roof!  That was a huge surprise the next morning.   But there it was - a tree that probably reaches up 3 stories high -  hanging off our roof by a branch caught on our gutter.   I drove down the street to find a tree man that lives nearby.  With the promise of "big bucks" - he rushed over and by Sunday, the tree was down and cut up in logs on our curb.  Amazing!    Mr. Hurricane Man was left to come up with the promised "big bucks."  We only had two leaks inside - one from the front window and another from the ceiling.  Mr. Hurricane Man went up in the attic during the height of the storm to figure out why it was leaking.   He proudly announced it was rain coming in from a roof turbine.  Of course, he also believed the storm was breaking up and wasn't going to be all that bad.  



Ike 015

 My neighbor's huge catalpa tree ended up on our roof.   A branch stuck in the gutter was the only thing that kept it from crashing through.


What We Did This Past Week:   We didn't have electricity after Saturday morning around 3 am.    Truthfully, I think Mr. Hurricane Man was a little perturbed that he didn't need to use all his gadgets during the actual storm, but thank God for him!  Without all his hurricane supplies, this week would have been pretty unbearable.      Saturday morning, the mayor of West University sent out a mass phone call  saying that we could expect three days at least without juice.  Houston said 18 days.  Yikes!  We knew we were in for a long wait.  It was five days in all for us, but electricity is like childbirth.  Once the lights come back on, the darkness is quickly a faded memory.     I never would have thought I could go this long without power, but the days and nights blended together and somehow, we made it.  It is very enlightening, and truthfully, a little frightening,  to realize how utterly dependant we all are on electricity and how vulnerable we are without it.  It was the littlest things, the least important ones that tripped us up.   Case in point - while I bragged I was going to be drinking home brewed coffee instead of Starbucks, I totally forgot I would need the power to brew it.  Instead of worrying about fancy coffee beans, I should have bought instant coffee, which I could have heated up on our gas stove.  Stupid!    The good news is I had tea bags and made hot tea and I ended up stealing my sister Melanie's instant coffee as she didn't have the gas stove to boil water.  It was always the mundane aspects of life we take so for granted that made the lack of electricity hit home:  the time of day.   I never knew what time it was because the cable boxes were out and so was the oven timer!  


More stupidity:  I bragged that I charged up all my old laptop batteries to use for the computer, but didn't take into account that the router and modem run on electricity!  Thankfully, I did have the ATT card that runs off a cell phone number,  otherwise, I would have been totally in the dark.   On top of no modem,  the charged batteries didn't even fit my current laptop, so all those charged batteries were for naught.    I was lucky to have a electrical plug that runs off the car battery bought last year for a car trip.  That way,  I could actually plug things in it:   I could  charge my cell phone and I could plug in my laptop for just a short period of time.  As long as the battery in the car lasted, I was slightly sane.  The car proved to be the most invaluable gadget, surprisingly.    Besides being a major power source, I have satellite radio so I could actually  listen to CNN Television and Fox News in my car and keep abreast of all the latest political news.


Ike 010

This crepe myrtle branch landed on Elisabeth's car.


Minor Aggravations:  While we were happy for our neighbor who had an old, outdated generator, left over from the days his passed wife was on oxygen, he ran it 24/7 and the power of it alone shook houses halfway down the street, disturbed the quiet, and truthfully, it was just downright rude!   Our houses are on top of each other here in West University, and he was the only one in the vicinity running a generator, so I imagine everyone else was just as aggravated with the noise as we were.  Imagine a leaf blower going day and night which is about the equivalent.  Mr. Hurricane Man and I discussed early on getting a generator, and wondered if we did, would we run it 24/7, being that we aren't in the country and our neighbors are so close to us?   Hard to say.  By the fourth day, I was literally begging for one so I could use my computer, but he refused to add to the noise that our neighbor's generator generated. Thankfully, a cool front blew through bringing an early fall, so being without AC was no longer a  major issue.  Although the lack of AC on a typically hot Houston day would have driven him to get the generator, I'm convinced. 


