• Jonathan Adler collection couch at Kravet
    Photo by Altamese Osborne
  • Colorful glass is a big trend for fall.
    Photo by Altamese Osborne
  • Toy horse in front of the Andrew Martin store
    Photo by Altamese Osborne
  • White and neutral furniture was found in many showrooms.
    Photo by Altamese Osborne
  • This year's fabric is heavy on abstract design.
    Photo by Altamese Osborne

You might not be able to tell from its nondescript exterior, but inside the Decorative Center Houston lies an interior designer’s dream: Floors and floors of home design showrooms carrying the latest and greatest in home decor essentials.

To celebrate the inevitable changes in home trends that accompany the cooler weather, the center hosted its Fall Market 2012. Design experts and novices alike had the chance to get a peek at the hottest — well, coolest — home design trends. Here are five that caught our eye:

1). Mix and Match: Whites and neutrals with a splash of color

Color lovers should not be alarmed if they begin to notice a heavy influx of white and neutral furniture this season — delightfully unexpected pops of color are just around the corner. What we’re noticing is a juxtaposition of mildly tinted pieces, with boldly colored statement pieces mixed in, such as a Jonathan Alder Collection bright turquoise couch we spied in the Kravet showroom.

It was also a joy to spot a hot pink chair in the midst of white pillows just around the corner at the same store.

2). Nature-inspired table accents

Seashells, blown glass and chunky wood in abundance: At nearly every showroom we visited, we found that this season’s table are heavily inspired by natural influences. This trend means a lot for DIY-happy interior designer enthusiasts.

Remember those fallen pine cones outside on your front porch? Now you can step outside and (after scrubbing them down with a little soap and water), you’ve got your newest — and trendiest — table accessory.

3). LED Lighting

Technology will play a big role in home design this fall and beyond — starting with lighting choices. Instead of the harsh fluorescents or hazy halogens we’re used to, the use of LED lighting will be found in more and more homes.

Why are LED lights gaining popularity? According to what I learned at the Designed Light lecture in the FSG showroom, LED lights are durable, energy-efficient and long-lasting. Additionally, LED lights (depending on the quality) give off a softer, warmer hue than other harsh lighting arrangements.

One tip when buying your LEDs this fall: Spend time with a lighting professional to get the right type of bulb for your home.

4). A Return to Vintage

Walking into the Andrew Martin showroom is like walking into a mid-century toy store. We saw larger-than-life rocking horses and a vintage dollhouse. It was also amusing to find a vintage Debbie Does Dallas movie poster hanging unashamedly in full view, along with other pin-up posters.

These quirky pieces shared space with rustic-looking tables, chairs and lamps, confirming our suspicions that modern design will be getting mighty cozy with vintage chic.

5). Abstract fabrics

Whether you use them as windows or wall and table coverings, the fabrics used for those will come emblazoned with geometrically abstract designs in hot colors. It seems that many of the purveyors of fabrics took inspiration from the current trend of abstract contemporary art hanging in the galleries right now.

Orange, anyone? You’ll find a lot of that color, plus its coral and peach sisters at Decorative Center Houston, or anywhere you go searching for your autumn interior design needs.

  • Sorrel's scallops
    Photo by Kimberly Park
  • Pondicheri's barley salad
  • Smoothies at Roots Juice
    Photo by Karen Burd
  • Veggie burger from Green Seed Vegan
    Photo by Ruthie Johnson Miller
  • Crepes by Radical Eats
    Radical Eats

Houston, the land of healthy eating? Believe it or not, fatty comfort food nolonger reigns

A Veggie Revolution

Let’s get one thing out of the way: Houston is — and always will be — a burger town. Steakhouses trump all here, and fried chicken may as well be our official city bird.

We’ve long been the butt of our national health crisis, called out by the media as obese and heart diseased. If Portland is the fittest, we are the fattest. As the energy fields grow, so do our waistlines. They wonder if we drink butter from our 10-gallon hats.

The last few years have seen comfort food glorified further, spawning “kitschilly” popular new restaurants and gracing menus in creative new ways. But somewhere amid the biscuits and gravy, shrimp and grits, macaroni and cheese, we have cleaned up our act. A bit.

Our love affair with waffles-n-wings will never end — at least I hope not. It’s just that more places are taking care to offer salads, veggies and grilled fish, too.

Sure, farmers markets and CSAs have been on the rise for years, nudging us to buy local and eat our veggies. But even beyond our own cooking prowess, restaurants, too, have healthified. Comfort was king last year — but recently it’s been more about downsizing.

Over the last year or two, Houston has seen the introduction of vegan restaurants in Radical Eats and Green Seed Vegan. Pondicheri earns ooohs and aaahs for its regular Meatless Monday menu, while the new Doshi House is all vegetarian, all the time.

A number of favorite restaurants have introduced lighter, vegetarian sampler plates. There’s even a vegetarian tasting menu at Oxheart. We’ve got a new juice bar in Roots Juice — and a juice bar on wheels in Juice Girl.

