Lessons from a Town House

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As most of you know – searching real estate listings can either be great fun or a terrible bore – depending on the zip code and what’s available on the market.  Hours can be wasted in the hopes of finding just one house that is decent – manicured and decorated.  The majority of  houses for sale are neither.   Finding one appealing house is like finding a needle in the proverbial haystack.  You’re extremely lucky if you do.  I got lucky this time!    This town house in Houston is located in an area close to great shopping and within the inner loop.  The 1950’s era houses in this neighborhood are being torn down and replaced with town houses, sometimes 3 and 4 per lot.  Still, it’s a lovely area with towering trees and mature landscaping – and it’s highly sought after by empty-nesters and young married couples alike. 

 

I thought I would show you this particular house because the owner got so many details “right” – and there’s a lot to be learned here.   The owner is a single woman, I believe, and she is either an interior designer or hired one – not sure which.  But certainly, this wasn’t put together by an amateur.   It’s three story – a piano nobile design, which is typical of high density lot town houses in Houston.   The square footage is around 4,000 and it lists for about $900,000.   Oh, and don’t fall in love – it’s a Sale Pending!

 

 

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The public rooms are located on the second floor.  The living room is arranged with entertaining in mind.   There is no coffee table, instead a small dining table is set in the middle of the room – centered in front of the fireplace - with two large antique chairs surrounding it.  A beautiful antique chandelier is centered over the table.   This arrangement is a brilliant idea for a living room which probably doesn’t get much daily use.  When having a large family dinner – this extra table will come in handy.    It’s an unusual arrangement, but I think it is very practical.

 

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Looking at the room from the other angle, you can see how large it actually is.  There is a baby grand piano in the corner – another great idea for entertaining.  The front windows are left undraped while the side windows have silk curtains, probably for privacy from neighbors.   If this was my client, I would have draped all the windows – and taken the curtains up to the ceiling molding – but that’s me.  It looks perfectly lovely as is.  What is notable  here is the different furniture heights.  LESSON:  try to vary the height of furniture in a room, otherwise it gets rather boring.  Here, the two tall French chairs, the clock, the large mirror, and piano all lend different heights to the large room, thereby creating interest.

 

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The dining room is through the double arches and shares the fireplace with the living room.   Notice how both mantles are clean – just a small hanging sculpture was placed on each fireplace.  I love this room with its gilded wooded chandelier and silk skirted table.   The chairs are gorgeous.  It’s simple, yet very elegant. 

 

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Past the dining room is the kitchen with it’s granite countertops and trendy stainless appliances.  The bar stools are too low to be functional.  LESSON:  be sure when ordering bar stools that you buy the correct height – they come in two standard heights.   I like the touches of texture – the window shade, the large wicker basket, the rattan seats. 

 

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Past the kitchen is the sitting room.  Here, the owner made perfect choices.  First – she ordered a custom cut seagrass matting rug.  Notice how closely the rug is cut to the walls.  A store bought seagrass rug or an ill fitting one can ruin a room – it would be better to do without.  LESSON:  A properly sized seagrass rug should cover the room almost as if it was wall to wall carpeting.    I love this room – to me, this is a wonderful family room.   The sofa is high backed and is fashioned after an antique style.  The two wing chairs with their French mouton legs are again, copies, of antiques – but they seem almost contemporary here.  The classic club chair with its English saddle arms adds just enough pattern to this quiet interior.  The French side chairs surround an iron based table which adds a needed texture.  A large French antique mirror reflects the daylight.   LESSON:  Always place your mirrors where they can reflect something beautiful – an important rule to remember.   The set of large botanicals are perfectly placed and hung.  LESSON:  place art just a few inches above the sofa.  This is a good rule to follow.   This helps to connect the art to the large sofa – otherwise, if pictures are hung too high above the sofa, or the buffet or the console, it looks like they are flying off into space.   Remember – just a few inches above the grounding piece!  Notice too the size of the prints – together the six look like one large element – the scale of the six prints to the sofa and room is perfect.  Absolutely perfect!   And lastly – instead of curtains, the owner has used antique doors or shutters – again, to add texture and interest. 

 

 

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A view from the opposite direction.  Here you can see the contemporary glass coffee table – which plays off all the antique styled furniture.  Notice, here the wing back chair with its beautiful nail heads, a nice way to update a classic. 

