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  • Celerie Kemble
  • Black & White (And a Bit In Between) by Celerie Kemble

Celerie Kemble is a Florida-born Harvard graduate, a wife and mother, a socialite and J. Crew it-girl, and an NYC-based interior designer for Kemble Interiors. She has published one design book, To Your Taste: Creating Modern Rooms with a Traditional Twist, and another — Black and White (and a Bit in Between): Timeless Interiors, Dramatic Accents, and Stylish Collections — is set for release on Tuesday.

Kemble will be at the Houston Design Center on Nov. 8 and at Greenwood King on Nov. 10. At both events, she will discuss her book and sign copies.

CultureMap: You graduated from Harvard (with a concentration in English literature) and worked as a film producer. How did you transition from film to interior design? Did you ever expect to make that change?

Celerie Kemble: Right out of college, I moved to New York City, thinking that I'd find my way to LA eventually. I started with decorating my own apartment, shopping at flea markets and dumpster diving. My friends saw that I was willing to scrounge and hunt, and they asked for my help decorating, so I worked on decorating their rooms. I was doing that on the nights and weekends for fun, and working a regular job at a film production company during the day. Finally, a light bulb went off in my head and I was like, "People do this professionally!"

I encourage my clients to think primally before they decide. Managing light and temperature, things that your body comes into direct contact with. Close your eyes, take a sensual survey of the room. . . Think with your nerves, not with your brain.

CM: What is it like working with your mother - Mimi McMakin, founder of Kemble Interiors?

CK: It's funny, because I didn't want to follow in my mother's footsteps. Now my mother and I are incredibly close, and I'm glad to be compared and contrasted with her. My mom owns the business in Palm Beach, Fla., and I am a partner in the New York office. We don't work on the same projects. . . but we commiserate, and share ideas and inspiration all of the time. I talk to her over the phone at least three times a day.

Our aesthetics are not vastly different, it's just that our clients are different. We're both creatures of the same media world. We both share a backbone of traditional comforts and scale. If anything, I would say that I am a tad trendier than she is, but only because I'm naive enough to believe that every time something comes into style, it's the first time.

CM: Tell me about your new book, Black and White (and a Bit in Between).

CK: The book is an array of other designers' work, sort of as historical reference. It's all about the use of black and white in interior design, but it quickly began to incorporate color, because I'm still very attracted to color. And nothing is really black and white — there is an array of other neutrals and shades of gray that play a part in a design as well.

This was my conceit to look at design differently. To take a step back and focus on form, function, durability and integrity. It was a way of approaching my business with a new set of eyes, by curating an inspiration board and a lesson plan. . . The book is more about topic than any particular method. For me, it is very important to always be studying other designers' work.

CM: I understand that you've visited Houston before - what are some places that you'd like to revisit while you're here in November?

CK: I've been working on a project in Houston for a while, and I love the town! There are great resources, really good crafts people and paint finishers. Ruth Gay at Chateau Domingue has the most delicious array of materials I've ever seen.

CM: What is your idea of comfort? Do you have any quick tips to cozy up a space?

CK: Comfort is always having somewhere to rest your drink or put your book down. It's wonderfully upholstered furniture, a nice sink into down, a pleasant pitch to a chair. Comfort is a soft fabric and the ability to regulate temperature with ease - fans, or a throw blanket, or windows with screens.

I encourage my clients to think primally before they decide. Managing light and temperature, things that your body comes into direct contact with. Close your eyes, take a sensual survey of the room. . . Think with your nerves, not with your brain. Part of the design process shouldn't focus on aesthetics. You should conduct a review that's visceral and sensual before you only commit to things based on the aesthetic.

Both Houston events are free and open to the public. Seating is limited and reservations are required. Call (713) 864-2660, or visit the Houston Design Center website for the Nov. 8 event. RSVP to thelobby@greenwoodking.com for the Nov. 10 event.