Another aggravation was the absent neighbors who evacuated.  We weren't under a mandatory evacuation and people who left did so only because they didn't want to be without air conditioning and television, which I can totally understand.   But while the entire neighborhood was outside cleaning up our yards, getting limbs and trees off the sidewalks, roofs, and streets, the missing homeowners' yards remained a total mess, an eyesore, and frankly, a safety hazard.   By Sunday, our street was one tidy yard after another except for the absentee's mess.   The evacuees also missed out on a great time.  Each street became a block party with everyone outside cleaning up and having BBQs on their driveways.   We met more neighbors this week than we have in 15 years of living here!    Bonded in our misery, the atmosphere was festive, fueled by lots and lots of beer and wine!   


Ike 022

Our front yard curb, Wednesday afternoon.  The catalpa tree is here, all cut up.  Too bad we don't have a wood burning fireplace.


Lessons Learned or How to Prepare for a Week Without Electricity:  The most important things we had, besides a big jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread, were (thanks to Mr. Hurricane Man) an endless supply of batteries of all different sizes.  The stores were closed for days and when they did open, they were out of batteries, so having a big supply was a major advantage.  I will never again tease him for buying batteries.  Other useful items were all his gadgets -  the battery powered fans and TVs and radios.  Without the little TV and the old fashioned radio we would have been unaware of what went on in Galveston and on Boliver.    They were our lifelines in the early hours.  The battery operated lanterns were a bust - they burned up so many batteries that they were pretty worthless and weren't even that bright.  What WAS a lifesaver were these candles I had.  Ronnie Jubula who works in the Decorative Center is manufacturing this one candle, scented "Linen" which he burns in his showroom as advertisement.  The smell is light, not heavy, but utterly divine.  About a month ago, I bought 15 of them to keep on hand.  They aren't expensive, but boy - do they last!  Candles lit on Friday were still going strong today on Wednesday!   They also gave off an enormous amount of light.   Since they were in glass jars, we felt safe placing the candles around the house in strategic points.  Thanks, Ronnie, your candles were the greatest!  As a substitute, I suspect Yankee Candles would be just as effective as Ronnie's candles.  It would be a great idea to keep a stash on these candles on hand for emergencies.    The gas stove and water heater:   never did I imagine when we put a gas line in our house all those years ago what a fantastic idea that was!   We could take hot showers!   But more important was that we could use the stove - we could boil water for tea or soup.   We ate lots of Ramen noodles which were nutritious and filling.   I actually made a fabulous spaghetti dinner for us one night, only to forget there was no garbage disposal, so we lived with noodles in our drain for a quite a while.  Lovely.    Another live saver was the aforementioned ATT wireless card.  At around $50 a month, it's a complete luxury to have two internet connections:  a cable modem and the ATT card that fits in the laptop.  But, the card is useful for trips and places where there isn't wi/fi.    Without a modem, the card saved me this week.  I would recommend one to everyone.   If you can't afford both - I would drop the cable modem and just use the card.  While it is reported to not be as fast on the downloads, I really don't notice a slower speed.  The other essential gadget was the electric plug that fits in the car lighter.   It powered up the laptop and the cell phone which really helped me feel connected to the world.



Ike 027

Ronnie Jubula's candles which lit our house up and kept it smelling great!


