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Nantucket Charm

I had such a fun time working with homeowners Stacey and Gene on their newly purchased 4500 sq ft home!  The cute couple loved the location and bones of this lovely house, built in 1994 and designed by architect Jay Baker, but wanted to make it their own. Though they chose to do the design work themselves, they hired the fab builder, Patti Barnett, who had built their last home, to help with the remodel and construction. Stacey felt that Patti's incredible eye for design and detail would be the perfect fit for this new project.

This house, with its freshly painted exterior, is so charming! It reminds me of Nantucket architecture - a style we don't see too much of in Houston.

Stacey added the shutters, and we gave them an old world, blue glazed finish for extra charm.  When applying a special finish to an exterior surface, it's important to finish the sides and backs and then put three coats of sealer on top. In a place like Houston where it is so hot and humid, a new coat of sealer needs to be reapplied once a year.

This is the entrance way when Stacey and Gene first purchased the home.

Wow, look at the transformation! The new floors and double door really make a big difference.  I love the lighting from Brown and the large sliding barn door which we finished in a neutral Frenchy color.  This is a beautiful, decorative way to close off the kitchen area to which the door leads. We plastered the walls and ceiling throughout the main part of the house - the reflection is really beautiful with all the natural light the homeowners get. Looks like Max, their 8 year-old Westie, really loves the new decor as well!!

This dining room, photographed with the previous owners' furnishings, is certainly beautiful but not quite the style that Stacey wanted for herself! The room was very dark, so Stacey opened it up by removing two walls and then creating a half wall with pillars.

Now, this gorgeous space is flooded with natural light from the East. "The result is a happy room," says Miss Stacey!!!  She used the furniture from her previous dining room, which she still loves, and is searching for the right chandelier. I think she'll know the second she sees it... It's always so fun to shop for that last perfect piece!  

This is the living room before!

And here it is after! I really love how light and fresh the space is!  Using for the large part existing furnishings, most of the changes to this room were cosmetic- plastering the walls and ceilings and opening up the space from the living room to the bar.

This is the bar before.

Here is the new one!! The cabinetry is divine, and I again love the fixture, salvaged from an old hotel in Belgium, that Stacey found at Brown. The brick backsplash was probably the most economical change that the couple made to the home. Stacey had purchased some beautiful, handmade damask tiles for this area, but once the cabinets were complete, she realized that the tiles weren't going to work. Patti suggested these inexpensive, thin tiles that just look incredible! The bar tiles that were originally slated for the space will be used in the upstairs master once they renovate. I wish I had taken a close up of the inset wine label tiles - they are actual wine labels that Susie Atkins, owner of ADR, helped make into tiles. She even had the artist create a roman numeral tile with the date that Stacey and Gene purchased the home.

The cabinets were distressed and painted giving character to the space!

Here is a look back down the hallway between the entrance and the kitchen.  The wonderful light that pours in through the windows along the house is what originally made Stacey fall in love with the home!

Here is the original kitchen - get ready for a wow!

I absolutely love all the changes that were done here - it was so well thought out in every aspect, from the layout to the design and functionality of the kitchen. The stove, a French La Cornue in pebble gray, was the inspiration for everything in the room! Stacey says this French masterpiece cooks and functions even better than it looks!!! The marble is honed Statuary Marble from Walker Zanger, the perfect choice for this French-inspired kitchen.

Even after being married for 9 years, Stacey and Gene are so sentimental. The island incorporates Gene's family butcher block, which has been integrated into every house they've owned.  We put the finishing touch to the island, applying a textured finish and creating a distressed top to complement the family heirloom. We hand-scraped the fir beams to evoke age, character and charm!

This is the before pic of the den which is directly across from the kitchen.

This is the after!!  Can't you just see Stacy and Gene starting a leisurely morning with a cappuccino, a favorite magazine and the Today Show!  Though the den serves primarily for movie watching, Stacey is a fantastic cook and loves to turn on the TV and follow along with Barefoot Contessa. I love the color combo of the orange and gray blue, and I think the use of 4 chairs rather than a couch is a great idea for this space.  Stacey agrees, "In my experience, couches are really only good for two person sitting on each end of the sofa! So having the four chairs for this cozy den just made more sense to me." These great club chairs from Roche Bobois have held up with the two dogs and the occasional spilled beverage.

The den cabinets are Stacey's design! "Gene is a big audio/video buff, so I had to create something that would house a large TV and a center speaker.  I also wanted a place to display my antique school books and Staffordshire dog collection which my mother-in-law started for me several years ago."  I think Stacey has a future in cabinet design - these are beautiful!!  Segreto textured and glazed these as well. 

