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Two Top Houston Designers Share the Best Finds from CB2, OKA, and More

Shop Affordable Pieces Like the Pros

BY // 09.14.21

Their styles couldn’t be more diametrically opposed. Courtnay Tartt Elias, principal and creative director of Creative Tonic Design, lives in a riot of bright, bold colors. Kevin Spearman, principal of Kevin Spearman Design Group, designs his modern spaces with a crisp, monochromatic palette. Both bring a sophisticated elegance to their commissioned environs and understand the dynamics of a high/low product mix.

Courtnay Tartt Elias and Kevin Spearman, two top Houston designers with very different styles.

We challenged them to shop with us at three new Houston stores — Ballard Designs, OKA, and CB2that began as mail-order companies and transformed into brick-and-mortar meccas. Here are the pieces they can’t leave behind.


Ballard Designs opened a brick-and-mortar in River Oaks this year.

Ballard Designs

Felicity Chandelier | $749, at Ballard Designs

“I’m super-conscious of a client’s budget, and I think Ballard Designs does its outdoor furniture and lighting lines the best. You can get great-quality pieces in both categories without breaking the bank. Take this 12-light painted iron chandelier — I just installed it in a client’s dining room. You can even bend and twist the leaves!” — Courtnay Tartt Elias


Suzanne Kasler Mathes Upholstered Sofa | $2,799 – $4,449, at Ballard Designs

“This tailored Suzanne Kasler sofa is a good staple. I love a white sofa, and if you cover it in an indoor/outdoor fabric like Sunbrella, it’s dog-, kid-, and fad-proof. It’s clean and classic, allowing you to build anything around it.” — Kevin Spearman


Willow Dining Table and Chairs | table $659, chair $399, at Ballard Designs

“This outdoor dining table and chairs set reminds me of a vintage one made in the ’60s and ’70s, but it can withstand the elements. It would be great inside an apartment or to use as a games table. The glass top lets you see all the detail of the hand-woven wicker over an aluminum frame.” — Courtnay Tartt Elias


Farrah Woven Pendant$299, at Ballard Designs

“I’m drawn to the Farrah woven-rattan and iron pendant because of its texture and the scalloped shape. I could see using it in a breakfast room, or a couple over a kitchen island. It would give any room a lift and a bit of personality.” — Kevin Spearman


Miles Redd Bermuda Lounge Chair with Cushions | $899, at Ballard Designs

“I adore everything Miles Redd does, particularly his outdoor Bermuda collection at Ballard. It’s so chic with the white-on-white fretwork — and clever, too with a drawer to tuck away the cushions when not in use. Of course, I’d pop the chair with a colorful cushion and throw pillow in lieu of white.” — Courtnay Tartt Elias



Blakely Stool |$459 – $479, at Ballard Designs

“The Blakely stool’s hand-woven back in seagrass rope makes it look more expensive. I love the warm gray stain finish of the painted wood frame — it’s a neutral that looks very current. The scale of the stool is great, too. Scale can really throw off a piece and make it look cheap if you’re not careful.” — Kevin Spearman


Dayna Side Chairset of two $699, at Ballard Designs

“I’d go for the green chairs instead of white — green to me is a neutral. I can see them working as a desk chair or a great dining chair in a breakfast room around a glass-topped table. I’d custom-upholster the seats with a colorful fabric. In fact, we’re redoing Creative Tonic’s office space, and I need to consider these!” — Courtnay Tartt Elias


best cb2 decor

Bornova Coffee Table$799, at Ballard Designs

“I like this coffee table because its textural — and it’s black. I think every room should have something black in it. It allows for good flow, to circulate around it easily as well. It feels collected, like a primitive or African piece.” — Kevin Spearman

Aya Pagoda Pendant$549, at Ballard Designs

“I gravitate towards a lot of the chinoiserie pieces here. I’ve used these blue pagoda-shaped pendants — see the tiny bells, too — for clients, especially in kids’ bedrooms and powder rooms.” — Courtnay Tartt Elias


Bamboo Melamine Dinnerwaredinner plate, set of four $49; accent plate, set of four $39, at Ballard Designs

“Love these melamine plates! Don’t they look like something Juliska would make? Particularly with the blue chinoiserie-like painted design.” — Courtnay Tartt Elias


Robbie Chair | From $999, at Ballard Designs

“Vintage is so big right now. The Robbie chair has that ’70s vibe that’s coming back strong. I love the fabric — it’s neutral, I wouldn’t doll it up, though, and put a pillow on it. Maybe a throw, if you had two chairs in a room … It would look too decorated with pillows. Often rooms get too decorated; it’s like wearing too much jewelry. Keep things simple.” — Kevin Spearman


Inside OKA’s Houston store. (courtesy of OKA)


Lantau Faux-Shagreen and Gold Desk | $2,095, at OKA

“I’d use this desk as a dressing table in a bedroom. The color is warm green-gray with a glint of gold. It could really lift a room.” — Kevin Spearman



