The Gray Door Expands






When Donna Temple Brown first opened The Gray Door – the name was particularly fitting.  Chosen as a play on words, the name both alerted clients of Donna’s love of painted antiques and helped clients remember its location on West Gray Boulevard.   After more than  a decade on West Gray, Donna recently moved to West Alabama, an exciting and busy shopping destination.    They say that competition brings in customers and West Alabama is teeming with both decor and antique shops, perfect for attracting more shoppers.     Now on West Alabama, the name The Gray Door connotes a shop full of mystery and riches that lay beyond the front gate.    How true it is.  

The new shop, located inside a mid century designed building, is large and filled to capacity with French, English, Swedish, Belgian and Italian antiques hand picked by Donna on trips to  Europe.   There is a large amount of the gray painted pieces, along with the beautiful fruitwood finishes associated with French antiques.   All the furniture is freshly recovered in a creamy muslin or linen – creating a sea of bright and light in the showroom.   Donna runs a welcoming business.   She is friendly and warm, and most important in this business, honest.    She and her long time business partner, Linda Gale White, have a wonderful eye for finding exactly the antique that is desired for this moment.   Now settled into West Alabama, Donna deliberated on how to make it better, if at all possible.  Fate stepped in and recently she invited two new dealers to share the space.   As usual her choices couldn’t be more right.




Houstonians who visit the Round Top Antique Fair will be very familiar with the two who now share space at The Gray Door:   A. Tyner Antiques from Atlanta and Roussett Antiques and Textiles from Austin via New Orleans.   Both are antiquarians of note.   Alice Tyner who owns A. Tyner specializes in Swedish antiques and her merchandise fits in perfectly with The Gray Door.   All the painted gray and white finishes, the sexy and curvy lines of the Mora clocks, the chests, the desks, the settees of Swedish antiques visually blends with The Gray Door’s Louis XV and XVI furniture. 

Kathy Alexander who owns Roussett Antiques and Textiles closed her popular New Orleans shop after Hurricane Katrina and settled in Austin, opening up a store there on Burnet at The Courtyard Shops.    An expert on antique textiles, her antiques are mostly fine French and Italian.  Scattered throughout The Gray Door, her regal merchandise add a certain class. 




With both Roussett and A.Tyner now in Houston, a trip to Round Top may no longer be needed.  I know I used to go to see the Swedish antiques that A. Tyner brought because we don’t have a dealer in Houston with such extensive Swedish inventory – until now, that is.   Donna couldn’t have made two better choices to join her on West Alabama than Roussett and A. Tyner.    If you haven’t visited  The Gray Door lately – be sure to stop by.     All three, The Gray Door, A. Tyner and Roussett are also on 1st Dibs


The Gray Door:    3465a W Alabama @ Marquart.  Contact @ 713-521-9085



The main showroom at The Gray Door.   All the furniture is newly recovered in creamy linens and muslin – creating a soothing and cohesive atmosphere.




The Swedish corner cabinet is one of two.   The Swedish settee is period Rococo – one of the finer pieces from A. Tyner.




Swedish cabinet and day bed – to die for!





 image Painted Swedish chairs mix well with French antiques.   I fell in love with this vignette.  The table has a beautiful patina.



image Roussett Antiques and Textiles specializes in 16th and 17th century tapestries.   Roussett also has a fine collection of vintage Fortuny fabrics.





The Italian chandelier over this pair of demi lunes is huge and gorgeous!  Perfect for a two story entry hall or large dining room.





Donna says she would put this console in a kitchen.     Pictures of Donna’s own beautiful townhouse follow.



image This pair of lanterns caught my eye, as did the chairs and ottoman. 




I love the santos mixed with the rustic garden table and dressy Swedish chairs.





There are beautiful pillows made of antique fabrics from Roussett scattered about.  As always, I love using a high end table as a tea table since there are no true antique coffee tables.  




image Great mirror and beautiful chairs left uncovered – their insides somehow are prettier without new upholstery. 



 image A. Tyner has a huge selection Mora clocks.  If you don’t see what you want, just ask, there’s more.



 image Centuries old set of vellum books.   Whoa. 




Old doors with beautiful hardware were made into two matching cabinets. 




