She Speaks, People Actually Listen

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image This past week, Cote de Texas was thrilled to speak at her first “professional” engagement.  Yes, readers,  it is true.  She spoke, people listened, and a few actually laughed!  Poor things!   Ok, Ok, I didn’t actually choose to do this – in fact I was dragged to the event by a loyal reader who foolishly thought I might have something interesting to say, believe it or not.  My husband and friends did have trouble believing it, but, in truth, it was a valid invitation.     Last year, the loyal reader Shannon Thompson emailed me asking if I would like to speak at the The City of Southside Place Woman’s Club – their official Civic group.  “Uh...no – not really.”  (Me speak? Just the thought was positively terrifying to me!)  As luck would have it,  I was already booked for that day, WHEW!!!!!  Saved by that really all important appointment with some long forgotten client.  Thank God!!   But Shannon was persistent and asked if I could then speak at the following meeting in April.  “Oh sure – ok,  I can do that.  What, that’s about six months away?”   (She’ll forget all about it by then, I thought – ha-ha, I’m so smart - I’ll get out of this one for sure!)    Except that one week before the event, I received an email from Shannon reminding me all about it and telling me where to be and when.  OY.   Oy-vez-ez-mer, as my Bubbie would have said.   Seriously, this was really serious business.

You think The City of West University Place (it’s official title) where I live is small?  Well, The City of Southside Place is actually much smaller.  It consists of about 8 short blocks bordered by two long streets – with a total of just 430 houses.  By comparison, West U is huge with 5,286 houses!    Southside is surrounded by West U on three sides and by Houston on its 4th.  Both West U and Southside are very similar places and I suspect most Houstonians don’t even know that Southside is a separate town from West. U., unless of course, they have been stopped by the notorious police department for “driving” through either city.   Both cities make their fair share of money off traffic tickets – some would argue “bogus” traffic tickets.  In fact the day I took these pictures I was stopped by the  Southside Police for a broken tail light!    And so, although West U is small and Southside is miniscule, an invitation to speak to the Civic Club was still extremely intimidating to me, being as the only time I had spoken publically before was at my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah, where both Ben and I were so choked up with tears of pride that Elisabeth actually bent down in the middle of my speech and found some Kleenex in the Rabbi’s podium and dramatically handed it to us – whereas the entire congregation erupted in howls of laughter.

So, there I was the night before The Big Speech, frantically thinking about what in the heck I was going to talk about and why me?   WHY ME?  You would have thought I had just been told I had a terminal illness with all the praying and carrying on that went on that night before.    Yep – I did wait until the night before to write it.   I like to live dangerously.   I had no clue what to talk about, except my blog, which is how the Civic Club had even heard of me in the first place.   The only other viable topic was interior design.   Either one was sure to be a real winner, I thought sarcastically.  WHY ME?????   I ended up choosing to talk about my blog – that’s easy enough for me and then I decided that after the blog speech I would answer any design questions the “crowd” might have.  Of course this was their big chance to have such an esteemed and accomplished interior designer lecture to them!  Oh, the sarcasm.    I even practiced this for Ben:    “You, in the back row, with your hand up, what’s your question, please?”  Or this one:    “OK, people, now this will have to be the last question, I have my Passover Seder to go to tonight – you in the Chanel suit – what’s your question?”     I got pretty good at fielding questions from non-existent people.     Finally, I got down to business.  The speech was written, then said speech needed to be printed out – and of course there’s no ink in the printer.  You know, Murphy’s law.   Rush out, buy new cartridges.   Then I couldn’t get it to print.  Elisabeth was sound asleep at this point.  I shook her.   “Lizzy, please wake up,” I pleaded,  “I need you to print something for me on your printer.   Please.   I am begging you,”  panic rising in my voice.   “If you don’t wake up right this instant and do this for me I promise you, I will NEVER do you a favor ever again!!!!”  I screamed in her ear.   No response.  Boy, that girl can really sleep.   Back downstairs, slightly hysterical at this point, I realized I had put the new print cartridges in backwards, and  finally after untold hours, I had my infamous speech printed out and ready to go.   Except by this time it was 2:00 in the morning and I still needed to practice it at least once to see how long it was.  It looked really long on paper – who knew I had so much vital blogging information to share with Southsiders!   With a house full of sleeping people, including Lizzy’s two friends, I went outside to my car and read it out loud.  Clocked in at just over 10 minutes.  Better check that to be sure.  Read it again, with more inflection and a little humor, hey – the whole situation was hysterical, me sitting in my car in the middle of the night talking to myself about how I discovered The Peak of  Chic and Style Court, all the while hoping a serial murderer wasn’t leering at me.