Getting Power Restored:   While we tried not to complain and to keep a stiff upper lip, it did get trying to be so long in the dark.  I read a lot - finally made it through the biography of Nancy Lancaster which I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend if you like English Country House decor.  We talked to each other a lot, Ben and I, which is something we don't do as much with televisions blaring all the time.  We talked about how lucky we were to have made it out safe and sound from the worst storm either of us had ever witnessed.   But, it would always come back to the electrical power.   Life wouldn't be normal until then.    While out driving, it was hard to turn back into our neighborhood since half of the streets had had their power on the entire time.   At night, it was all lit up and blazingly bright, until you got closer to our pitch black street.  Talk about coveting thy neighbor!  A major activity during the day was looking for the CenterPoint Energy trucks.   If I saw one in the vicinity of our house, I would chase it down and beg them to come to Albans Street!  Seeing seven trucks sitting in a parking lot one day for over two hours was especially depressing.  Each dawn would bring a renewed hope and every dusk brought  total dejection with the realization it was going to be another dark night.  Today, though, things turned around about 2:00 pm.  The man in the energy truck told me all the streets would be lit except for ours because of a downed pole!   I could have murdered him and would have probably gotten off with justifiable homicide.   About an hour later, though, he changed his tune and happily announced that the entire neighborhood, including our street, was going to get the power by tonight.   There's no sweeter noise than an air conditioner coming to life unexpectedly.   Our moods changed immediately and I ran outside where all the neighbors were in the street screaming, clapping, and laughing.    As the trucks were pulling away tonight, I was waving and yelling to them - thank you, thank you, thank you !!!!!



Ike 024

The coffee table, Mr. Hurricane Man's headquarters.  He was supposed to put all his "stuff" away tonight, but I let it pass, we're just too happy. 


What We are Truly Thankful For:   All in all, we were so lucky.  No flooding, no major damage, and just a few uncomfortable nights.  I can't imagine what is happening all around us - in the lower areas by the coast and in Galveston, in Boliver and as far east as Louisiana.  Bridge City was said to be - gone.   Boliver is no longer a peninsula but an island and there was even a lost, pet tiger roaming around there this week, along with all the alligators.   Listening to local radio, it has been one horror story after another of houses flooded out or burned.   But, amazingly, there wasn't an overwhelming loss of life like with Katrina.  We are very, very lucky.  We are also thankful for the small things, that Elisabeth's boyfriend came in from college so that she visit with him in his house with electrical power.  Being without internet or instant messaging is just too much for today's teenagers to bear.   For the kids, the lucky ones, they've had a blast, unaware of the misery that other's are suffering.  For them, a week without school is a cause of celebration.  Oh, to be young and naive again!


Mostly, though,  we are so thankful for all of our family and our friends, both old ones and the new - those met through a little ole design blog.   All your prayers were heard and answered.   I can not tell you how much we appreciated your prayers and well wishes and how much they meant to us.     The power of the Internet is amazing - just knowing all of you were out there thinking about us and praying for us, was so overwhelming and reassuring.   I only hope that one day I can repay each of you all in some kind way.   Thank you, again, from all of us, Ben, Elisabeth and myself.


Finally, What's Next for Cote de Texas?   I'm working on a few new things, including a new installment of the Top Ten Designer list.   Hopefully by next week, I'll be up and running again and we can get back to discussing slipcovers and seagrass, draperies and skirted tables, chandeliers and shells, cluttered vs. spare, and all those other good design topics.

Running on Car Batteries and A Prayer!



Just  a quick note to tell everyone that we survived intact! We're fine!  I'm writing a longer post and will hopefully get it online in just a little bit. 


Thank you, everyone, for all your prayers and thoughts and well wishes.  Your prayers worked, that is for sure! I can't thank you enough.  



Hunkering Down With Ike!




Greetings from Ikeland!   I've gotten so many great emails today with well wishes from you all,  that I thought I would do an update on "Life Spent Waiting For A Major Hurricane."   I hope to be able to answer all of your emails, but until then - here's the story of Cote de Texas under siege.  I must say that I have the sweetest readers in blogland.  I'm going to design an award and pass it out to each of you:  Bestest, Most Sweetest Readers!!!   Seriously, a person can get really spoiled from all the love.  Thank you, all of you, for your wonderful, caring, emails.  They are very much appreciated.


Evacuations  and Hurricane Ike:    There was a mandatory evacuation called for Galveston and outlying parts of Houston that border the Ship Channel.  We don't live in those areas and so, we aren't under a mandatory evacuation.  Because of that, Ben, Elisabeth and I decided to stay put in our house in Houston.    The last big hurricane that passed through Houston was Rita.   It came just days after Katrina so everyone here was terrified and just about the entire town  (except us, of course!) decided to evacuate Rita.  There was a traffic jam the likes of which have never been seen before.   The death toll of evacuees on the road was over 100.  The death toll from the storm was in the single digits.  Statistically, you were better off staying put and "hunkering down" than leaving.    This time around with Ike, there hasn't been that massive evacuation from Houston, and it seems like the majority of people have stayed, including my entire family.  


