In a world where our senses are overloaded daily with so many choices, it’s a daunting task to sit down and maintstream your tastes. Maybe this is why we are never quite finished with our homes. Whatever the case, here are a few local designers, innovators and creators who’ve caught our fancy.
If you had the privilege to chill in the VIP tents at last month’s Free Press Summer Fest then you are already familiar with this guy’s work. I’m speaking of Dutch Small and there really is nothing small about hisaccomplishments, let alone goals. For one, he owns Forma Revivo, a new showroom/gallery in the First Ward Arts District. (This might sound familiar since we featured the Danish modern-furniture Mecca in our April Business Issue.) Forma Revivo boasts one of the most extensive, yet well-edited collections of designer furniture available for sale anywhere. Small’s clients already include Rachael Ray, Wes Anderson and Naeem Khan, to name a few. The apartment in which Small is photographed is a who’s who of modern design. Small gushes as he shares, “This project really exemplifies what we do; we provided all of the merchandise that was installed. I am happy with the way the craft aspect of what we do is in full display. The client let us restore everything to perfection, and I really think in this space it gives a handsome effect. I designed the bed and my carpenter created it in our shop. The lounge chairs are Illum Wikkelso’s greatest work, and the client was willing to spring for the best which includes pieces by Paul McCobb, Georg Jensen, Milo Baughman, Arne Vodder, Eero Saarinen, Wayne Husted.” But what can you expect from a third-generation furniture conservator whose grandfather did restoration work for Elvis Presley? Small’s first discovery was a Saarinen chair sitting unloved in a local church in 1993 and that began his journey to Forma Revivo. Stay tuned for a soon-to- be-launched exhibition program to educate and inform the public about mid-century and Danish modern design. The first one will commence in August.
Forma Revivo | www.formarevivo.com | 713.936.0762
By Carla Valencia de Martinez | Photography by Cody Bess
Sarah Esfahani | Matt Camron Rugs
Designing rugs comes naturally to Sarah Esfahani. Her father established his Matt Camron Rugs River Oaks showroom in 1980 and now has galleries in Chicago, Dallas, Denver and Scottsdale. Sarah joined the family business in 2009 and it wasn’t long before the young carpet biz heiress put her name on her own collection of modern flatweave rugs. “It started out with five or six designs about a year ago and now we’ve expanded from those,” she explains.
Esfahani’s namesake collection is a modern take on Moroccan, Navajo and geometric designs. “The flatweave is something that’s very trendy now. They’re everywhere. It’s what’s current. If you look at House Beautiful or last month’s Veranda, almost everything is a flatweave in there,” she says. “Although it was designed with younger audience in mind, our designers that have been buying from us for years have been buying the flatweaves as well,” she says.
The youngest of three siblings, Esfahani knew she wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps. “The other two were not interested in Matt Camron Rugs but I knew I was. So I did business and art history at college,” she says. Following her time at Tulane University in New Orleans, she headed to Los Angeles, where she spent some time in another rug designer’s showroom. “It was nice working for somebody else. And obviously my time at PriceWaterhouseCoopers (as an auditor) in a corporate setting was a great learning experience,” she says.
With custom orders being a big part of the business, Esfahani often finds herself overseeing somewhat challenging projects. “We just did a rug for the River Oaks Country Club. It’s 24 feet wide by 36 feet long and oval. They wanted us to match the oval ceiling. I think the rug was 661 lbs. and it took us a year to weave it because it was so huge!” she says. In addition to her own collection, Esfahani is always involved in the company’s other products. “What we’re known for is our traditional rugs. We’ve taken a lot of traditional rugs like Oushaks and we’ve changed the colors. They’re much more trendy colors – not as strong as what you might associate with an oriental rug. I still work on those designs,” says Esfahani, before showing off some of her favorite pieces. The showroom is chockful of innovative ideas, from bright purple over-dyed rugs to a colorful group made from recycled saris and a unique new line of silk-screened flatweaves created in collaboration with local designer Rusty Arena.
The recently married designer finished decorating her 1930’s Southampton house a just few months before her May nuptials, and confides she has a variety of her own flatweave rugs in addition to some Egyptian piled rugs. “I want our next house to be non-renovated. I think I want to go through the process and do it myself,” she says. “It’s part of being in the design business. I love houses,” she adds.
Matt Camron | www.mattcamron.com | 713.528.2666
By Nadia Michel | Photography by Cody Bess
Palmer Schooley’s latest project is a DuZER. Du is for duplex, the bygone architectural style he is trying to revive. ZER is for Zero Energy Residence, inspired by the sustainable ZeROW house built by Rice engineering students a few years back for the Solar Decathlon, an architectural competition held yearly in Washington. The residential structure, a pair of side-by-side rental units approximately 800sf each, is an experiment in environmentally sound living made for real life. “The duplex as a type kind of fell by the wayside,” reflects Schooley. The structure at 1601 Northwood is equipped with brilliantly simple but effective features like louvers over the patio – panels that can be adjusted to direct the sun into or away from the house, depending on the season, helping to regulate indoor temperature.
