Must Be Nice!




Unlike everyone else in the United States, my daughter’s high school is just now celebrating Spring Break.  We are always off schedule because our break comes during Passover week.  One bad thing about being on our own schedule is Passover always falls so close to the end of school and summer vacation, that the kids have a hard time getting back into the groove of school after their long break.    This year,  Ben and I got to spend Spring Break alone at home, while our soon to be graduated and just turned 19 year old daughter took off for a Spring Break to end all Spring Breaks.  One of her classmates invited three friends to tag along with her parents to Anguilla, staying in accommodations Elisabeth’s father and I only dream about.  Like I said, it Must Be Nice!  That’s Elisabeth with the hat on, of course.  

There’s no cell phone on the island unless you want to pay exorbitant international fees, so we are Skypeing each other.  I think I’ve talked to Lizzy more on Skype than I do when she’s in the same house.   Most of her conversations have been about how beautiful the house is that they are staying in.  Talk about rubbing it in!!!!    And speaking of Skype, why does everyone look so horrid in the video?  They need to do something about that!   




Here is where the gang is staying.  Yeah.  OK.  I could probably get used to this.   They have the house on the left.  Another family from Chicago is staying in the house on the right.    Both sides are available for rent.  I get lustful feelings just looking at this picture!!  I hope Elisabeth is grateful and appreciative, especially vocally to her hosts.  She sent me the URL to the rental company so I could see how beautiful the beach house is – I think she is really just showing off a little.  Ever wonder what 19 year old girls think about?   She told me she would love to have her “destination wedding” at this beach house.  Trying to act like this is a reasonable topic for discussion, I replied that she might need to find a boyfriend first, then graduate college, then we’ll worry about her where she’ll have her “destination wedding.”  And why are those so popular today anyway?    My idea of a destination wedding is when the reception hall is across town from the church.




image The back of the house overlooking the ocean.




The view of the ocean.  Anguilla is closest to the island of St. Martin/St. Maarten.  The stone steps divide the pool between the deep end and the baby pool.  There’s a hot tub too.  I wonder if the girls are swimming  here or in the ocean? 



image At dusk:   walking in through the front door, you can see all the way through the house, out to the ocean.




image There is a small pond in the front, which you walk over on the stepping stones to get in the front door.   The front pond mimics the footprint of the back swimming pool, which is also situated up against the glass windows.   Inside, rocks are placed at  the window to create the illusion the pond continues into the house.




Looking out towards the entry court and front pond.   Elisabeth excitedly told me “ Mom, there are lanterns everywhere – you would love this!!”   Of course my dear, of that, I have no doubt.



image The middle section of the large living area.  On Skype, Elisabeth showed me the two garden stools  “just what you love, Mom.”  Aw, she noticed the interior design!  Maybe there’s hope yet for her to join me in my business.




imageThe main sitting area – white leather, which is so beach friendly.  I would like this better, though, with a blue and white striped rug ala Something’s Gotta Give, but you already knew that, I’m sure. 




image The dining area has large, comfortable gray tufted chairs.   The table is trendy limed wood, but – I’m not sure what to make of the white iron base??




image The view at night.  The kitchen is on the other side of the wood wall. 



imageThe kitchen has aqua countertops and stainless appliances.  I love that refrigerator.   



imageOne of the bedrooms with a white cowhide rug. 




The media room upstairs.  I imagine the  girls are spending most of the time at night in this room.  Hopefully they aren’t bar hopping!!



image At dusk, the view from our rental on South Padre Island, Texas.


Truthfully, my daughter is really not used to such luxuries as the beach house in the Caribbean,  so I hope she is really appreciating her trip!   As most of you know, we don’t travel a lot and leaving Texas is not my husband’s favorite thing to do.   Consequently, we vacation at the beach on South Padre Island, at the very tip of the United States, where Mexico meets Texas.  In fact, the international border is only 3o minutes away by car and probably 5 minutes by boat.    We don’t own a condo there and nice hotels are pretty scarce on the island, so we rent.    The problem with renting condos is most available aren’t really fancy, to say the least.   The one we rent is about 25 years old and has seen better days;  it’s had very little remodeling or updating done to it over the years.   I know we could find one nicer, but it’s right next door to my friend’s condo, so the location is perfect.   