 

 

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The master bedroom is divine!  The architecture is wonderful – notice the low, wide arch that creates an alcove for the bed.  LESSON:  notice how high the bed is – it was probably placed on risers purchased from Bed, Bath and Beyond or somewhere similar.   This is an excellent way to update a bedroom.  Notice the two stacked baskets that double as a night table.  The bedding is simple, a plain linen coverlet and pillows – no fancy trims to spoil the look.   The sconces are just the right touch of “industrial” to add another texture – iron.   Again, antique shutters are used to bring texture and architectural detail to the room.  I love the low hanging trendy lantern over the sitting area.  And notice the placement of the furniture, floating in front of the bed.  I love the antique wine table, simply decorated with a few books.   The chairs should probably be slipcovered in a tight cover to keep them fresh – but then you would lose the lovely nailhead detailing.  LESSON:  Visual Vamp came up with the perfect solution for white upholstered furniture:  she purchased yards and yards of white pleather and recovered everything in it!  The white pleather is a wonderful alternative to slipcovers and allows the use of trendy nailheads.   In the seating area, I love how the ottoman doesn’t match the chairs, interest and texture comes from its wood frame.  LESSON:  notice the great wall to wall seagrass matting.  It adds a wonderful, live texture and color to the room.     I think this room is perfection! 

 

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To the left of the bed, is a small “breakfast” bar.  LESSON:   the wood has been fauxed to look like an aged piece of furniture.  The iron hardware continues the deception.  Wonderful, simple accessories add just enough to maintain the spare look of the room.

 

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Across the bed and furniture grouping is this French antique day bed.  What a luxury to have a one bed for the day and one for the night!  Again, simple linen pillows are mixed with striped bolsters – this fabric is the only pattern in the room.  LESSON:  use a large wicker basket instead of a coffee table, side table or night table.   If this was my house – I would have added curtains and shades to the windows – but again – it looks perfectly fine without.   LESSON:  I’m just one who believes that curtains add so much warmth and romance to a room, they should always be used!

 

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Off the master bedroom – there is a balcony – and notice how the owner chose to furnish it:  using antique iron furniture instead of modern pieces.   They add just the right touch of romance to this French inspired home.    And I love the single, oversized French vessel!   Wonderful!

 

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The owner brought furniture into the master bathroom to warm it up – I love the large antique bookcase used here.  LESSON:  bring furniture, lamps, and paintings into the bathroom to make it a more warm and livable space.

 

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The guestroom – again, the bed is raised.  Notice the wonderful dust ruffle with its hem slightly puddled.  Another wine tasting table with two chairs float in the room – with another lantern over the setting.  LESSON:  if a look is great – why not repeat it?  I think this is a great looking bedroom!  Simple, quiet and elegant.  The buffet a deux is gorgeous.  The iron table adds just the right amount of metal in the room.  The curtains are paired with woven shades – again I would have brought both the shades and the drapes up to the ceiling molding.  I think this is an important point to emphasize.  LESSON:   if the curtains are brought  up to the ceiling it creates a clean line, it adds height to the room, and it increases the size of the window by camouflaging the sheetrock above the window and below the ceiling.   Personally I think curtains should always be hung that way, if possible.  Again, the owner used wall to wall seagrass and I think these rooms are a wonderful example of why I stress using a textured, natural fiber for floor covering.  LESSON:   natural fiber carpet adds much texture and color and warmth to a room – as opposed to plain carpet!   If seagrass is not an option, opt for using a flat weave, patterned carpet instead.     All in all – I love this room and think the owner got it just right!

 

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The third bedroom – it’s nice enough – we can’t all totally decorate every room!  Actually – the four poster bed works great with the unusual, small windows.  I think this room might double as an office.

 

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The powder room continues with the  French theme found throughout.  LESSON:  the owner came up with a brilliant idea to hide the space under the sink counter by using the large wicker basket.  I love how casual this room is.  The books stacked in the window is a charming touch  – as is the wonderful mirror and glass sink. 

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at this town house and getting ideas from the owner on how to achieve a French inspired home!   It’s always great when you can learn from someone who understands design and knows what looks good in a home!

New Car Blues (and white):

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Last week, when I pointed out my car parked outside the window at the Austin Shabby Slips,  I got a few comments about it.    Mrs. Blandings said she had always taken me for a Lexus girl.  Nah, not moi!   Another  email comment was not quite as kind.