  • In photos, the red chair now moves around the world, as it holds beautiful femmefatales contemplating murder in exotic locations.
    Photo by Wade Livingston
  • My great-grandmother's favorite psychic den was Bottom of the Cup in NewOrleans, a staple back then, and still today, for palm, Tarot, and tea leafreading, and most bizarre, gourmet teas.
    Photo by Linda Gaines
  • Most of all, as the days grow short and the nights long, I look with paranoia atmy own red chair I inherited from my grandmother. Is it comfortable in its homeor does it feel stagnate?
    Photo by Tarra Gaines

Be afraid, be very afraid of a home too comfortable: A chilling tale of thewandering red chair

The next big scary thing

With Halloween upon us, it’s appropriate that CultureMap has spent October helping Houston explore “The Comforts of Home” because when it comes to what terrifies us, it appears vampires and zombies are creeping out and haunted homes are back in. With the success of movies like Paranormal Activity 3 and the buzz around American Horror Story, FX's show about a murderous yet kinky haunted house, the Zeitgeist seems to point to our homes as the next big scary thing.

Whether it’s anxiety from the housing crisis leaking into the cultural psyche or merely that the cycle of spooky things has landed back on haunted houses, this Halloween we have nothing to fear but the things that go bump in our custom built kitchens.

When it comes to the question of the existence of ghostly spirits refusing to pay their share of the mortgage, I’m usually an agnostic, but after learning new information about an old family spooky tale, I’ve come to wonder if it’s not ghosts but another type of spirit that might disturb the comforts our homes.

GiGi and the New Orleans psychic

The story begins long ago in New Orleans with my great grandmother, known as GiGi to her grandchildren. Though a beloved wife, mother, and grandmother, she did have one indulgence my great grandfather greatly disapproved of, her monthly visits to French Quarter fortune tellers. Her favorite psychic den was Bottom of the Cup, a staple back then, and still today, for palm, Tarot, and tea leaf reading, and most bizarre, gourmet teas.

On usual visits, GiGi was told vague generalities about what the future held, but during one notable session that my mother, a teenager at the time, witnessed, GiGi’s fortune teller brought her strange news indeed. The seer gazed deep into GiGi’s tea cup, read the tea leaves once, then once more to be certain, before delivering this message from the future: “The red chair wants to move.”

The seer gazed deep into GiGi’s tea cup, read the tea leaves once, then once more to be certain, before delivering this message from the future: “The red chair wants to move.”

Neither my mother nor her grandmother could decipher what this meant. Was this psychic code? Was the red chair an omen for tragedy or triumph awaiting GiGi?

But the psychic would not interpret this time. She would only repeat the spirits’ message, “The red chair wants to move.”

And that should have been the end of that, except that night my mother received a hushed but frantic phone call from her grandmother. My great grandfather was never told about GiGi’s psychics, yet that evening as he sat reading his newspaper in the living room, without a word, he looked across the room at the low-standing, wood and red velvet chair. It sat in the same place for many years, existing more as an accent piece than a sitting chair.

He put down his paper, got up, walked across the room, picked up the chair, and moved it three feet to the left.

GiGi was so startled she was speechless for minutes, before finally inquiring, “Darling, why did you move that chair?”

He had no answer. He simply felt compelled to move the red chair.

So what did it mean? Was the chair haunted? Was the fortune teller a psychic decorator? Was my practical, Episcopalian great grandfather, a man who worked in insurance, hearing the call from some chair entity?

As a child, when my mother told me this story, I never gave it much analysis, until recently, when we discovered what happened to the chair.

A chair on the move

When my great grandparents died — in their seventies of entirely natural and non-supernatural chair causes — the chair went on the move.

First it traveled across town to my Great Aunt Ruth’s home. Then it crossed state lines to live with Ruth’s son Al in Clear Lake. Years later, it seemed to transfer its attention to Al’s in-laws as it was moved to Dallas and then it caught the professional photographer’s eye of Al’s brother-in-law, Wade Livingston. Perhaps this is the future the Bottom of the Cup psychic saw so long ago, because now the red chair has found a new career as a model. In photos, it moves around the world, as it holds beautiful femme fatales contemplating murder in exotic locations.

As Halloween lurks upon us, I’ve come to realize what I should fear within my home is not demonic poltergeists or spirits of the death both tormented and tormenting. No, I now fear something far more heinous, that my furniture might be judging me.

I no longer think the chair has a ghost clinging to it; instead, I wonder if the chair possesses a spirit of its own. If we believe that some landscapes and even structures have a feel or perhaps a spirit to them, can a thing have one as well?