Our rental last summer.  Ouch!


Do your eyes hurt?   We rented this unit last summer.   We chose this particular unit over the other ones available in the building because it has white tiled floors which means it would at least be cleaner than the carpeted rentals.   Last summer we stayed here a month so I did try to make it a little more homey.   Each summer I go through a little drill when we arrive at our rental:   I walk through the unit and hide all the pillows, accessories, paintings, fake plants, area rugs and assorted clutter  in the guest closet.   I can’t do anything about the paint job, so I just pretend it’s not there.   Over the years I have accumulated an assortment of ready made slipcovers for the rentals, along with throw pillows, drop cloths, and Indian bedspreads which make great cover ups for nasty condo furniture.   The picture above is off the rental web site – isn’t that couch a beauty?





Here’s what it looked like after I cozied up our unit.   I used blue and white ticking ready made slipcovers for the sofa and love seat.   We bought the pillows on sale down in Padre at the best (and only) decor shop on the island:  Park 100.   I brought the Dash and Albert rug with me.   I’ll buy flowers at the grocery stores and add candles to atmosphere.  The books come from home to read while we are there.   I ruined by Saladino Villa on the beach and ended up having to replace it.   The wicker coffee table was actually kind of cute – about the only cute thing in the condo!





I moved the blue and white lamp from a bedroom to make it look a little nicer, and came THIS CLOSE to buying a new shade for it.  Sad, I know.  The white tiled floor is a plus.   Whenever we are choosing a rental, we always opt for tiled floor over carpeting because at least you know it will be clean then.    I learned my lesson one summer when I had to personally have the carpets cleaned the day after we arrived.  Yuck!!!   We take a SUV down to the beach, so we have a little extra room to pack up all the decorating materials.   After doing this now for over 22 years, Ben is resigned to my summer condo redecorating.   It took a few years, but I finally broke him in.   Now, I think he actually appreciates the clean slipcovers over sitting on old upholstery. 





In the dining area, I put a Dash and Albert blanket over the wood table to try to soften it up a little.   I added the cute Vagabond Vintage bucket bag from Olivine.  The “captains” chairs – well, there wasn’t much I could do about those and just had to forget they were there.   I don’t have pictures of the bedroom, but the Indian bedspreads sold at Urban Outfitters do wonders for quick makeovers.    You can actually use one for a make-do dust ruffle and layer another on top for a coverlet.    I also put down a few more cute throw rugs in the bedroom and bathroom, which really add a lot to the decor.





Even beach towels and bags can become a decorative element. 


South Padre is home for us.   I’ve been going since I was a little girl and our entire family loves it.   It’s a laid back, very casual beach town, with not much night life, which is exactly how we like it.     But still, a Spring Break  holiday in a gorgeous contemporary  Caribbean beach house Must Be Nice!!!!  I just hope Elisabeth doesn’t get spoiled.   This summer, she’ll be back in the land of vintage tufted cream sofas and vivid blue painted walls.

Do you do summer rental decorating?   My sister-in-law does the same thing I do, she even brings her own  kitchenware and sheets – I’m not quite that sick – yet!   I would love to see pictures of your own summer rental decorating.  I need some new ideas!!!


P.S.  Check out the new Skirted Roundtable – San Francisco interior decorator Scott Wood is interviewed.  AND he even serenades us!!!  hehe – that is NOT to be missed.  HERE.




And finally, here’s hoping everyone had a wonderful Easter Weekend!!!

Cote de Texas Interview





I sat down for a quick interview this week with the blog Hall Ready.  Well – that’s not exactly the truth – I actually sat down with my computer and answered a few questions sent to me via email.  Somehow pretending I was interviewed in a studio with lights and cameras sounds more romantic than just typing out a few quick answers.

Kate Shaw, a photographer, writes the blog Hall Ready which has a very interesting premise:  it is dedicated to showing how best to show art in the home.   Shaw writes about purchasing art, framing it, and hanging it.  So naturally my interview centered around art in my home (of which I have very very little!)




Look Ma – no art!!!!   Hall Ready ask me what was the newest piece of art work I had hanging in my house:   it’s my antique French barometer purchased on 1st Dibs. 



image Close up of barometer.




Antique mirror:  Hall Ready asked me what was the artwork I’ve owned for the longest period of time.  The answer is this mirror that once hung in my parents house.


