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While moving into a new house is a sweet beginning to an exciting new chapter, saying goodbye to the old one is always a bit sentimental—especially when you've designed every detail yourself. Such was the case for interior designer Paloma Contreras, who transformed her family's former three-bedroom Houston home from top to bottom before selling it earlier this year. "This home saw a lot of personal and professional growth for us, so it will always hold a special place in our hearts," says the designer, whose second book, The New Classic Home: Modern Meets Traditional Style, just came out last month. Now, she looks back with only fond memories of the place she happily called home.
As an interior designer, Contreras has access to a lengthy Rolodex of contractors and artisans. But she actually turned to her husband, Fabian, to tackle a lot of the handy tasks, including installing the fixtures and dimmer switches, painting the walls, and attaching cabinet hardware. (The head of hospitality and contract sales at Visual Comfort & Co., Fabian is not a handyman by trade—but he is handy!) "It's a blessing and a curse, because, on the one hand, he saves us money, but on the other, it takes up all of his spare time, and projects can drag on," Contreras says of keeping the renovation in the family.
As for the rest of the space's design, Contreras led that charge, changing nearly everything about the circa 2001 home's aesthetic—save for a few architectural details. "The moldings were stunning—like what you would expect to see in a home three times more expensive," she says. "The dining and living room windows and the soaring built-ins flanking the fireplace sold us on the house."
Those were about the only holdovers from the original home that Contreras kept. "We did not move walls, but there really wasn't a surface, finish, or fixture that we did not touch," she says. One of the most egregious elements was the palette, which the designer felt reeked of the 1990s. "Think yellow, tan, and sage green. We painted the majority of the house my go-to, Benjamin Moore White Dove, and added wallpaper in some key rooms," she says. Contreras also swapped out the original fixtures, tiles, and countertops for alternatives that felt both contemporary and classic. "It's a process of tweaking, editing, and collecting before a home is perfectly layered," she explains.
Though Conteras and her family moved on this past spring, after seven years in the prominent townhouse in Houston's historic district, she'll always think of it in with love. In fact, she says, "It was a very solid, classic house that provided a wonderful background for not only our interiors but for a very sweet chapter of our lives."
"The majority of the time my family and I spent together in this home was usually in this room. It was where we would unwind in the evenings, play with our young daughter during the daytime, and where we'd gather with family and friends," Contreras says.
Unlike plenty of families, Contreras and her family didn't use their formal dining room only for special occasions. "We enjoyed all of our meals in this dining room," she notes. Dining table: Bunny Williams Home. Dining chairs: antique André Arbus. Chandelier: Visual Comfort & Co.
In the home's one half bath, Contreras had some fun with a gleaming abstract wallpaper that doesn't detract from the rest of the home's more classic look. Wallpaper: Fornasetti. Faucet: Kohler. Mirror: 19th-century Louis Philippe.
Contreras says, "While some might find brown to be a bold color, I find this chocolate hue so cozy, warm, and inviting." Painting: Alexis Walter. Wallpaper: Schumacher. Table lamp: Paloma Contreras for Visual Comfort & Co.
"As soon as this Schumacher moire wallcovering went up, it transformed the space. It felt like the most inviting room. It certainly looked chic, but there is something about this rich hue that makes me feel instantly at ease," the designer adds. Chair: Ballard Designs, upholstered in Schumacher velvet. Table: Vintage. Bench: Vintage, in Schumacher fabric.
"When it came time to design my daughter’s nursery, I knew I wanted her room to be feminine and beautiful, but not overtly girly or juvenile. I selected a beautiful wallpaper by Iksel called Xanadu Landcape, which is composed of beautiful green and pink hues. One of my favorite memories of this house was seeing her point out the birds, butterflies, and flowers in the wallpaper. It really sparked her imagination," Contreras notes. Wallpaper: Iksel. Chair: Poppie Toys. Lamp: Vintage Baguès from the Paris flea market. Crib skirt: Biscuit; Crib: Serena & Lily.
House Beautiful: What was the reason/inspiration for the new design?
Paloma Contreras: I sought to make the house my own and make it feel more crisp. It took several years to get to this iteration. The bulk of the renovation happened early on, but the interiors took a few years to get to the right place before we put the house on the market.
HB: Did you encounter any memorable hiccups, challenges, or surprises during the project?
PC: Luckily, not any major ones that I can remember. Perhaps I have blocked them from my memory!
HB: How did you save money/DIY/get crafty? Please detail as many of these as you can!
PC: My husband, Fabian is super handy and loves a project, so he likes to do a lot of things himself. He installed the light fixtures and dimmer switches himself, painted the rooms, and installed the cabinet hardware on his own. He loves to tinker!
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