And as Halloween lurks upon us, I’ve come to realize what I should fear within my home is not demonic poltergeists or spirits of the death both tormented and tormenting. No, I now fear something far more heinous, that my furniture might be judging me.

If GiGi’s red chair can know wanderlust, what’s to keep my mahogany chest of drawers that’s been in my father’s family for generations from seething with resentment when I stuff T-shirts into a drawer, instead of folding them neatly.

Is my Ikea couch silently screaming at me to speak Swedish already? Is my beautiful glass lamp from Bali appalled at my taste in television shows? After years together in a co-dependent and occasionally abusive relationship, did my rocking chair ever plot the death of my cat?

Most of all, as the days grow short and the nights long, I look with paranoia at my own red chair I inherited from my grandmother, GiGi’s daughter. Is it comfortable in its home or does it feel stagnate? Would it like to escape the confines of its existence and move a few feet, a few miles, or even to a new state or country? I wonder if I should find a psychic decorator to read its fortune, and then the most horrific thought of all occurs.

If I do, will my red chair blab about my horrible decorating sense?

  • Judy Nyquist stands with the iconic Andy Warhol print of Marilyn Monroe thatserved as a starting point for the room, initiating the soft purple-pink thatcovers the walls.
    Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
  • Nyquist with Ellen Bell's Marilyn Dress; to the right, a work on paper by NinaBavasso. On the mantel, a series of ceramic dessert items Nyquist purchased fromthe St. John's School.
    Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
  • An intriguing piece by Elena Poirot-Lopez captures three sets of paster-casthands, each from a different generation of the Houston artist's family.
    Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
  • Scandinavian moderist Jens Risom's classic side chairs from Knoll sit under aglass dining room table adorned with flowers. Next to the Warhol print, Nyquistdisplays art from her children along with a Picasso print and work on paper byBritish artist Peter McDonald.
    Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
  • "It could be worse," reads the pink text on a quirk black textile piece next tothe fireplace, adding to the light-hearted atmosphere of one of the Nyquistfamily's favorite rooms.
    Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com

Think pink: Marilyn Monroe & a world of wonderful art watch over Judy Nyquist'sfavorite room

My favorite room

Editor's Note: In a CultureMap continuing series, Houstonians from all walks of life tell us about their favorite room at home.

Noted art collector Judy Nyquist’s pink dining room has been a favorite hangout since the family purchased and renovated their vintage 1930s home in River Oaks 15 years ago.

An Andy Warhol silkscreen of Marilyn Monroe watches over the light-filled room that holds some of Nyquist's most cherished pieces — a range of work that includes a Picasso print and a Nina Bavosso painting on paper to a series of ceramic dessert items crafted by sixth-grade art students at the St. John's School.

“This room was originally a study when we bought the house, a dark space with lots of heavy wood paneling,” Nyquist remembered.“We wanted to brighten it up during our renovations, since the room gets such amazing natural light. I knew immediately that Marilyn belonged in here, so we painted the walls to match the print."

A display of work by the Nyquist children rests prominently by the entrance to the room, just to the side of the instantly-recognizable Warhol print.

“This room was originally a study when we bought the house, a dark space with lots of heavy wood paneling,” Nyquist remembered.“We wanted to brighten it up during our renovations, since the room gets such amazing natural light. I knew immediately that Marilyn belonged in here, so we painted the walls to match the print."

Nyquist began collecting art in the 1990s during her time in London working as an art historian and curator. Drawings from the 16th through 18th centuries were her initial focus, a number of which hang on the walls just outside the pink dining room. Works on paper continue to intrigue the collector, despite the shift of her interest towards contemporary pieces.

"Drawings and other works on paper record are such a direct and spontaneous act by the artist," Nyquist noted. "That's what attracts me to so many pieces, that imprint of the artist. Of course, there's a whole other dimension when you can know or meet the person behind a certain work. That's how we started turning to more contemporary art."

Each piece in the dining room bears the indelible mark of the artist, right down to Warhol's slightly askew silkscreen print.

“We've always had a very personal and emotional attachment to our collection," Nyquist said. "We've always lived with the art. This dining room isn't used to showcase certain pieces. It's a place where we work and have our meals."

"More recently," she laughed, "the kids have been playing cards in here. What can I say... the room has great light."