The curves of this sofa are so appealing.  If I could take just one piece home…….



image More great cabinets – these are filled with a line of new basket accessories that The Gray Door carries. 



This cabinet is painted gray and is shallow – good for tight spots.   The French chairs are upholstered in old tapestry.




Roussett has a great selection of Fortuny covered shades.    The table is one of a pair.




image Beautiful hardware makes this piece exquisite. 




image               Great breakfast table or coffee table.  The settee has wonderful lines. 



One of three showrooms that make up The Gray Door. 




 image Another beautiful Italian chandelier.  



image This Spanish styled table is covered in fabric with large nail heads!!!   What a wonderful game table. 




These chairs are stunning.   So is the table. 





And lastly, there is a good selection of painted headboards. 






It’s obvious from The Gray Door, that Donna Brown has impeccable taste and it is no surprise that her townhouse has been featured in several magazines and books.  Donna has filled her house with antiques from the store – I’m not sure there is even one new piece of furniture anywhere!   The house is bright and airy and although very sophisticated, it is warm and inviting.  It’s one of those houses that when you leave you wish you could bomb your own house and start over.   Trust me on that, I’ve been there.     Here, from Veranda is her front courtyard that you walk through to get to the front door.  I love how she used antique and vintage furniture outside – so much more interesting than store bought sets.  



image Walking into the front door is a staircase on the left and the living room/dining room on the right.  A large collection of Chinese export plates are displayed on the wall.  



image To screen off her staircase, Donna hung a piece a fabric that is semi transparent.  Such a great idea to copy!!!



image Her living room and dining room have traded spaces (although Donna told me she recently changed it back again!)    I love the old, rustic shutters instead of the regular built in shelves found in townhouses.    Gorgeous dining room chairs surround a skirted table.  And her chandeliers here and in the living area are drop dead gorgeous.



image Another view of the dining room – with sconces added in this picture. 



 image The dining room looking out towards the front courtyard.  She slipcovered the wood bench.   Every piece of furniture, table, lamp – is so wonderful! 


 imageThe living room – love, love, love!!!  I love the French tea table, the iron side table, the gorgeous tapestry, the lamps, the chandelier – I love Donna’s taste.  Period.




Her famous kitchen.   She completely torn out the brand new kitchen that came with the townhouse.  The cabinets are stored in her garage, ready to be replaced when she sells.   This is an earlier picture – she now has a skirt attached to the console next to the stove.



donnabrownA view of the sitting room off the kitchen.   Beautiful!!!  I love the wine tasting table, the stool, the painting above the chest – everything! 




Another updated view of her kitchen and sitting room.



 imageBeautiful sitting area in the guest room.  I love all her little iron tables throughout.  




imageThe master bedroom – that giant hydrangea is gorgeous.



image Swedish bookcase and French chaise and chair.




image The charming guest room with French headboards. 



To visit The Gray Door – 3465a W Alabama St. @ Marquart.  To call:  713-521-9085

Web sites: 

The Gray Door HERE.

Roussett Antiques and Textiles HERE.

A. Tyner Antiques HERE.



AND:  in other news:

My daughter’s recently remodeled bedroom – featured on the blog Color Outside The Lines.


Artie, who writes the blog Color Outside The Lines about his house and life near Niagara Falls, NY,  has written a long blog story about ME!   Artie is so sweet and talented.    Sometimes I just click onto his blog to listen to his music playing.   Please click over HERE to read the story and see pictures from my portfolio.  Thanks for everything Artie – you’re the BEST EVER!!!!!!


AND the new Skirted Roundtable featuring architect Bobby McAlpine is now up.  Go listen, bring your brain along with you.  You’ll need it.   HERE.

Bellamont Forest: Palladian Villa in Ireland





The July issue of British House and Garden magazine was a stunning issue.    With so many American design magazines no longer publishing (over 12 have closed up shop in the past few years) the foreign magazines have become much more vital and BH&G is one of  the best of the bunch.   The three major stories in the July issue were all winners, but one in particular left me going back to take a peek, again and again.  


  image  Lo0cated 75 miles from the Dublin airport, Bellamont Forest estate is made up of over 1,000 acres.  


