Blog Awards and Other Musings

The Miles Redd skirted table that started the debate: skirts vs. no skirts.

This week I was pleasantly surprised to receive news that Cote de Texas had been awarded the "Best Blog of the Day Award" by the Blog of the Day Awards group. Lana, who writes the newly launched Topsy Turvy blog, nominated me for my "Skirted Tables" entry. Who ever knew that a story about a piece of fabric atop particle board would be worthy of any mention, much less an award? Thankfully the judges behind the Blog of the Day Awards did. The spirited and sometimes raucous debate between my readers and Decorno's readers caught the judges' eyes. Regardless of the merits of such a materialistic discussion, I'm thrilled to have won! Thank you!

And while I'm patting myself on the back, I just learned that Claudia from the Ferret and Hound blog has named Cote de Texas' entry on - what else - skirted tables, to her Top 5 Posts - January. She also cites my "Meeting of the blogs" about my trip to Dallas with blogger Patricia Gray, as a favorite too. Thanks Claudia - I feel so honored to be named twice!!! And be sure to check out All Things Bright and Beautiful for an interview with me on blogging. And just when I could start to get a bit of a big head from all this adulation, I only have to go check my stats at Technorati who rank my blog at a measly and embarrassingly low #73,982!!! Not exactly numbers to gloat about. Ah, well, you can't win them all.

Picture of my family room, shot for Houston House and Home magazine.

All this exciting news has made me stop and think about how much Cote de Texas has affected my life. When I started this blog around nine months ago, it was purely on a lark, something to do to amuse myself and maybe a few friends. I barely even knew what a blog was. I certainly had no clue that Cote de Texas would directly change my life - and for the better. Its effects have been phenomenal, and all the more so because I had no expectation of change, and certainly, no motivation drove me to create the blog. Cote de Texas was borne out of a desire to share my love of design, pure and simple. My family and friends have been very supportive, yet skeptically surprised that I am able to write in an informative and somewhat entertaining manner - something I am not so sure of myself! But, it has been the support from the nameless and faceless readers that has been the most surprising and fulfilling. Those very first comments I received remain the most thrilling ones of all. At this point, I realize I no longer write this blog for just myself, I continue it for the reader and I hadn't anticipated having this feeling of loyalty.

And there are more tangible ways my life has been enriched from the blog: I've heard from editors of favorite magazines who state they actually enjoy reading me. Imagine. My home was published in a local magazine after its editor read my blog. And recently, two national magazines have expressed interest in publishing my home, and, more importantly, my clients' homes. I've reconnected with friends I had lost touch with, and was even reacquainted with a former sister-in-law. I've received gifts from readers, unsolicited and unexpected. I've had art work commissioned for me from friendly bloggers. I've gotten new clients both in Houston and from the far reaches of the globe who seek my advice for their home via emails. I've made so many new friends through the blog - my inbox overflows. It's been rewarding to talk with people who share my love of design. And the most fun has been taking these cyberspace relationships further, meeting other bloggers in person and making lifelong friends in the process. So now, as I look back over the past nine months, what I do know is that through the power of the written word and the magic of the digital camera, what I've gotten back from you, the reader, has been so much more than what I have given. And for that, I am most grateful and thankful.

Cote de Texas meets up with Patricia Gray, Inc. at the Dallas World Market this January.

John Alexander

Texas claims three giant sons of the modern art movement of the 20th century: Robert Rauschenberg, Julian Schnabel, and John Alexander. Of the three, Alexander is the least known, and possibly, the one who remained closest to his Texan roots. Born in Beaumont and educated at SMU in Dallas, Alexander ended up in Houston, a professor at the University of Houston during the 70s. And although he's been in NYC for 30 years, his Texas ties remain strong and show up time and again in his art work. Affable and endearing, Alexander's art is known for it's humor and societal commentary. Not easily categorized, he is as famous for landscapes and nature studies as he is for his satirical commentaries on everyday life. Recent works of birds resemble a modern day Audubon, and his flower canvases rival any 18th century botanical study.