Peking TV Cabinet$1,995, at OKA

“OKA has some great case goods, such as this Peking TV Cabinet. You could put this in an entry or create a whole guest room around it. Built to house a TV, I’d love to see it as a bar, too. Look, the chinoiserie design on the front continues inside the doors and all three sides of the piece.” — Courtnay Tartt Elias


best cb2 decor

Gullion Bench | $2,495, at OKA

“I spotted this resin-sealed wood bench on my way inside. I love the irregular shape and the woodgrain texture. It can withstand the elements and be used indoors or out.” — Kevin Spearman

Nell 2.5-Seater Sofa and Tantallon Floor Pillow | sofa $2,895, pillow $395, at OKA

“I just put this velvet sofa in a client’s long, narrow music room. It’s really comfortable and very 1970s. I paired it with two of OKA’s Tantallon floor pillows, one in each color: red and blue.” — Courtnay Tartt Elias


Lenox Bar Cart$1,495, at OKA

“This bar cart has a nice edge to it. It’s not like grandma would have had!” — Kevin Spearman


George Cheetah Print  Armchair$3,595, at OKA

“Can’t you see these armchairs pulled up beside a fireplace? They’re upholstered with goat hair and hand-dyed to resemble a cheetah’s coat. I have to find a way to use a pair for a client. ” — Courtnay Tartt Elias


Large Papavera Vase in Volcanic White |$295, at OKA

“I like pottery a lot right now, and I love the color, the shape, and the size of this Papavera vase. It’s organic looking and would be great in the middle of a table or poised upon a pedestal.” — Kevin Spearman





Isphahan Plates | set of four $275 – $550, at OKA

“OKA’s colorful plates are such fun. The English know how to set a great table! I’m drawn to their Isphahan Collection, inspired by ancient Persian designs.” — Courtnay Tartt Elias


CB2’s much-anticipated first Houston store opened this summer in historic Rice Village.


best cb2 decor

Tria Gray Marble Console Table | $1,699, at CB2

“Wow, this console is terrific. It feels so one-of-a-kind. The size and scale, the veining of the marble, and the asymmetry are amazing.” — Courtnay Tartt Elias


Gwyneth Ivory Bouclé Chair | $899, at CB2

“I’m working with my assistant on her home, and we’re getting two of these mod bouclé-like chairs for her living room. They are a Goop collaboration and feel good to sit in. The shape is fantastic, and they can swivel, too. They look inspired by a Danish vintage piece, but you can’t beat the price.” — Kevin Spearman


best cb2 decor

Babylon Torrento Round Small Table | $1,599, at CB2

“This is the perfect 30” small table — and it is marble. Reasonably priced, too. You could use it so many places, from a breakfast nook to an entry.” — Courtnay Tartt Elias


best cb2 decor

Leggero Champagne Pole Wall Sconce | $149, at CB2

“I’m working on a ranch in Fredericksburg, and these wall sconces by Goop could be perfect there. Notice, it comes with a black-fabric-covered cord, but in many cases, I have the cord covers replaced with a colorful one that goes with the decor we’re creating.” — Courtnay Tartt Elias


cb2 decor

Madera Black Terracotta Dinner Plate | $11.95 each, at CB2

“I’m working with a client whose kitchen has white-painted brick walls and open shelves. I think these black terracotta plates with a natural edge would be a lovely contrast to stack on the shelves. I’d buy them for my own home, too.” — Kevin Spearman


best cb2 decor

Suffolk Grasscloth Media Credenza | $1,999, at CB2

“This grasscloth-covered piece is stunning. I could use this credenza in so many different places. I’m not sure about the black metallic plinth base; I might paint it.”  — Courtnay Tartt Elias


Amati Burl Wood Entryway Cabinet | $999, at CB2

“This curved Mappa burl-wood cabinet has great lines. I could see flanking an entry with two or using one as a drinks cabinet.” — Kevin Spearman


best cb2 decor

Gabi Rattan Entryway Cabinet | $1,499, at CB2

“I’m crazy about the curved shape of this rattan cabinet. Look at how it’s finished with black-metal edging. Very vintage feeling.”  — Courtnay Tartt Elias


best cb2 decor

Gemini Black Lounge Chair$899, at CB2

“I just used this sculptural black leather chair in a boy’s bedroom. It’s really handsome, and the lines are sleek. I’m drawn to understated designs; I run the opposite way of the glam trend. I want to strip rooms back to their essentials.” — Kevin Spearman



Cylinder Champagne Flutes | Set of eight $15.60, at CB2

“These stylish champagne flutes have a nice, thin lip but aren’t too fragile. They can double as a sleek bud vase.” — Courtnay Tartt Elias


best cb2 decor

Lenyx Leather Sofa | $2,499, at CB2

“I’m not a leather-sofa person, but I admit CB2 does some beautiful ones. I like this low, boxy-style silhouette, and the distressed caramel color is beautiful. It feels understated — very European, very Jean-Michel Frank.” — Kevin Spearman


best cb2 decor

Nadia Black Cane Chair | $379, at CB2

“Baker makes a cane chair that reminds me of this one. This is a keeper, although I’d replace the seat cushions.” — Courtnay Tartt Elias

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