Preparing for Ike:   How did we prepare for the storm?  I have a hurricane fascinated husband, so we already had a lot hurricane preparedness items in the house.  Every time he sees a sale on batteries, he picks up more, so batteries and numerous flashlights we have.  We also have small, battery powered fans to help cool the house when the electricity goes out.  We have weather radios and battery powered flood lights for inside.  We even have a battery powered television - this purchase brought much personal happiness to Mr. Hurricane Man.  I took out all my old laptops, of which I have a few, and charged up the batteries so that I'll be able to use my computer for a while at least after the electricity goes out (hopefully it won't be off for days - or else I'm checking into a hotel with a generator).     We have lots of candles, unfortunately they are the scented, expensive kind, but that's alright - at least the house will smell good. 



The eye of Ike - kind of looks like the head of a baby duck here.


What To Eat During A Hurricane:    Yesterday Mr. Hurricane Man announced he wanted to go the grocery store and look around for more batteries and other hurricane gadgets and get the last minute food items we would need.   Stupidly, I agreed to let him go.  He came back home, all excited about the food he bought that's going to sustain us after the refrigerator is off:  sliced turkey, assorted cold cuts, and cheese!!!!!    He was so proud, poor thing.  When I asked him about canned  goods like tuna and salmon, he had a blank look on face and wanted to know why would we need that?   hmm.    Don't worry though, I went to Wendy's and bought a few days worth of Caesar salads.  Plus our stove is gas, so we'll be able to eat noodles and soup and macaroni and cheese, lots of nice, fattening foods.  I'll probably come out of this hurricane with a 10 pound weight gain.



Galveston, around 12pm this afternoon.  The waves are crashing up over the seawall which is 13' tall.  Imagine what will happen when the eye hits and the surge is over 20 feet.


News Updates, Always Updates During the Long Wait:       The storm is now just reaching Galveston.  It's 3:30, Friday afternoon.  The island city is going to flood, there is no doubt about that.  The water is now over the 13' seawall.   Ike is a Category 2 and is expected to be Cat 3 when it lands.  The Galveston Mayor just announced that 40 percent (2o,ooo souls) of the people who live there did NOT evacuate and are still on the island.  The city is going to be completely underwater  and these people will be forced up into their attics by tonight.   Wow.  That 40% figure shocks me and everyone else too.  The police chief from Galveston just announced that the last emergency calls they will take today are at 9:00 p.m.   Then they will be "hunkering down" at the San Luis Resort Hotel and everyone is on their own then.  "Hunker Down" is code word in a hurricane for being scared to death inside your home while the storm rages outside.    The chief also said a house just burned to the ground on the West End because they couldn't reach it to put it out.  Things are getting bad in Galveston.    They have opened a Shelter Of Last Resort for people who get too scared to Hunker Down and change their mind at the last minute.      At this point, I'm really glad that Houston is 50 miles away from the Galveston and the Gulf of Mexico. 


Humor in the  Face of a Hurricane:   My best friend just  instant messaged me with this - her last will and testament: 


(I'm just relieved that apparently Stan and Marcia are being asked to pay for her funeral - not me!)


Major Worries and Fears In a Hurricane:      It's the windows everyone is worried about.  Tornados and high winds accompany hurricanes and with that comes broken windows.  My parents are in a high rise and they've been instructed to go to their bathroom in case their windows start breaking.   Us too.  The only room in our house without a window is the powder room.  We'll go there if our windows start popping.  At least there's new wallpaper in there.  Very pretty wallpaper, Colefax and Fowler  Chinese Toile in brown and cream:  so I'll be happy. 



My Powder Room with the Colefax and Fowler Chinese Toile Wallpaper - Refuge in the Storm.