A retrospective of John Alexander's work is now underway in Washington D.C. at the Smithsonian's American Art Museum through March. After that time, the show will be on display at the Houston Museum of Arts, a fitting place for one of Texas' prodigal sons. The New York Social Diary today featured a recently held celebratory party given at the museum for Alexander. The reception was filled with the high society names that support the arts with their pocketbook. There is one major dissenter to all the rave reviews the retrospective is getting: the Washington Post's Blake Gopnik panned the show in a scathing review here. Despite this, Houstonians are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Alexander and his paintings. His fans here are legendary, as are his friends. Below are images of paintings by Alexander, some for sale and some sold in auction recently.

John Alexander on the right with Caroline Kennedy and her husband Edward Schlossberg at the reception for his retrospective at the Smithsonian's American Art Museum.

"Hiding from the taxman," 1986

"Man with two lives," 2007.

Recent nature study, influenced by Alexander's country home on Long Island, NY. I love this painting.

Oil by Alexander.

Early landscape by Alexander.

"Wine and roses," 2006.

"Fires of Xanadu," 1991, recently sold at auction for $17,250.00

"Christina's world," 1986, recently sold at auction for $19,550.00

Alexander's haunting "Topsy Turvy"

"The great horned owl." Recently sold at auction for $12,650.

"Troubled waters"

"Salwatch in the bois de boulogne." Recently auctioned off for $26,400.

"Keep your feet close to the fire."

Alexander and the singer, Paul Simon, at the reception in Washington.

Photo from the retrospective. You can get a feel for the size of the some of the canvases from this picture.

The famous painting, "Melon fields" from the retrospective.

A close up detail of "Melon fields."

The catalogue of the retrospective can be purchased from Amazon books.

And, finally, a bit of fun: native Houstonians may remember Alexander and this piece of gossip - he was once rumored to be the boyfriend of Houston's widowed, long-time mayor Kathryn Whitmire. In actuality, they were probably more friends than lovers. Whitmire was famous for her big glasses, power suits and neckties, and a peculiar resemblance to Dustin Hoffman's Tootsie.

Former mayor of Houston, Kathryn Whitmire, aka Tootsie. Long time friend of John Alexander's.

Today, Whitmire no longer in politics, lives in Hawaii. Obviously, she's also thrown away her powers suits and grown out her hair. Thank God!

Birthday Luncheon in West University with the Wills Girls

A few months ago I showed you pictures of my sister-in-law and brother-in-law's ranch in Chappell Hill, Texas. By the comments that entry received, everyone seemed to love their home. On Friday, Shannon, my sister-in-law, and her sister Anthea threw themselves a joint birthday party at Anthea's beautiful Houston home. That's Shannon passing out a bowl of home made crisps and her mother, Dottie, is on the far right. It was a small, intimate affair and it really is a great way to entertain - lunch at home instead of at a noisy restaurant filled with rushed businessmen. The three "Wills" girls made all the food: soup with a salad topped with delicious cold beef tender. I had a great time, but you know me - I was preoccupied with thoughts of taking pictures of Anthea's home to share with you!

Mealtime in the dining room. The walls are a gorgeous shade of dusty pink, more of a flesh tone, but definitely not coral. It reminds me so much of the Farrow and Ball shade, Ointment Pink, but it's not. One great thing about the paint is that it's flat, not egg shell. You don't see that too often anymore, but it really has a wonderful, dense look to it.

In the middle is the beautiful Anthea serving a dessert made by her absent husband. No men were allowed at lunch. The girl on the left is an old family friend and she is equally beautiful!

I had trouble concentrating on the conversation, which happens when I am surrounded by beauty. At the end of the dining room, on both sides of the window, is a pair of half-moon shaped, tall chests. Handpainted pink cabbage roses dance atop a pale celadon base. At the top of each chest, is one of a pair of large, antique Satsuma urns. The "Wills" girls know that these chests are my absolute favorite pieces in their family. I totally lust after them and if I could get away with it, these two chests would somehow find their way to my house. Oh well......

Along the side wall of the dining room between two windows is an antique gilded and painted buffet which sits under an oil painting. This piece comes in at a close second as my favorite.