Prepare to see a big change to this laundry room!

OMGoodness, I want to move in!!! Chris Lewis helped with the plans for this dream utility room, and Patti and Stacey picked all the cabinet styles and finishes. The tile, floors and backsplash from ADR make the space feel so special.

We can't leave the house without seeing the powder room!!  This was the before pic.

Here is the after! "I kind of have a thing for powder baths," smiles Stacey! "I always think that they should be beautiful and offer something unexpected." An oval window was added to allow for natural light, the antique chest from Vieux Interiors was topped with Jerusalem stone, and the sconces are a charming addition from Brown. Stacey wanted a Gracie-inspired mural with a softer, older touch to it.  We handpainted the design over a plaster wall to create the beautiful faded effect.

How cute are these two! Max and Miles really enjoyed giving the tour of their gorgeous new home!  Stacey, you, Gene and Patti did such a wonderful job on all the details and decisions!  What a fun project this was for me to work on!!!

Thank you to Donna from A Perfect Gray Blog for writing such a great review of the book!  I knew I would love to follow her blog cause I love the name!! Take a peak she is filled with great ideas!!  Thanks again Donna!  I hope everyone has a great week!!  xo  Leslie


Inspiring Papers

The use of hand-blocked papers for walls and ceilings seems to be a growing trend. There are so many beautiful papers that have served as great inspiration for me while painting lovely murals.  Two of my favorites are Gracie and de Gournay.


Established in 1898 by Charles Gracie in New York City, Gracie is still a family run company with Charles’s great grandson Mike serving as president.   The company originated as a maker of custom lamps from unusual accessories and as a provider of custom carving and gilding for New York’s carriage trade.

Tory Burch’s foyer from Elle Décor

During the 1930s, a textile trader and friend brought home a beautiful roll of hand-painted paper that he had discovered in Beijing. Mr. Gracie was immediately enthusiastic and quickly established a relationship with the studio that had produced the wallpaper.

The same Chinese family has managed Gracie’s studio in the East for fifty years. Hand-painted wallpapers are Gracie's signature product line and demonstrate how true artistry has been handed down from generation to generation.

The metallic lines of the old Hollywood era are now resurging in popularity, making their way into today’s design. I just love this Gracie version of the trend.

These papers are beautiful and versatile, working in a multitude of different design schemes, but they’re also quite expensive. In 1996, an average panel cost $550; the average room needs 15 panels. This does not include the expense of installing and hanging, which is rather costly for handmade papers.

In this dining room, designed by Trish Dodson, paper was originally slated. But after choosing a drapery fabric that she and the client adored, it proved difficult to find the right color way and price point in a paper, so Trish called me.

The drapery fabric was gorgeous and looked just amazing in the room.  I suggested we do a tone-on-tone, Gracie-inspired design that would add interest to the room without overpowering the soft fabrics and rug.


I think the finished room is spectacular! Notice the way the covered chairs are done – I really like the added band. So sad I missed the shot of the monogrammed host and hostess chairs!!


With murals, the more detail required, the more time it takes to complete so the more the painting will cost. A glaze can be added on top or underneath the mural to add variation to the wall finish.  

De Gournay, headquartered in London, is another stunning paper collection. Since it was founded in 1986, De Gournay's exquisite wallpapers have been hand-painted in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province. They have since been a favorite of the rich and famous.

Gwyneth Paltrow mentions her de Gournay dining room paper in a recent Elle Décor article as one of the things she can’t live without!

De Gournay also adorns the walls of Sharon and Ozzie Osbourne’s home, featured in Architectural Digest.

The company specializes in creating wallpapers inspired by 18th century Chinoiserie. This style was a true marriage of East and West: designers would create their own interpretations of Chinese compositions for décor in stately homes, palaces and castles across Europe.

Source: de Gournay website

De Gournay does extensive research on the Chinoiserie style, modifying and often simplifying original designs from the 1700s to suit current tastes and contemporary styles.


The process is so fascinating: they hand-paint details on in a traditional block print style. This is reminiscent to the 18th century method in which large wooden blocks were carved and then stamped onto papers. By painting in such a way, the colors don’t blend, losing some of the realistic details, but create a finished product that is rather authentic. De Gournay's painters are in both China and the Philippines. And the panels (typically 8 feet by 3 feet) are not as expensive as Gracie's: $350 to start.