The British House and Garden spread on the Irish estate, Bellamont Forest, is accompanied with gorgeous photographs of the quiet interiors and glorious architecture.    The story about this Irish house gave me pause because of a certain email conversation I had  last year with one of Houston’s hottest interior decorators who specializes in contemporary design.    This much-in-demand decorator told me he was heavily investing in English and Irish antiques, with an emphasis on Irish.   He stated he was stockpiling these beauties to use in a future house.  Irish?   Hmm.    I was more than a little lost.   I would have easily understood if he was buying Belgian antiques – I mean, who isn’t these days?    But perhaps, this is exactly why HE is the successful one, the one with foresight, the one on magazine covers,  or the one with just a good eye?      Looking at these pictures of Bellamont Forest, I began to understand exactly where he was coming from.   The gorgeous carved chairs in the dining room and the consoles scattered about, so heavy and dark, are as far away from the anemic Belgian styling as you can get.  The dark brown antiques look refreshing, especially when they wear crisp blue and white checked Irish linen slips.   Yes, I could understand his fascination.   But, I was fooled.  Apparently, the majority of the “antiques” at Bellamont Forest are actually reproductions, exact replicas of the 18th century pieces that once graced the house.   The new owner, John Coote, actually has his own furniture company where he creates his faithful fakes.  Even the portraits are copies – replacing art that now hangs in museums and private houses around the country.    Still, reproductions or not, the appeal of this dark wood furniture became apparent to me, thanks to Bellamont Forest. 



Bellamont Forest is one of Ireland’s most historical private houses.  The front stairs lead past the Doric portico made of limestone to the only entrance on the Piano Nobile floor.  There is a large basement, a mezzanine level and an upper floor where the five bedrooms are located.    The house is a four bay square, built of red brick. 


Historic Bellamont Forest considered “the first and most perfect Palladian villa built in Ireland”  was constructed in 1729, and was modeled on Palladio’s famous Villa Rotonda and Villa Pisani.    The original owners, The Coote family, retained the house until 1874 when it was lost due to mounting debt.     In 1987, John Coote from Australia, a direct descendant of the original family, visited Ireland and discovered the estate in a terrible state of disrepair.   Learning it was for sale, he quickly bought it, reestablishing Coote family ownership.    He spent over 20 years restoring and furnishing the house to recreate it as it once was in the 18th century.  The architecture, especially the ceilings and rotunda, are breathtaking.    But, as it seems to often happen  these days,  the estate is amazingly now for sale.   According to Coote, his only son is back living in Australia and has no desire to stay in Ireland.  Coote himself is now living in London.  


image Bellamont Forest was designed by Sir Edward Lovett Pearce, the nephew of the first owner, Thomas Coote, Lord Chief Justice of Ireland.  The house has been designated in Ireland as of “National Importance.”


For this story, I have gathered as many photographs of the house as I could find, on top of the ones found in House and Garden.   As it so often happens with great stories, other blogs have tackled the story before me.   The fabulous blog, The Style Saloniste, recently interviewed John Coote HERE.   It is a must read if you want to learn more about the owner and the house.  Photographs taken from House and Garden are by Luke White.


image An aerial shot of Bellamont Forest.  The large complex to the right is the outbuildings, including the Linen Hall and Stewards House, which are reached from the main house via a groined ceiling underground tunnel.



image                                      There is one main entrance, which leads to the Piano Nobile level.  Here, the Entrance Hall sets the tone of the understated decor, yet glorious architecture.  All the paints were chosen from original scrapings.  Coote used a historic paint specialist for accuracy who recommended using distemper instead of paint.  Be sure to notice the ceiling.




                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              imageThe other side of the Hall.   The flooring is Portland stone.   I love the inset busts above the door.  Here, the chairs with the bold check linen make their first appearance.  I think this is my favorite room in the house – I love the large Entrance Halls found in the grand country estates in England and Ireland. 





A close up view at night.  Several rooms lead off the Hall.   The door to the library is at the left.



 image Same view, daytime.   I assume the car keys and mail end up on this console.





From the Entrance Hall, you enter the Grand Saloon or Ballroom – the main room in the house.   Here, portraits of the original Coote family were recreated since the originals are in museums and other grand houses.   The furniture comes from Coote and Co., faithful reproductions of 18th century originals. 



image The Saloon, again.  Notice the gorgeous plasterwork ceiling.   The room is unfurnished – left as a ballroom or reception room would be in the 18th century. 