Our biggest concern though, is that our huge oak tree will crash through the house as the tree  is "in stress"  and is weak.  That's our main worry.    Now, my personal main worry is coffee.  Starbucks closed last night for good until God knows when.   I  made a pot using premium coffee beans, but it's just not the same.  I even have a little apparatus that whips hot milk into foam.  Just not the same.  I've decided its the flavored coffee beans that are so terrible.   Why didn't I get just plain Folgers?      Pray for Starbucks, people. 


Hunkering Down and Other Boring Things:    At this moment in my house, we're all hunkered down.    Elisabeth is upstairs on the computer.  I'm still on the patio with my laptop.  It's not raining at all, just a little windy.  My neighbors are even BBQ-ing steaks on the grill outside.  Smells soooo good.    Mr. Hurricane Man is, of course, laying on the couch, monitoring the news, with a migraine.  He got one this morning - his eyes weren't focusing and he lost his peripheral vision - so he knew the  migraine was coming and managed to take his medicine correctly - before the migraine becomes painful, and it seems to have helped him a bit.  I'm hungry from smelling the steaks and can't decide if I should eat the famous turkey and cheese or just make a peanut butter sandwich.   I'm saving the salad for tonight.  SO exciting!     The storm will hit at 9:00 tonight.   Mr. Hurricane Man  just announced he thinks it's not going to be that bad.   He's "watching it" on the news  - "keeping an eye on it" -  and thinks he can see something in the radar pictures that the professional weathermen do not see.  He thinks that the storm is breaking up.    Help me, please.    It's going to be a very, long weekend.



The eye of the storm is still hours away and look how flooded it already is near the Cote de Texas, or in  English, the Texas Coast. 

When It Rains.....It Pours!




Annechovie's Queen Elisabeth Series


Sweet Anne Harwell, artist extraordinaire and blogger of  Annechovie was kind enough recently to showcase moi,  here.  I'm not sure what I've done to garner such niceness, but - hey, I could use a little "nice" in my life.  Anne and I go way back in blogger world, I started in May 2007 and she in July the same year.  We connected early on and have remained in touch through many emails and a few phone calls.  Early on in our friendship, Anne painted an area of my living room and more recently, my two dogs.  She's always been there for me when I needed her and hopefully she feels the same of me!   I was thrilled when she sent me a list of interview questions and said she wanted to include me in her Artist's Portrait Series.  I guess being an interior decorator can be like being an artist, but I'm not sure I would go so far as to call myself that!! 



Anne's famous Courtney Barnes chair

If you have a moment, click here to read the interview with me  and be sure to take a look around her Etsy store.  She does fabulous paintings of house decor and - my favorites are her chair series.    You can probably even buy portraits of my dogs if you want! 



Anne's adorable painting of my springer,  Georgie!



Courtney's Favorite Things by Annechovie


Anne, thank you again so much - this means the world to me.  Here's looking to many more happy years of blogging!


Joni  aka Cote de Texas

What A Dump!



my office 023

Webb Design Headquarters - What A Dump!

What a delight (not!)  to open up someone else's blog and discover your own messy, unorganized office plastered for all the world to see.   Today, I had that lovely experience!   Now, imagine that this is the office that you hide, not only from your family who live in the same house, but also from the clients for whom the office is intended.  So, it's not exactly a pleasure to share it with total strangers.   My office started it's life as a guest bedroom, but it proved too small for anything larger than a twin bed.  For several years my husband officed out of this space - his desks consisted of wall to wall banquet tables bought from Office Depot.  Once he came to his senses and realized he needed a true office with its own address - not our home address - he moved out and left me with this miniscule room to use for Webb Design's headquarters.    I promptly tossed out all the banquet tables and folding chairs.  For a desk I went to Pier I and bought a 6' dining table with an X base, stained dark brown.  The table has proved to be a wonderful desk:  with its  large surface, I can spread out floor plans and fabric samples and still have room to work.    Perhaps the best advantage to buying a dining room table instead of a desk is price.  For some unknown reason, put the label of "desk" on a product and the price goes up. 


  my office 011

The red console, which should be painted black!