 

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But, in all honesty – I love my Jeep Commander.    I happen to think it’s one of the cutest cars on the road (Oh, ok - after the Range Rover or the Mercedes G-class truck,  of course.)   To me, a car’s worth is it’s “cuteness,” as opposed to its abilities or good gas mileage – two things the Commander is surely lacking.   I had wanted a Jeep for ages and ages, but my husband always “surprised” me with some other car, like a Ford (twice) and a Chevrolet another time  - both, really sexy cars.    So, I waited a long time for my Jeep, in fact I’ve been waiting since this:

 

 

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This is the Jeep I really wanted – the old, great Grand Wagoneer with the faux wood side panels.  Isn’t this gorgeous?  I honestly don’t know why they don’t make these anymore especially since there is a large market for these old beauties.   This particular car is for sale for around $26,000.  Pretty expensive for a car that probably didn’t even cost near that when it was first built back in 1987.    Few American cars hold their value like this.    For some reason I like square cars – in fact I don’t think I’ve ever even owned an aerodynamically designed auto.   I just don’t care for those sleek lines -  I LIKE to block the wind with a big mass of iron and steel.    

 

 

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Truth be told, I would have been thrilled with the Jeep Wrangler.   In fact, I wanted it, but Ben didn’t think it was sturdy enough for in town freeway driving.  I’m sure Jeep USA would disagree.    But the Wrangler sure is cute, isn’t it?   At any rate, I was ecstatic and very grateful when I got my Jeep, vintage or not.   It’s my favorite car I’ve ever owned – until today that is. 

 

 

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This one really used to be my “dream” car – a Range Rover.   You know, for driving in the Sahara to carpool.

 

 

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I’d even settle for the cheaper version – the Land Rover (but even the cheaper version is out of my price range!)    It’s great for all that mountain driving we do in Houston.  But over the years, these cars lost their luster for me.  Their sharp, square look became less severe, more mainstream.   Besides, another car came along to take its place.

 

 

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Lately, my absolute dream of dreams, lottery-type dreams, is this car – the Mercedes G series.  Ahhhhhh.   It doesn’t get much squarer than this – or more expensive, unfortunately.   This one will always be a dream – it’s not going to happen in my lifetime.   Although, it has happened for my teenaged daughter, sort of.  Her boyfriend drives this car.  The brat!   ha-ha!!   Well, in his defense, it is a used, hand-me-down from his father, but still.    My daughter is high-faluting it around town in MY dream car!    Doesn’t seem fair!

 

 

But all is not lost for me.  Today, when I least expected it, I finally found MY car – the one that was MADE just for me.   It’s amazing, to tell you truth.  It’s like they had me in mind when they conjured up this beauty.    I don’t really care what it costs, it’s going to be mine!   I’m placing the order for it today.  Shhh – don’t tell my husband though!  It’s a surprise for him!   He’s going to love it just as much!  hee-hee!!

 

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Yes!   A TOILE car!  And it’s even French - how fabulous is that?!!!!   It’s a Peugeot.  And check out the Louis XVI seats.    I mean, why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?   I am SO buying this car!!   Don’t even BOTHER telling me how much it is.  I DON’T CARE!!!!!!  

 

 

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Check out the rear.  I even love the toile pattern that Peugeot used.  And thank God, they picked blue and white toile!   I might not have wanted to buy the car if it was a red and white toile, or a green and white pattern.   Brown and white toile would have been just as good, though.   I love how you can see the rounded seat backs of the French chairs in the rear window.

 

 

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Now, that’s some paint job.  Notice how perfectly the pattern is matched where the hood opens.   That takes ability and talent.   Whoever fauxed this car deserves the big bucks, not that faux painters are starving or anything.

 

 

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And it’s a  mini-van!   So convenient for the carpool kids!!!   And finally – no seatbelts.  God, I hate seatbelts so much.   One thing though, I think I would have slipcovered the chairs.  Easier to keep clean, of course.   Plus, I would have put seagrass matting inside the car instead of carpet – it would blend much better and be more stylish.    And I might replace the back chairs for a French settee – I could get more people in the car with the settee.   And curtains?  I probably would add tortoise shell blinds to the back window – keep the sun out…….And, let’s see, what else????? 

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Leave it to the French to come up with this beauty.   No one, I mean no one, does it better than the French.  Viva la France!   OK, I’m off to transfer the funds to Paris.  Au revoir!

 

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Thank you to Beadboard UpCountry in Brenham, Texas for the tip!    Be sure to visit their web site here AND if you go to Round Top or you just happen to be anywhere near Chappell Hill or Brenham, stop by and visit.  Beadboard UpCountry is the best decor store in the Brenham  area – by far!

Visual Comfort/Circa Lighting Warehouse Sale

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One of my favorite places to shop for lamps and lighting fixtures is Circa Lighting – the retail store with locations in Houston, Atlanta, Savannah and Charleston.  Their fixtures are a cut above other lighting stores -  the designs are refined and timeless - classy is the best word to describe the product.   The company prides itself on it finishes, many of which are “living” such as nickel, designed to patina over time.   Inspiration comes from different places – from the flea markets of Paris to the imagination of some of America’s top designers. 