 Here is another rendition of a Segreto paper-inspired mural.  Homeowner Stacy(which you will get to see her whole house next week) already had the beautiful cabinet, sconces and mirror, and wanted to complement these pieces with a very soft, subtle effect rather than a bold design. In this instance, we started with a plaster backdrop and added soft hints of color and a worn look to the bird and foliage design.


Typically, this cabinet in my office is stacked full of design and reference books, but for this picture, staged for an ad, it looks especially beautiful with some pillows, fabric, and fancy gilded books. After doing a similar treatment in a client’s elevator, I decided to remove shelves full of samples that were here before, and add this beautiful gold leaf Chinoiserie-inspired design. We gold leafed and then hand-painted this scene on top. I love working with paint rather than papers because you can create a one-of-a-kind custom look - I picked the specific birds, flowers and colors unique to my space. We’ve also done this type of treatment as an accent wall behind the sink in a powder room.


 You can tell I love this style!!! This is the back entry into my house. The design of this room, leading into my offices, is over 10 years old but I still adore it. Formerly the garage, this space has low ceilings so we wrapped the vertically oriented design onto the ceiling to add height. Because this design is loosely spaced, the cost was fairly low.

I hope you enjoyed some of my inspiration—the hand-blocked papers are simply beautiful, but murals are great alternatives for a look that’s less expensive and more customizable.  I have a huge favor to ask all my blog friends.  If you haven’t liked Segreto Finishes I would be so appreciative if you scroll up towards the top on the right side and push like! Thanks so much and have a wonderful week!!

  Xo  Leslie



Olympus Marble

Thank you to all my sweet blogger friends and followers for such warm anniversary wishes!  We had a great evening and hope to have another 25 wonderful years together!! My ever so cute design assistant Micah interviewed and wrote the majority of this blog!! With building the new studio I really appreciated the help!  Thanks Micah!! 

There are so many different marbles and granites available now with so many options of finishes that I wanted to share some knowledge from the team at Olympus Marble.  Owner Angelo Bissias grew up in Athens and moved to the US in the late 80's with the intention of going to school. Plans, of course, are subject to change, and within a few years he followed in the family trade and opened Olympus Marble. Through lots of hard work, fabulous customer service, and an extensive knowledge of the stone business, his company has flourished over the last 20 years.

It’s amazing to see the growth in technology that most industries have experienced over the last couple decades, and the stone industry is no exception. It’s hard to believe that at one time, workers in this state-of-the-art facility did everything by hand! Thanks to the advancements in modern technology, Angelo says their machinery promotes “faster turnarounds, consistent quality, and dimensional precision”.

 Olympus has opened a wonderful showroom which displays the many types of stones that they carry and creative ideas on how to install the designs their own home.

Do these cabinets look familiar? Segreto was so honored to do the cabinet finishes in their beautiful showroom!

This custom sink is gorgeous!! They used pieces from the same slab to create beautiful, seamless shelves and mounted them to this great tile background from Walker-Zanger. The two companies often work hand-in-hand with each other, and we can definitely see why!

What are the biggest trends in marble? In addition to white marbles (which have maintained their popularity for some time now), the experts at Olympus Marble would add grays, cool tones, limestones, stone with lots of movement, and anything contemporary to their list.

Although the long time trend was a sleek, polished finished, new technology has made textured treatments immensely popular. The color is great, but I wish my camera could’ve captured how truly beautiful the dimension and texture are in this leathered slab!!

Another huge craze is quartzite. Although they look very similar to oh-so-beautiful marble, they actually have superior characteristics more similar to granite. Quartzites are much harder than marble, and they do not react to acids. A counter top with a little more durability and zero risk of losing its finish from an orange juice spill… sounds pretty good to me!

Here are two different views from the same slab of quartzite – a piece of art in itself! The colors and movement are just incredible throughout!!

This Portoro Gold is one of the most expensive marbles in the world... Retailing at right around $200 per square foot, it’s no wonder we don’t see it more often! Although veining in marbles typically runs horizontally, these pieces are more unique with it running vertically.

Now that you've seen around the office a little bit, I'll show you some of my favorite parts of their state-of-the-art fabrication shop.

How impressive is their facility? Complete with several machines (don't worry... I'll walk you through some of them!), their own water recycling system, and those huge fans!! The shop never heats up above the 70s all year-round, making this a really comfortable work place even in the peak of the Houston summer heat! Many of the workers have really grown with the company, starting out working part-time in high school or college moving into a full-time career.


