Maine Attraction

I love the beginning of the Fall, not only because it is my favorite season (ironic as it barely happens in Houston), but because this time of year ushers in a great number of new book releases. As someone who loves classical architecture, Gil Schafer‘s new book, A Place to Call Home is at the top of my list. The third-generation architect has designed beautiful, thoughtful homes in the American vernacular for the past twenty five years and is one of the most revered architects amongst the savviest of design circles. As I flipped through the new issue of UK House & Garden the  other night, I was elated to see they had published an excerpt from Gil’s new book featuring his house in Maine. 

The house is a testament to the incredible transformation a house can undergo when it is placed in the most capable hands. Gil grew up spending summers in Maine and his family had spent time there for generations. Eventually, Gil felt the pull towards Maine and purchased a house of his own there. Contrary to what most would likely expect from a lauded architect, the house was neither historic nor significant. On the contrary, it was an ordinary 1990s chalet-style house with PVC windows and floors stained orange. The location just steps from the water and the lack of architecture actually appealed to Gil who felt he could strip it down and make exactly what he wanted out of it. The 30 by 30 foot great room with double height windows and peaked roof is the most beautiful space in the room, even though it originally presented its own set of challenges. Gil finally conquered the massive space by dividing it into two  seating areas, one facing the water, and the other facing the fireplace and television for cozy nights by the fire. I don’t know about you, but I am ready to pack my sweaters and book a flight to Maine!


{Photography by Simon Upton}

Tory Burch at Home in Southampton

Tory Burch is a veritable style icon in every sense of the word.  She is inspiring on so many levels– a brilliant business woman, arbiter of style, and philanthropist. She has a keen eye for style and has been a genius when it comes to creating her brand through its various extensions. Tory’s various homes have been published numerous times. Her house in Southampton has previously been published in Vogue, but the October issue of Architectural Digest gives us a much deeper look at Westerly, the 1929 Georgian mansion.

The design of the house has spanned a nine-year collaboration with Tory’s go-to designer, Daniel Romualdez with whom she has designed over 200 Tory Burch boutiques as well as her apartment at The Pierre in New York, and Bunny Mellon’s former home in Antigua which Tory recently purchased. The size of Westerly is daunting at 15,000 feet, but what is interesting is the approach that Tory and Daniel took on this project. Rather than designing it all from tip to toe, they have allowed time to take its course, filling the house with antiques, family heirlooms, and pieces found over time. In the fascinating article written by David Netto, Daniel states, “back in the era of the great American country house, from the 1890s to the 1920s, there was no storyboarding,” he notes. “It was much more organic.” This house, like Tory herself and her fashion empire is built on a sense of innate style. 

I am so inspired by classical architecture and big houses with storied histories, which is why this house in particular appeals to me so much. It is legendary in Southampton! The interiors are elegant, yet relaxed. A prized, bronze Diego Giacometti table stands atop a simple natural fiber rug in the entry. The living room features glamorous elements such as a 1930s crystal chandelier and antiqued mirror above the fireplace along with miles of coral silk taffeta drapes, while Colefax and Fowler’s Bowood print lends a sense of cozy charm to the sizable space. Every room is beautiful and elegant, yet the house retains a relaxed quality. It is evident that this is the home of someone who loves to play host, and as such, wants her guests to feel at home. I usually use print more sparingly than what you see in this house, but there is no denying the beauty and fabulousness of this house. Which room is your favorite?

{Photography by Oberto Gili for Architectural Digest}

In the Mood: September 2017

{Cameron Kimber}

September is a month of transition. The end of summer and the beginning of fall and return to school. For Houston, it is the transition into our Post-Harvey future. It is heartbreaking that the West Side of town is still under water due to the controlled release of some reservoirs (we have two clients affected in that area), but many people in other neighborhoods have begun their efforts to rebuild. Every morning that I have woken up in my own bed since the storm hit, I have felt a strange mix of emotions– deep gratitude and a sense of guilt that we were not affected at our house. We are doing as much as we can to help wherever we can. In our office, we are in the process of helping five clients whose homes flooded to rebuild, which is absolutely heartbreaking. It is difficult, but necessary to rebuild. I have struggled with what to post on my blog and social media over the last ten days. At this point, much of the city is back at work and the Paloma Contreras Design team is back in the office today as well. Our city has to get back to work in order to rebuild– an endeavor that will take years. It is important for us to get back to work and back to the activities we love in order to have a sense of normalcy. Our biggest transition stands before us.

I am incredibly grateful to be able to be back at work, doing what I love, and hopefully, helping our clients to get their houses back in order and to provide an outlet of inspiration and beauty to others. Please know that my return to blogging and carrying on with my business does not mean that I don’t feel for those who have lost their homes in the floods. On the contrary, the aftermath of the storm is very much on my mind and will continue to be a motivator for us to help the city get back on its feet. It is ever-present, but I have to carry on, not only for the sake of my professional obligations, but for my emotional well-being and that of my team. My business supports four employees, our various contractors, and so on, so while a design firm and lifestyle blog may seem frivolous to some, it is critical to others. Thank you to everyone who has left comments or sent notes stating that our last few posts have brightened your day or helped to connect you to various ways to help Houston. With all of that said, this month’s mood is all about various shades of blue from saturated hues of navy and indigo to beautiful shades of pale blue. These colors are not only beautiful and classic, but they are also classic and soothing. It seems blue is universally loved, so a color that brings comfort is certainly welcomed around here these days. It is said that blue is “often associated with depth and stability. It symbolizes trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, faith, truth, and heaven. Blue is considered beneficial to the mind and body.” What color could possibly be more fitting today? We have a long road ahead. Pausing to reflect on moments of beauty will help us along the way. 

