From a Cramped New York Apartment to a Houston Dream Home: A Young Mom/Entrepreneur Finds Designing Heaven in Avalon
Looke turned an awkward corridor into a statement hallway with Schumacher ikat wallpaper. The library is painted in Farrow & Ball Charleston Gray. The table, a family heirloom, pulls double duty with a leaf inserted and functions as an additional dining table for large dinner parties.
A painting by Meredith Pardue from Laura Rathe Fine Art was the starting point for the living room, one of the first rooms Looke decorated. Christopher Spitzmiller lamps. Coffee table by Hickory Chair. X benches upholstered in a geometric Osborne & Little fabric. Holland and Sherry and Manuel Canovas pillows. Silk curtains with Mary McDonald for Schumacher trim.
A moody Steven Seinberg painting from Søren Christensen Gallery in New Orleans; antique Italian console from Area. Silk taffeta custom curtains with Samuel & Sons Greek-key trim.
In the living room, a graphic Judith Foosaner painting from Laura Rathe Fine Art establishes the mood. Looke replaced a fussy mantel with this contemporary, streamlined version. Custom rug by Stark.
After installing a Lucrecia Waggoner installation in a project, Looke knew she wanted to start her own collection. This set of three porcelain pieces shine in the living room. At Laura Rathe Fine Art.
Artists such as Tommy Mitchell mix beauty and function. Tommy Mitchell Butterfly cocktail table, at Area.
The dining room is wallpapered in an aqua print from Lee Jofa. Ceiling and trim in Benjamin Moore Wythe Blue. Chandelier by Porto Romano. Curtains in Jim Thompson fabric frame the view of the backyard and pool. Louis XV dining chairs from Maison De Provence New Orleans surround an antique Italian table. Silk, cotton and jute rug from Carol Piper Rugs.
Looke isn’t normally into red but embraced this family antique china cabinet, which proved just the dash she needed for the serene blue dining room.
Looke made grandmother’s china her own by pairing it with monogrammed dinner napkins by Madison, a gift from her brother-in-law’s fiancée.
Looke in a Dolce & Gabbana poppy silk Mikado dress from Tootsies.
You don’t have to start over to make a design work for you. The yellow-and-blue country French look of the kitchen wasn’t her style, but Looke didn’t want to undertake a full kitchen renovation. Instead, she splurged on new appliances and painted over the yellow walls in bright white, embracing the blue-and-white scheme.
Looke crafted her breakfast room in the same blue and white hues as the kitchen. Lucite brackets from Wisteria hold decorative ginger jars. Table from Oly Studio. Pillows in Groundworks Lee Jofa and John Robshaw prints.
The upstairs hall is dressed with an antique bench covered in Celerie Kemble for Schumacher. The painting previously belonged to Looke’s parents.
The master bedroom was the final room to get a design overhaul. After Looke fell hard for Miles Redd’s recently released chinoiserie fabric for Schumacher, she had a bed custom-made and swathed in it. A set of six prints of antique Goltzius coins has as much impact as one large piece of art. Satin quilt by Leontine Linens.
Marni, the family dog, perches on another family heirloom: a petite settee that received a modern update, reupholstered in a silk fabric by Old World Weavers. Black drinks table from Arteriors.
Looke made the most out of an awkward layout by embracing pattern in blue and white in her son’s room. Custom daybed is by The Joseph Company, upholstered in a Lee Jofa fabric with Samuel and Sons trim; John Robshaw pillows and Hermès Avalon blanket. A fluffy duvet hides out in the closet for sleeping.
Looke loves to frame Hermès scarves, especially for nurseries, as she did in her daughter’s room. “The color combinations are always so interesting,” she says.
Interior designer Lindsey Looke and husband, Steven, resided in cozy rental apartments (read: cramped) in New York, Chicago, Palo Alto and L.A. before relocating to Steven’s hometown of Houston, enabling him to accept a position in the family business and allowing Lindsey to finally have the square footage she craved.
After nearly a year of searching — while living in another petite apartment in River Oaks — they found their dream home in Avalon, a coveted neighborhood adjacent to River Oaks known for charming older houses in approachable sizes. In a competitive inner-loop real estate market, home-court advantages are key: Looke, who was pregnant with their first child, penned a letter to the owners, expressing their desire to raise their young family in that very home.
This personal touch won them the property; the previous owners had raised their family there, too. The Lookes moved in just in time — two weeks later, Looke gave birth to a baby boy.
The Federal-style two-story brick home was built in 1939, and an addition by prior owners resulted in a heavenly 3,560 total square feet — more than triple the size of their NYC apartment. At the time, Looke was studying interior design at The Art Institute; she soon began working as a design assistant for Munger Interiors.
Her busy schedule as a new mom, student and employee forced her to design her own home slowly and deliberately. What resulted is proof that patience is a virtue.
The Lookes’ house has turned into a beloved gathering place for the young innerloop social set. Dinner parties here are top-notch, and cocktails — an especially lethal margarita or Champagne with a float of raspberry, depending upon the occasion — are served in the family room. When dinner is involved, Looke holds court with one set of guests in the dining room, while her husband hosts another set in the library, which is filled with equal parts design books (hers) and autobiographical tomes (his), where a second table accommodates eight. Couples are frequently separated to keep conversation spinning among the guests.
Last year, after the birth of a daughter and at the prompting of friends, Looke went out on her own and opened Ella Lee Interiors. Her own home has served as a calling card for friends and friends of friends who have now become clients, eager to adopt her aesthetic: a contemporary and traditional home that provides for cozy living and entertaining.
Flower: Hydrangeas. Especially in blue-and-white vases.
Restaurants: B&B Butchers & Restaurant, State of Grace and Shake Shack, once it finally opens.
Hotel: The Carlyle in New York. I love the lobby, the history and its authenticity.
Necessary indulgence: Sleep.
Travel destination: Any place with family. We love going to Nantucket in the summer.
Dream project: Designing a beach house. Interior design don’t: Don’t hold yourself to any rules. Creativity is not about limitations.
Fave designer: Daniel Romualdez. He can do contemporary just as well as traditional, and his work is the right balance of livable elegance.
TOP TIPS FOR NEWLYWEDS FROM LOOKE:
• Buy things you love rather than simply to fill a space. And you don’t have to buy everything at once.
• Family heirlooms weave a personal story into your home. Also, they are gifted (ergo, free), which is a big plus. Even if it isn’t something you would have purchased, consider refurbishing to fit your taste.
• Look to a designer to help determine how to merge existing furniture and formulate a design scheme that serves as the foundation for future design work.
• Increase dinner party seating with tables in several rooms. Unbendable rule: Seat married couples apart to keep conversation flowing, witty and interesting.
• You can have nice things with young children; you just have to safeguard a bit. I museum-glued Christopher Spitzmiller lamps to vintage end tables. The removable gel creates a bond between the object and display surface.