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An inside look at a historic Houston home!

While I adore all the wonderful homes I get to see and all the projects I get to do, it's always refreshing to be involved in historic home renovations, especially in a city of tear downs and big new constructions.  I really appreciated the opportunity to work on this 1930s French chateau, designed by famed architect John Staub.  The gorgeous estate was just featured in the August edition of Architectural Digest.  Some of you may have also seen Miss Joni's wonderful write up on this house over at her blog, Cote De Texas.  After uprooting their lives from New Orleans in the wake of Katrina, homeowners John and Terri Havens lovingly restored and brought life to this stunning Houston gem with the help of designer extraordinaire Kara Childress and talented architect Ken Newberry!!! Old time great Tyne Sparks was the chosen builder for the initial remodel and his forman sweet Ernest Melchor still works for the Havens today.

Led by Terri and John’s direction, the team was ready to go.  As Kara explained quite well, “the Havens love the house, they love its history, they love design and art and all that is involved in making a project like this happen. They value and insist upon authenticity in bringing their house back to its original splendor; they truly appreciate the labor and efforts to attain that goal.”  With that, I certainly agree!  I was brought in to restore and re-plaster the interior of the home as well as to finish much of the cabinetry, paneling and moldings.  What a treat for me!!!  We started in 2007, and we're still working on some of the new additions to the home!

The stone flooring and railings were hand-selected in France and brought over for the original construction. Although the whole experience was wonderful for Kara, one of her biggest challenges was mixing in the fresh, modern touches that Terri wanted while also staying true to the period of the home as John insisted.   A compromise was reached when Kara selected a gorgeous, citron-colored silk to modernize the antique settee!

Another shot taken at a different time-the staircase and railing are stunning!!! 

Kara’s favorite room in the house is the library!  With gorgeous French oak paneling that's original to the home, custom Fortuny drapes, one-of-a-kind, centuries-old light fixtures, an antique Sivas rug, and a stunning ceiling that they found, restored, and installed, how could you disagree?!!!

Painted on canvas and hung in a villa near Parma, Italy, the ceiling dates back to the late 16th century.  Kara went on so many incredible buying trips with the Havens - they even brought Kara's daughter, who is currently studying design, along for one of them!

The ballroom, beautiful, elegant, and comfortable, has many unique features.  Kara's particularly fond of the pocket doors throughout.  All the windows are actually floor-to-ceiling doors that slide into the walls, revealing the gorgeous terraces outside!!!  Since there was no air conditioning when the residence was built, John Staub situated the house in such a way as to receive the best of the Gulf breeze during the hot, humid months of summer.

Here's another view which was taken years earlier!  This room was particularly difficult for us. Before we could re-plaster the ceiling, we had to remove the canvas backing from the first plaster job without harming the beautiful plaster medallions above the light fixtures.  The walls in this room were left as they were when the Havens purchased the home.

The music room is perhaps my favorite!!!  Elegant, warm, and tranquil, I love the mix of luxurious fabrics and beautiful, soft hues. 

Here is an earlier shot right after we finished plastering the room and glazing the beautiful moldings to bring out more detail!!!

The home boasts a sunken dining room adorned with the original moldings, flooring and chandelier, as well as a 15-foot ceiling!  We plastered the walls in this room in Venetian plaster, just as it was in the 1930s. 

 The ceiling was plastered in a traditional gypsum plaster like the rest of the home, lending continuity from room to room. I love how this offsets the walls from the ceiling with a slight sheen difference.  The moldings were glazed to bring out their carved details and soften the feel of the room, allowing the wonderful furnishings and fabrics to remain center stage.

The way families use their homes has changed significantly since the 1930s.  The small kitchen, baths and closets all needed to be revamped for this modern family of five, with two dogs and lots of visitors.  “The house had no family room when we began the project,” said Kara.  “Instead, there were only formal spaces.  In the '30s, I don’t suppose any of those things were negative, but with today’s busy families – sports, friends, entertaining, etc. – the Havens’ needs are different.”