More places offer healthier and organic take-away options, like Relish and Revival Market. Or simply skew lighter, like Local Foods, Sorrel Urban Bistro and Adair Kitchen.

While the longevity of such places remains to be seen, their popularity indicates a demand. No, our love affair with waffles-n-wings will never end — at least I hope not. It’s just that more places are taking care to offer salads, veggies and grilled fish, too.

I love chicken fried steak as much as the next gal, but it’s nice to have these clean-living options. Underbelly, for example, whose menu could never be confused with health food, offers one of my favorite salads in town: A huge pile of mixed greens topped with roasted seasonal veggies and only the slightest hint of vinaigrette.

Like a comfy bear hug in a time of need, comfort food will always be there. But while our mayor hasn’t proposed a soft drink ban [yet], if you couple our healthier food trends with the city’s new green initiatives — adding bike paths, building parks, planting trees — you might even call Houston health conscious.

And that’s some name calling we can live with.

  • Natalie Svacina, a curriculum coordinator for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston,stands by a Debbie Carlos poster and a small selection of plants in her diningroom.
    Photo by Whitney Radley
  • Ostrich, a torch drawing by Helen Altman, hangs above a sideboard equipped withhosting essentials and topped with travels memorabilia.
    Photo by Whitney Radley
  • Friends seek Svacina out to revive ailing plants or keep them while they'reaway. Her rug is from IKEA.
    Photo by Whitney Radley
  • An IKEA table is topped with brass from the collection of Svacina's mother.
    Photo by Whitney Radley
  • A leather butterfly chair from Urban Outfitters is cozied by a hand-sewn pillowand a knitted stuffed creature from a close college friend. The open doorwaylooks out onto the living rom.
    Photo by Whitney Radley

My favorite room: Dining area in Museum District apartment mixes mini-galleryand plant hospital

High/low aesthetic

Natalie Svacina moved to Houston just a year ago to take up a post as curriculum coordinator for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston after finishing her art history masters degree in Lawrence, Kan., but it didn't take long for the recent Bayou City transplant to make a Museum District rental her own.

A small dining alcove is at the literal and metaphorical heart of her apartment, open to both the living room and the kitchen. This is where Svacina — a North Texas native — entertains new friends and visiting family.

Her walls have become a gallery space for the burgeoning art collector: A torch drawing by Fort Worth artist Helen Altman hangs above her sideboard; a petite Art-o-Mat painting, one in a series of gifts from her brother in Austin, leans against a turntable; a large bunny poster from photographer Debbie Carlos is pinned up behind a plant stand, offset by a sculptural himmeli mobile and hanging planters picked up at the Eastside Urban Harvest Farmers Market and a Kansas boutique.

This high/low aesthetic defines Svacina's cozy home, where vintage furniture, borrowed family heirlooms and collected treasures elevate IKEA staples.

This high/low aesthetic defines Svacina's cozy home, where vintage furniture, borrowed family heirlooms and collected treasures elevate IKEA staples.

"I'm drawn to warm colors and pieces with a little bit of masculine edge," Svacina explained to CultureMap. "Raw woods, lots of brass and leather."

The large western-facing window is crowded with potted plants, many gifted or adopted, several on loan from friends to be revived by Svacina's green thumb.

"My dad is a huge gardener," she said of her talent for plant care. "I love bringing them in."

Other items tell of Svacina's travels: A painted bird figurine from the Archäologisches Museum Frankfurt, a handmade bowl from a ceramicist based in Marfa, a pair of wooden puppets from Germany, rocks from her grandmother's land in Arkansas.

Eames-esque chairs encircle an IKEA table topped with brass vessels and candlesticks from Svacina's mother, within easy reach of her '80s-era bar cart and her curated record collection, a mix of indie rock, pop punk and familiar hits from the '60s and '70s — essentials for her intimate fêtes.

  • The Town & Country Stool comes in a $350 each, and is a Fab Find for the holidayseason.
    Photo by Whitney Radley
  • Lam Bespoke, formerly Hien Lam Home, recently rebranded for a greater focus oncustom-tailored furniture and upholstery.
    Lam Bespoke/Facebook

Lam Bespoke's custom-created Town & Country stool adds versatility to any room

Fab Find

Montrose denizens may have noticed the recent transformation of Hein Lam Home into Lam Bespoke, its immense exterior walls accentuated by a cheerful, robin's egg logo.

Inside, shoppers will find home accessories like mirrors, drapery, lighting and artwork, set up in vignettes with well-tailored, custom-upholstered furniture created by the affiliated Hien Lam Upholstery.

Among the blown glass lamps, knobby rugs and cozy sofas is a stand-out item: The Town & Country Stool, a piece made using weathered wooden planters as a base, topped with a textured linen and accentuated with nailhead trim.

It's a perfect living room addition, ideal for alternative seating or an impromptu table top, compact enough that it can be tucked under a coffee table when not in use. Plus, true to the shop's custom concept, the fabric and trim can be tailored to a buyer's specifications.