  • Homeowners are spending less for remodeling, and when they do, they spendconservatively.
    Photo courtesy of Trusty Joe
  • Home construction and remodeling have been soft, although this house is beingbuilt in Bellaire.
    Photo by Ralph Bivins
  • Intero Real Estate Services, a major residential brokerage firm in the SiliconValley of California, recently opened an office in the West Ave development onKirby Drive near Westheimer.
    Photo by Ralph Bivins

Home remodeling is out of style: In down economy, remodelers deal with the "yearof the small job"

Real Estate Round-Up

Houstonians aren’t building as many new houses as they used to. So wouldn’t it make sense if they stayed put and fixed up their existing home? Wouldn’t a nice remodeling job make it a little more livable for the long run?

Well, it’s not happening that way.

Homeowners aren’t tackling many major remodeling projects. And when they do call a remodeler, the homeowner is spending conservatively.

Remodelers say 2011 is pretty much like 2010 — the year of the small job. For the most part, remodelers try to eke out a living with simple bathroom and kitchen re-dos. Forget about the elaborate whole-house remodels and room additions with price tags of more than $300,000.

The days of insisting on high-end Viking stoves, Kohler sinks or Hansgrohe faucets are gone.

“People are being very, very cautious,” says Houston remodeler Dan Bawden, owner of Legal Eagle Contractors. “A lot of homeowners have money, but they are just really reluctant to spend it right now. Everybody is holding it close to the vest. “

Bawden, former president of the Greater Houston Builders Association, says he was hearing the same downbeat theme as he met with other Texas remodelers in late October at the Sunbelt Builders Show in Austin.

Homeowners and spending less for remodeling, and when they do — they spend conservatively.

The days of insisting on high-end Viking stoves, Kohler sinks or Hansgrohe faucets are gone, for most homeowners, Bawden says. Having a sexy brand-name kitchen sink isn’t so important when you’re worried about a double-dip recession.

“People are being more careful for what they pick for fixtures. it’s really interesting,” Bawden says. “They are seeking out less expensive materials all across the board — tile, plumbing fixtures, lighting fixtures — in order to keep the project cost down as much as possible."

The outlook for an immediate turnaround is not good. The Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University predicts the nation’s remodeling business will be soft until mid-year 2012, at least. The sluggish national economy and realty market will dampen any recovery move in remodeling, the Harvard study says.

“Homeowners are continuing to undertake smaller jobs, but are still nervous about larger discretionary projects,” says Kermit Baker, director of the Harvard program.

In the meantime, remodelers are placing hope in any trendlet they can find, such as seniors housing.

Baby Boomers have been remodeling homes in order to make a place for their aging parents, i.e. the mother-in-law suite. And other remodeling jobs that adapt homes so that seniors can stay in their houses as they age have been a popular thing.

A couple of years ago when the housing market crashed, remodeling registered an uptick because people decided remodel and stay put. But that trend has played out, Bawden says.

Looking Up

The Houston housing market continues to sail away from the doldrums.

The Houston Association of Realtors reported 4,635 single-family home sales in September, up 17 percent from September of last year. It’s the fourth month in a row that sales volume has increased. And the inventory of homes for sale has been declining — a true indicator of an improving market.

The HAR reported 47,812 properties were listed for sale in September, an 11.5 percent decline from a year ago.

Home prices have been rising a bit, too. The median single-family home price is up 1.7 percent over September of last year.

It’s true that the local home market was awful in 2010. So when you make comparisons to last year, you are making comparisons against some very dark days. But the realty market is definitely brighter in 2011 and the recovery has some sustained traction.

Signs of Confidence

Houston real estate companies have been adding new offices, an indicator that residential sales and getting better and realtors are gaining more confidence in the economy.

Intero Real Estate Services, a major residential brokerage firm in the Silicon Valley, recently opened an office in the West Ave development. Katie Maxwell, who’s heading up the Intero office, said the firm is hyper-focused on the Inner Loop for now, but look for additional Intero offices to be unveiled soon.

Heritage Texas Properties just opened its 13th office. The newest Heritage outlet is in Katy in the Icon Bank building on Cinco Ranch Boulevard.

