A Bit of Charming England in Texas

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No, this isn’t a cottage on some back lane in Cotswold.  It’s an Arts and Crafts house in Woodland Heights, one of Houston’s older neighborhoods. This charming house is owned by Melanie Millar, an artist whose work is highly acclaimed.    Of course an artist would live in such a unique and wonderful house!   Although Melanie is from New Jersey, she went to school at the University of Texas and received a MFA from The University of North Texas at Denton.    Her work is in private and corporate collections, as well as in the collection of the Museum of Fine Art, Houston.   Below are a few of my favorite works from her latest series:  “Line of Beauty.”

 

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Some of Melanie’s beautiful images are seen on her blog, www.melaniemillar.blogspot.com 

Her current work shown on her blog is taken from her series of work entitled “Line of Beauty.”    She writes:  “In an essay written in 1753, The Analysis of Beauty, William Hogarthsought to identify the qualities that determine the perception of beauty in a work of art or architecture. He reduced this complex question down to one component: the S curve or arabesque which he called the Line of Beauty. The "line of beauty" in my work comes from ornamental iron work. Certainly Hogarth over simplified the question. I think our cultural/visual wiring programs us to associate these ornamental motifs with pleasure and beauty, which is how I hope these works are perceived.”

 

 

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She Can't Hear You, oil on canvas, 30"x28"

 

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archival digital print with mixed media on paper, 40"x30"

 

 

 

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Recently, Melanie’s house was featured on the Woodland Heights Home Tour.   The house was built in 1915 – and for Houston, that’s ancient!  Even in Woodland Heights, this is one of the oldest houses.   The homebuilder lived here, so he incorporated many builder upgrades.   It’s the dining room windows that really catch your eye – wood mullioned windows, original to the house – they are simply gorgeous.   The house is small – just 1100 sq. ft, 2 bedrooms and 1 bath – and it has barely been touched through the years. 

 

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The dining room window, including its hardware, is original to the house, and is the focal point of the façade.  In Houston where most of houses are from the second half of the 1900s, older houses are so special.    Melanie moved in this house in 2000.  She had first seen it in 1986 and fell in love at first sight.  It was up for sale in 1987 but she had just purchased another house nearby.   Her friend bought the house instead.   When her friend put it up for sale in 2000, Melanie finally made the move and bought her dream house. 

 

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  The décor is a study in contrast – everything is either light or dark, black or white. 

In the living room, the fireplace, window seats and bookshelves are all original.  The art work above the mantle is by Melanie Millar.   The floors in the living and dining room are oak, a builder’s upgrade.  The rest of the house has pine floors.   Melanie has furnished her house with pieces scavenged in her neighborhood, including Stardust Antiques on 11th street and other shops on 19th Street.  If you aren’t familiar with the area, The Heights has great shopping.   White slipcovers cover the matching love seats. 

 

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I love that center table.

 

 

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  And looking towards the back wall.  I love all the dark, black antiques – they really stand out against all the white of the walls and the slipcovers.  Melanie says that the only fine antique in the house is the Philadelphia Queen Anne corner chair which is a family piece.

 

 

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Of course this diptych on paper is by the homeowner, Melanie Millar. 

 

 

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Close up of the center table.

 

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And looking towards the front porch. 

 

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The dining room with the set of windows that first attracted the homeowner.  The windows and the hardware are original to the house and they have been painted shut in order to minimize damage.  This really is so English looking – not Texan at all!

 

 

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The large pine dining table also serves as a library table.

 

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Along one wall is a long console.

 

 

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Melanie is currently working a project, photographing nests – transferring the photo image to light sensitive printing plates to produce etching. 

 

 

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Though there is no picture of the kitchen, the cabinets are from a 1950’s renovation and everything else was updated.   The kitchen shares the same paneling as the breakfast nook which is original to the house.   The bench, though, was added during the 50s renovation.    The light fixture came from Balinska’s, a shop once located on 19th street.

 

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The custom table top is from Installations on 22th Street.  The art work along the back wall is Melanie’s.  And, that is a metal blackboard.

