For first-time viewers and repeat cinema buffs alike, watching the opening scenes of The Wizard of Oz unfold in black and white before morphing into a melange of yellow brick roads, ruby slippers and a glistening emerald city never fails to delight. It’s not unlike the sensation owners of a high-rise apartment in downtown Houston experience each time they enter their urban pied-a-terre. “We open the door and are instantly new people,” says the wife, referencing the panoply of colors covering every conceivable surface. Even the laundry room sheathed in teal-toned palm leaf wallpaper brightens the prospect of carrying out that task. “We’ve always loved color,” she says, “but six years of living in Singapore really reinforced that.”
During the couple’s overseas tenure, the wife established a design business and quickly gained popularity among other expats “with either no furniture or things too large in scale for the houses there,” she explains. Upon returning to Texas–and eventually, a full-time residence in The Woodlands–she brought her colorful aesthetic to local clients before eventually phasing out of design in order to spend more time with family. So when it came time to furnish the couple’s new high-rise in the city, they decided to enlist designer Laura Umansky. “She does color but with restraint–and I need to be restrained,” the wife notes with a chuckle.
But rather than reining in the client’s Technicolor cravings, Umansky–with her principal designer Letecia Ellis Haywood and senior designer Blair Foster–embraced the chosen saturated jewel-tone palette, diving headlong into the initial request for chartreuse and cobalt with a side of fuchsia. “No color was off limits,” Foster says. On the side of the living room designated for entertaining, for example, a viridian velvet sofa and bright blue wood cocktail table got things rolling, while pops of requisite pink appear on a bold multicolor patchwork swivel chair. A vintage daybed touting a cobalt-and-white pattern completes the grouping. “Mixing all these patterns and colors while making everything flow and make sense was our goal,” Umansky says.
Thanks to careful attention to scale and proportion, along with following a suggestion from the design-savvy homeowner, there’s an undertone of order to everything. “We began with a lead-in fabric in an overarching pattern–like the patchwork material on the chair–and then determined what would complement rather than compete,” Ellis Haywood says. As for the wife’s contribution, she requested every color have a “friend.” An example is the deep emerald on the entry table, which continues on the living room lamps before repeating on the bedroom doors, lacquered the same hue by builder Tres Shelton and project manager Steve Nicewarner. “There’s not a random pop of anything that doesn’t relate to something else,” notes Ellis Haywood.
On the lounge side of the living room–a space made possible by removing an existing study–an otherwise impossibly pink chair with strong cobalt accents gains a sense of belonging thanks to similar tones in the accent pillows and nearby kitchen counter stools wrapped in cobalt velvet. Pulling it all together is the kaleidoscope-like Lindsay Cowles wallpaper. Visible from everywhere, “It’s a great complement to the patchwork chair, references several other items, and has many, many friends,” Foster says.
In that same space, the need to mask the HVAC spawned the solution of a series of vertical wood slats stained to match the floor color. “To make the slats a more intentional architectural element, we did both the ceiling and the wall,” explains Foster. And in the spirit of friendship, the wood slat element chats up the laser-cut woodwork lined panels in a similar stain enhancing the lacquer master bedroom wallcovering in an equally sociable cobalt blue.
If there’s a place to exhale, it’s the dining room, where blue and green are the sole hues. “It’s definitely a palette cleanser although the cobalt is still a grounding element,” says Umansky, who designed this space with the home’s opening sequence in mind. “In the entry with the woven grass cloth and teal table, you are dipping in your toe,” she describes, “and then you continue wading into the dining room until becoming fully immersed in the residence.”
It’s that sensation of almost drowning in a sea of hues that continues to enthrall the color addicted homeowners and all who enter. “We are always discovering something new but watching guests react to the colors is also so much fun,” says the wife. “People just come to a complete stop in the entry to take it all in, and for us that is very fulfilling.”