Certainly a wow moment in this lovely home in Tanglewood, it’s filled with things that remind them of one of their favorite places to visit: the Beverly Hills Hotel.
Framed Slim Aarons photographs hang on bold green-and-white-striped wallpaper, a pair of Jonathan Adler Chippendale-style faux bamboo chairs have blush cushions, and a tuxedo-style sofa holds more pillows, including a pair made of the legendary Dorothy Draper Brazilliance pattern, repeated in the wallpaper in the en suite bathroom.
“My husband and I love the Beverly Hills Hotel. We stay there when we go to LA,” said Caroline. “When we bought this house, we said, ‘Let’s do a whole room like that.’”
The Houston native smiles as she looks around the room decorated by Cindy Witmer and Laura Benes of Cindy Witmer Designs, admiring a glass-and-acrylic coffee table that adds a bit of midcentury whimsy. There’s also a quirky faux fiddle-leaf fig tree that’s been painted white. It initially sat in the home’s foyer, then later seemed a better fit for this room’s throwback vibe.
The empty nesters bought this 5,500-square-foot home once their three children were grown and gone and they were ready for a change — not just in location, but also in style.
It’s fresh and contemporary, with plenty of frills but without the fuss. Instead of big collections and ornate furnishings, they’re opting for a simpler color palette and an upgraded art collection in this new chapter.
“We were going to build a new home, and we came to an open house here to get building ideas. My husband saw me looking around and said, ‘We’re going to buy this, aren’t we?’” Caroline said. “We didn’t need five bedrooms anymore, but I loved the simplicity of it. As I get older, less clutter is what makes me feel happy and good.”
Like many families, where the Baileys have lived largely revolved around children, shifting from a townhouse to a bigger house in West University Place, then out to a 6,200-square-foot home in Tanglewood, then a 7,500-square-foot home in Memorial. But now it’s just the two of them and the occasional visitor since their middle daughter, Clare Holden, 28, lives in Chicago and their son, 25-year-old Jack Bailey, lives in Bulverde, outside of San Antonio. Their eldest, 30-year-old Caitlin Bailey, lives in Houston.
Caroline and Doug knew each other all the way back in junior high school, then dated in high school and college, getting married a year and a half after graduating, then starting their family a couple of years later.
In their previous homes, the Baileys have had much more traditional décor, including a lot of French country furnishings, before moving back to Tanglewood.
“I had a lot of collections, a lot of Majolica pottery, antique brass, Limoges and Herend figurines,” Caroline said. “We had mustard faux-painted walls, and it was warm and great.”
But it was time for a change, and the Baileys knew Witmer from college and socially because both families at one time had homes on Lake McQueeney. They were hoping that a new designer with a more contemporary bent could change things up dramatically.
Caroline is a big fan of design and has a great eye — she studied fashion retail in college and worked in boutiques a short while after school. But decorating a whole house is more than she wanted to tackle alone.
“I love fashion, and when there’s a trend, you can buy a piece or two,” she said. “I love looking at decorating magazines and books, but I like having somebody who’s a professional helping me.”
Their home was built in 2012, so when they bought it just a couple of years later, it wasn’t in need of remodeling. It just needed some adjustments to match the Baileys’ style.
They plastered the downstairs ceilings and walls, and much of the lighting was changed out, with more contemporary pieces added throughout the home. In addition to the wallpaper in the “Beverly Hills Hotel room,” they added striking wallcovering to a first-floor powder bathroom and Martyn Lawrence Bullard’s Manounia pattern in silver in a smaller scale in a bar and a larger scale in the nearby foyer.
In the front of the home is a study that Caroline uses. Initially it had a wall of built-in cabinets painted gray and Benes suggested a new color: teal (Benjamin Moore’s Vanderburg Blue, to be exact.) A pair of colorful chairs in a geometric pattern sit across from a very contemporary desk made of wood, brass and acrylic.
Some of Caroline’s favorite art was hung in this room, including a piece she bought on a trip to Carmel, Calif. Her collections have been condensed down to a few favorite pieces of each, sprinkled throughout the shelving in this study, and she can rotate in other pieces whenever she wants.
“Less is more is my philosophy the older I get,” Caroline said. “Not that I don’t appreciate good collections. I sit in my study and look at the pretty pieces and remember our travels.”