And, on a short wall across from the buffet, this antique commode sits beneath an antique mirror. The dining room is without a doubt the prettiest room in a house filled with pretty rooms. Upon entering the home, it's directly to the right of the front door and is one of the first things you notice when you walk in. In storage are drapes from a previous home that would look wonderful in here. Both Shannon and her mother Dottie (and me) think the drapes should be hung in the dining room, but homeowner Anthea with veto power wants to keep the room light and airy. I have offered to take the drapes off Anthea's hands for her, but she pretends she can't hear me whenever I broach the subject.

The staircase hall. Seagrass covers the stair steps. The bench is filled with birthday presents for Shannon and Anthea, both.

An oversized crystal chandelier hangs in the staircase hall. This fixture is always lit and can be seen from the street through the glass paned, double front doors. I should know - Anthea's house is on my Starbuck's route and I pass it more times a day and night than I care to admit.

Directly across the hall from the stairs is the paneled library. Notice the animal faces on the chairs' arms.

The Wills girls are daughters of the famous artist, J. Anthony Wills, whose work hangs in the White House. Here is an oil of Anthea that her father painted as a surprise for Dottie. Shannon has her portrait from the same sitting in her house.

Note the large, tole light fixture hanging in the library.

At the entry hall, this tablescape with it's bird's nest and chalky urn, is front and center.

The breakfast room is probably my favorite space in the house. The light, painted credenza, toile window shade, creamy accessories and flirty slip covers on the chairs all add to the room's fresh atmosphere.

The kitchen has a wonderful wood counter top on the island and the range sits in its own alcove.

The back courtyard with a fountain and furniture from Smith Hawken. It was a rainy day, so the cushions were taken off the furniture.

The family room with its large antique rug. Most of the other rooms, including the stairs have seagrass rugs. I love the antique frame on the mantel - with no art work inside!

Old candlesticks rest on a marble topped credenza in the stair hall.

The living room is to the immediate left of the front door, across from the dining room. The antique day bed is covered in a blue silk velvet that is wonderfully worn. Most people would probably choose to recover the velvet, but I love the way it's aged to perfection.

This portrait, painted again by Shannon and Anthea's father, is of their mother Dottie - looking very glamorous in her 60s style mink stole! Isn't she gorgeous? Turquoise colored vases sit atop yet another marble topped chest.

In one corner of the living room, behind a needle point french chair, Anthea has propped two antique doors. You can just see the dining room on the very right.

Upstairs, Anthea and her husband sleep in this deep brown bedroom. The ceiling is painted the palest shade of blue. The headboard is slipcovered in white. On either side of the bed are Aidan Gray nightstands.

Across from the bed, an English linen press.

In the master bathroom, the vanity chair carries on with the bedroom's brown and blue color scheme.

A guest room upstairs, furnished in french antiques. This is Shannon's room when she comes to town. Another guest room, not shown, is reserved for Shannon's daughter when she stays over.

Anthea's son's red, white, and blue bedroom, furnished with seagrass headboards and blue and white ticking.

The upstairs playroom for Anthea's son. The slipcovered furniture came from Quatrine.

Dottie, now widowed, divides her time between Houston and Chappell Hill. Here is the sitting room in her bedroom suite at Anthea's. It is furnished entirely with French antiques that Dottie has collected over a lifetime.

The bedroom in Dottie's suite, again furnished with antiques.

And lastly, in Dottie's sitting room hang two portraits of the birthday girls, again, painted by their father. On the left, Shannon, the more talkative sister, is, naturally, on the phone, while Anthea - always prim and proper - sweetly smiles. The most amazing thing of these paintings is that here, both mothers look exactly like their young sons do now. Both boys are about the same age as their mothers' were when these paintings were done.

Be sure to revisit my entry about Shannon's home, the KW Ranch. It's interesting to compare and contrast the two sister's decorating styles. Both girls were their own interior designer, along with their mother's input and advice. All three Wills girls have great style and taste, which is obvious to anyone visiting their homes.