 

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Cote de Texas and Shannon Thompson at the Southside Woman’s Club meeting.   Don’t worry, that’s just iced tea!

 

In the end, the event went really well – it actually turned out to be a lot of fun.  There were about 20 women there, maybe 30 – I can’t judge that.  Maybe a lot less.  Let’s just say it wasn’t exactly the size of the Democratic Convention.    It was at someone’s home, so it was all really casual.   I didn’t know anyone there except the girl who had invited me, Shannon Thompson – though in truth we had only exchanged a few emails!  And there was also Jackie Sharbrough, the girl who owns The Urban Market - she and I had exchanged about 10 emails – so I knew her much better.  Being as insecure as I am (yes folks, Cote de Texas is extremely shy and insecure!)  I stuck to my two email buds,  they were so nice and friendly.   In truth, everyone there was so warm and welcoming.    After a delicious lunch, it was time to give my “speech” and Shannon gave me such an introduction you would have thought I was Arianna Huffington herself.   The speech went off without a hitch.   I think they might have even enjoyed it.   They actually laughed at parts of it and even asked questions during it – it was all really informal.  Thank you God, again!    The questions afterward about design went even better.  Except that I’m getting so bad at quickly recalling proper nouns and  names, there was a lot of this:   “my favorite shop is that one, on, you–know, that street by, you–know,  that shop on the corner of, you-know”  - while my poor 54-year-old brain tried to fire its synapses.  Shannon quickly filled in for me whenever I got tripped up – she’s a lot younger though.   Just wait Shannon – your time will come!   When it was all over and I could finally relax, I realized I had had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed it.   I wasn’t nearly as nervous as I thought I would be, in fact, while speaking I wasn’t nervous at all.   The biggest thing I was worried about during the speech was if I looked fat, wait – take that back – I worried about HOW fat I looked:  really fat, just a little overweight, chubby, mildly obese, morbidly obese, or hopefully this one – pleasingly plump (pleasingly to whom, I wonder?)    I left, clutching a beautiful thank-you hydrangea plant, wishing that I lived in Southside instead of West U – I would love to be a part of their civic group, they are such a great bunch of women.    If you do live in Southside, I would heartedly suggest you join this club.  It meets nine times a year, and there is a different speaker each time.   If you are new to the area, it would be a really great way to meet your neighbors. 

 

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Moi and Jackie Sharbrough, mistress of the great Urban Market!

 

So, I suppose if I could repeat the same exact speech, Cote de Texas might be ready to go big time, like the West University Garden Club, or maybe the annual alumni meeting of my college sorority – if there was such a thing.  There’s not, hehe.      But yes, if anyone asks, I’m taking it on the road:  Cote de Texas:  A Concise History of The Blog,  followed by a question and answer session about Interior Design! What a winner!   Any takers?

 

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Reading “the speech.”  I wish there were more pictures!  Only four were taken.    I would have loved to get pictures of all the women and the house!  It was so beautiful!!!!!!

 

So what does The City of  Southside Place look like?

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Southside Place is bordered by West University Place on three sides.  The blue street sign is West U’s, while the black one is Southside’s.   West University and Southside both have installed these vintage street lights.

