The South may be known for timelessly traditional design, but in this, as in so many respects, Texas is a maverick. Here, we showcase 11 interior designers based in the Lone Star State who embrace diverse eras, styles and pieces.
Michael Imber Architects designed this master bath in a rural farmhouse just outside of Houston “to frame the vista of pecan trees in the landscape,” says Fern Santini, founder of the design studio bearing her name. “Using reclaimed timbers and hand-planed Texas post-oak flooring to set the tone, we added furnishings and lighting that mix periods and styles for an accumulated look full of personal touches for the client.”
To execute her eclectic scheme, Santini paired an antique chandelier and lantern with contemporary sconces from The Urban Electric Co. Pieces from different past eras coexist happily, as well, as witness the Louis XVI writing desk and Louis Philippe gilded mirror that together serve as a vanity and the 1930s French bar cart.
“All you need to add is champagne, and it’s the perfect place to spend the afternoon,” Santini says.
Collected Design Studio
“The young family embraces entertaining in a casual yet luxe way,” Holly Rabinowitz, Collected Design Studio principal designer and creative director, says of her San Antonio clients. Rabinowitz designed their home lounge accordingly, taking cues from English sporting clubs and the homeowners’ impressive collection of heirlooms.
The sumptuous space is painted a deeply saturated Farrow & Ball green hue, which is complemented by 19th-century barstools with hoof feet from 1stdibs and a generations-old rifle mounted above. “It’s lovely to see photos of the homeowners with their friends gathered around the bar, often in gala attire, which was what the space was intended for,” Rabinowitz says.
How do you create a modern feel in a space dominated by pieces from the not-so-recent past? That’s the task Melissa Morgan, founder of M Interiors, faced in this San Antonio living room. Her solution: artful arranging. “Most of the furnishings are French antiques,” Morgan says, “but they’re placed in a way that doesn’t feel heavy.”
Holland & Sherry blue silk-velvet upholstery adds richness to the Louis XVI bergeres, while vintage French side tables from Maison Baguès, a vintage Pierre Vandel coffee table and an antique Chinese folding screen round out the room.
“This Dallas home is a fresh distillation of traditional design inspired by both the English country homes of the Cotswolds and Midwestern family estates,” says interior designer Justin Seitz. “The room was designed to be functional for working at home but also as a warm space to decompress and settle in for reading or conversation.”
An Edward Wormley stool and early-20th-century Jugendstil brass pendant, both purchased on 1stdibs, plus a custom lounge chair all fit with this warmly functional plan. But Seitz added an element of surprise to the mix with bookcases he designed that open up to reveal a secret passage to a charming third floor.
This Galveston residence demonstrates that California has no monopoly on laid-back coastal vibes. “I am always inspired by the ocean and, in this case, the bay on which this house was built,” says interior designer Ginger Barber. “We wanted a lived-in, casual home for family and friends to enjoy.”
The star of the bedroom is the French parasol beach scene by one of the designer’s favorite photographers, Karen Sachar. The rest of the space is fluid and serene, with a pale color palette picked up in the linen headboard, vintage wooden beams and Matt Carmon rugs.
Laura Umansky, founder and creative director of Laura U Inc., made sure not to sacrifice the personality of this 1930s house in Houston’s historic Avalon Place neighborhood, even as she gave it a major facelift. “The home has little touches of its original character throughout, like the dining room chandelier and staircase banister. Any new finishes and furnishings were made with 1930s style in mind,” Umansky says.
The kitchen felt separated from the rest of the house, so she enlisted Newberry Architecture to remove the room’s bulkheads and bring in sunshine courtesy of a giant bay window.
Beveled tiles from Ann Sacks shine from counter to ceiling, standing in sharp contrast to the cabinets, which are painted in Benjamin Moore’s Hale Navy. The graciously large island is illumined by gilded pendants from Circa Lighting.
Nest Design Group
“We wanted to create a vintage indoor/outdoor bohemian retreat,” says Jana Erwin, designer at Nest Design Group, describing her vision for this space in a 100-year-old Houston Victorian. “Having a screened-in porch is nostalgic and something you don’t see too often these days, so preserving it was an important aspect of our design.”
Erwin used the clients’ own vintage trunk as both centerpiece and touchstone for the rest of the decor. “We designed a custom leather bench that is as comfortable as it is durable,” she says. “Next, we scoured pieces from the Round Top Antiques Show, including the leather poufs, art and pillows.” The remainder of the furnishings she sourced from the local Stardust Antiques shop, including the table, chairs, fans and planters.
“The symmetrical arched steel doors at the front of the home offer a glance into this entry and into the courtyard garden,” says designer Audrey White, describing this grand space in an Italiante Southampton, Houston, residence. “I wanted to bring the outside in by creating a solarium feel that complements the view.”
Helping evoke that sunroom vibe are large antique olive jars from local shop Skelton Culver and a custom daybed covered in Le Gracieux fabric, to which White added an antique gun chest to serve as a cocktail table — this is Texas, after all.
“The whole house, which the homeowners use as a second home, was a balance between style and comfort,” interior designer Marcus Mohon says of this Blanco residence. “We wanted everything to be striking yet comfortable, and that idea influenced all our design decisions — even those seen here around the dining table. The pieces were collected from Round Top. The client has loved collecting there for years.”
Corley Design Associates
“I love this Dallas living room. It was designed with daytime entertaining in mind, which, to me, is decidedly more feminine — think ladies who lunch,” says Julie Stryker, designer at Corley Design Associates. “I wanted to create a lively, colorful room that looked both current and timeless.” The clients’ only requirements were that it be traditional and purple — an interesting brief, to say the least. And Stryker fulfilled it beautifully by deploying a pair of antique French bergeres clad in Clarence House fabric, a Brunschwig & Fils sofa and a pair of Michael S. Smith Jasper leather stools, all with lavender leanings.
A lover of color, the homeowner nevertheless needed a respite from the rich hues saturating the rest of her Houston house. So, Ann Wolf designed the bedroom in quiet neutrals. “The shade on the walls is Benjamin Moore’s November Rain,” Wolf explains, “which serves as a great backdrop for the soothing gray-and-white scheme throughout the space.” The vintage chest is by Baker Furniture, and the light fixture is from Arteriors.