Designers offer ideas as coastal Texans repair homes
With hurricane destruction comes rebuilding.
Hurricane Harvey in late August caused unprecedented flooding and forced thousands of coastal Texans to gut their homes. But it also has inspired people to rethink spaces and consider how they want to replace what was lost.
Coast Monthly talks to two interior designers about what’s trending and how they approach their work.
Kara Wuellner/The Design Firm
Despite the unfortunate circumstances, many homeowners have embraced the chance to revitalize their homes, said Kara Wuellner, head creative director of Houston-based The Design Firm.
“People that wanted so badly to remodel or make functional changes to their homes, in a roundabout way, are getting excited about the rebuilding, remodeling process and are now able to find courage amongst defeat, just by knowing they have help,” Wuellner said.
The Design Firm has grown closer to clients since the storm, Wuellner said.
“Its not so much about how the business has changed, but how our relationships with people have strengthened through this tragic event,” Wuellner said. “In interior design, you build a relationship with your client and are working in a very intimate space — their homes. This hurricane has given us — both designer and client — an opportunity to connect in a deeper way.”
Wuellner has seen two different worlds of interior design. After years of working on darker and more traditional spaces, the industry is moving toward modern and bright, she said.
Designers have turned to whites, off-whites and neutral colors, contrasting them with strategic bursts of bright colors, she said.
“The thing that I’m loving right now, and our designs are definitely going in this direction, is really taking those white on whites and those richer pops of color,” Wuellner said.
“It really takes the old gorgeous house that has all that detail, and it plays off of it. They’re gorgeous when you put them together. It’s an emotion.”
Mixing textures of materials and incorporating different types of metallic colors also can energize a space, Wuellner said. Different textures are important so that the lighter colors don’t blend together or get boring, she said.
“It’s a great look, we just have to watch that it not be overdone,” Wuellner said. “You’ve got to get a lot of texture and a lot of tone-on-tone patterning to really make a neutral pattern stay interesting.”
Large impact pieces, as opposed to multiple smaller decorations, can be more effective in more modern design settings, Wuellner said.
So far, people who are accustomed to the old-world, traditional style have warmed up to modern aesthetics, Wuellner said.
“We use the expression: Transitional is the new traditional,” she said.
Island-based interior designer Elisabeth Pelham does a little bit of everything.
She insists she doesn’t follow trends. Instead, Pelham listens closely to what a client needs to accommodate their lifestyle, she said.
“I don’t have a style,” Pelham said. “It is all over the place.”
While many designers are trending modern, Pelham hasn’t rooted herself in any sort of fashion, she said. Pelham, who owns the firm DesignWorks in Galveston’s downtown, has continued to do a lot of work in traditional and even eclectic styles.
In one such example, she took a traditional town house on Galveston Island and worked around existing items she described as “Indian raj-like,” a term referring to the merging of British and Indian styles. That inspired her to use some darker paisley patterns, which she contrasted with other brighter colors around the space.
Another client, a serious cook, wanted something cleaner and easier to maintain, Pelham said. The kitchen ended up being more modern in style, with steel cabinets and granite countertops.
It’s all about what the client wants, she said.
“Their input is more critical than my eye even,” Pelham said.
Many people on the upper Texas coast want something comfortable and easy to maintain, she said.
“There’s a more casual vibe without question,” Pelham said.
Her goal is to make people feel at home, she said.
“What I enjoy most is creating for people the home where they would like to live, which grew organically from them,” Pelham said. “I try to help eliminate a lot of the outside chatter and get them to the basics of what they really want in a space that is comfortable.”