Lighter and brighter

In­te­rior de­signer daugh­ter helps cou­ple re­dec­o­rate down­sized house for a bit of co­zi­ness and drama

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - ZEST - By Diane Cowen STAFF WRITER [email protected]

Every­where An­nie White looked, all she saw was brown: brown floor, brown cab­i­nets, brown fur­ni­ture.

She’d been telling her daugh­ter — in­te­rior de­signer Nikole Starr of Nikole Starr In­te­ri­ors in Rich­mond — that she wanted some new things, and af­ter years of talk­ing about it, Starr per­suaded her mother to pull the trig­ger.

For starters, White said that even though her pa­tio home in Sugar Land’s Telfair com­mu­nity was just 2,500 square feet and had plenty of win­dows, it felt dark and cav­ernous. When peo­ple came over, it could be so hard to have a con­ver­sa­tion that the echo sent peo­ple out to the back pa­tio.

“She had been talk­ing about want­ing draperies for so long, and fi­nally I said, ‘Let’s just do it. Let me have my drap­ery work room come out to mea­sure.’ I took the first step, and it rolled from there. She just needed a push,” said 33-year-old Starr, who opened her busi­ness in 2016.

White found a paint­ing she liked on Houzz and bought it. It brought new style and color to the din­ing area, and adding plan­ta­tion-style shut­ters and triple-lined silk draperies made an ini­tial dra­matic change. The draperies also got rid of the echo.

When White’s hus­band, Lee, 59, saw how much bet­ter the new win­dow treat­ments made the home look and feel, he adopted a new mantra: “What­ever makes you happy.”

The mother-daugh­ter push­pull dy­namic was at work through­out the year­long process, but in the end, An­nie White was glad she took her daugh­ter’s ad­vice, and wished she had lis­tened to her a lit­tle more.

“It was over­due, and in­stead of find­ing ex­cuses to put it off, I sud­denly wanted it all and I wanted it all right now,” said White, 57, who learned to fear change a lit­tle less.

Time to move

This month, the Whites will cel­e­brate their 12th wed­ding an­niver­sary. The cou­ple mar­ried later in life, and al­ready she had two kids and a house, and he had three kids and a house, and when they bought a big home in the Quail Val­ley golf com­mu­nity in Mis­souri City, they made ev­ery­thing fit some­how.

That house had been built in the 1970s, and when it was time for some re­mod­el­ing, they knew it would re­quire new plumb­ing and wiring to bring the house up to code.

They de­cided to start with the kitchen, and An­nie White guessed they’d spend $30,000 to $35,000 and move on to an­other room. Then came the sticker shock: a con­trac­tor’s quote of $72,000.

Lee’s re­ac­tion was swift: It would be cheaper and eas­ier to just find or build a new house. An­nie saw a sign in the Telfair area for a pa­tio-home neigh­bor­hood, and the idea of a place with less yard to take care of sounded like a great idea.

She drove to the area, saw an empty lot on a court that looked out onto a small lake, and that was that.

“Lee told me at 8 o’clock one night to find a new house, and at 9 o’clock the next morn­ing, I called him and said, ‘I found it,’ ” she said.

The new pro­duc­tion home — only a tiny bit smaller than their Quail Val­ley home — took six months to build in 2011, and they took the in­te­rior walls out of what would have been a fourth bed­room to cre­ate a larger din­ing room that had space for a study.

Starr helped them edit their fur­nish­ings when they down­sized, but even then some of the new things they bought were brown: a brown leather sofa and chair and dark-brown bed for the mas­ter suite. On top of it, the kitchen cab­i­nets and floor are dark brown. And red and gold rugs were in ev­ery room.

All of that mat­ters be­cause the din­ing-study-kitchen-liv­in­groom area is all one big space — one big, brown space.

Lighter, brighter

White was falling in love with the ca­sual French style she saw in mag­a­zines, on TV and in stores and wished she had a lighter, brighter and pret­tier home. So when her daugh­ter’s nudge to­ward new win­dow treat­ments worked so well, she was all in.

When she’d go shop­ping, she saw things she liked but couldn’t put it to­gether in a co­he­sive way. She summed up her hes­i­ta­tion hon­estly: “I didn’t want to make an ex­pen­sive mis­take,” she said.