Next to go in the office remodeling was the wall to wall carpeting which we had installed over the hardwoods to muffle my husband's office noises.  I then polished up the once hidden floorboards  and put down a large seagrass (naturally) rug.  For a console, I chose a red wood piece.  Today, about 8 years later, I would pick out something different, and definitely not something  in red.  But this was a choice made when the color red figured heavily into my decorative scheme.  It no longer does.  I know, I know, I can hear you!   Paint it black!  Isn't that what I tell all my clients to do with wood stain they no longer like?   I probably will, someday.


my office 005

The antique map of Rome.

The bamboo window shades came from Target, and the antique wine rack that holds files came from Chateau Domingue.   The sconces were once in my dining room, bought at the wonderful shop, Schors, during a summer vacation on South Padre Island - the best beach in Texas.    The focal point of the room, is, of course, the map.  A copy of an antique map of Rome, it is my favorite thing in my office.  The map is oversized and is pasted onto  a heavy, wooden board.  It weighs about a ton and I had to hire movers just to bring it upstairs to my office, it was that heavy.   I bought it - used, of course, from Antiques and Interiors on Dunlavy, and the map, made of paper,  is far from pristine, which only adds to its charm.


my office 017

My sample closet:  wire shelves hold wicker baskets which hold fabrics and more fabrics.

My sample closet started out very organized, with  baskets for all the fabric cuttings.  But over the years, I've slowly outgrown the space and seriously need more storage room.  The overflow is now taking over my garage and my sweet mother-in-law came last weekend to help me reorganize it so that hopefully, we can get a car or two parked back inside.   She's promised to come back this weekend to finish the job, but I'm afraid it will take more than just one day;  creating storage room where there is none is an almost impossible task.  Until I can get more storage space and thus organize, my office is off-limits to everyone but me.  That was, of course, until now and Ms.Whitney English and her blog. 


my office 014

Using a dining table for a desk means no drawers.  I get around the problem by stashing the staplers and tape and scissors, etc. in this large, antique biscuit tin from England.

A few weeks ago Whitney English Kolb, of Whitney English, wrote me to ask if she could highlight my office on her company's blog.   gulp.  Why, I wanted to know, horrified at the prospect of showcasing my awfully messy office?    I explained to Whitney that my true office is really my laptop on a table, set up in my courtyard, where I tend to spend the majority of my time.  Undeterred, Whitney was very persuasive explaining that her company was highlighting bloggers and their workspaces as a tie in to her business.  Before I knew it, the article was written and there it was - my desk in all it's glory for the world to see.   Oh well, there is such a thing as truth in advertising. 



My "real" office - outside, Starbucks and all.

The more interesting part of the story though, of course, wasn't my office,  it was Whitney herself.  A young, beautiful blond from Tulsa and Dallas, she owns Whitney English, a paper goods and stationery company she started in 2002.   The inventory is classic, sophisticated with just a touch of trend to make it exciting.   This March,  Whitney was honored by Country Living Magazine, when she was named one of their Top Women Entrepreneurs of 2008.  A few years ago, Whitney expanded her company by purchasing Hicks Paper Goods, a leader in the stationery world.  Young and full of energy, Whitney has a very bright and exciting future ahead of her.    My favorite factoid about Whitney?  Hailing from Tulsa, she is a relative of that city's uber talented interior designer, Charles Faudree, who was named to Cote de Texas' Top Ten Interior Designers list.   While in college studying interior design, Whitney spent a summer interning for Faudree, which she writes about in detail here.   I can imagine she learned more in that summer than in four years of school!   Be sure to visit her web site and read her blogging series on Bloggers and their Offices, including moi among others.

Lastly, many thanks Whitney for including Cote de Texas in your Inspiration Series.    I am very grateful, and excited to be included, despite my utter humiliation!!!!    You are so sweet and I appreciate all your efforts so very, very much!





Examples of stationery from Whitney English.


about whitney english

The beautiful entrepreneur, Whitney English Kolb.