Weichert Realtors – Wayne Murray Properties recently opened a new office in The Woodlands. And Martha Turner, the namesake of Martha Turner Properties, says there are several communities in the Houston metropolitan area that she wants to penetrate with new offices.

These expansions are being conducted by smart operators with a track record of knowing how to make money by selling houses.

Listen up: Martha Turner, Wayne Murray and Heritage owner Robin Mueck have been around the block a few times. And when the battle-hardened veterans of Houston real estate are planning to open new offices, it means the real estate rebound can’t be far off.

Ralph Bivins, former president of the National Association of Real Estate Editors, is founding editor of RealtyNewsReport.com.

Check out the modern home office's much more luxurious ancestor: Paris' eliteknew style (and secret doors)

Art and About

For the educated 18th-century Parisian socialite, it was the age of correspondence. Both men and women wrote for business purposes, to share news between family and friends and for mere pleasure.

Young men and women were taught penmanship, grammar and how to craft a beautiful and sensible letter. The activity was engaged in at points throughout the day.

Thus emerged the ancestor to the modern day home office. Curious?

An exquisite example is on display at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston through Dec. 11. Strolling through the exhibit halls of Life & Luxury: The Art of Living in Eighteenth-Century Paris is like walking a day in the life of the French echelon in the the City of Lights. On view are some 160 objects assembled from 26 museums and private collections that mingle decorative arts, fine arts, clocks, fashion, writing instruments, metalwork, musical instruments, books, maps, scientific instruments — everything in-between what's considered to be either fine arts or applied arts today.

In this time of economic prosperity, the elite of Paris had the means to indulge and invest in beautiful objects used in everyday rituals.

That distinction wasn't so clearly defined in the 18th century. Arts were studied along science, business tools and scientific instruments were beautifully decorated in the style of the Rococo period. In this time of economic prosperity, the elite of Paris had the means to indulge and invest in beautiful objects used in everyday rituals.

The items in the bureau or the cabinet and the chambers where business was conducted were no exception.

On this Art and About video adventure, we continue our exploration of the lavish lifestyle of the top one percent in Paris. We started with the morning ritual of the toilette — not to be confused with our banal modern day interpretation of toilet — and now move into the professional vocation and activities of the very rich.

The bureaux was dedicated to business affairs and featured a big flat top broad writing desk made for spreading out and organizing paper. The activity is depicted in detail in Jacques-André-Joseph Aved's Portrait of Marc de Villiers, which illustrates the secretary to the king.

"Here [Marc de Villiers] is seated in his bureaux at his bureau plat; his correspondence is so prolific, he's had to file it together strapping it down with a canvass belt, " Charissa Bremer-David, J. Paul Getty Museum curator of sculpture and decorative arts, says. "His correspondence overflows as books and papers are resting on a chair nearby."

The desk — built circa 1720-25 by Charles Cressent — is accessorized by a paperweight and an inkstand set. One container held the ink, another contained sand to sprinkle over the wet ink to hasten drying. The center pod carried a sea sponge used to clean the ink from the tip of the quills.

"We have a beautiful leather chair and one of the first pieces of ergonomically correct chairs," Bremer-David, explains. "It's well padded with a rounded back and a serpentine seat front designed for someone who was meant to sit a desk for long periods of time and write. It supports one's legs, back, arms and elbows in a seated position.

"Built-in to the armrests are hidden pockets lined with velvet, meant to hold something precious like eyeglasses, coins, a miniature portrait of a beloved or a pocket watch."

Time keeping was a serious matter when conducting business. The space is fitted with a cartel clock by Cressent, which was also responsible for the desk, and monumental 9-foot storage cabinets flanking the desk.

Though the interiors of the cupboards have been rebuilt over time, it's speculated that books, writing, correspondence, files, papers and collectors items like small bronzes were stored inside its ornamented concave and convex doors.

Each cabinet door has a key hole. But most curious is the center door's latch on the reverse side, which allows the cupboard door to open from the interior.

"The gilt bronze mounds in the cabinets are evocative of the allegories of the arts and sciences," Bremer-David says. "Putti (cherubs) playing with musical instruments, putti working with the implements of sciences, astronomy, geography — latitude and longitude were a great challenge of the 18th century and the putii are working hard recording these measurements."