{Bella Hadid in W Magazine}

{An Ellsworth Kelly Plant Drawing}

{Cameron Kimber}

{Chic, Timeless Staples}

{Ellsworth Kelly}

{Steven Gambrel}


{Ellsworth Kelly}

{Steven Gambrel}

{Minimal Chic via Pinterest}

{Ellsworth Kelly}

{David Kleinberg}


{Ellsworth Kelly}

{Steven Gambrel}

{Chic Navy Outfit via Pinterest}

{Ellsworth Kelly}

{David Kleinberg}

{Giambattista Valli}

{Ellsworth Kelly}

Art with Heart

{An Alexis Walter Painting in the Bedroom I Designed for the 2016 Southern Style Now Showhouse in New Orleans}

One of the most remarkable things to come out of Hurricane Harvey is the way that people from across the country have come together to support Texans in need. Our brothers and sisters from Louisiana, who unfortunately know a thing or two about devastating floods, have shown up for us in an amazing way. Between the Cajun Navy who came in with their fishing boats to rescue Houstonians from their flooded homes to the countless volunteers and people who have sent support however they could, be it in the shape of supplies or monetary donations.

{A Pair of Alexis Walter Paintings in the Bedroom I Designed for the 2016 Southern Style Now Showhouse in New Orleans}

One of our favorite artists here at La Dolce Vita and at Paloma Contreras Design is the talented, Alexis Walter. The New Orleans-based artist specializes in beautiful abstract, mixed media paintings in various pastel palettes with extraordinary depth and texture. Her paintings work beautifully in any environment, be it traditional, modern, or somewhere in between. It came as no surprise to me when Alexis who also happens to have one of the biggest, kindest hearts of anyone I know, announced that until August 6th, 15% of profits from the sale of her paintings will be donated to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. If you are currently in the market for a beautiful piece of original art, why not choose something that will also help a wonderful and worthy cause? Below, you’ll find a few of my favorites, but be sure to visit her website to see the full assortment before they all sell out.

{Creme Brûlée | 20 x 24 | $1,300.00}

{Wingman | 20 x 20 | $850.00}

{Downy | 16 x 20 | $685.00}

{Blue Scadoo | 30 x 30 | $2,450.00}

{Lemon Meringue | 30 x 30 | $2,450.00}

{Yakety Yak | 16 x 20 | $685.00}

{Showhouse Photography by Brittany Ambridge}

A Vision of Houston

{French Influences abound at this Private Residence on Inverness}

As a lifelong resident of Houston, the past several days have been extremely difficult. By the grace of God, we are safe and dry in our home and our family is also safe. Unfortunately, countless others were not as lucky and have lost everything in the devastation of Hurricane Harvey and the unrelenting rain for the past several days. My heart is shattered seeing neighborhoods all across the massive Houston metropolis completely destroyed. I am sad to report that we have several clients in various parts of the city whose homes were also affected. For those who are not familiar with our beloved city, it is the fourth largest in the nation and the greater metropolitan area spans over 2,200 miles. It is roughly the size of Delaware with twice the population of Manhattan and it has been massively devastated. Houston is hurting, but it is strong and resilient. It has been so heartwarming to see neighbors helping neighbors, first responders putting life and limb in danger to help those in desperate situations while their own homes are under water, and to see the generosity of strangers from across the country.

{Versailles Planters and Limestone Pavers at Inverness}

I have struggled with what to feature on my blog and social media this week because I am sad and I honestly just want to weep for my city. However, I am reminded that these channels serve a purpose and that is to share the beauty and importance of home– wherever that is and whatever it means to you. If you’ve been watching the non-stop news coverage, you might welcome a small distraction and that is my goal today. Houston is my home. I was born and raised in Houston and love it deeply. Houston is a beautiful city with impressive architecture by great architects from the last century such as John Staub and Birdsall Briscoe; its boulevards are lined with hundred year old Live Oak trees, and it is home to  world-class art and restaurant scenes. Houston is also home to an extraordinary community of scrappy people who have kept the Texan spirit of picking oneself up by the bootstraps alive and well. Houston will rebuild and will reclaim its glory once again. 

{A Classic Georgian House on Inverness}

Houston is also home to the extraordinarily talented Curtis & Windham Architects, lead by Bill Curtis and Russell Windham whose body of work exemplifies the genteel beauty of Houston. Their book, A Vision of Place, has become a recent favorite of mine and is filled with stunning residences in some of Houston’s oldest and loveliest neighborhoods. I am featuring several of my favorite Curtis & Windham houses in this post which are among  the most beautiful homes in Houston. It is important to me to share the beauty of my beloved city with you– A Vision of Houston, if you will.

{Elegance and Restraint on Knollwood}

{An Updated English Country House on Sleepy Hollow}

{Residence and Gardens on Houston’s Beautiful South Boulevard}

{18th Century French Influence meets Texas}

{A Whimsical Round Pool and Tent Pavillion}

{A Closer View of the Tent Pavillion}

While all of these homes are stunning and are situated in some of Houston’s most exclusive neighborhoods, this is not all that Houston is comprised of. Houston is a melting pot of cultures with people from all walks of life. It is an urban metropolis and is home to suburban sprawl. As you read this, I hope you’ll see some of the beauty of Houston, but also keep the residents of Houston and victims of this storm in your hearts. Countless people will be without a home for months, if not longer. So many people have had their lives torn apart and need our help. Please consider donating to one of the following charities, if you find it in your heart to do so and please share this post with anyone you think might also be willing to help.

 Houston Hurricane Harvey Relief FundAmerican Red Cross | Houston Humane Society Disaster Relief Fund | J.J.Watt’s Houston Flood Relief Fund | Houston Food Bank Harvey Relief Fund | Houston SPCA