 

There is a fixture for any decor – be it traditional or starkly contemporary.    Circa Lighting never disappoints – in fact, it only improves.  The original designer roster of Thomas O’Brien and Eric Cohler has grown and the new faces are very exciting.  Cote de Texas Top 10 Designers Michael S. Smith and  Suzanne Kasler are now on board designing, as are  Clodagh, Barbara Barry, Alexa Hampton and most exciting, Houstonian great Randy Powers.  Amazing!  

 

Since their retail stores are limited to just four cities, the Circa Lighting web site is a perfect way to peruse the line and make a purchase.   Rest assured that the quality is top notch – the finishes are beautiful, the shades are special, and the craftsmanship is superb.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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La Dolce Vita, another Houston blogger emailed me this flyer above – she knows all the inside goings-on at Visual Comfort – the wholesale side of Circa Lighting.  Loyal La Dolce Vita readers know that Paloma’s husband works at Visual Comfort – so she always has the latest scoop.    Paloma’s exciting news today is there is going to be a huge sale at Visual Comfort’s warehouse in Houston.  WOW!    The doors at 2021 Bingle Road will be open to the public this Saturday, Dec. 6th from 9 am to 4 pm.  Members of the Trade get a sneak peek on Friday, Dec. 5th from 9 am until 3 pm.  Designers – be sure you bring your Tax I.D. 

After getting the flyer, I rushed over to  Circa Lighting’s web site to scope out what might be on sale Friday.  I was thrilled to note it has recently been updated to include all their new designers.    Three of them really caught my eye:

 

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First - Atlanta interior designer Suzanne Kasler’s designs for Circa Lighting are really exciting and totally fit my design aesthetic.  This chandelier, the Percival, comes in two sizes and is the star of her line.   This style is really hot right now – and I think Kasler’s version is one of the prettiest I’ve seen.  

 

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Kasler’s  Quatrefoil floor lamp comes in two finishes and is really a stunner.   The design is reminiscent of the Quatrefoil chair she debuted in her new furniture line for Hickory Chair. 

 

 

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This pair of wall sconces, the Sebastian, are in the old white wood finish, with two antique portraits inset in the frame – just divine!  I would use these flanking a large gilded antique mirror or a French buffet a deux. 

 

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Kasler’s  Roswell sconce has a linen “shield” shade – simple elegance.  The shade is available in several colors – but I adore this French blue.

 

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The Hurley chandelier is perfect for a bedroom or powder room.  It comes in a few finishes – but the polished nickel, shown here, is perfect!!

 

 

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Be still my heart!   The Flea Market wall lantern is perfect anywhere - the entry hall, or the family room, the dining room or the stair hall.   I could see using these going down a long hallway to softly light the way at night.

 

 

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Kasler’s  Sophie is a feminine take on the English pool table light.  It comes in the rust or old white finish.  Imagine this over your kitchen island, or over a bar.   Either place, it’s a beauty!

 

 

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The Weldon wall lamp is dressier than some of Kasler’s other designs.   This would be wonderful in the public areas of a house such as the entry hall or dining room.  The Weldon makes quite a statement and it comes in two finishes. 

 

 

The next designer new to Circa Lighting that caught my eye is Houstonian J. Randall Powers, or Randy to his friends and clients.  Powers’ recently created line should come as no surprise to those familiar with his work:  the pieces are outstanding!

 

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Powers is one of Houston’s busiest and most published interior designers.   Young and charming, he recently designed a wonderful  house for the principal of Visual Comfort.   The finished project was published in House Beautiful this summer and can be seen here in Cote de Texas.  The project was large and quite lengthy and Powers and his clients became good friends in the process.  Of course, he was asked to lend his name and ingenuity to the company.   Powers is known for his versatility – he is just as adroit with contemporary design as he is with the English Country Manor look, and thus, his work for Visual Comfort reflects this knack for classic, timeless design. 

Here, the Geoffrey (named after Bennison?) floor lamp is simply gorgeous.  Made in the aged iron and hand rubbed antique brass finish, this elegant lamp would be perfect in the living room or the master bedroom.  

 

 

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These lamps are my favorite in Power’s line.  Made of marble – yes, marble, you have a choice of white or black.  Aren’t these gorgeous?  The black marble has a  somewhat Empire feel, where as the white marble could go from Swedish to Belgian to French design.  The possibilities for these two lamps are endless. 