Each cabinet door has a key hole. But most curious is the center door's latch on the reverse side, which allows the cupboard door to open from the interior. It might have been a secret passageway from the bureaux to another space like a corridor, bedroom or secret chamber.

The exhibit continues on to the study of sciences, art collecting, the meal, entertaining and prayer. Be on the look out for future Art and About videos continuing our 18th century luxurious odyssey.

Or better yet, pay a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Access to the Life & Luxury exhibit comes with standard museum admission.

Make your home more eco friendly on the cheap: City's holding a half-off sale ongreen items

Compost Power

Eco-conscious homeowners (and renters) can buy composting contraptions and rain collection devices for half price this weekend.

The City of Houston and AIA Houston are hosting a one-day-only truckload sale for the Earth Machine ($45, including tax) and SYSTERN Rain Barrels ($55) at Minute Maid Park Stadium Parking Lot C. Do your part to keep organic waste out of the landfill with the former, and collect every precious drop with the latter.

The gadgets will be on sale from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday — and the earlier you arrive, the better. Supplies are limited. Visa, MasterCard, and checks will be accepted.

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Disney's Strange World is a visual stunner with too many story ideas

Movie Review

For a studio whose entire reason for being seems to rely on creating and sustaining familiar characters, Walt Disney Animation takes its fair share of risks. In the last 10 years, it has released nine films, seven of which were not based on pre-existing properties (the other two were sequels for two of those seven). That’s a lot of new stuff, most of which has succeeded mightily for the perennially-popular leaders in animation.

They’re at it again with Strange World, which takes place in an unknown country/world known as Avalonia, where Jaeger Clade (Dennis Quaid) is a famous explorer whose only desire is to find a way over, around, or through the imposing mountains surrounding the land. His son, Searcher (Jake Gyllenhaal), doesn’t share his enthusiasm, and an early discovery by Searcher of a unique energy source leads to a rift between father and son. Jaeger continues onwards, while Searcher returns home with a plant they call Pando that creates harmony throughout the land.

Years later, when the plant shows signs of failure, Searcher is recruited by Avalonia leader Callisto Mal (Lucy Liu) to help in an expedition to find the source of whatever is attacking Pando. What they and others – including Searcher’s wife Meridian (Gabrielle Union) and son Ethan (Jaboukie Young-White) – find in their travels certainly lives up to the title.

Co-directed by Don Hall and Qui Nguyen and written by Nguyen, the film is a visual stunner. The quality of animation in Disney movies rarely fails to impress, and Strange World is the latest and greatest example. Whether it’s the humans, the landscape, or the innumerable weird creatures that populate the film, there is almost nothing that doesn’t deserve to be stared at and admired.

It’s odd, then, that the story does not come close to matching the graphics. There are a variety of reasons for this failure. Nguyen is the sole credited writer, and he stuffs the film full of big and small ideas, probably too many for this type of project. Searcher’s family and the world of Avalonia and beyond are diverse in multiple ways, to the point that it feels like Nguyen was trying to include everything he could think of in case he never got another shot.

The bigger sin, though, is how quickly the film advances through its plot, often bringing up new things out of nowhere. While Searcher and his family make for an interesting group, the side characters never make an impact. There are also multiple instances where the story takes a turn that makes no sense, either in the world of the film or a storytelling manner.

This includes the final act of the film, which features a significant twist that is presented and accepted in a way that doesn’t fit with the rest of the film. It adds on yet another message in a movie that contains a lot of them, but in a way that even those inclined to believe in what it’s trying to say may wonder why that part is there at all.

The science fiction element of Strange World is a bonanza for the filmmakers and animators to go as wild as they wanted in the visual department. But all that splendor is in service of a story that just doesn’t measure up, making it one of Disney’s less successful offerings in recent years.

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Strange World is now playing in theaters.

Photo courtesy of Disney

Searcher (Jake Gyllenhaal), Jaeger (Dennis Quaid), and Ethan Clade (Jaboukie Young-White) in Strange World

Affluent Houston suburb leads region for highest holiday spending budgets in U.S.

Santa Baby

As the most wonderful time of the year approaches, holiday shopping budgets are in the spotlight, and a study from WalletHub lists Sugar Land as one of the top cities where Santa doesn't need a whole lot of help.