 

The City of Southside Place’s history began in 1925, with just three houses and a swimming pool that was installed at the large park in the middle of the town.   The park and pool remain a major selling point today.   Few of the original bungalows are still standing, having been replaced with new, much larger houses.    Originally, the city was completely barren, so a forest of Chinese Tallow trees were planted because Tallows grow so fast.  Fast growing trees aren’t long living trees, though.   West University also planted multitudes of Tallows – today these trees, now considered “trash” trees, are all on their last limb, so to speak.   The original Southside houses on large lots came with a chicken house out back along with fruit bearing fig trees.  Before air conditioning, the houses were designed to catch cross winds and most had ceiling fans, which are still very popular in Houston.  There was a back porch for block ice deliveries.   During the depression, when generations of families lived together to save money, the houses were built with one bedroom that had its own door to the outside to ensure privacy for the visiting relatives.  Southside opened with all the modern conveniences, some still new for the times:  curbs, concrete sidewalks, and storm and sanitary sewer  systems.  The lots were larger than the typical West U lot – and this was heavily advertised.   The original brochures read:   How many times have you wished for a REAL HOME, one that wasn’t crowded onto a 50 foot by 10o foot lot.   Hint, hint – like those in West U!

 

 

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An adorable original bungalow, which has been added onto on the back, preserving the vintage facade.  Love the picket fence and porch.

 

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This is an example of a larger, older home that has not been torn down.   Great curb appeal.

 

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This original two story house has been very well maintained.   Houses like these are too valuable to be torn down to make room for a newer one.

 

 

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An original style pink bungalow without much updating done, though it still retains its small-town charm. 

 

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The new houses built in Southside are not as cookie-cutter as areas of West U where in the 90s, thousands of red brick Georgians were built on the 50 x 100 lots.  This is a beautiful custom house built with shingles and a standing seam metal roof on its porches. This is a double lot – the owners probably bought the house next door to use it as extra yard space.  You can see a gazebo with its metal roof to the right of the house.  

 

 

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A close up of the extra side lot with its own charming gate.   The architect handled the problem of the double lot really well.  A large porch overlooks the side yard.   Sometimes, when the side lot is purchased after the house is built, the main house is poorly orientated to the extra yard.   Here the problem seems well addressed.

 

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 French stucco, new construction.   Again, a double lot, where the owners bought the neighboring house to increase their yard space.   To the left of the house, you can see another structure built on their side lot.   These additions can be quite awkward unless they are planned for from the start.    Here it looks like they have added a pergola to extend out into the side yard to better orient the house to the space.

   

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This family addressed the side lot issue in a unique way.  Instead of tearing down the neighboring house they recently purchased – they remodeled it and turned it into a media room/party room/pool house.  The two houses were painted the same to create a sense of continuity to the property.

 

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A closer view of the main house where it connects to what was once their neighbor’s house, but is now the pool house.  Must be nice!!!!

 

 

 

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Part Italianate, part French – I think this new construction is really beautiful.

 

 

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Many of the new houses in Southside are unique and custom designed, such as this one, rather than built on spec.   The front garden is interesting here  and quite beautiful.   A front loading garage can be a real eyesore, much less one that has three bays.  The architect handled this one beautifully I think – with custom single doors.   The garage actually becomes an asset here, a rare feat to achieve.  I really like this house, it has an Edwin Lutyens inspirational look to it, don’t you think?!

 

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This type of house is called a Texas farmhouse style inspired by German settlers that populated central Texas.   Native limestone and the metal roof are two hallmarks of this design.  Again, the garage becomes part of the design with the driveway  paved in cobbles, and curved to resemble a country road.   The front yard is planted with mostly native perennials and is quite beautiful. 

 

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Another Texas farmhouse style with native Austin limestone and metal roof.  This house looks a bit more authentic than the previous one.  Many younger people, especially those who attended the University of Texas have a  soft spot for Texas limestone – it reminds them of Austin!

 

 

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This beautiful custom  home has a fieldstone facade and a large covered porch.

 

 

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More contemporary than most – notice the front drive with a pad of stone.  The porches have pergolas instead of roofs.  And again, the roof is a standing seam metal one.

 

 

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This house looks to be an original bungalow that has been extensively added on to,  along with a second story. Very unique!

 

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A beautiful yellow craftsman style house, again, with a metal roof.   So many metal roofs in Southside!!!!