 

 

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The double Savoy sconce comes in four finishes, but the polished nickel is especially beautiful.

 

 

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The Lancaster floor lamp is starkly elegant – the only flourish comes at it’s feet.   Available in gilded or aged iron, this lamp is somewhat dressy – perfect for between two contemporary slipper chairs or two antique Klismos.

 

 

The next new designer, Californian interior designer Michael S. Smith, introduced his line for Circa Lighting this year and, as expected, it does not disappoint.

 

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Smith’s designs for Circa Lighting  would fit right into his sumptuous interiors.   This lamp, the Crescent, is the line’s standout piece.  It is made of natural quartz stone (!) and comes with a simple yet elegant, paper shade.   A pair of these lamps would be smashing in any designer’s room!

 

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The Eiffel single sconce comes in four finishes, but I’m partial to this wonderful polished nickel.  This would be perfect in a master bath, lighting a hallway, or in a man’s library.  

 

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The Spencer Sheffield silver table lamp by Smith is great for the living room, a library or the family sitting room.   It could be used in pairs or as a single accent lamp.   I love this lamp and obviously Smith does too – this was the fixture he chose to publicize his association with Circa Lighting.  

 

 

There are other fixtures from the Visual Comfort/Circa Lighting product line that are personal favorites.    Here are just a few of the ones that I think are wonderful:

 

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I love this urn lamp – it comes in two sizes and four finishes.  This old garden white on wood finish is perfect for the family room, bedroom, sunroom – really anywhere.  A classic shape with a classic paper shade – it is just the right fixture for the current garden statuary look that is so popular today.

 

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Lanterns for the interior are hot, hot, hot.  Circa Lighting has over 140 lanterns in their catalogue and this is my favorite one!  This lantern –  with a crown top  - comes in a green patina finish with antique brass accents.       Two of these over a large kitchen island would be stunning.   Actually, it would be stunning no matter what room it’s in.

 

 

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I love this light!  A faux candle lights the fixture making it much safer than the real thing.     Two of these would be great on a fireplace mantel or on a buffet table, in a bookshelf, or you could use a pair on pedestals flanking an antique English linen press.  Highly versatile, this fixture comes in many different finishes, sizes, and shapes.

 

 

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This candlestick style table lamp is precious!   The  lamp  is very tall and is perfect for a buffet or console table.   It comes in the wonderful old garden white on wood finish.   It is available in different sizes and shapes and is a very authentic looking copy of an antique – something that Circa Lighting excels at.  

 

 

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This wall lantern – Old Toll – is black with chinoiserie detailing and a faux candle.  Absolutely fabulous!

 

 

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The Paris Flea Market chandelier is a signature piece for Circa Lighting.    It comes in petite, medium, and large sizes – in antique brass or polished silver with seeded glass.  There are also sconces to match in the different sizes.    A copy of a popular antique – it’s a good alternative to the pricey original.

 

 

In my interior design work, I have used Circa Lighting on many jobs.   Having the store in Houston is too convenient not to utilize, but ordering online is just as easy!

 

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This ceiling fixture, the  Double Twist,  was used in the sitting room of a high rise apartment.   It’s designed by Eric Cohler and I love the crystal ball on the end.

 

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For a master bedroom that was designed “on a budget” – I used this simple candlestick floor lamp next to the French chair and ottoman.  The silk shade was recovered in the toile fabric.

 

 

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In this townhouse, on the skirted table, I used the black Chinoiserie lamp.  It’s hiding back there, I promise!

 

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Ok, ok, here’s a closer look of the lamp, still hiding somewhat!

 

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Visual Comfort/Circa Lighting has really grown in popularity over the years.  It seems that every time I open a design magazine or book – there are lighting fixtures credited to either Circa Lighting or Visual Comfort.  To test my theory, I opened up domino Magazine’s  web page.  Sure enough, the very first thing I saw, NYC interior designer’s Miles Redd’s apartment, was loaded with fixtures from Circa Lighting.  In Redd’s bedroom, above, is Eric Cohler’s Shore Line lamp – the tall version.  If you don’t believe me – test out my theory yourself.  Open any magazine and see how long it takes for you to spot a beautiful fixture from Circa Lighting or Visual Comfort.  Trust me – it won’t be but a minute!

 

Houstonians – don’t forget to visit the huge Visual Comfort warehouse sale this week!!!!   Located at 2021 Bingle Road – Trade gets first look on Friday, the 5th.   Saturday is open to the public.

 

And if you aren’t in Houston, the web site for Circa Lighting is here.