Custodian of Cool

Inside the Nest of Kristen Nix

Jonathan Lerner. Photography Jack Thompson and Jenny Antill. Architecture Preston Bolton circa 1963. Art direction Michelle Aviña. Hair and makeup Stephanie Barron, Shyn Salon
October 29, 2012

Proof that adult sensibilities are formed in childhood? Exhibit A: Kristen Nix. “I grew up in a home that appreciated quality materials, good design and artwork,” she says. Her father sold modernist office furniture, lines such as Herman Miller and Knoll. Her mother, Sheridan Williams, is an interior designer. “My mom also set the example that a woman can have it all.” Now, at 31, Nix has launched a business, Kristen Nix Interiors. She’s married to Lee Nix, an investment banker. They have a two-year-old son, Ryan, who just may turn out to be the restaurateur of the moment around — who knows? — 2035. And then there is the house. That would be a soft-spoken 1963 contemporary masterpiece by the late Houston architect and art patron Preston Bolton — the kind of house you don’t inhabit so much as curate. 

“It’s taught me to keep things simple,” she says. “I don’t want to mess with its integrity.” So she resists frequent suggestions that its natural brick be painted, in the current fashion. She resisted her own impulse for window coverings, realizing that glassy as it is, the house is sited for complete privacy — and that glassiness is the building’s essence. “Houston’s going through this phase where everybody wants the country French farmhouse look, reclaimed wood everywhere,” she says. “Every one of my girlfriends has that. But it’s not me.”

And now, our subject’s double-time dossier: UT degree in journalism. Internship at Vogue. Stint as one of five art directors for The Book for Neiman Marcus. Gig as event coordinator for Dancie Perugini Ware Public Relations. Degree program in interior design at Houston Community College. Intensive workshop with superstar London designer Kelly Hoppen. Internship with Houston’s Randy Powers, who remains “a key mentor for me.” Just a word to the wise: Keep your eye on Nix, and don’t blink. She’s going places, and if we’re very, very good she’ll take us with her.

On interning at Vogue. I was 21. It was totally Devil Wears Prada. I thought I was going to New York to have a fun summer. But I worked my butt off, even if that was just waiting on a Saturday for a carnet to come from Europe with something that Anna [Wintour] was going to wear the next week, and I had to be there to sign for it.

Guest list for a dream party (or working dinner). Tory Burch, Kelly Hoppen, Celerie Kemble, Aerin Lauder, Randy Powers and my mom. We would all talk interior design. When Tory Burch was in Houston last, I told her, “Okay, you have got to come out with an interior design line. Fabrics! Furniture!” She is just waiting to happen.

Interior design do. A textured wall — linen, grasscloth — adds so much depth and dimension.

Interior design don’t. Too much pattern in a room.

Project paradox. I’d love to do a traditional Georgian family house — painted brick, big gas lanterns, gravel driveway. I’d love a reason to use more cake trims and gild the lily.

Kitchen confidential. I love to cook. I have the coolest garden. I don’t use cookbooks, but I compiled a binder of recipes from my late grandmother, Mimi; my dad, who’s a fabulous cook; and
the Internet. Love Gwyneth Paltrow’s site.

Okra asceticism. I’ve got three huge okra plants. Okay, I love it fried. But we only do that on weekends.

Mother and child reunion. I wanted a little girl so badly, and I didn’t realize I was going to love a little boy so much. There’s something really cool about this opposite-sex relationship. He’s a people person, and he’s like my husband, where he does things very thoroughly, in the right way. He loves to play cooking. He’s a little OCD. He cleans up after himself. That’s very useful.


Flower: Orchid.

Soap: Mrs. Meyer’s Basil.

Scent: Not a perfume girl.

Song: Currently “When I’m Small” by Phantogram. But anything by Sade. I’ve listened to her music since I was a little girl — like, my mom picking me up in the carpool. Sade’s my soundtrack.

App: Duh! Diptic. It’s awesome.

Book: Gone Girl.

Restaurant: Da Marco, during truffle season. Uchi, for the hama chili.

Getaway: Turks and Caicos.

Car: Sixties-vintage Mercedes convertible.

Pet: No more pets! Do you need a Yorkie?

Guilty pleasure: Tate’s chocolate chip cookies.