According to the personal finance website, the average holiday budget in Sugar Land is $2,793 per person, the 15th highest in the nation. As CultureMap previously reported, Sugar Land residents here make an average of $123,261; the average home price is $337,600.

Fittingly, Fort Bend, home to Sugar Land, was recently named the second-richest county in Texas.

As for Greater Houston, Santa's bag could be a mixed bag, with three suburbs in the top 100, but the urban center falling far behind:

  • Sugar Land, No. 15, $2,793
  • Pearland, No. 36, $2,172
  • The Woodlands, No. 71, $1,733
  • Houston, No. 366, $890

Each year, WalletHub calculates the maximum holiday budget for over 550 U.S. cities "to help consumers avoid post-holiday regret," the website says. The study factors in income, age of the population, and other financial indicators such as debt-to-income ratio, monthly-income-to monthly-expenses ratio and savings-to-monthly-expenses ratio.

Despite nationwide focus on inflation strains, holiday spending is expected to be healthy, and higher than last year.

"The seeming social upheaval in recent times may lead households to spend more in an attempt to take some control of the environment which they can control," says Robert Wright, University of Illinois, Springfield professor emeritus who was among five experts consulted for advice about holiday shopping.

Elsewhere in Texas, 10 North Texas cities landed in this year's top 100 heftiest holiday budgets:

  • Flower Mound, No. 3, $3,531 (The only Texas city in the top 10)
  • Allen, No. 17 , $2,670
  • Frisco, No. 37, $2,150
  • McKinney, No. 45, $2,070
  • Plano, No. 50, $1,999
  • Carrollton, No. 55, $1,837
  • Richardson, No. 58, $1,823
  • North Richland Hills, No. 81, $1,658
  • Lewisville, No. 90, $1,630
  • Fort Worth, No. 366, $890
  • Dallas, No. 401, $845

Spending in the Austin area won't be ho-hum with the Capitol City's budget of $1,705 ranked at No. 78. Two Austin suburbs, Cedar Park (budget $2,855) and League City (budget $2,541) ranked 14 and 20, respectively.

Things don't look too jolly for San Antonio, ranked at No. 431 with an average budget of $803 or Pharr, which was the lowest ranked city in Texas.

At No. 553 with a budget of $487, the Rio Grande Valley city came in just a few spots ahead of last place Hartford, CT with a budget of only $211.

New Galveston-area beach club and RV resort opens with Texas-sized pool, restaurant, dog parks, and more

happy campers

Beach lovers, campers, and Houstonians getting away from it all now have a chill new option to waste away. Camp Margaritaville RV Resort Crystal Beach is officially open, following an ongoing renovation and ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Formerly known as Bolivar Beach Club & RV Resort, the 150-acre beachfront location on the Bolivar Peninsula boasts a resort-style, camping experience with unique amenities that make the RV resort a memorable vacation spot.

RV drivers/users can rest easy knowing that electric, water and sewer hookups, complimentary Wi-Fi, dog parks, a gym, and facilities for showering and doing laundry await at the site.

Fun includes a beachside concert venue, a Texas-sized pool with a swim-up bar and 50 private poolside cabanas, large turf playing field, and the aforementioned RV accommodations. Renovations will continue into next year, promising the Fins Bar & Grill Restaurant, sand volleyball courts, pickleball courts, a bar called License to Chill, and more.

Another huge draw: The resort offers close access to 27 miles of beaches along the peninsula. (Ahh.)

Crystal Beach is the fourth location within the Camp Margaritaville brand, and joins the company's existing Margaritaville Lake Resort, Lake Conroe. The lake resort, which rebranded and opened in the summer of 2020, includes 335 suites, an 18-hole golf course, a three-acre waterpark with a lazy river and outdoor pools.

"We’ve seen incredible success and excitement around our existing Camp Margaritaville RV Resort locations and are thrilled to expand our presence in the state of Texas,” Margaritaville COO Brad Schwaeble noted in a statement. “As more and more people are finding new ways to travel and explore, Camp Margaritaville Crystal Beach will provide everything needed for a getaway for all ages.”

Those interested in camping out can book stays, get updates, and more information at the official site, on Facebook, and on Instagram.

Camp Margaritaville RV Resort Crystal Beach/Facebook

The pool is a major draw for the resort.