The house was already very pretty, but there was a disconnect between what was there and how the client wanted her home to look and feel,” says designer Paloma Contreras, referring to the Katy residence of Lori and David Underwood and their two children. A design enthusiast herself, Lori was a longtime follower of Contreras’ widely read design blog and knew the Houston professional would be the right fit to help achieve the look she desired. “I wanted someone with a similar style who could take it to the next level and challenge me to make bolder decisions,” the wife says.
Lori had worked with the design-build firm Partners in Building to distinguish the home’s architecture and interior layout, incorporating elements such as white stucco siding and a beamed cathedral ceiling in the great room, but she stopped short of fully realizing the interior design. Then, three years after the family moved in, “I had a fire sale on all of my old things and hired Paloma,” she says. Contreras credits her client’s great sense of style for providing a clear idea of the design vision: a high-contrasting black-and-white palette punctuated by graphic patterns, gold accents and modern yet sophisticated finishes.
The first order of business was the master suite. “Since becoming a mom, I have never completed a master bedroom for my husband and me,” Lori says. “It was always at the bottom of my list.” Contreras gave the couple’s room top billing with a geometric rug by David Hicks, one of Lori’s favorite design icons, and hung two black-and-white paintings—among many the wife had accumulated over time—above chests flanking the bed. “With the white walls, we needed something to ground the room,” Contreras explains. “Because everything else is modern, I also thought it would be nice to layer in a neoclassical shape using traditional chests as bedside tables.” As a dramatic gesture in the adjoining master bathroom, the designer used black-and-white mosaic marble on the tub wall, which plays off the adjacent room’s David Hicks rug while also dressing up the area’s otherwise plain windows.
Downstairs—where the open floor plan’s foyer, dining room and great room are all in view of each other—the goal was to create a cohesive look. “We wanted each room to feel distinctive and special on its own, but we also knew each space opens to the others—which meant they needed to tell a story and share a color palette,” Contreras says. To create a consistent scheme in the foyer and dining room, the designer once again mined Lori’s collection of black-and-white paintings, this time placing a series of small works over a chest in the foyer. And in what she calls a “lightbulb moment,” she brought a larger work from the family room into the dining room to complement the Kelly Wearstler for Groundworks Channels material selected for the draperies. “This fabric is similar to the wall tile in the master bathroom,” Contreras points out. “This is our unexpected moment.” As a bonus, there was enough leftover drapery material to cover three footstools in the neighboring great room, which adds another element of continuity.
In the towering great room, Contreras continued to amplify the home’s drama with rigorous symmetry. The roof line and replace create a dividing line between identical 9-foot-long white sofas, gilt-trimmed consoles topped with bronze-and-brass lamps, antique mirrors purchased on New Orleans’ Magazine Street and charcoal-velvet club chairs. At the center of the room, an oversize glass-and-brass coffee table speaks to an equally large brass chandelier hanging above. “We needed to beef up everything to make it work in the large scale of that room,” the designer explains.
Contreras opted for a more intimate setting in the den, making it the only public area that doesn’t showcase the black-and-white palette established elsewhere. Instead, she based the color scheme on a large charcoal gray sectional Lori had custom-made, while a colorful abstract painting from Lori’s collection serves as an equally compelling focal point on a wall. The designer punctuated the space with a white Eames lounge chair and ottoman, items the wife had always coveted. An organic coffee table made from a tree trunk in Mexico balances the white-lacquer console and blue-velvet ottomans behind the sectional. “The space needed to reflect the home’s overall vibe and aesthetic,” Contreras says, “but also feel cozy with durable fabrics that stand up to heavy use.”
As Contreras proceeded from one room to the next until completing the home’s interior design, her client found comfort in the certainty of the designer’s choices. “She doesn’t waver, and that’s something I’ve always struggled with,” Lori says. “At first, my friends didn’t understand why I hired a designer; they said, ‘You can do this yourself!’ But it’s the best decision I ever made.”