Architect Ken Newberry extensively researched John Staub and the period in which the home was built in order to stay true to the intended architecture of the home. Using this research, he designed a breathtaking conservatory to give the family a more casual space to eat and hang out. Kara furnished the new addition with a gorgeous breakfast table and a cozy settee, perfect for a sunlit morning with coffee and a good book.

The new addition also included this wonderful family room!! "Family is of the utmost importance (and enjoyment) to the Havens", smiles Kara. " I also love the fact that John Staub combined the formality of  ‘pure Louis Quinze’ with country French to make the house as spectacular as it is."  She has also mixed the two so seamlessly in her exquisite design.

Going down to the wine cellar is certainly a treat! It feels as if you are traveling back to Europe in time!

This wine cellar is a new addition to the home, created from a space in the already existing basement. Ken outdid himself in the design — so warm and charming!  The floors and stone from Chateau Domingue and the wonderful furnishings that Kara and the Havens found melt together to create an amazing ambiance. A hangout room for the kids was also fashioned from space in the basement. Fun and comfortable, this space was true genius from Kara.  With four kids of her own, she knew exactly how to combine functionality with charm! Sorry I don't have pics!

To keep the additions seamlessly consistent with the period and style of the rest of the house, Kara and the Havens selected tiles and old stone flooring from Chateau Dominque, which has an amazing collection and assortment of old floors, tiles, doors, and fountains.  To see my visit to Chateau Domingue, click here. The wood floors were restored beautifully by Custom Floors Unlimited, Inc..

The master suite and dressing areas are simply divine!!  Painted a solid cream when the home was purchased, Kara wanted to bring it back to its original splendor!  With drapes as our color inspiration, we layered a series of glazes to lend that been-there look.  Here's the room in progress... you can see the bottom half is complete, and we're still adding more embellishment to the top.  The corner panels flanking the opening to the bedroom are hidden closet doors!!!

Stunning!!! I love the fabrics that Kara chose here - they remind me of ornate, ball gowns.

Finishing the cabinetry in a way that would blend with the built-in reclaimed doors and stone was quite a fun challenge for us.  It was of utmost importance that the finishes retain authenticity and not look contrived.

A room for a princess, the daughter's suite is so charming!  Kara created a timeless space that will last from elementary to the teen years and beyond.  We plastered the ceiling a soft shade of pink to complement the fabrics and furnishings.

This project truly had a dream team!  The Havens are as philanthropic as they are warm and fun, Kara Childress is one of the most talented and sincerely sweet people I know, and Ken Newberry had such knowledge and an unwavering commitment to the project. I was honored to watch them all do their magic and to help them restore this historical beauty!!!  In asking Kara what were her best memories of the project her response was-"Though probably some of the strongest memories about the decoration project itself tend to be in regards for different events generously hosted by the Havens ~ and crazy deadlines…everything from an intimate wedding in the chapel, grand gala for 350 people tented in the backyard, a seated dinner for 2 different US Presidents, or a romantic 8 course meal in the wine room (nothing like a party to get things done)!  I was honored to watch them all do their magic and to help them restore this historical beauty!!! Please visit Kara's website-still under construction--beautiful homes!!!

I hope you have a great week!  I'm off to California to spend time with family. It'll be the first time we've taken the boyfriends along!  Should be fun!  xo  Leslie

To purchase “Segreto: Secrets to Finishing Beautiful Interiors” on our website, click here or to purchase through Amazon, click here. To subscribe to Segreto Blog, click here.


Matthew Moves To Dallas!!

I always love sharing current projects that excite me. Although this one doesn't include paint, it certainly hits close to home!  My 24 year-old son, Matthew, is relocating to Dallas for a new job and asked for my help to decorate his pad. Jumping at the opportunity to spend more time with him, I said, "Yes, of course, when can we start!!!!"