 

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Downtown Southside Place.  City Hall on the right looks like it was once a house that the city took over!   And look, even City Hall has a metal roof.  

 

 

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The original park is still the heart of Southside Place – it is in the middle of the town and is as long as one-half of an entire street and as wide as two  – really huge.  There is a new club house which you can see on the right – with the metal roof, of course, and the large pool is where the blue pavilions are.    Many teenagers who live in Southside work here in the summer as camp counselors and lifeguards.   

 

Thanks again to the Southside Woman’s Civic Club and especially to Shannon Thompson and Jackie Sharbrough for their kindness and friendship.   I had such a great time with y’all and hope to see everyone again, soon!

Tara Shaw Antiques and MAISON

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I once gave my life for Tara Shaw, almost.  This is what happened:

You know how I say that I hyperventilate for antiques?   Well, it’s true, I do.   You think I exaggerate?   It all started when, after years of owning  a To-The-Trade showroom in New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina blew Ms. Shaw to Houston.  We were all thrilled to welcome her, in fact, antique lovers were positively abuzz about her arrival.  Finally, Houston interior designers had a chance at the big time – buying 18th and 19th century antiques straight off the boat, without having to pay any middlemen – and at true To-The-Trade prices.   At the very first unloading show, there was a preview of the inventory the day before the sale.    The next day, the line at the door was very long  and everyone was given a number.   Once your number was called, you could run into Tara Shaw, race to what you had previewed the day before, pray it hadn’t been sold, and if it was still available, you would pull the top tag and the antique was yours.  That day I suffered much anxiety because my number was quite high and I nervously fidgeted watching most of the people in line be let inside before my number was finally called.  But luck was with me and what I had chosen to buy the day before was still available.   Later that day, when the time came to pay, to my horror I didn’t have my wallet and had to run home like a maniac to get it before the shop closed.  All the way home, my heart was racing as I weaved in and out on the back streets trying to beat the closing.  At my house, I bolted upstairs to get my checkbook, and back in my car I noticed my heart was practically beating out of my chest, beating so hard, and or so long, that it scared me, and I thought “I am actually having a heart attack over buying a set of antique chairs!”  The next day I made my first appointment with a cardiologist.   When the doctor asked why I was there, I explained:   “I was at Tara Shaw’s opening sale and my heart was beating like crazy and wouldn’t stop!”     After a battery of tests, he pronounced me alive and healthy but lectured me about getting too excited at Tara Shaw’s.  Don’t laugh.  It’s a true story.   I seriously thought I was having a heart attack over Tara Shaw’s beautiful antiques!  

And I’m not alone.   The store seems to have that effect on people.   Tara Shaw, the beautiful and chic shop owner, has an unerring eye for what you want.  Her shops are filled with just the very antique you lusted after in Veranda last month or on  Southern Accent’s current cover.   She specializes in French, Italian and Swedish antiques with their beautiful woods, the painted finishes, or the gilding done to perfection.  The showrooms’ ceilings drip with crystal chandeliers, or  lustres, as Tara prefers to use the original language when describing her goods.    There is bois, and jardineres, trumeaus and biblioteques – the array is dazzling and extremely tempting.   And Tara Shaw is true To-The-Trade only.  Really.  And her prices reflect this.  She deals with antique store owners from all over the country who come to Houston and New Orleans for her unloading sales, or they purchase from the internet.    To get the true values  found  at Tara Shaw’s, interior designers would have to go to Europe themselves and deal with all the shipping hassles.  Tara Shaw takes care of that for you instead.   Her prices are enough to make a mere mortal swoon, or visit their cardiologist, take your pick!   I can’t stay away from Tara Shaw for too long and there have been just a few unloading sales that I’ve missed, and only because I was out of town.  My clients have benefited from her shop too – many of their homes are filled with pieces from there.  Houston has been very lucky to have Tara Shaw open here and we proudly share her with New Orleans. 

