Some may view an antique rolling pin as simply an old kitchen utensil. But when interior designer Sarah Eilers spied a collection of them that belonged to client Jamie Sanford’s grandmother, she saw a design opportunity. “I try to include elements that are meaningful to the homeowners whenever possible,” says Eilers, who commissioned a local artist to assemble those pins and a few others into a piece now decorating a wall in her client’s breakfast room. The interior designer then proceeded to artfully arrange fishing rods and baskets in the husband’s study. “He loves to fish, and displaying items such as these helped put a personal stamp on the house,” she explains.
Eilers’ desire to create a home unique to its inhabitants is a common theme throughout her projects. “In this case, Jamie came to us with some inspiration pictures, giving us a sense of her style but no distinct direction,” says Eilers, whose project designer, Laura Beth Rickaway, helped bring this home to life. “When that happens, we take the client shopping and expose them to as many ideas as possible.” From the onset, the interior designer strives to decipher the homeowners’ individual preferences and include them throughout the process.
That level of interactivity was just what Jamie envisioned when she and her husband, Key, purchased the Acadian-style home in Houston’s Memorial neighborhood. After years of small-town life in Katy and with three grown sons out the door, the couple wanted to start fresh—while bypassing the construction stage. “We didn’t want to wait two to three years for completion, so when we found a spec house with a good floor plan and a flexible builder, we went for it,” Jamie says.
Builder Karl Hansen was just beginning the trim phase when the Sanfords came along. “It soon became a custom home,” he says, adding that he happily accommodated requests for interior changes. “In particular, they wanted cabinets and moldings specific to their needs.” But the residence’s rustic French exterior, a collaboration with architect Craig Stiteler, remained intact. “Part of the home’s attraction is that it’s not just another Mediterranean-style house,” the architect explains. “Things like the brick walls and slate roof with clay hips and bridges set it apart.”
For his part, Stiteler chose authentic-looking materials that react well to the area’s humidity. For instance, “integral plaster that is hand-troweled has the depth of an old-world finish and stands up to the elements better than synthetic stucco,” he says. The architect, who opted for clay brick over concrete for the same reason, wanted the house to have a timeless look, accomplished through honest, traditional materials.
By her own admission, Jamie felt overwhelmed at the prospect of tackling the interiors of such a large home alone, so she contacted finish designer Leslie Sinclair for assistance. With her guidance, they settled on pale blue for the kitchen cabinets, but for the remaining interior decisions Sinclair recommended Eilers, who took the lead from there. The interior designer invited the wife on a whirlwind tour of shops and showrooms, a hands-on experience that delighted the homeowner. “Playing a role in picking every single thing was my favorite part,” says Jamie, who reveled in touching fabrics and test-driving chairs. Already in place, the home’s reclaimed antique heart pine flooring, purchased through The Woodshop of Texas and salvaged from the American Crayon Company in Ohio, and a network of salvaged ceiling timbers provided the backdrop for the owners’ vision of timeless interiors with contemporary art accents.
A selection of rugs cemented the home’s color scheme. In the family room, for instance, a soft blue-and-beige Tabriz rug sets off the neutral-tone sofa as well as the wood-framed chair sporting a bold indigo-and-white pattern. “When you enter the house you see right through to the family room, so it needed a ‘wow’ factor like that chair,” Eilers says. Similarly, the neutral tones of the dining room’s Oushak rug drove the choice of pale linen on the chairs, while a whisper of blue on the draperies made of Kerry Joyce fabric ties back to the hues originally established in the kitchen.
Also in the dining room, a delicate crystal chandelier suspended from the custom plaster groin-vault ceiling is one of several light fixtures employed as a statement piece. A more masculine French wood-carved version hangs from the study’s coffered ceiling, and in the stairway a trio of suspended iron-and-glass lanterns complements the geometry of the iron-and-wood switchback staircase. “The goal was to have a cohesive mix of antique and contemporary lighting,” Eilers says.
In a final flourish, Eilers seamlessly related the interiors to the outdoor living spaces. In lieu of a matchy-matchy approach, she mixed cast-aluminum sofas with a zinc-and-teak coffee table in the covered outdoor living area and blended slipcovered chairs and teak benches in the space’s dining area. “It’s easy to one-stop shop for outdoor furnishings,” she says, “but a collected look creates a connection from inside to outside and ties everything together.”