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New Westheimer Store

New interior design store changes the Westheimer scene: Step inside Studio U

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2 Studio U with Laura U March 2014
The design bar at Studio U, where clients can seek free advise for small-scale projects or schedule appointments with experts for larger jobs. Photo by © Julie Soefer
Laura Umansky Laura U Interior Design Studio U March 2014
Laura Umansky of Laura U Interior Design and Studio U. Photo by © Julie Soefer
1 Studio U with Laura U March 2014
At the design bar, clients view Studio U's proposals for their homes. Photo by © Julie Soefer
3 Studio U with Laura U March 2014
Design gurus are on hand to assist clients at Studio U. Photo by © Julie Soefer
2 Studio U with Laura U March 2014
Laura Umansky Laura U Interior Design Studio U March 2014
1 Studio U with Laura U March 2014
3 Studio U with Laura U March 2014

Whether it's an entire house makeover with construction and decor additions/alterations or a few custom-made throw pillows covered in an updated fabric to brighten a single room, a local — and acclaimed — luxury interior design firm is now offering it all.

Studio U — Laura U Interior Design's latest venture — extends beyond its established interior design offerings to fill a void for small-scale projects. Laura U continues to accept requests for large-scale, turn-key services.

Call Studio U interior design "a la carte," as Laura Umansky's husband Michael describes the unique concept.

"We realized that we weren't able to help everyone that came to us," Laura says. "Not everyone is wanting to do-over an entire home. There was a gap, with no options to address one room at a time."

Welcome to Studio U
Studio U is housed in an open floor-plan design, flowing over from the seven-year-old interior design firm's cozy brick-walled office at 1840 Westheimer Road and replacing Laura U Interior Design's former retail space. Laura U's extensive shopping experience is also now online at shopLauraU.com.

Clients can walk in to Studio U with design questions for simple interior solutions, for free, or establish appointments for more extensive consultations.

"Everyone is greeted by a design 'guru' from our design team, which includes professional interior designers, degreed personnel and LEED-certified staff members," Laura says. "The entire Studio U staff is a group of extremely talented designers."

A Bit about Laura
Laura leads that Studio U team and Laura U with expertise. In addition to holding a master's degree in architecture, she is an allied member of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) and an associate member of AISD. Laura U was recently awarded Best of Houzz and a space on the prestigious National Gold List by Luxe Magazine.

The firm holds more than 19 ASID awards for outstanding interiors including Best of Show 2012. Laura has been recognized as both a Leader in Design by the Houston Design Center and Star on the Rise by the Decorative Center Houston.

Back to the Studio
The space at Studio U, from floor to ceiling, is filled with samples: Hunter Douglas shade and blind options hang from the front windows, for example. The design bar is neatly organized with kitchen and bath hardware and plumbing pieces, wall covering and paint selections, tile and carpet and color-coded fabric swatches from top manufacturers and to-the-trade distributors for clients' perusal and idea-building use. Think Kravet textile, Ann Sacks and Walker-Zanger tile and stone, Elegant Additions, Sherwin-Williams for stains and a rainbow of paint colors and many more.

Clients are welcome to visit and revisit the design bar and library resource room and are designated personal storage trays to keep all samples in place. They may help themselves to a cup of coffee or espresso while pondering end results in a quiet and comfortable environment.

Design packages
Studio U has access to purchase all elements and fulfill services for their clients based on four different packages: “Remodel/Construct,” “Furnish,” “Detail” and “Paint.” The “Detail” plan can be as easy as adding art or other decorative accessories to a room, while “Paint” is handled by the firm's trusted painting and wall treatment experts after clients are happy with their choice.

"Just go to the spa, and we'll take over," Michael says of the "Furnish" option. "Come home, and it's all done, ready for you."

For the “Remodel/Construct” and “Furnish” clients, Laura and Studio U representatives conduct site visits and then prepare, after consultation, professional presentations illustrating two design ideas per room that can be viewed on a large-screen TV in the design bar or conference room. Clients pick their favorite options, and Studio U prepares a final proposal.

Following a flat-fee pricing structure, “Remodel/Construct” and “Furnish” packages are based on room and room type available from “Petite” to “Grand.” Price points range from $1,800 on the lowest end to $6,800 for the largest project.

“We’re happy to work with our contractors and builders or yours,” Laura says.

The turn-key operations continue, she adds. “We’ve now set parameters for those we have time to focus on, which is about 18 per year.”

Laura and Michael recently returned from Aspen, where Laura U completed several large-scale re-dos, and are soon off to Riyad, Saudi Arabia, for another luxe job. In fact, CultureMap featured Laura U’s re-furbishing of a Hollywood Hills mansion just a few years ago.

“So in addition to these large turn-key projects, we’re now available for smaller-scale jobs,” Laura says, with Michael adding, “A lot of people have a simple problem, and we're happy to help.”

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