Recently there’s been some rumblings that Tara was off on a new adventure, manufacturing her own line of furniture, inspired by original pieces she owns in her private collection.    For the past few months, her web site has hinted at the new venture:  MAISON, it’s called.   The web site featured only one picture from MAISON to whet your appetite, not nearly enough to satisfy all the curiosity.  Until this week, that is, when the new Tara Shaw web site was finally launched, formally introducing MAISON to the public.   The debut was worth the wait.    The new MAISON pieces are gorgeous, their authenticity is unrivaled by anything available on the market today.  Besides wonderful tables, chairs, and bookcases, there is a great array of smalls – candlesticks and mirrors, crowns and jardineres.   One could certainly furnish a house with the MAISON line,  that’s how extensive it is.   The craftsmanship is superb, each piece was created under Shaw’s knowledgeable and watchful eyes.   The finishes are perfectly aged – it’s almost impossible to tell the difference between the inspiration piece and it’s newer counterpart.    The Italian wood chandeliers are gorgeous and come in two sizes.  The mirrors, too, come both huge and tiny.    The best part of MAISON is the pricing, again.     The line is realistically priced, just as her antiques are.   One of the nicest things about doing business with Tara Shaw is you walk away feeling you’ve paid an honest price, not a price fabricated to make someone, somewhere uber rich.   I can’t rave enough about Tara Shaw, her antiques, her reproductions, her store, her interior design (yes!  she also dabbles in interior design), her sweetness, warmth and friendliness.     If you haven’t been to her web site, be sure to visit -  if you are new to it,  you will need to register first.    And if you aren’t in the trade, the staff will gladly direct you to a dealer who will be able to help you purchase an antique or an item from MAISON.   Tara tells me she hopes to soon have the MAISON line in stores around the country – and we can’t wait until everyone in America ends up hyperventilating over them!   

                                                                                                           

 

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 MAISON:   It’s hard to believe these are reproductions – the detail is amazingly authentic.   The banquette and chair reflect the growing popularity of Swedish antiques - hard to fine, impossibly expensive, until now, that is.   The Italian gilded wood alter table with stone top is based on the original which is in Tara’s private collection.

 

 

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MAISON:   The stars of the line:   The painted blue-gray French biblioteque and Italian gilded table with mirrored top.  The Italian chair is part of the line, too.

 

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MAISON:  \The Swedish dining table is a highly versatile piece – it comes apart to become two demi lune consoles and a smaller table.  Four tables in one!   The chairs are part of the line as is the Swedish corner cabinet.   The gorgeous Italian wood chandelier comes in two sizes.  

 

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MAISON:   a close up of the Swedish barrel back bergere.   What a graceful shape!  Notice the intricate carving, just beautiful!

  

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MAISON:  Candlesticks are so popular today – and Tara Shaw has several different sizes.  There is also one made into a floor lamp.

 

 

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The Louis XVI mirrored table comes in two sizes.

 

 

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MAISON:   one of my favorite pieces in the line is this  Swedish banquette,  perfect for the living room or the bedroom.

 

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MAISON:  there are two mirrors – one small, one huge. 

 

 

 

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Besides the new MAISON line, there is of course, the original antique store – here is a glimpse of the Tara Shaw showroom. 

 

 

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In the stores and online, here are a few of my favorite items for sale.  This Italian lustre, or chandelier, is really my style!

 

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This 18th century Swedish Rococo sofa is remarkably like the one in the MAISON line.   This would be perfect in an living room, or a dining room too.

 

 

 

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A 19th century Swedish clock buffet – perfect for an entry way or living room.

 

 

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A French Napoleon III canape – of course I would love this!   This would be beautiful in front of a king sized bed, or in an entry hall.

 

 

 

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A Louis XVI lit, or bed, ala Charlotte Moss.   Fabulous!

 

 

 

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19th century Louis XVI chaise, so perfect for a dressing room or bedroom.

 

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 To die for:   18c Set of 8 Louis XVI Caned and Original Lacquer Chairs – Genoa.    I would give anything to own this set!!!

 

 

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 18th century Louis XVI chest – such beautiful hardware!

 

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 What every house needs – an 18th century Louis XVI trumeau.    I love the store’s reflection in the mirror.