 

 

 

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The Powder Room/guest bathroom/master bathroom – all in one.  This room was completely updated.  The lavatory is a reproduction of an Italian piece from the early 20th century, all the fixtures are an unusual silver plate.   The art work on the upper right is an engraving by Melanie’s great grandfather documenting the placement of the capstone on the Washington Monument.  It is dated 1865 – what a story must be behind it!!!!  Hiding behind the door is a study done by the owner’s grandfather in architecture school, dated 1914.  It’s obvious where she gets her talent from.   The skirt is a dark blue and white, further examples of the strong contrasts found throughout.    Notice the darling doorknob and notice the beautiful marble marble. 

 

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The master bedroom is the fulfillment of the owner’s vision.  She designed and hand printed all the bed fabrics!!!  Amazing!    The two bedrooms on the back of the house look out at the courtyard.   Before, there were windows here, but recently Melanie removed those and added French doors and a wood deck, along with a stone terrace.  Now the outdoors and indoors are visually connected and feel as one room. 

 

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Another look at the owner’s designed linens.

 

 

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Next to the bed is this charming chair from Watkins Culver which sits underneath art work by Melanie. 

 

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I love the pillows!

 

 

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Melanie’s favorite possession is this chest from New Hampshire, dating from the 1700s.  It is black painted pine, made to look like mahogany.   The patina is incredible.

 

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The best part – is the carving “Keep Out”  probably done by J.A., a temperamental teenaged boy.  Imagine how much trouble he got in for carving up his chest!

 

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A close up of her hand screened designs. 

 

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And, a close up of her greyhound in her wicker bed with ticking mattress.  Here you can see the blue and white curtains close up.

 

 

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The second bedroom/office/TV room also leads off the deck through the new French doors out to the courtyard.  Behind the courtyard is the house’s garage.  Here in the Heights and the Woodland Heights, most of the garages face back alleyways – lucky!!!!!   These pillows were also designed and hand screened by Melanie.

Melanie notes that the architectural historian who looked at the house for eligibility for the tour was surprised to find original built in bedroom closets in a house this old.   He said it was very usual for such a modest house built in 1915 to have built in closets.   Melanie says the closets are too cluttered to show here!   I can truly relate to that.

 

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The back courtyard with the French door leading out from the guest room. 

 

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And the wood deck and French door leading out from the master bedroom.  Almost everything in the courtyard blooms white, except for the Cecile Bruner roses. 

 

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And there was even room for a fountain which was added when the doors and patio were installed.  Melanie says that the entire feel of the house has changed since the courtyard was opened up to the house!

 

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I hope you have enjoyed this wee bit of England in Texas!!  Be sure to visit Melanie Millar’s web site to view all her art work.  www.melaniemillar.blogspot.com

And a huge thank you to Melanie for inviting us into her charming house!!!

 

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The Skirted Roundtable has a new recording up that has been generating some email discussion.  It’s all about blogging and product pitches. Judging by the emails, not everyone agrees with us on this one, but it is what it is.  Can’t take it back now.  We do have two nationally known interior designers in the can for the next two weeks!  And we have a huge surprise interview coming up – someone that no one thought we would ever get, considering…well…..I’ll tell you more about it when the time comes!

 

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Be sure to listen.    Go here:   www.skirtedroundtable.blogspot.com

 

 

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And finally, today, I want to introduce a new sponsor on Cote de Texas:  Greige. 

As they say, “We are here to bring you beautiful products and inspiration to help you create an environment that is a reflection of you.”

This week, Greige is now offering a 10% discount for Cote de Texas readers. 

 

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To access their web page, go to

http://www.shopgreige.com/

To get your 10% discount, enter the code:  Cote10

 

Antiques, Furnishings and Jewelry Sale in Houston

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AND FOR HOUSTONIANS:  Mignon Favrot Topping returns with a house full of antique furniture.  

The show begins this Thursday, April 7 through Saturday, April 9.

 

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Here is all the information you need, above!

 

 

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Besides the antiques, Liz Sloss’s jewelry will be featured.

