For this floor-to-ceiling, down-to-the-studs renovation in Houston, interior designer and architectural consultant Sarah West wanted to convey a sense of warmth and history as displayed in the furnishings, art, and finishes.
Sarah West is a pro on the go. Fielding this interview in her car, she’s heading to a meeting in Austin, Texas, then immediately jetting off to Aspen, Colorado, for another project. But she’s not too busy to talk about one of her very favorite projects to date among the more than 150 she has completed in the 21 years she’s been designing: the Stablewood project, in her hometown of Houston.
“Each of my projects has a common thread formulated throughout, which is based on how the homeowners want to feel when they live in their home,” West says. “It gives great satisfaction to create a happy home where my clients can create lasting memories.” But there are more potential projects than time can accommodate, and when Leslie Sinclair of Segreto Finishes initially called about a new one, West’s plate was full and she wasn’t planning on taking another project. “When the homeowner and I finally connected, she told me about her interest in Spanish antiques and curated collection of Native American art and artifacts and Western art, and that clinched it,” says West, who counts among her fondest memories summers in her youth spent at a summer camp on a Chippewa Indian reservation in northern Minnesota.
“I remember how wonderful the reservation was, canoeing across the water and interacting with the people,” she says.
“My childhood connection created so much respect for Native American culture, so I knew it would be an honor to display some of the homeowner’s artifacts and work with someone who also had a real appreciation for the beadwork, carving, and textiles. Immediately you could see the history and craftsmanship in the collection, which inspired me to create a warm environment that’s almost a casual museum.”
Native American artifacts are placed throughout the entire house. “It’s easy to place an entire art collection in one room, but my vision was to integrate these details in all the living spaces,” West says. “You will see artifacts and beadwork mounted above a wine room door, in a powder room, in a stone niche, above a keeping-room fireplace. Installing the collection throughout the space created a perfect balance of a museum with the warmth of an inviting home. Each room’s details entice you into the next, where you find more unexpected surprises.”
Richly colored Native American saddle blankets are suspended from the dining room ceiling to serve as art and add an element of softness to the room. “We tried to integrate the owner’s vast collection of Native American beadwork and unexpected Western elements, including vintage cowboy woolies and the Edward H. Bohlin saddle that belonged to Burt Reynolds.
“The homeowner wanted to feel a sense of warmth and coziness, which was considered as we designed the layout of the furniture, art, and finishes,” West says. And she wanted the home to tell a story from the moment you walked through the large steel entry doors veiled in antique shutters made of reclaimed wood from an old barn from the client’s family ranch. West narrates a home tour, giving abundant examples of her brand of design “mixology,” ranging from French tiles to Spanish chandeliers to the sheepskin rug that lines the special alcove for the homeowner’s King Charles spaniels. As you meander through the home, you will find everything from Texas bluebonnets over the mantel, to Portuguese tiles, English lanterns, French enfilades — constant surprises everywhere but also a sense of flow and cohesiveness.
“The entry is filled with the client’s collections of carefully chronicled art, anchored by the warmth of antique floors and rugs. I loved placing the painting by Western artist John Moyers [son of Cowboy Artist William Moyers] above the 18th-century Spanish settee in the entry. As you peek though the stone-encrusted vestibule, the soft glow of the vintage glass chandelier casts light on the antique door leading to the powder room.” The powder room sconces are vintage Murano [Venetian glass], and the rose-colored stone sink is reclaimed from Europe. The master bath hosts French antique terracotta tiles from the ceiling of a livery, which West repurposed as flooring and walls; saddle blankets were layered on the master closet floor rather than on furniture as you might expect.
The result blends old and new, modern and traditional. “For me it’s always important to preserve a sense of history when you have such a beautiful collection and to not be afraid to integrate the past into a transitional house — transitional because it’s not too harsh, not too modern. The entire house is anchored with antique floors. “You are literally walking across generations of use, which creates such a beautiful character. My client’s vision was for friends and family to wander through each carefully detailed room and see the history and how people in the past lived, along with the great appreciation of the craftsmanship through the centuries.”
West wanted to create a peaceful home but also make sure it was a place to entertain with plenty of opportunity for gatherings animated by great music and food. So as much as the house needed to be a “tangible structure for intangible memories,” it also needed to be a place that could host a great party. That aspect would become an important part of the reveal. “I always like to have a client’s favorite music playing when they see the home installed with all of their favorite things.”
The Stablewood reveal culminated a period of over two years when all the furnishings, lighting, rugs, etc. that had been purchased and stored in a warehouse were finally moved in and arranged in a three-day installation. “I do an actual reveal,” West says. “I have the homeowner’s favorite wine and favorite music. They walk into a complete experience of their home. For Stablewood, my favorite part was having the homeowner, who by then had become a wonderful friend, walk in and see all of the things she loved, woven together with all the items we’d chosen. It was so much fun to experience everything installed. It really provided a different perspective.”
The music is playing. The wine is poured. The door is opened. “This is the moment that everything comes together, when what I’ve been thinking about when I lay my head on the pillow — How will my clients feel when they see everything come together? — becomes not just real, but a real home.”