Don't Fence Me In



ft worth 020

In Houston, Sunday driving is best done in our nicest neighborhood, River Oaks.  Home to most  of Houston's who's who, it was founded in the 1920s by philanthropist Ima Hogg (yes!) and her two brothers who hired the architect John Staub to build its original speculative homes.  The wealthiest of Houston  still live in the neighborhood and there is really no better place to cruise around and look at gorgeous houses and lush landscaping.  The center of the neighborhood is the grand parkway, River Oaks Boulevard  with a high school at the beginning of the street and the private, exclusive country club located at the end.  At Christmas time, the streets are filled with cars from all over the city who come to ooh and ah at the spectacular light shows many of the residents put on.  I should know, I've been driving through River Oaks looking at Christmas lights since I was just a babe.   My family would load up the station wagon with blankets and pillows and we'd slowly make our way through it's winding streets, admiring the huge estates almost as much as the glorious twinkling lights, and giant candy canes. 

ft worth 018

They say not much changes in life, and many years later, I still like to drive through River Oaks, looking at the palatial homes, though mainly I do it now for inspiration from  both the old and new construction.  And, as always, its the French inspired architecture that attracts me, like this beautiful house, in the midst of getting a new roof.   The stucco with its walls damp from a light rain, is a soothing shade of creamy yellow, it's wood shutters a weathered, natural gray.

ft worth 059

And then there is this French stucco home, with its rustic, wooden shutters and slate roof.  I especially like the alcove with a bank of french doors on the very left of the house.   It could use some landscaping, even though it's more authentically French to have none.

ft worth 013

This light pink stucco with its pale, blue shutters has long been a favorite.  I love the portico at the entrance - it looks like a little gate house - just charming.  

ft worth 022

This southern colonial is an original.  It's been here longer than most houses in the neighborhood.  Right on River Oaks Blvd., next to the country club, you can't get a better address than this.  I could tell you this was a plantation in Louisiana and you would probably believe me, so authentic looking is it.   Yes, driving through River Oaks looking at houses is always exciting.  Just driving along, admiring the view, all the while hoping the unmarked security cars that sit parked outside houses like this don't radio the police to come arrest you as a potential house burglar.   Yet, it's all worth the risk to get a glimpse of  the beautiful houses.....

ft worth 023

Beautiful houses like this.  Oops!   Can't quite see this one.  But the locked gates are really beautiful.  Stucco with finials,  The gates are French looking too.  Judging by them, I would say the house is creamy stucco, French inspired.  New construction.  I'll never know for sure though. 

What is interesting about this gate and the others like it in the neighborhood, is just how many houses are now hidden behind these gates.  While people tend to think of a gated community as one where there is a set of gates that keep non residents out of the neighborhood, slowly yet surely, River Oaks has become a gated community of sorts without anyone realizing it.  Instead of the  one set of gates leading into the neighborhood, house after house is located behind their own iron gates now.  Until my latest drive through, I hadn't realized how many houses were gated in what was once a more accessible neighborhood.   In America, we tend to think of gated communities  as being far away, out in the suburbs, a place where people take flight against a rising crime rate.  But here, in River Oaks, in the heart of the city, in the shadow of our downtown, this community has chosen to hide themselves behind formidable walls,  and thus, have changed the look and atmosphere of one of our treasures.  Not that I blame the owners for putting up gates, I don't at all.  But still, it's sad to see that this is what it has come to.    Not everyone in the neighborhood lives behind gates.   The smaller houses that surround the heart of the neighborhood are left gateless, and thus, vulnerable to crime.  It's the estates on the larger acreage  that are now increasingly gated.   Driving through River Oaks just admiring the houses, is not quite as easy as it once was and I suspect it will be get harder as the years go on.

ft worth 024

Here's a beautiful southern colonial, hiding behind a rather unattractive gate.  The house is barely visible now, but I would think the low hedge would be easily scaled by a ne'er do well.