The one-bedroom, one-bath homes also feature 10” sun tunnels over the shower, providing powerful natural light. The skylights’ interior chrome-like tubes are highly reflective. “If the moon is full, you get a bunch of light in the bathroom at night. The homes are equipped with LG combo washer-dryer units, energy-saving 2-in-1 appliances that are the norm in Europe but have yet to catch on here. “The rated energy consumption for a normal family with this unit is $14 of electricity per year – which I find remarkable,” says Schooley. Everything in the duplex has been well thought out, including the bottom-freezer refrigerators. DuZER is equipped with an array of solar panels that should be enough to power the units and a rainwater recuperation system that can fill a 1320 gallon tank – more than enough to irrigate the garden that will be used to grow flowers for Schooley’s wife’s special events company, Art Attack.
A tankless waterh eater provides hot H2O, and even the air conditioning got the Schooley treatment. “We have a fabric duct system. The advantage is it’s not steel so it won’t rust. It’s a lot less material. And if it’s dirty you can take it down and throw it in the washing machine. The most important thing you can do to a building to make it efficient is to make it small.”
Schooley’s work can be found all around town. Kata Robata, Samurai, Lemongrass Café and both Benjy locations are just a few of his chefs d’oeuvres.
Schooleydesign | www.schooleydesign.com | 713.323.8414
By Nadia Michel | Photography by Anthony Rathbun
Saba Jawda | Jawda & Jawda
Blurring the lines between art, architecture and design, Saba Jawda is designing a bright future for herself and enjoying every second. Along with sister Sara, Saba runs Jawda & Jawda, an ambitious architecture, art, graphic design, creative direction, marketing and interior design firm. Recent projects for the stylish duo include the space for One Green Street (5160 Buffalo Speedway, 281.888.9518), the first LEED Certified store in Houston. Everything the shop carries is eco-friendly. For the retailer, Jawda opted for a clean design that would showcase the product, peppered with antique pieces. “We used an 18th-century oriental door we found in Dallas as a closet door and some 18th-century chairs we reupholstered in a new way,” she explains. “When you mix different periods, it adds depth to a space. It has to be just the right balance.” Also in the works for Jawda and her sister is JAW[LINE], a full-fledged furniture line.
“We have the whole thing designed, from sofas to tables and ottomans. We can do any finish,” she says. In an effort to minimize impact on the environment and to encourage local business, JAW(LINE) is fully produced and manufactured locally. “If we can have something made in Houston, we do that first. And any products that we need, we usually get within the U.S,” she adds. Their first creation, a chair made in collaboration with Dallas-based fabric designer Michelle Nussbaumer (Ceylon & Cie), is a sleek, modern take on oriental forms and ikat print. It is currently only available at Kirby & Company (2031 West Alabama Street, 713.636.2340), one of Saba’s favorite sources for unique pieces.
“They can manufacture anything and if you have an older piece they can refinish it,” she says. Born in Basra, Iraq, Jawda left her country at age 11 and spent some time in Belize before settling in Texas. “I really think traveling is key. It opens your eyes to different cultures, different backgrounds.” She uses her far-fetched inspiration to keep things fresh. “That’s the great part about design, when you introduce a client to something they didn’t even know about,” she says. Jawda earned a degree in interior design and architecture from the University of Houston in 2003.
A self-proclaimed artist since age 7, Jawda serves on the boards of local art organizations, including Spacetaker and Artist Rescue Mission. Her art is available for purchase and by commission.
Jawda and Jawda Inc. | www.jawdaandjawda.com | 713.419.8018
By Nadia Michel | Photography by Anthony Rathbun
Gino & Blanca Vian
You never know what to expect when you visit the Funhouse in Midtown, except for design surprises at every turn. With Gino and Blanca Vian’s altered perspective, objects that normally wouldn’t go together or make sense take on a whole new meaning and a new life. Vintage finds are repurposed, new custom designs are created and creative concepts are born. In fact, they did the design and build-out of the 18th Amendment, the speakeasy-themed bar on Bissonnet.
They may see things differently from most, but the husband-and-wife team always sees eye-to-eye when it comes to collecting their “finds.” Every piece must have character and tell a story. “I don’t look at price per se,” says Blanca, “because I know in my mind what I will pay and what I think something is worth to us and our customers.” At the Funhouse compound, you’ll find everything from carnival rides to pinball machines to reclaimed hardwoods and chandeliers.
Creating is in their blood. Gino has been an artist his whole life, and won his first award – a coloring contest—at age 12. Born in the Houston area, he grew up in a creative environment, working with his mother in her antique stores and teaching himself to paint, draw and create. Along with Blanca, he started a clothing store in the Rice Village, for which he designed the décor and layout. When the store closed, his design career continued to flourish, with residential and commercial commissions throughout the country. Today, this “mad chemist” and borderline hoarder handles the creative side of the Funhouse.
With an eye for interesting objects and a head for business, Blanca runs the operations side of the Funhouse. A former oil and gas accountant, she and Gino have been collecting props for more than 10 years, filling her house, then a storage unit, then a warehouse. She calls it “chaotic but pretty.” Today, she and Gino and their three children make regular trips to Round Top, Canton, estate sales and antique stores to engage in the thrill of the find, and she has been known to pack vacation finds – even an old electric sign – into her suitcase.
“To do something fulfilling, that you enjoy doing, and to be able to make a living at it, well, I think we’ve got it all,” she says. www.funhousefinds.com
By Tim Moloney | Photography by Anthony Rathbun