“The great room is, by design, a combination of architectural antiques — including the antique French enfilade integrated into the wall which hosts the television, a modern sofa, and rich blue ombré velvet Italian chairs — and the Texas influence of bluebonnets dancing across a painting above the plastered walls and fireplace. This is my ‘room with a view’ into the divine kitchen and keeping room. The custom rug was made by Kyle Bunting, and we were able to select all of the hides’ colors and design, so this was special for this project. The modern art on the wall is flanked by two pairs of vintage woolies noting the client’s love of cowboys and their history. Burt Reynolds’ saddle designed by Edward Bohlin is displayed in the great room, which adds an element of fun as guests gather and an appreciation for great craftsmanship.”
“The keeping room and kitchen were designed for cooking with friends and family in a warm, inviting environment. A plastered fireplace anchors the kitchen and allows for everyone to enjoy a small gathering in this common area. Oftentimes, I encourage my clients to mix various periods of furniture as evidenced in the keeping room. Mid-century modern velvet chairs anchor an antique Spanish breakfast-room table. For those who simply want to escape and enjoy the view, a restored vintage Arne Jacobsen egg chair clad in sheepskin is the perfect retreat. The reclaimed terracotta tile ceilings once served as flooring in a European home. I often repurpose architectural antiques and use them in a manner that is unexpected as evidenced by old floors becoming ceilings, flanked by reclaimed beams. The kitchen hosts an English arts and crafts bronze lantern I chose to hang over the sink instead of the expected fixture over a kitchen island.”
“The library was created to house the owner’s collection of Native American artifacts. I immediately devised a way I felt would be ideal to display this art and allow for exhibits to change as the collection grew. The plaster shelves were designed by Sarah West and Associates and fabricated by Segreto. Segreto also provided the plaster finishes throughout the home. I chose to cantilever the shelves out of the walls to provide the perfect foundation for this fabulous collection. The vintage airplane chairs were covered in a golden suede and centered around a vintage brass and glass coffee table.”
“The dining room hosts a pair of 18th-century Genoese chandeliers over the dining table. Instead of purchasing a full set of all-matching dining room chairs, I elected to curate a collection of antique Spanish leather chairs so that each guest would be seated in a different-style chair. You will see that no more than two are alike. Spanish saddle blankets are suspended from the ceiling to serve as a first impression as you walk into the home — unexpected art. You also find on the opposite wall, a reclaimed gilt altar.”
The master bedroom, master hall, and master bath suite evoke the feel of romanticism as you travel through each room. The master bedroom headboard is a 19th-century English carved panel that I repurposed as a headboard. The large antique lantern illuminating the bedroom is also from England. The master bedroom fireplace hosts a vintage panel of antique tile anchored by plastered benches. Soft fabrics and shades of blue create a romantic feel, mixed with the Spanish detail in the side tables and art. The chaise lounge in the master bedroom was designed by Sarah West Associates and creates an inviting spot to sit and read a book and enjoy the view of the backyard. You will also notice the Native American Indian artifacts integrated into this room with the common color of shades of blue throughout.”
“The rich color in the master closet was the perfect palette to host the owner’s collection of vintage cowboy boots. My vision was to add additional layering with vintage Hermes scarves framed in brass to tie in the antique rugs and vintage collection of boots and hats. The rich color of the room — coupled with layered antique Spanish rugs, brass hardware, and lighting — results in a casual yet chic retreat for the homeowner to enjoy. This room always makes me feel like it would be a perfect gathering for a glass of champagne and a party! I also integrated a vintage Veuve champagne bucket with a rose-filled pair of the client’s favorite childhood boots on the makeup vanity. I love to include these special things that are meaningful to my clients to make their project feel special.”
“The master bathroom was created solely around the antique parefeuille ceiling tile I secured, which we installed as flooring. The original purpose of this 18th-century tile was to serve as the ceiling in a horse barn. The ceiling tiles were originally installed with beams on top. The original European owners painted this tile ceiling various shades of blue many times through the centuries. When the beams and tile were removed from the original livery, the original terracotta color was revealed. I decided to install these tiles on the floor in a brick pattern for added interest. As you walk across them, you see the terracotta ends where the antique beams were originally located. The balance was cut into smaller sections and used to clad the groin vault over the master tub. The antique crystal bird sconces in the master bathroom served as another reminder of the homeowner’s love for animals and birds.”
Get The Look
High Back Saddle ($1,500), ciscosgallery.com; Bastille Wrought-Iron Chandelier (inquire for pricing), thearrangement.com; High Woven Back Counter Stool (inquire for pricing) hollyhunt.com; Larchmont Chair ($6,995-$8,370), kellywearstler.com; Los Ojos Rug (inquire for pricing), southwestlooms.com; Highly Collectible Vintage Figueroa Bit ($2,500), westerntradingpost.com; Zebra Onyx Bowl (inquire for pricing), thearrangement.com
From our January 2022 issue