ft worth 027

Wait!!!!  These  gates are actually open!!!  This house must be really special, there are several historical markers on the gateposts.    Very southern, and very romantic looking, these gates mimic the design of the house.   I love the long, gravel driveway.   OK, now I'm reduced to commenting on driveways.

ft worth 029

This English styled new construction has a very attractive wood and iron gate.   The best thing about it is you can  sort of see the house!

ft worth 030

It even has a little door for deliveries that matches the bigger gate.  Isn't this cute?

ft worth 031

Hi!!!!!  You open for visitors?  I'm here!!!!  

ft worth 032

Oops.  I guess not.    The gates quickly closed as soon as they saw my camera.  This house is a quite a complex.  I've actually been inside it, not as a guest, but as a paying person on a house tour benefiting some charity or another.  The house backs up to the golf course and the lot is immense.  There are several different buildings on the estate, a main house, a carriage house, and a pool house with his and her dressing rooms, among others.  It's a Mediterranean design and it's very unique and quite fabulous.  The gate's unusual design reflects the owner's artistic sensibilities.   This is the gate on the east end of the property.  See the little manned guard house with the red roof just inside?

ft worth 034

In the middle of the property is the front gate for visitors without cars.  Not sure in Houston how many people would actually come visit without a car, but if they do, they have their own gate. 

ft worth 036

And on the west end, a matching drive in gate.   The property has never been published, but the owner's Aspen vacation house was recently shown in Veranda. 

ft worth 038

This is a beautiful gate, with elaborate yet tasteful scroll work.  You can just glimpse the matching pink stucco home inside with black and white awnings.  

ft worth 041

Here is an unusual contemporary styled gate:  an art nouveau inspired design, with gold leaves, and a wall  made of limestone blocks.  The large speaker on the left kills the beauty though.  Most gated houses tend to hide the security speaker under a cover of ivy. 

ft worth 042

Another unusual wood and iron gate with limestone fence.  Impossible again, to even glimpse anything of the house except it's red tiled roof.

ft worth 043

This gate allows an expansive view of a newly constructed Georgian styled home.  The wooden gates, though, don't do justice to the elegant stucco white house. 

ft worth 044

Limestone and scrolled ironwork - a sure bet this house is a newly constructed, French design.  You can glimpse the garage at least.

ft worth 049

This is a more unusual gated estate in River Oaks:  an original home.  The rather plain gates seem to say they have been here for quite a long time.  The house, a red bricked colonial styled home is not nearly as flashy as it's newer neighbors.

ft worth 050

OK!  We can take a hint!    These people really want their privacy.    I would suspect the gate was added on after the house was built as the approach to the house is so wide open - hence, the rather austere design of the gates.  Unattractive and overbearing, these gates are certainly not inviting.

ft worth 055

Now this is a pretty gate - stucco limestone, with a rather plain, but elegant design.  I like the large gas lanterns and the way the fence is gently curving.  The landscaping is nice, too.   Who am I kidding?  The landscaping is gorgeous.  Behind these gates I would guess is an elegant, stucco home built to the highest of standards.

ft worth 054 

Open for visitors, except the two rather scary birds of prey on top of the gate posts which are not exactly inviting.  The brick fence is handsomely covered with creeping ivy, the drive way is long and curving.   Again, a beautiful, brick house most likely lies at the end of the curving drive.

ft worth 047

And lastly, this house takes a different approach to the gated issue.  Their front door itself is gated, as are the driveways on the left and right of the house.   At least you can see the house and enjoy its beauty.  For the other houses hidden behind gates, they are for the enjoyment of the owners alone.    I wonder if one day soon these owners will add a gated fence around the home, as well. 


All in all, it wasn't a great drive-by day for pictures in River Oaks, though it was an eye opener to what is going on in the neighborhood.   On the streets I drove down, the majority of houses were hidden.  I'll have to go back on another day to  admire the houses on the smaller lots where there aren't a lot of gates.   If you are interested in reading more about this historical neighborhood, there are several excellent books available at Amazon:  here and here.  Both are about John Staub the famous architect who developed River Oaks and built many of its most beautiful homes.