The first piece of equipment they introduced me to is the Titan 1600, a CNC machine that uses a computer program to create seamless cuts and polishes. What used to take workers about eight hours to do by hand now takes exactly one hour and twenty-one minutes.. Talk about efficiency! Many small shops can do custom works by hand, but it is obviously much more difficult, time-consuming, and leaves some room for human error.

The computer allows the programmer to test different cuts, shapes, and sizes. Before the slab -which is  actually held down by magnets!- is cut, a lazer emits lines to show the craftsman exactly where the machine will be making the cut-outs. The result? Mathematically flawless edges and custom-fit for their customer's sink of choice!

This Water Jet Saw was actually the very first in Texas for natural stone! The machine takes photos from a bird’s eye view and loads them onto a computer screen. From there, the worker can manipulate the slab several ways until they have selected the best cut and veining. Combining cutting techniques of a saw for the straight edges and water jet for the curves, they are able to yield mathematically flawless edges. Much like the Titan 1600, this piece of equipment shaves hours off of production time.  

Here are some of the works in progress. So many different varieties can be produced from the exact same machine.

 Taking a walk outside! With so many options, I truly believe that any homeowner could come here and find a slab that looks just stunning in their house!! The hard part is choosing!!

Here is their collection of Iranian Travertine. Because some stone is imported from the Middle East or other parts of the world where there is political unrest, Olympus has to view each shipment as the only one they may ever receive.

To make things even easier, Olympus goes against what many retailers do and actually does not require their customers to purchase the entire slab of marble! They do keep a PO number on record of which slab a customer purchased (picture on the right), so that the remainder can be easily located if a customer wants to use more of it in the future.

 Thank you Angelo, Raffe and the entire staff at Olympus Marble and Granite for giving us such a wonderful tour! They are located in Houston at 2141 Bingle Road.  713-827-8700.

Thank you so much to Michele of the  Hello Lovely blog for reviewing the book!! Her title is perfect for her lovely images, creative writing style and wonderful on line shop!! Thanks also to the blog Design Chic  I have loved and followed this mother, daughter blog design team and was honored that they did such a complimentary review of the book!   Also a big thanks to Heather of the Satisfying Spaces blog, who won the book on the Art by Karena blog give-a-way, and is posting about it.  she did a great spread as well on the McAlpine Tankersley Houston showcase home--amazing! Please go visit these three wonderful blogs -- they are all a treat for me!! Have a great week!  I know things are getting busy with summer here!!  xo  Leslie




Pink Ribbon 2012


I Hope everyone is having a nice Memorial Day!!  Let's all say a prayer for the brave soldiers who have fought for our country in the past and the special folks who are curently serving our country today.   I truely appreciate their sacrifice as well as the sacrifice their families make.

 This week I will celebrate my 25th wedding anniversary with my incredible husband John and wanted to give him a little walk down memory lane.  I named my company Segreto after his Italian family who changed their name to Sinclair.  He has been such a great life partner supporting me in all my crazy ventures and constant home remodeling projects!! Thank you John!  I love you!! (we will see if he reads my blog-hehe)

This was after the ceremony--He looks a bit scared.  At 37, he thought he was going to be a confirmed bachelor for life!!!

He seemed to have perked up when we were back from the honeymoon opening gifts!  We moved into the same home we live in now--wow 25 years ago!!


I have really enjoyed raising the kids with John.  He is a great father!!   Since we both work, we have tagged teamed and have shared in the responsiblities of carpool lines, doctors’ appointments, and grocercy store runs.

Gosh how time flies!!  The kids are all grown up and have left the nest.  Thank you for for always being there during the ups and downs of marriage and life.  I am looking forward to what the next chapter of our lives will bring together!!! xo

 The fabulous Joni Webb of Cote DeTexas is my guest blogger this week writing a wonderful post on the 2012 Pink Ribbon House, a project that is near and dear to my heart! The house was amazing and all the proceeds from it go to help find the cure for breast cancer!!! Have a great week and read her take on the 2012 Pink Ribbon House here!

Thanks so much for Kifus of the Inspiring Interiors Blog who did such a lovely review of the book. She is a designer and blogger from Peru who has definitly inspired me with her images!! Have a nice week!!  xo Leslie

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Favorite Dining Rooms

 In the Middle ages, European nobility in castles or manor houses dined in the Great Hall, which was a large multi-purpose room that would seat everyone which lived within. The family would sit at a head table on a raised platform with everyone else sitting below in ranking order. Over time even nobility began to like dining in more intimate settings. Dining rooms since, typically located at the front of the home, have turned into the most decorated rooms.  I hope you enjoy my collection of beautiful dining spaces! Thank you to Wade Blissard for taking all the Segreto watermarked photos, they are all homes we have done and many are rooms where the the whole home is featured in my book-Segreto:Secrets to Finishing Beautiful Interiors.