“I like color,” Caroline said. “Some houses are gray and white, and that’s pretty. But I at least want pops of color — not just a sterile white-gray environment.”
There’s a powder bath nearby that was already outfitted with a nearly translucent onyx sink atop a wall-mount granite counter with dramatic black-gray-white veining.
Benes and Witmer loved the counter and saw no need to replace it. They did, however, add wallpaper with large neutral dots and a pair of vintage sconces they found on firstdibs.com.
The dining room isn’t a room at all, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t get its own special treatment. It’s a niche that looks into the backyard, windows on two sides and open to the rest of the home on the other two.
You’d notice the gorgeous dark blue wool draperies or the pretty chairs clustered around the custom dining table made of lacquered stainless on an acrylic base, but the chandelier will have you staring upward. It’s made like tree boughs that branch out, bursting with clusters of crystals surrounding small lights.
Nearby is a wine feature with its own story. When the Baileys were considering buying the home, they mentioned to Realtor Richard Ray that they wished it had a wine room — something bigger than a wine cooler in a wall or under a counter in the bar.
Ray knew that the home’s original owner had thought of the same thing and actually had Vineyard Wine Cellars in Dallas design something for the center of the room. The plans called for big glass doors on front and back and storage for about 300 bottles. That owner was happy to hand over the design plans to the Baileys, who then had it installed.
In addition to the wine storage, they created a charming seating area outside of it, with four plush chairs in muted purple, each with its own stone-topped side table, perfect for holding a cocktail or a glass of wine.
“We don’t buy wine and hang onto it for 10 or 20 years, we drink it,” Caroline said. “We just had another couple over Saturday night and we used this area. It’s so comfortable; it’s easy to sit here and have drinks.”
Though Caroline embraced the open nature of this contemporary home right away, it took Doug a little time to get used to it.
Standing in the wine area and looking out in different directions to the breakfast nook, kitchen, living room, dining area and bar, she noted how obvious the change was, shifting to a more traditional home with lots of interior walls to one that’s very open.
“My husband said it looked like a furniture store, like everywhere he looked there were chairs and more chairs,” Caroline said with a chuckle. “Of course he’s gotten used to it, and it helps that we get so many compliments from our friends.”
The breakfast nook was spruced up with a tulip-style table surrounded by upholstered chairs; a cool chandelier overhead has chunky shards of quartz sticking out of the rim. Another set of draperies hangs at the windows in this corner of the home. It’s a bright cheerful space, a great place to start the day with a cup of coffee and a view to a sunny world outside.
In the living room, an art installation by ceramist Lucrecia Waggoner is spread across a back wall, white and blue-gray porcelain flowers meandering up and out. The room has soaring 24-foot ceilings, and a thick stack of built-in shelves run up one wall in a corner of the room, demanding large-scale pottery and objets d’art to fill it.
A pair of comfortable white sofas dominate the center of the room, decorated with pillows that repeat the favored blue-and-purple theme. A pair of plush blue chairs sit on one side and a short stool provides Doug with a place to prop his feet while watching TV. Already, the stool isn’t quite cutting it, and Doug is inquiring about something more accommodating — something that usually stops designers cold: a recliner.
“I’m kind of excited because as bad as recliners sound, there are some really cool modern ones out there,” Witmer said. “You can’t even tell they’re recliners. Lee Industries makes some, and they don’t even call them recliners — they call them ‘relaxers.’”
The couple’s new décor style has been exciting for them, and adding new pieces of art to their collection has been as well.
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“We get more compliments on that. Our friends have said they feel like they’re in a gorgeous hotel. It’s different for a lot of our friends, though I feel like most people are transitioning (to more contemporary style).” Caroline said. “There are so few things we can control in life, for me to come to a home that’s beautifully decorated and has pops of color and is calm and not cluttered is really comforting.”
Diane Cowen has worked at the Houston Chronicle since 2000 and currently its architecture and home design writer. Prior to working for the Chronicle, she worked at the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune and at the Shelbyville (Ind.) News. She is a graduate of Purdue University and is the author of a cookbook, "Sunday Dinners: Food, Family and Faith from our Favorite Pastors."
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