To read the Cote de Texas interview on Art in the Home, go to Hall Ready HERE.   Thanks Kate!!!




And don’t forget, Wednesday is the last day to enter the great DOXA Design Group giveaway.  Go HERE for all the information on how to enter.

A DOXA Design Group Fabulous Giveaway!!!!!!




A few months ago I was thrilled beyond words when House Beautiful named Cote de Texas as the “go-to blog” to read all about what they called “The Ruralists” design trend.  Imagine being in the same company as Axel Vervoordt and Bobby McAlpine.  It was enough to make my head swell about two sizes bigger!   The buzzwords House Beautiful used to describe this design style are:  handmade, pure, sophisticated, global country and miles of linen.  Well, I do want to one day wrap myself up in miles and miles of pure linen – I can’t imagine anything better.


image DOXA Design Group


After the House Beautiful article,  Jaime Rogers who runs the online marketplace DOXA Design Group, took note of the Ruralists designation.  DOXA is a one stop shop for online purchasing of anything home decor related.  What sets DOXA apart from other online sites is how the merchandise is presented.    In order to simplify the process, DOXA has divided its goods into design categories.     For instance, there are the other House Beautiful Trends categorized – such as The Glams,  and The New  Victorians.   And there are Collections such as:  Positano, Hollywood, Santa Barbara, and Upper East Side.  Other sections are divided by color.   Each section is filled with the merchandise that goes with that particular style.  If you are looking to decorate a room in a “Glam” style – DOXA has gathered all the chairs, sofas, tables, mirrors, lamps, etc. that fit that particular style.     I love to go to DOXA when I am working on a new design project and see what’s available under a certain style  or color theme – it makes my  job so much easier to have it all already organized!    Here are a few of my favorite items from the new Ruralist Trend Collection on DOXA.



image Woven Lily Chair


imageWeathered Wooden Lamp




The Monarch Sofa Bench



imageThe Zebra Bench


Since the Ruralist Trend group is so new to DOXA, and in order to spread the word, DOXA is generously offering Cote de Texas readers a giveaway!   In addition, 3 Fine Grains is also contributing to the giveaway.   3 Fine Grains is a wonderful Etsy shop owned by Kymberley Fraser that specializes in grain sack pillows, furniture  and other goodies.  DOXA will soon be carrying some of Kym’s merchandise in the Ruralist Collection.  In order to see 3 Fine Grains merchandise, go HERE.   


image 3 Fine Grains:   offers a wonderful wing chair made with an original grain sack. 


1.  The Rules:

In order to enter the giveaway, simply go to DOXA Design Group HERE, pick out one item you would like for your own.  Then, come back to this comment section at Cote de Texas and let me know which item you picked!  It’s that simple.  I’ll pick two winners, randomly. 


image An example of the grain sack pillow to be on the giveaway.


2. The Giveaways:

There will be a first and second place winner. 

The first place winner will receive a choice between an Antique Grain Sack or an Antique Grain Sack Pillow ($400 Value) and a $250 DOXA Home Gift Certificate.

The Second Place winner will receive a $100 DOXA Home Gift Certificate.



DOXA also offers interior design services.  Check the web site for more information.


The contest closes at midnight this Wednesday, so hurry up and go to DOXA Design Group HERE, pick out your item, and leave me the comment.  Good luck to everyone!!!!!

Additionally, DOXA is offering a discount to all CdT readers:   For the next two weeks, on all orders over $500, there will be a 15% off discount.  Use the code CDT15.   And for more information about DOXA, please be sure to visit their blog HERE.

Lastly, Willow Decor, a design blog, has a great story about 3Fine Grains, to read it,  go HERE.

The Skirted Roundtable – Criticism in Design Blogging



We all get them – negative comments on our blogs.  Or, we all leave them – negative comments on blogs.  Stephen Drucker, Editor in Chief of House Beautiful, in the April Editor’s Letter chose to address this subject:  negative criticism in blogging and design in general.  Linda, Megan and I take up the subject where Drucker left off.  Like I said, I don’t think we’ll be getting the cover anytime soon. 

(OK.  Let’s be real here.  It’s not like I would get the cover for any work of mine anyway.  Who am I kidding??? But, it sounds good.)