Coote, an interior designer, purposely kept the house’s furniture to a minimum, exactly as it would have been in the 18th century.    He says the house was built for parties, and the saloon is still used for dancing. 



Another  earlier view of the Saloon.  Eventually, all the empty frames were filled with art work. 




The Drawing Room, off the Saloon is fabulous with its Persimmon Pink walls.   The gesso coated console table is one of a pair recreated by Coote.   I absolutely love the color combination of the pink, orange, and blue – a mix I would never have thought of.   The skirted table and pillow fabric picks up the pink on the walls.   The rug is 19th century English.   Modern art work by Robert Doble seems the right choice in this room.   The windows are left bare – the tree branch screens the bright sun, while adding yet another color.   Typical of grand houses found in England and Ireland, the furniture is slipcovered.   Notice again, the beautiful ceiling. 




Another view of the Drawing Room showing the fireplace, but the color in this photograph is “off.”   



The dining room is painted a light lilac gray to pick up the color of the fireplace’s marble.   Again, the furniture is by Coote.   The bold checks used throughout the room are made of Irish linen.    When Coote found the house, it had gone through a psychedelic decorating phase, and before that, the house was covered in carpet and chintz.    Now, fresh Irish linens are used throughout and the floors were left bare.   Again, notice the ceiling which matches the ceiling in the Drawing Room – these two rooms are identical. 




image Another view of the dining room – the jib door is almost closed in this picture, as compared to the one above.   I love this room!!!!   Notice the pair to the Drawing Room’s console table is found in here.  There is a small kitchen located off the dining room, but the main kitchen is in the basement. 



image In this picture, you can see more accurately the slight lilac color of the walls.   Also, notice how the relief in the molding is painted a deep lilac.




image The library off the Reception Hall is typical English Country Manor cozy.   This and the bedrooms are the only rooms decorated for today, rather than the 18th century.



image Another view of the small library off the Reception Hall - this room is frequently used by the family. 



image Here is a glimpse into the earlier design of the room- with chintz and a plain ottoman.   The chintz was replaced with the red velvet, and a tapestry now covers the ottoman.  The walls and curtains remain the same.




image The large kitchen is located in the basement.   Here, the stone floor is original.  The ceiling is groin vaulted.   I love the dressy table and chairs used in this all white kitchen – so elegant.  What a great place to hold a dinner party!!



image The opposite view showing the fireplace and incredible ceiling. 



image  A closeup view of the fireplace and ovens.  The butcher’s table is beyond gorgeous.   What a kitchen!   No one does kitchens like the English and the Irish.  Notice the copper pots in the standing rack – and all the hooks in the ceiling!



image The second floor is lit by a large cupola.   All the bedrooms are located off this main room. 




The same room – the wood floors here had to be replaced by Coote.   You can see a window up in the cupola on the left side.



image An earlier view of the same space – before the hardwoods were restored.   Here the walls are painted blue, while today they are a soft sage/gray.




A view of the space today, showing the oval cupola.   The stairs – made of stone – shown in the doorway on the left are located off to the side of the house as is typical in Palladian designs.





Looking up at the gorgeous oval cupola with its four windows. 



image One of the five bedrooms located on the second floor has the same pink walls as the Drawing Room.




image This bedroom is more masculine.  As with most Palladian houses, the ceilings on the second floor are lower as compared to the Piano Nobile. 



image Views inside either the outbuildings or the basement (not sure.)  Again, beautiful groined ceilings, wonderful flag floors, and simple yet elegant decor.  I love how the huge laundry baskets are shown throughout the house – they add a warm touch to any decor.




image The outbuildings are quite impressive.   Space was made for stables to be built. 







Another view of the outbuildings.    Room for stables have been made out of the converted space.  Plus there is room for more bedrooms, conference rooms, and party rooms.









Floor plans of both the main house and the outbuildings.





To read The Style Saloniste’s interview with John Coote, go HERE.

To access John Coote’s web site, go HERE.

To read the Real Estate brochure for Bellamont Forest, go HERE.