 

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And, Kathy Slater’s beautiful coffee tables will be there too.  To visit Kathy’s wonderful New Orleans shop, go HERE.

Be sure to drop by this Thursday – Saturday to see all the merchandise AND the beautiful house located in the Houston Heights at 1409 Allston.

Decorating Updates at Cote de Texas

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My client’s curtains that made me want some just like hers!

 

You know the old adage – don’t start redecorating unless you are ready to redo the whole place.   Updating one thing makes everything else look dated.   That’s exactly what happened when, on a whim, I decided to change out the tile countertops in my kitchen for white marble.  While the new gleaming marble looked great, everything else then looked … not so great.  At the time all my walls were painted a light, warm yellow with gray trim and my entire downstairs décor was designed around those yellowish walls.   Once the marble countertops arrived, everything else in the house was out of sync:  yellow paint and white marble doesn’t look all that great together.  It drove me crazy.   It’s been a slow process to rectify since I couldn’t afford to just redo everything all at once and truthfully, I wasn’t mentally ready to do that either.  I hadn’t a clue what I wanted or which direction to go, but, it was obvious the yellow paint had to go, immediately.   After testing about 15 gray samples, the downstairs and upstairs landing were painted a soft, taupe-ish gray (Pratt and Lambert Feathered Gray.)  Afterwards, the family room and kitchen looked a little better, but the living room and dining room with their yellow fabrics made no sense.   I’m still working on those front rooms, but I’ll show you what I’ve done to the back ones. 

 

 

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The dog door:  for 17 years, the door was right next to the window, prohibiting any curtains which would have blocked it.

 

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I finally had the brainstorm that in order to have curtains,  I would have to move the door to the breakfast room!   Took me 17 years to come to this conclusion. 

 

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The new dog door:  Raul added the concrete stairs on which we carved out the dogs names.  Now, how do we keep possums and other critters out of the house?

Ever since I worked on my neighbor’s house last year and added curtains to her family room, I’ve been wanting to do the same to mine.  Our two rooms are similar with windows all along the back of our houses and seeing hers looking so good made me just a little jealous.     When we moved into our house about 17 years ago, I wasn’t as into curtains as I am now.  I installed them only in my bedroom upstairs and in the nursery.   For the rest of the house, we couldn’t afford wooden or even faux wooden shutters, which were so popular then, so we settled for the much cheaper faux wood blinds instead.   Truthfully, we couldn’t afford the faux blinds either and had to put the entire purchase on a credit card.    As time went by and I became a huge curtain fan, I added yellow silk ticking curtains to my dining room and living room.   Those curtains made a huge difference and even Ben liked them, which was shocking because he was so against getting them.    I eventually added more curtains upstairs and one by one, every single faux wooden blind was removed from the house.   I would have loved curtains along the family room’s back wall as well  , but there was the problem of the dog door.   The dog door was installed right next to the windows and any curtains placed there would have become filthy dirty with the two pups running in and out 24/7.   That misplaced dog door ruled my interior design!   While I was busy insisting all my clients get curtains, I made my own excuses not to get them because of that stupid dog door.   After lusting over my neighbor’s curtains, I finally admitted to myself that in order to move forward, I would have to find a new home for that dreaded dog door.  In the end, it was ridiculous how something that took just two days to rectify – had taken me years to act on!   In the breakfast room, my painter, Raul, expertly put a hole in our sheetrock through to the brick leading out to the back yard.  He even added two concrete steps for the dogs to be able to reach their new entry.   The pups quickly acclimated to their changed routine and, finally, after all this time, I was able to get curtains in my family and breakfast room.    Here’s how the room looked before  - with the yellow walls and no curtains:

 

 

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Before:  yellow walls and no curtains.  The old dog door is hiding right behind the lamp table on the right side.

 

 

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The new gray paint and the new curtains!  I used a Pindlar and Pindlar linen in white with a thin gray pinstripe.  The woven shades are pulled up to the molding to visually elongate the line.