I initially offered him some of our furniture that we weren't using, but he quickly responded, "Sorry, Mom, I don't think you own anything that I would like - I want my place to be modern!" Though a bit out of my comfort zone, I was excited to help him put together his mid-century modern apartment on a budget. We set out for a day of shopping so he could see a wide range of things and gain some understanding about costs.  Our first stop was Ikea.  It's probably the best bang for your buck so I felt it was good place to start.


He loved the bar, entertainment center and rug as well as some of their desks, but he decided to hold on all of his furniture purchases until he found a well-built sofa and chair to invest in.  We did outfit his kitchen though, complete with pots and pans, dish towels, dishes, glasses and barware.  As he pulled out his credit card, he said, "Boy, isn't $270 a lot to outfit a kitchen?"  Ha!!  Since Matthew loves leather and modern pieces, our next stop was Cantoni.

Sleek, mid-century modern, he had to have this one!  He loved the chrome and the way it transforms into a rocker when you take it off the base stand.

Matthew was instantly drawn to this espresso brown leather couch that had a cool feature: the back can lay low as shown here to be used as a seating ledge or it can pop-up for a higher back.  Although the piece was 30% off, we went off to comparison shop. 4 hours later, Matthew called Cantoni and gave them his credit card. That’s a change - your child footing the bill!!!  For the rest of the apartment, he wanted to furnish with pieces that had a nice look but were not so expensive.  


George, a friend of mine who owns Randall Edward, was having a huge up to 80% off sale so I scouted it out and took some pics to show Matthew.  Here are some of my finds that he liked: vintage seltzer bottles, a pair of lamps made from 200 year-old Greek tiles, a circle sculpture composed of ship masts from the 1700s, and wooden balls. He was very interested in the history of all these pieces and loved the idea of mixing the old with the new. The entire purchase was around $750 (Mom pitched in here)!


One of my favorite Houston shops, Denny Register, buys up large estate sales and puts their finds in a massive, un-air-conditioned warehouse filled to the brim!!!  We bought this unique side table a a bargin price. Love the bamboo and retro 60s style. 1001-A W 34th St. (713-817-5760).

Of course a home is never complete without something on the walls! I had so much fun painting this work for Matthew using his pop colors of orange and teal, and I've given him several other pieces over the years that can now come in handy. To add a little of the mid-century element, I also framed some pages from a 1930s suit catalog that I have in the store. He picked out the two that were my favorite for him plus one more!

The rest of the shopping was done online.  CB2 is a wonderful place to get cool contemporary pieces at very good prices!

The coffee table, stacking side tables, and bar were all purchased for about $500, a fraction of what we had found similar pieces for!


West Elm also has some great buys. He got the headboard and fun martini table there. Unfortunately, they didn't come in time for the final reveal!!! For the bedding, Matthew purchased hotel-type linens that were crisp white with gray stitching details from Rue la la for 75% off. It's one of my favorite online discount shopping sites.

The last purchase was a cow hide rug. CowHides International seemed to have the largest sizes and prettiest hides for great prices.  On sale for $199, Matthew was thrilled! He decided to go with this rather than the shag rug from Ikea he originally wanted.

For the big move, Matthew used Point 2 Point, a firm that I use to deliver furniture for us.  They were excellent, taking such good care of him and doing a fab job - on time, on schedule, and no breakage!!!!

And now for the Final Reveal!!!! (wish my iphone pics had turned out a little better)

Here's the view as you enter the door.

I love how all the pieces came together!

Of course, a 24 year-old boy's pad isn't complete without the TV!

The vintage suit catalog artwork is so fun!

Matthew, of course, loves the bar!

The kitchen has beautiful finishes. We'll see how much he actually uses it - hehe!

All his UT memorabilia is prominently displayed over his desk. Love how he mixed the clean lines of the chair and desk with the antique lamp which he stole from my shop.

There's a beautiful view of Dallas from the balcony.

We all had a wonderful time getting Matthew settled into his new pad!