Starr brought con­fi­dence to the pack­age, even if White didn’t al­ways want to take her daugh­ter’s ad­vice.

They started with pub­lic spa­ces that visi­tors would see and then shopped for bed­rooms later.

That big main space still has the brown sofa and chair, but a pair of crushed blue vel­vet high­back chairs add rich color. Tan and blue pil­lows and a tan/blue rug helped lighten things up, too.

White al­ready had a glasstopped ta­ble in the din­ing room, and Starr got new, off-white up­hol­stered chairs to sur­round it. A big new flo­ral paint­ing and silk draperies got a fi­nal flour­ish with a new chan­de­lier over the ta­ble.

The pre­vi­ous light fix­ture was cute but sim­ply too small for the space. Now, it lives in a break­fast area that has got­ten a new life of its own.

When the Whites moved in, they put a small black china cab­i­net at the back of the break­fast area and crammed all of their china in it. A brown rec­tan­gu­lar ta­ble and chairs were so un­invit­ing that the only thing the ta­ble ever got used for was fold­ing clothes be­cause it sits just off of the laun­dry room.

With a lighter round ta­ble, a pair of off-white chairs and a big­ger white china cab­i­net where their dishes and things can re­ally be dis­played, the Whites have a small area they love.

What was a dead-end passthrough area is now a desti­na­tion: the Whites’ spot for date night, when they put their elec­tronic de­vices away, have din­ner and con­nect.

Two guest bed­rooms were full of odds and ends, and White’s so­lu­tion was to shut the doors and ig­nore them — un­less any of their seven grand­kids were vis­it­ing, and they re­ally didn’t care what the rooms looked like.

One at the front of the house had a daybed and an awk­ward win­dow on an out­side wall. They shiplapped over the win­dow, added crown mould­ing and bought a larger bed. Soft bed­ding, new night­stands and lamps all made the room pret­tier.

“I didn’t re­al­ize how mis­matched it was. I al­ways kept the doors closed, but now I keep them open,” White said.

An­other guest room at the back of the house proved to be a learn­ing mo­ment for White. She wanted a twin bed; her daugh­ter urged her to buy a pair. In the end, the room has just one twin bed, a small acrylic writ­ing desk, a night­stand and a cute chan­de­lier. And, now that the small bed is no longer avail­able, White re­ally wishes she had lis­tened to her in­te­rior de­signer.

Fin­ish­ing touches

When Starr sched­uled a pho­tog­ra­pher to take pic­tures of the fin­ished home, it was a sig­nal that she and her mother needed to hus­tle on the ac­ces­sories that would fin­ish each room.

They’d spent months shop­ping in a way White had never done be­fore. Some things were cus­tom made, with peo­ple com­ing to the house to mea­sure win­dows and spa­ces for beau­ti­ful draperies or other things de­liv­ered just for them. Other items came from Starr’s reg­u­lar trade-only ven­dors, and ac­ces­sories sprin­kled through­out — in­clud­ing an out-of-reach art niche in the foyer — were found on clear­ance racks at Star Fur­ni­ture. Starr likes to scav­enge the shelves at the Home Goods store, where a keen eye can spot great bar­gains now and then.

“I love mix­ing high and low. I found bed­ding for the guest room at Home Goods for $29,” Starr said. “When I find some­thing that I know is qual­ity, I just buy it and find a client for it.”

The Whites aren’t get­ting rid of their brown liv­ing-room fur­ni­ture, at least not for a while. They’re con­tent with the im­prove­ments Starr has helped them make in the past sev­eral months.

“I call this the new tra­di­tional. It’s lighter and brighter, with creamy up­hol­stery on din­ing chairs,” Starr said. “My mother has al­ways had that or­nate style; we just up­dated it to 2018.”

Though the Whites kept their glass-topped ta­ble, the din­ing room got a big makeover cour­tesy of win­dow treat­ments, chairs, a chan­de­lier, rug and paint­ing.

The chan­de­lier in the break­fast area used to hang over the din­ing ta­ble, but it was too small for that area. Now it’s per­fect in this cozy space.

Pho­tos by Colleen Scott Pho­tog­ra­phy

A guest room in the front of the Whites’ home had a daybed and mis­matched fur­ni­ture. They put shiplap on one wall and used lots of soft col­ors in fur­ni­ture and bed­ding.

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