To listen, if you dare, go HERE.

REVISED - Covetable Designs: Kristin Mullen



image Kristin and John Mullen’s house in Dallas.  Stone gates stand at the gravel drive.  The house is flanked by two wings. 


Do you know someone who is really talented and detailed oriented?  Someone whose house is beautifully styled down to the last accessory?    A few years ago when I asked readers to send me pictures of their houses, Kristin Mullen did just that – and my mouth dropped open when I saw them.  Does anyone really live like this???   Kristin’s house was gorgeous.  Her pictures looked like they came straight out of a magazine and her house stood ready to be photographed at a moment’s notice.  In short, it was very impressive.   It didn’t take me long to figure out that Kristin is a perfectionist, a talented one at that.   She enjoys fussing over her house and it shows.  It IS perfect - not a newspaper or piece of mail is out of place, nor is there a corner in her large house that isn’t finished or filled with grandma’s hand-me-downs.   It’s so wonderful that catalogues rent her house for their photoshoots!     And on top of all that, Kristin decorated it  herself.       It is all the more admirable when you realize she is the mother of three sons and one daughter!  Amazing.   I was in awe. 



The front door and main part of the stucco and stone house. 


After Kristin sent me the photographs of her house, I put her in touch with a scout who quickly got her in a magazine Beautiful Kitchens and Baths (not yet published.)   She deserves it.  Her house was designed to be published.   It was a lot of hard work to get it so beautifully furnished, but she did it, in spite of all her other responsibilities.   I had never meet Kristin in person, but last Round Top, there she was:   she stopped me with  “Joni, is that you?”   Of course she would recognize me.  I am not sure any detail goes unnoticed by her.   And of course she was out antiquing with a friend, shopping away.   She loves designing and staging for clients and charity too.   Besides being a full time mom and running a busy household, she has her own business, Covetable Designs.  It’s an interior design business, a staging business (which she is just perfect at!) and she also designs and sells luxury table linens.  Whew.  I’m exhausted just thinking about it!!  


Kristin and her husband John have lived in many different cities.  They moved around a lot but seem to now be happily settled in Dallas.   Looking at her life, her house,  her work, you would think that everyday is a fairytale for Kristin.  And it is to be sure, yet she stoically and lovingly tends to her special needs teen-aged daughter, Darcy.    Darcy has been sick for most of her life and this past year she has taken a terrible turn for the worse.    Kristin has written about Darcy several times on her blog and each time it rips my heart apart, knowing how painful it all must be.   But still, no matter how busy she is taking care of Darcy, sleeping at her bedside at home or at the hospital, taking her to endless appointments with doctors, she never complains.  She always has a smile on her face and she still makes time to create a beautiful haven for her husband and her children.   Kristin is a real gem, a true one of kind inspiration.  I hope you enjoy seeing her house and some of her recent design projects:




 Looking from the back of the property on to the house and the loggia.  A water rill leads from a fountain to the swimming pool.



The view towards the hot tub and swimming pool.  Kristin says the pool was designed for both family fun and for Darcy’s physical therapy.



 A closer look at the water rill leading into the swimming pool.  I love the ornamental grasses in the stone beds.



 One of the my favorite parts of the house is the entry and gallery that runs through the main section.  Here, looking through the front porch, to the gallery, and on to the loggia and swimming pool.  




A view of the entry hall with the staircase.  I love the gray painted trim and the skirted table.  Of course, the table is styled with accessories and an open book.  The loggia is through the French doors.




On both sides of the front door are gray painted benches, piled high with cushions.  Down the gallery is the dining room.



 The gallery is furnished with bookcases that are filled with accessories that Kristin loves to collect.




image At the end of the gallery is the dining room, entered through double French doors.





On each side of the French doors are a pair of gray painted chests with carefully selected accessories atop them.



 The dining room is a study in chinoiserie.   Red lacquer cabinets are built into the sides of the door leading into the living room (left.)  Oriental styled crystal pagoda chandeliers further set the atmosphere.   Notice the darling pillows in each red lacquered chair.  



A look back towards the gallery through the French doors. 



Along the right wall is a red lacquer chinoiserie chest. 