He seemed so happy when we left!  Furniture set up, clothes put away, and ready to start his new adventure!!!!


We were all exhausted when we got back home and a bit sad that Matthew had moved away!  Chrissy's already missing him!!!  I wanted to thank my sweet friend Mimi from the blog A House Romance for writing a two part blog series, the first an interview with me and the second on after seeing her lovely home what finish recommendations I would give. To see the first go here, then for the second part hit newer post. She writes a great blog and I was honored she asked me to help with her home.  I hope everyone has a great week!!  xo Leslie

To purchase “Segreto: Secrets to Finishing Beautiful Interiors” on our website, click here or to purchase through Amazon, click here. To subscribe to Segreto Blog, click here.



Why do we love gray?

I love all the gray rooms and accessories that are in home design today.  But, at first glance when looking at the meaning of gray, it's a little perplexing why the color is so popular and how it manages to work with so many different design styles.
As a true neutral, gray communicates a void of movement, emotions, warmth or any identifying characteristics.  Yikes!!  But, somehow, I find this bath painted in BM European Gray to be calm, soothing and elegant.  Why is this?
It's this very lack of emotions that makes gray so calming!  Because gray isn't expressing much of anything, the color remains simply restful, quiet, and tranquil. It allows vibrant colors to pop while also cooling their intensity. Oh I get it!!

Every color seems to perfectly complement some shade of gray - just take a look below at how these accent colors look with a gray backdrop!

Yellows and Golds!!!

Source: The Architecturalist

Reds and rusts!!!

Source: Belgian Pearls Blog


Source: South Shore Decorating Blog


And even teals!!!!!

Some Native American tribes relate gray to friendship, and many other cultures use the color to symbolize security, maturity and dependability!

The Four Seasons in Florence uses the sophisticated color for this lounge that caters to the business sect. It's a smart choice considering how gray suits have become part of the uniform of the corporate world. Dark, charcoal gray imparts the strength and mystery of black without its negative connotations.

While gray goes wonderfully with most colors, picking the right gray to complement your accents can be tricky.  The 10 Rooms blog has some great tips and color suggestions!

I love the above grays from SW!!! They are some of my absolute favorites.

Benjamin Moore also has a lovely one called Silver Fox.  Designer Michael McKinnon calls it "a warm, taupeish gray, what artists call a French gray. Very relaxed and chic. It immediately puts me on the Île Saint-Louis overlooking the Seine. It’s equal parts earth and air, to use feng shui terms, which means it’s perfect for a small, narrow entrance hall, because it adds warmth and air at the same time.”

So… put some gray in your home if you want:
    •    to create an environment where compromise is encouraged
    •    a neutral, non-invasive feeling
    •    to reduce the intensity of another color, while still including it
    •    to create an isolated getaway

Do you have a favorite gray room? Send me pictures to - I'd love to see! We have just gotten a new shipment of art and jelrey at the store--come by and take a peak!!!  Have a great week!  xo  Leslie

To purchase “Segreto: Secrets to Finishing Beautiful Interiors” on our website, click here or to purchase through Amazon, click here. To subscribe to Segreto Blog, click here.


Blessed to Be an American!

America is filled with beautiful lands, wonderful people, diverse cultures, and so many opportunities. I so hope that as Americans we can keep the strength and moral compass that our fore fathers had when starting this nation.  I hadn’t read the Declaration of independence in quite some time and thought I would quote from it with some pretty home inspired pictures of course!

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.


That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. 

Never Ending Memories Photography

To read the rest of The Declaration Of Independence go here. I do hope that our politicians, the court systems, and the people can hold on to good common scene, the basic logic of right and wrong, and put others ahead of their own personal gain to keep America as I for fathers had fought for it to be.


Let's Celebrate!!! --- Start the day off with a fun breakfast for the kids!!!

Money Saving Mom

Pack a Picnic Lunch!!!

