The big reveal, complete with grateful tears, is a key component of many television decorating shows. In the real world, however, projects come together much more slowly and rarely culminate in such fanfare. But when Chris and Jennifer Brown gave Laurie Pearson carte blanche to redecorate their home in Houston’s Bunker Hill Village, the designer decided to arrange just such a dramatic unveiling.
The Browns’ confidence in the designer was buoyed by high praise from a mutual friend and by Pearson’s portfolio, which showed that she and Jennifer share an appreciation for muted color palettes and transitional de´cor. “I wanted something that felt casual yet grown-up, with a neutral backdrop, so that I could switch out pops of color by mood and season without changing the entire room,” the homeowner explains.
That template had already been established in the kitchen, which the Browns had previously renovated with the help of Ingrid Ritchmond, of Hillcrest Builders in Houston, who also completed several other projects throughout the house. Although open to a large breakfast area and family room, the dark-stained kitchen cabinetry made the space feel overly heavy and traditional. Following the Browns’ specifications, Ritchmond and her crew installed white marble countertops, painted the cabinets off-white and cut a single square accent window into each of the two cupboards flanking the stove, for which she installed a custom limestone hood. “It gives the space a fresh clean look,” Ritchmond explains.
To make the expansive family room feel less cavernous, Pearson grouped large-scale furnishings to define each area. A pair of linen-upholstered sofas and a tufted cocktail ottoman create a comfortable seating area in front of the fireplace, while a weathered painted-wood table and chairs and a reproduction French armoire delineate the breakfast area. On either side of the cabinet, Pearson hung vintage coral prints framed in polished mirror. Lucite stools with rope handles impart a modern note to the tableau.
“We used larger pieces, because rooms of that scale can swallow up furniture,” says Pearson. Facing the same problem in the formal dining room, the designer expanded the profile of the homeowners’ existing table and chairs by adding a large silk rug and a pair of oversize upholstered host chairs covered in linen. “Silk rugs just bring a room to life,” she adds.
In the living room, Pearson chose smaller-scale pieces to emphasize the view of the backyard through three joined-glass windows that had been installed by Ritchmond in place of the home’s original French doors. Silk draperies frame the view and complement the sheen of the grass-cloth wallcovering, which conveys a modern feel, especially as paired with contrasting geometric patterns in the wall-to-wall carpeting and two Lucite-footed accent stools covered in a contrasting motif. An abstract painting drives the point home. “Jennifer wanted this home to feel traditional, but she didn’t want it to look like her mother’s house, so we kicked it up with a more contemporary twist,” the designer says.
Although it took months for Pearson to develop her plan, select furnishings and accessories, and decide on fabric samples, she was able to complete the installation for that big reveal in a single day. “She arrived at 9 a.m. and said, ‘Begone!’ Then she called me at 2 p.m. and said, ‘Come on back,’” Jennifer recalls. “Everything was just so beautiful! I think I even cried at one point.”