Dear Miss Cote de Texas–A Decorating Question




Vermeer:  Lady with her Maidservant


Dear Miss Cote de Texas:    I would love your guidance on how to use color and texture effectively to create a focal point and maximize style in Great Room, Breakfast Room and Entry.  I'm open to changing or adding color, introducing new fabrics & area rugs and slip covering yellow stripped chairs in GR.



This homeowner has a lot going for her already.  She has nice furniture and accessories and a very pretty house.  She just wants to pull it all together and get a more decorated look.   In my opinion, the best way to get a “decorated” look is to have professional made window treatments and pillows.  Have a proper sized rug.  Accessorize the shelves and the tables.   Just be doing these things, you could use an Ikea couch and chair and tables from a catalogue, and your room would still look professionally done. 



Starting in the entryway, she could use an area rug here.  Perhaps a flat weave with a pattern in it – like this:



Assorted antique Kilims from Pottery Barn would be a nice choice with lots of color.  Or she could go a bit quieter with one of their plainer textured rugs.




The family room with sofa and love seat in a soft cream and two yellow chairs.




Looking towards the breakfast room.



And from the kitchen back towards the family room and entry.




The breakfast room leads to the deck.




What a great view!!!  Wow! So pretty!!!




OK, I’m going to give you all my ideas – just as if you were my client.

The main problem I see is everything is the same tone, the same color – a light creamy yellow.  Nothing really pops, except perhaps the chair fabric with the stripe.   Everything just blends into each other.  To solve this:

1.  I would recover the sofa and slip them in white linen to pop the room with a brighter shade.  The white would really lighten up the room and create some contrast.

2.  Another big problem is the window – it really needs curtains.  But, the issue is the arch above the bottom windows.  It’s the typical problem window without one easy solution. 

Now, if this was my house, I would have the window removed.  It wouldn’t cost that much at all to do this and it would really make a difference.  Once the window was removed, I would get a curtain rod and hang it about two feet above the windows.  Then I would buy one textured shade and place it in the “dead space” between the rod and above the windows/French door.   Next, I would hang four panels of 1 1/2 widths of fabric across the windows. 

The reason why I recommend removing the window is that if you place a shade over the arched window, it’s just too wide.   Here is how it would look with a shade hiding the arched window.    See how wide the shade is?  By taking out the arched window – you could lower the rod a foot or two and it would still be make the windows taller than they are now, but more in proportion.  Check to see the price before you say “no” to this idea!  It is probably much cheaper than you imagine it.



How the windows would look covering up the arch window with a shade. While this does heighten the window element, the shade is just too wide.



If taking out the window is not an option - would it be better to hang the curtains and just not use the shade?  Probably.  Here is how it might look:



Better than with the shade. 



Here is how it would look to just ignore the arch and just use curtains on the bottom windows.



An another view.



Just as long as you don’t handle the arch like this!


Or like this!

So, to sum it up – you have a few options:

a. Remove the arch window.  Use a rod 2 ft above the windows/French door and put a shade under the rod to hide the dead space.

b.  Keep the arched window.  Put a rod over the arch and  hang 4  1 1/2 width panels from the rod.  No shades.

c.  Hang a rod right above the windows and just ignore the arch.

I put them in order of which would be the best route.



3.  Next, I would use a patterned fabric for the draperies and the pillows.   Make the pillows 24” and use two per sofa and one lumbar pillow for each chair.   Down inserts only.  Use a simple seam or a  1/4” flange.


4.  I picked out some fabrics from Calico Corner that could be used with what you already own or with the white slipcovers on the sofa:


The top two are new Nate Berkus fabrics which you could use for the curtains and then mix and match pillows.  This would certainly brighten up the room and they are youthful looking, too.  Plus I love them mixed with white linen.





I also like this Suzani fabric for the curtains: 




Or you could go for a lighter look with these two fabrics:



Or a brighter gold and yellow and white:




I love the gray mixed with white and gold:



I love these mixed with the white sofa and whiter walls:




5.  All your tables are the same color, which blends into the floor, again not giving you any punch.  Think about painting the coffee table black and staining the side tables a rich brown.     Also, I would think about switching the two tables.