Connecting to the dining room, is the living room.  The walls are lacquered a deep brown-black.   Kristin loves bright and bold colors and patterns and she really outdid herself in his room.  A tall table divides the room into two sitting areas with matching red sofas, though each arrangement is slightly different than the next.  A crystal chandelier hangs over the center of the room. 




The sitting area nearest the dining room.



An interesting arrangement of mirrors and frames on the mantel. 



 The second sitting area overlooks the front yard.  I love the corner shelf unit!


image  The pine paneled family room is more masculine in design – after all five men live here!!  A large antler chandelier hangs over the room.



A detail shot of the bookcases in the family room.  Notice how Kristin covered all her books to make them more uniform.



 John’s study: notice the wainscot is made of wood, leather and nailheads.



The powder room – more chinoiserie styling with an Oriental themed wallpaper.  The sink is made of a large blue and white porcelain bowl.  So beautiful!





The covered loggia.  Kristin decorated it with lanterns and zebra patterned pillows.



Kristin Mullen:   Interior Design Project


BEFORE:  The staircase and entry hall of a project Kristin Mullen recently completed for a client.



 AFTER:  The entry hall.  Notice how Kristin wallpapered the entry hall using nailheads to highlight it and create added textural interest.  So pretty!!!  The newly stained dark brown/black hardwoods are so beautiful.  The dark wood really pops the staircase.



  Close up of the area under the staircase.




BEFORE:  The living room. 



  AFTER:  The living room after.   What a difference!!  Kristin completely redid the fireplace, replacing the black marble with a light white and gray marble.  She wallpapered the room and stained the hardwood floors a dark brown/black.  I love her KWID curtains, they really punch up the room. 



Looking the other direction.  I love how Kristin accessorized the shelving unit.   The room looks so different, it is amazing!



 One final view of the newly decorated living room.  Great job Kristin!




Details of Kristin’s Attention to Details!



After Kristin’s house was photographed for the magazine, she felt compelled to send me a thank you gift for introducing her to the scout.  Her gift was totally unnecessary but a very, very pleasant surprise.  I took a picture of the wrapping so you can appreciate her attention to the tiniest of details.  She used antique French household ledger paper, photocopied it, and then wrapped my gift in it, along with a special ribbon AND sealed it with hot wax.  OY!  But doesn’t the package look great next to my faux antique books from Tara Shaw?   I didn’t want to unwrap it, it looked so pretty as is,  and actually didn’t for a few days.  



Kristin describes her gift wrapping techniques HERE.  I TOLD you she was detailed oriented!!!!   She even talks about the process:  “Nothing other than the French ledger paper, the upholstery strapping, and duck egg blue ribbon were going to make the cut to wrap the gift that Joni gets.  I am this way about wrapping gifts - it’s a sickness and I can’t help myself…”   Kristin really demonstrates how such attention to details makes the common, uncommon.  


  image  Inside, the gift was so perfect:  a leaf sprig, an antique remnant – perhaps a gilded piece off a mirror frame or a cornice!  Attached to a piece of lucite, it looks so perfect mixed with my own collection of shells, gold framed antique prints and mirrors.  A huge thank you Kristin!  I love it. 

I hope you enjoyed seeing Kristin’s house and her client’s house and learning about her unique aesthetic.   To read Kristin Mullen’s blog,   Covetable Designs, go HERE and to visit her web site, go HERE.



Finally, here’s a sneak peak at my new paint color!  I recently got rid of all the yellow in my house - painting the downstairs a warm gray, Pratt and Lambert’s Feather Gray.   At first I tried a more traditional gray, but everything I own is so creamy, the gray went blue.  I know I’m a professional, but let me tell you – I spent all day with a crew of painters waiting while I tested over 15 samples of paint.  Paint is one of the hardest things to get right because the little sample cards do not represent the actual color!  In the end I picked a winner – only to find it out it was the color of my already painted trim!!!!!   Urggggh.   I could have saved myself hours of aggravation where I had almost pulled out all of my frizzy, curly hair (no great loss!)   But I’m thrilled with the new color.  Ever since I replaced the tile in my kitchen with the white Carrera marble, the yellow walls had been driving me crazy.  It just didn’t look right.   Now, I can’t even remember ever having the yellow paint, the gray is completely neutral and very soothing.  I’ll post more pictures of it later. 


AND:  I have three really great giveaways planned.   The first one will be this Sunday – so stay tuned!!!`