 

 

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Is anyone remodeling their kitchen?    This would make the most perfect show stopping island:    19c Marble Top Comptoir.

 

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There is always an amazing array of garden items, like these 19th century jardineres.  Of course – these would have to come inside!!!

 

 

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Right now in the showrooms are great series of framed art, including these Italian coral pieces.  

 

 

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This was my first glimpse of Tara – a cover story about her house in New Orleans.  It was the year 2000 – and it made me crazy to know her store was out there, but not in Houston!!!   I couldn’t wait to go visit.  

 

 

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 She has moved her showroom since these pictures were taken – pre Katrina – but what lover of antiques wouldn’t go wild – or hyperventilate – looking at this?   Those chairs!  That table!  Those sconces!   Those jardineres!!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

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The Veranda cover story in 2000 that introduced Tara to the world.  

 

 

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Her living room – with the ballgown, taffeta curtains that New Orleans is famous for.  Seagrass and antiques, Fortuny and linen – a great mix.  

 

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Tara’s dining room is filled with pieces she buys for Tara Shaw but somehow make it home.  I love the chandelier, the Lustre!   The silk taffeta curtains flow into this room too.   And notice the rustic jardineres flanking the Louis Philippe console – just perfect!!

 

 

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In the study, a beautiful Louis XIV chair is covered in white suede. 

 

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The gilded iron cachepot is in Tara’s new MAISON line, perfectly reproduced – using her original, see above,  as an inspiration.

 

 

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In the powder room, the walls are covered in fellow New Orleans designer Angele Parlange’s wallcovering.

 

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How is this for a dressing room?   Pretty nice!   I love that daybed covered in a Nancy Corzine brocade, but the oil painting is definitely the focal point here. 

 

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Tara’s bedroom with more antiques – the gilded console is matched with the less dressy botanicals.  The antique books, the Italian lamp – everything is so beautiful!

 

 

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The cover shot – with, for Tara, a rare English antique – a burled wood bed.  The painted walls plays off the gorgeous silk taffeta curtains in the same luscious apricot shade.   To die for!

 

 

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Tara Shaw made another huge smash when the house she decorated for Emil Lagasse and his wife Alden was published in Veranda in May 2005.   No one could possible have known then that in just a few short months – New Orleans would be devastated by Hurricane Katrina – the storm that forced Shaw to open her store in Houston.    Here the Lagasses’ beautiful living room with its pale tones punctuated with sea greens, seen in the antique table, chest, and paintings.     

 

 

 

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In the house there are candlesticks all around – some made into lamps.  The MAISON line has recreated the candlesticks in different sizes, including one that is electrified.

 

 

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A vignette with a wonderful painted trumeau and metal with stone table.

 

 

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The family room with its antique stone fireplace and Italian chandelier.  MAISON has two sizes of this fixture available.

 

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MAISON’s smaller 12 arm Italian chandelier.   How gorgeous is this????!!!

 

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The Lagasses’ very dressy dining room – with a large mirror reflecting everything, including a Swedish Moro clock!  

 

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MAISON carries a similar floor mirror – this huge painted, French inspired version measures 53 x 95 inches!

 

 

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I can only imagine the meals cooked in this kitchen!!  What a gorgeous chandelier.    Notice the crown on the table. 

 

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Of course MAISON has its own crown!   Italian, gilded wood – 15” tall.

 

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Over the past four years that Tara Shaw has been open in Houston, I’ve bought my fair share.    For instance, I got these sconces from the shop.  I had originally planned to show everything that I have bought from Tara Shaw, but when I added it up, it got to be just a little excessive and a tad embarrassing.   Suffice it to say – I’ve been a good client! And now with the new MAISON line – I’m sure I’ll be an even better client!!!!!

 

For more information on Tara Shaw MAISON and Tara Shaw Antiques, please be sure to go to www.tarashaw.com.   If you are new to the site, you will need to register.  In the box that asks where you heard about Tara Shaw, please be sure to say Cote de Texas!   I would really appreciate that!!!!!