 

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We made one long rod from left to right by connecting five smaller ones.  The discounted brown shades were ordered and installed by Monica who does all my curtains, bedding and installations for clients.  For details on the shades, email her at custcrea@sbcglobal.net

 

 

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And a view of the entire room.  It’s so much quieter now with the curtains.  It’s like all the sound is muffled.

 

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So, did you notice I haven’t shown the breakfast room yet?    Well…remember my obsession with Koobo wicker chairs? 

 

 

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I’ve been debating back and forth whether I wanted to get the Koobo chairs for my breakfast room.   While I love the French chairs I got from Tara Shaw, I just really wanted to try the wicker ones.  I thought that if they didn’t work out, I needed some for my backyard anyway….so….

 

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I ended up getting the Koobo chairs and loving them.  But, it’s a long story from there to here, and maybe you can learn from my HUGE mistakes.

 

Originally, I couldn’t decide between the Koobo chairs from Pottery Barn or from Cost Plus World Market.   My thinking was that I should order the Pottery Barn chairs since they were a little bit bigger than the Cost Plus World Market chairs, plus PB delivers and I didn’t want to schlep the chairs back to my house.  So many things were wrong with my thinking.  First, the PB chairs are three times more expensive at $349. versus Cost Plus at $129.00 (on sale.)  Second, yes the PB chairs are bigger, but I needed smaller ones for my space!  I have no idea what I was thinking!!!!  Comparing the two chairs – the PB chair does have a nicer, thicker woven trim than the Cost Plus chair, BUT their seats are unfinished!  You have to use cushions with the PB chairs, while with the Cost Plus you either can or not use the cushions, your decision.   Plus, I waited over four weeks to get my PB chairs – while I could have had the Cost Plus chairs that same day.  

 

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This is what the PB chair looks like under the cushion.  I know – shocking!  At three times the price, too!!!!  Why did they leave the seat unfinished?   It’s ridiculous.

 

 

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These are the Pottery Barn chairs.  You can see the trim is somewhat nicer and thicker, but this is the only visible difference.  They are a tad bit bigger than the Cost Plus, but it’s not that noticeable at all.  And, of course their bottoms are not finished out.  Plus they are three times the price of the Cost Plus chairs.   IMO, there is absolutely NO reason to buy these chairs over the Cost Plus chairs.   I just wish I knew all this, then.

 

 

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In the end, I lived the too big PB chairs for a week and then went to Cost Plus to check out their chairs.  I  ended up schlepping the four chairs home, something I had tried to avoid in the beginning.  These chairs fit around the table much better than the PB ones.  Two of the extra PB chairs went outside where I needed them, and the other two went into my guest room and office.  

 

 

 

 

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Here’s a view of the curtains from the breakfast room looking towards the family room.  I can’t tell you how much better the back of the house looks now with the curtains.  They add so much warmth and coziness, it’s a huge difference.  Even Ben was stunned when he came home.   I probably should have never told him of the change before hand because he was so negative about me adding the curtains.   It would have saved me a lot of grief to just surprise him!!!

 

 

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Here’s a close up of the P&P linen – you can see the pinstripe here.  Looking at the fabric from afar, the stripe is really too subtle to make out.   It took me months to decide on this fabric.  I couldn’t make up my mind if I wanted a pattern or a solid.   I was hooked on an ikat and then a damask for awhile.  I even considered a toile.   But, I kept coming back to this fabric, so I decided I must really like it.    We used a black out lining to keep the sun from shining through the fabric and fading out the stripe.   We also used two widths per panel for fullness.  There are no ironed in pleats and the drape is  puddled just an inch or two on the floor.

 

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The cushions that come with the Cost Plus chairs are adequate, but one day I will need to make covers for them so that I can keep them clean looking.

 

 

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I’m really happy with the results and there are just a few things on my wish list that will probably never happene.  I would love to add doors to my shelves just like Jill Brinson’s HERE.    And one day, I would love to get a stone mantel.  I still need to refinish my wood floors, or paint them, something I am dreading and keep putting off.    As for the living room and dining room, those changes are coming along and hopefully I’ll show their modest updates in the next few months.

 

Coming soon – three really great giveaways – so be sure and watch for them!!