This dining room from Greystone Estate designed by Barbara Wiseley and Richard Hallberg was featured in Veranda! Along with its warmth and charm my favorite feature is the wallpaper which I have used as inspiration to create my version on walls! 

The above room served inspiration when hand-painting the walls on this oh-so-elegant powder.


This sunken dining room encased in stone gives a wine cellar feel.   John Saladino  creates an intimate space with comfortable chairs, frindged skirted table and plates hung as art.


Another Saladino dining room, with his signature skirted table, this has to be one of my all time favorite focal walls! Is it paper or paint?


This room by designer Charles Spada feels as it has evolved over time. The character of the paneling's design and its two toned finish (which I think may be painted to look like paneling and not raised due to the fact that the plates are hung right over the lines)  creates this room's perfect backdrop. The sublte color combinations here are flawless.

Built in France in the 1300's this dining room to me is a wonderful mix of items that I may not apprciate alone but when combined create perfection!

This room by designer Cindy Kinkaid was published in Southern Accents.  The subltle tonal differnces of the paneling really create an impact in this lovely room and stay true to the saying that less is more. Teamed with the mirrored french doors, to die for chairs. fixtures, fireplace and porcelins, this room is an absoulute home run.

I have always been enamored with this dining room we plastered for designer Eleanor Cummings! The inspiration for the color is from a European room the owners had seen on a trip to Europe. The terra cotta in the beautiful reclaimed doors was our reference point. Painting the trim, vents, speakers and recessed cans in the in the room to match the plaster allows for no distractions enabling the reclaimed elements and antiques to shine.

Another one of my favorites where we plastered the walls and ceilings. Designer Kara Childress did such a beautiful job here creating warmth and sophistication! The mirrored vignettes created by an antique French balustrade mirrors and Italian alter sticks, are stunning accents to the room.

There is something I love about throwing a linen table cloth over a table. This lavender one really changes the whole look of the room.

Sophisticated and elegant. I like the combination of the slipcovers and the dresy lighting statue and drapes with a sisal rug.


A lot of thought went into this space. Love the backs of the chairs and making the armoire into an opened focal piece. The texture of the rug and intricacy of the fixture balance the prints framed in black.


There is nothing like divine walls to set off a space!


This dining room and tablescape by John Jacobs is simply beautiful! The soft draping of the table with the horse centerpieces really create a marvelous mood for a dinner party.

This room, feeling very European to me with the French table and chairs, really is given personality from the tangerine color influences.  The combinations of the buttery walls with the silk embroidered drapes, striped chair fabrics and hints of the color in the rug are stunning.

Suzanne Kasler seems to be a master in incorporating texture and color, creating this beautiful dining room with versions of pink and warm taupe's.

I adore the hand screened papers by Zuber, so this dining room again by  Suzanne Kasler is another one my favorites.  This room which could become ultra formal is softened by the wonderful slip covers.   Please visit her interesting interview on The Skirted Roundtable.

 This is the dinning room of this years Pink Ribbon House.  We plastered the walls and handpainted the graphic on the floors. Next week we have a special treat!  Joni Webb of Cote De Texas is writing a Post on the entire home!

Thanks so much to Paula of Paula Grace Design Blog for posting such a wonderful review of Segreto:Secrets to Finishing Beautiful Interiors!  Her blog features so many great design tips and wonderful new products! Thanks also to Cecilia author of Desde MY Ventana Blog. She is a Spanish blogger and I look forward to her pics from far away each morning. They brighten my day!!!   Karena who writes the Art by Karena Blog focuses on different talented artists and I am honored to be amongst the ones she has featured.  I am so thankful to the blog community which has embraced my labor of love project –THE BOOK.  Without them and my fabulous readers, the word would never have gotten out!  I am forever grateful!! Please visit all of these wonderful blogs!!

May 26: Brazos Valley Antique Show, Bryan, Texas

Join me at a first time new antique fair. I will be signing my book Segreto: Secrets to Finishing Beautiful Interiors 1-5 on Sat.  Show times- Sat. May 26, 10-5: Sun 10- 4. Brazos County Expo- 5827 Leonard Road, Bryan, TX 77807. For more information (281-536-2147 or

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