Get a garden stool for between the two chairs.  From Wisteria.


6.  I would get custom cut seagrass for both the family and dining room.  If you can’t find it custom cut – try this Stark rug that is now available at Pottery Barn.  These rugs will add some needed texture and the pattern adds some punch:



For even more punch, layer a white cowskin over the rug, under the coffee table.


7.  Your shelves:  Think about painting the shelves a darker shade and then redo them with white accessories.  A reader sent me these pictures of her shelves – which would be a great look for yours:



Here are the reader’s shelves and I love the way they look!  You could paint the back of yours a much darker shade than is on the walls.  Then, use a set of white plates instead of a lot of books and framed pictures.   Don’t have white plates?  Look on EBay!    And I love the sunburst mirror on the mantel, instead of the framed print you have.  The sunburst really pops.    See how these shelves become a focal point?   Very well done!



Close up of one side of shelves.  I would remove the second shelf from the top on your bookcases so that you could do something more dramatic on the next shelf – like this.



Wisteria sells a great sunburst – two sizes.



Add a chandelier to the family room – from Wisteria.




In the breakfast room – I would extend the décor from the family room here.  Whatever curtains you use in there – use here and use the same rug.  For the windows,  raise the rod about a foot over the molding, put a textured shade in the dead space, and use 3 panels of 1 1/2 widths on this window, and 2 panels of 1 1/2 widths in the other panel.  Remember – always use interlining and lining.  I ALWAYS use a blackout interlining to keep the sun from shining through the fabric and to make the draperies look thicker, heavier, and more luxe. 


Your table seems a bit small – maybe get a larger one at 48 or 60 inches.  If you use white slipcovers on your sofa, use the white linen here too.  I would also get wicker chairs to place around the table.  They would be bulkier and would better fill out and anchor the space.  Put the chairs you are now using on either side of the cabinet.  Make slips for these seats and the bar stools – either out of the white linen, or one of the patterned fabrics.   Take off the shades on the chandy– those are a little distracting and replace them with plain shades.  



Ballard Designs makes these great looking wicker chairs.   These would help fill out the space and add lots of texture and punch.


I hope I’ve give you enough ideas to give your rooms more texture and focal points.  Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful home with us!!!

If anyone has any other ideas for the windows – or the rooms in general, please leave a comment to share them!


AND, if YOU have a decorating question – email me at


FINALLY - WOW!!!!!  A sale at BROWN!!!!!!!




Pillows and More!



I’m a huge fan of using pillows in décor – well, I guess everyone is! But whenever I am designing a room, I give the pillows a lot of thought – it’s not something that I just leave to the last minute. Lately I like two kinds of pillows - either velvet or “antique” pillows, made from old textiles like pieces of tapestry, Fortuny or appliqued stump work.



In this living room, I used brown velvet pillows. I usually like to put only 2 or 3 at the most on a sofa. Lately, I use a plain seam with a hidden zipper so they can be cleaned. Depending on the height of the sofa back, I like to use 22” to 26” – never smaller. And, I like to pop the pillows instead of having a bunch of smaller, assorted pillows that don’t make as much of a statement.


Here, two plain velvet pillows, with smaller lumbar sized zebra print to pop the brown linen.


For this client, I used the same formula –2 24” inch pillows, but in a linen print that is on the chairs – for a punch of color. Another idea I use a lot is repeat the drapery fabric on the pillows.


Last year I showed this house designed by Suzanne Kasler HERE. The house was up for sale so we were able to see the house how it appeared in House Beautiful versus how it looked after all the styling accessories were removed. One thing that struck me was how important the pillows were to this design, but the owner obviously didn’t agree, as she didn’t buy the ones that Kasler used for the photoshoot. Here, in the living room, the chairs and settee are pillowless.


And here, you can see the pillows that Kasler used. She brought applique stump pillows from BViz – which add the perfect touch to the room. It looks so bare and plain without the luxe pillows.


And across the room, after the room was unstyled.


And as seen in House Beautiful with the pillows brought for the photoshoot. Two plain pillows with one fabulous, large tapestry pillow. These pillows are from the Louisiana firm, BViz, owned by Rebecca Vizard.