Stone Gable Blog

Stone Gable Blog

left: Nights In ; Right: Good Housekeeping

Add some Red, White & Blue to your home!!!

left: via Country Living, Center:Junk Yard Market, stairs: That's My Letter 

Dress for Dinner!!!

Fabulous Mag

My World

Free People

Go Watch Fireworks!!!

And .....give thanks for all our soldiers past and present who have fought so hard protect our great country.


Happy Fourth of July!!!I hope everyone has such a wonderful day with family and friends.  Off to Dallas to move my son into his new place!!!To keep updated on Segreto's projects like us on Facebook--we post about three new projects a week.  Click here to like the page. Till next week!  xo  Leslie

To purchase “Segreto: Secrets to Finishing Beautiful Interiors” on our website, click here or to purchase through Amazon, click here. To subscribe to Segreto Blog, click here.












For the Love of Pink!!!!

First recorded in the 17th century to describe the dianthus flower, the color pink has expanded to include countless shades and has become known for its associations with love, romance and beauty.

Until the mid 1900s, pink was mainly considered a masculine color. A June 1918 article from the trade publication Earnshaw's Infants' Department said, 'The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl. '(Smithsonian)”. 



During the 1940s and 50s in the US, retailers and pop culture began marketing pink for girls and blue for boys.  Ultra feminine movie stars like Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn wore iconic pink dresses in films like How to Marry a Millionaire and Breakfast at Tiffany’s , strengthening pink’s association with femininity.


Girly products such as Barbie and Mary Kay cosmetics adopted pink as their color and it became the signature color for breast cancer awareness.



Italian born French fashion designer, Elsa Schiaparelli, coined the color "Shocking Pink" in 1947. She called the color "life-giving" and used it in many of her visionary designs.


The phrase was so popular Schiaparelli even developed a signature perfume "Shocking" branded in pink!

Clockwise from top: Source, Source, Source, Source.


Pink in the Home!!!


Pink was extremely popular during the exuberant design phase that took place post World War II. Everyone looks good in a pink light, so it was an especially good color for kitchens and bathrooms. It is estimated that a 5 million pink bathrooms were installed in 20 million+ homes built in the United States between 1946 - 1966.


Jayne Mansfield, one of the early Playboy Playmates, really went overboard with this trend!!!!


Even designer extraordinaire, Pam Pierce, designs with Pink as she does in this promo photo for her new magazine MILIEU, which will premiere soon!!! Can't wait!!!


In the past few decades, shades of pink have been getting a lot more attention in the interior design world. Expanding from the dusky mauve popular in the 80s, today you can find homes with every tone of pink from soft blush tones to hot pinks. The shades are endless!

Farrow & Ball Pink Ground was used by designer Richard Coleman in this pretty living room where we finished the cabinetry. 


Sorry about the pic, but just had to show this darling nursery where we painted French panels behind the bed in tone on tone PINK!! Pinks often grow pinker when painted so pick a shade less pink and lighter than you think you want!! 


Whether it is used as in small doses or as the backdrop for a dramatic scene, pink adds a sophisticated touch to any room!  Hope you enjoy my pink favs below!!!









I am tickled pink to talk about pink today-hehe!! I was so excited to see Joni Webb's posting on the Aidan Gray contest winners.  I was honored to be asked to help with one of the homes!

This was the after shot of the dining room where we plastered the walls and Randal furnished the room. Thank you so much Joni for hosting the contest and Randal with your stunning furnishings and amazing design work!!  To see before and after’s of all of the houses go to Cote de Texas here.  Hope everyone has a wonderful week!  I am headed to Austin for a little vaca with my family for a few days!!  Will be fun!  Our last hoorah before my son moves to Dallas!  Till next week!  xo  Leslie 

To purchase “Segreto: Secrets to Finishing Beautiful Interiors” on our website, click here or to purchase through Amazon, click here. To Subscribe to Segreto Blog, click here. To follow Segreto Finishes on Facebook, click here.