Here, after the styling accessories were removed, a set of flat, lifeless looking pillows sit in the chairs.


Here, the pillows that Kasler placed in the chairs – with a beautiful velvet background. It looks like the pillows were made for the chairs. Notice also the shelves and mantel and mirror that Kasler styled, which was dismantled by the owner. At the time, my comments were – why use the best designer but then not let her finish the job?


Rebecca Vizard of BViz, looking out at a Louisiana swamp, wearing a fabulous suzani coat. (Becky – I want that coat!!!!!) Vizard creates the prettiest pillows, period. They are impossible to beat. She uses vintage Fortuny, damask, tapestries, embroidery, stump appliques, toile, suzanis, needlepoint, brocade – and who know what else! Her work is exquisite. Recently she teamed up with a fabric house to design a new line of pillows – more about that further down!


I used two BViz Fortuny pillows and one stump work pillow in Elisabeth’s bedroom. In fact, I bought the pillows first and then decorated around them!


BViz pillows are everywhere. If you open a magazine and see a beautiful pillow that is more like an antique than a pillow – it is probably a BViz, like these, by designer Eleanor Cummings.


Here Cummings used another BViz pillow on this French daybed. Love this!


Jane Moore used BViz Fortuny pillows in her living room.


And another on her bed and chair in her townhouse.


Pam Pierce used BViz pillows in this house published in Veranda.


In this family room, Atlanta interior designer Barbara Westbrook used velvet pillows mixed with tapestry pillows from BViz.


And she used another smaller BViz next to a large antique tapestry and a tapestry covered bench. So pretty!


In the bedroom, she used two smaller BViz tapestry pillows to pop her bedding.


In this townhouse, Ginger Barber used Rose Tarlow fabric on pillows, along with a smaller stump work pillow from BViz. This small size is nice to add a soft texture. I love the stump work pillows.


Phoebe Howard is a fan too – in her own apartment she used this large, velvet backed pillow made of an antique fabric.


Gerrie Bremermann continually uses BViz pillows, as seen here.


Gorgeous tapestry pillows used by Bremermann. I love the larger size!


In this living room, Bremermann used a few pillows from BViz.


Babs Watkins and Eleanor Cummings used an assortment of BViz – some Fortuny and some stump work. Love this room.


And in the study, more Fortuny pillows from BViz.


BViz pillows are not just for formal French rooms, here in a colorful interior, her pillows fit right in!


And these might be my favorite! Suzani pillows used in a girl’s bedroom by Melissa Rufty.

You can order the pillows online at BViz HERE – Becky will also work with you to design a custom pillow. AND, Watkins Culver in Houston carries BViz pillows. She just had a show there this week! For more information, contact Watkins Culver HERE.

Recently, BViz partnered up with Coleman Taylor Textiles to produce a new line of pillows using their fabrics, which are subtle and have a look of a patina to them. They are reminiscent of Fortuny but with a more contemporary aesthetic. BViz designed the new Passport Collection pillows using these hand crafted fabrics. Below are some of their patterns, which come in five different colors.


And here is one of the BViz designed pillows using the fabric:


If you are in Houston, come this Friday to Segreto to see these pillows. A representative from Coleman Taylor will be there to explain how to order them, plus there will be some for sale. Friday, March 1 – from 9:30 – 4:00 pm at Segreto!



If you haven’t been to Segreto’s new space – this is the perfect time to visit! Leslie Sinclair recently renovated an old house and turned it into a gallery, boutique and office. It’s incredible how she transformed this 50s tract house into a wonderful space. She has just returned from market and everything is now arriving, so the shop is well stocked. Besides accessories, there is furniture, jewelry, and art.


Segreto’s new space. This was once the garage, hard to believe. It is so pretty!! The walls have the stucco treatment that Segreto is famous for – so if you’ve never seen in it person – this is the perfect place to experience it. But be warned, once you see it, you will want it in your house!!!


Love those paintings and the console!!


Be sure to tour the entire house to see how Leslie transformed it.


I love this office. Leslie painted the floor using her own design.

For instructions on where and when:


Call or email for more information! To see the pillow collection, be sure to go by this Friday.