Town & Country Stool, $350, Lam Bespoke, 2032 West Alabama, 713-523-1558

  • The little study in her Sugar Land home is where Chitra Divakaruni wrote six ofher novels including her latest work Oleander Girl, due out in March.
    Photo by Allamar Young
  • A small Buddha given to Divakaruni by her mother helps to create a calmatmosphere.
    Photo by Allamar Young
  • Occasionally, Divakaruni will take time out to meditate to clear her mind.
    Photo by Allamar Young
  • Divakaruni understands the essential need for a writer to have a room that issolely her own.
    Photo by Allamar Young

Author Chitra Divakaruni's favorite room is a space of calm during creativestorms

My Favorite Room

According to Virginia Woolf, having a room of one's own is essential for female artists to create. Almost a century later, award-winning Houston novelist Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni understands that essential need for a writer to have a room that is solely her own.

In her first description of her writing room Divakaruni admits it’s nothing spectacular, “just books, books, and more books, and a door I can shut on the world.”

Though she has an office at the University of Houston, where she teaches, it’s in the little study in her Sugar Land home, overlooking the trees and small, golf course lake, where she wrote six of her novels including One Amazing Thing, and her latest work Oleander Girl, due out in March.

When the family bought the house more than 10 years ago, she told her husband and sons they could have whichever rooms they wanted but this study in the tree line would be her writing room.

When the family bought the house more than 10 years ago, she told her husband and sons they could have whichever rooms they wanted but this study in the tree line would be her writing room. “Everyone in the house knows when that door is shut, you open it only at your grave peril,” she explains, laughing.

Everything in the room, from the bursting bookshelves, to the small Buddha given to her by her mother, to the yoga mat on the floor helps to create the calm atmosphere outside and within her that she needs to write.

“If I’m full of a lot of stuff, there’s no space for those things to come up and be created in me. I have to empty myself to allow that imaginary world to come up and be created,” she says.

Yet sometimes the dramatic real world does mysteriously invade this writing sanctum. She recounts the strange story of this room when she had just begun her novel, Palace of Illusions, which is based on the Hindu sacred text The Mahabharata. Her husband was concerned that by retelling parts of this sacred epic from a woman’s point of view Divakaruni could get herself into trouble. She assured him that Panchaali was an important character, who needed “her space and her voice.”

“I just started the novel and lightning strikes the house, major lightning that cracks the chimney and fries everything, but not my computer,” she describes and then ponders this coincidence. “The night before something stuck me, and I unplugged my computer. So my computer was OK but everything else in the house is fried. My husband said ‘I told you. I told you.’ So that’s one of the adventures of this house and this room.”

Years later, Divakaruni still thinks having a room of her own as both a right and responsibility.

“I think it’s important for everyone, but particularly for women because we still live in a world where our job doesn’t end when we come home. We have whole other roles and responsibilities, wife, mother, cook.

"It’s really important to have a demarcation and to have a space where you tell people: When I enter this space it’s important that you respect that and you give me what I need to be an artist. . . I know a lot of people don’t have a space. So I really feel that if I don’t use it, well shame on me. I should use this to do all the writing I can do.”

  • The child's room and adjacent wash room at Vision House
    Photo courtesy of Green Builder
  • Vision House is part of the Innoventions exhibit at Epcot.
    Photo by Ralph Bivins
  • Bath with Numi toilet (in foreground)
    Photo courtesy of Green Builder
  • Climate control center
    Photo courtesy of Green Builder
  • Living room and dining room
    Photo courtesy of Green Builder
  • Ron Jones, president of Green Builder, explains the housing exhibit at Epcot.
    Photo by Ralph Bivins
  • Ralph Bivins and Mickey at Disney's Epcot park in Orlando
    Photo by Ralph Bivins

Step inside Disney's house of the future: New Vision shows green living can beluxury living

A Healthier Home

ORLANDO — Living in a sustainable house doesn’t mean you can’t be comfortable, too.

Consider the Vision House. It’s a housing exhibition in Disney’s Innoventions center in the Epcot theme park.

The Vision House is loaded with solar and energy efficiency elements, of course. But it also offers solutions for healthier lifestyles and homeowner comforts.

"People don’t have to give up comforts, they don’t have to give up luxuries, to have a more sustainable life."

“The Vision House demonstrates that sustainability doesn't mean sacrifice,” said Ron Jones, president of Green Builder Media, which worked with Walt Disney Imagineering to create the home exhibit. "People don’t have to give up comforts, they don’t have to give up luxuries, to have a more sustainable life."

Green Builder hosted a tour of the Vision House at Epcot for journalists from the National Association of Real Estate Editors in early November. Some tour highlights include:

• Trane “CleanEffects” air conditioning and air filtration system. Trane says the system filters out 99.9 percent of allergens, include particles as small as 1/1000 the diameter of a human hair. The filter does not need to be replaced, just vacuumed every few months.

• Panasonic ventilation systems, judged by Green Builder, to be more effective at sucking out moisture which leads to mold and mildew. Panasonic exhaust fan has a quiet self-adjusting motor that speeds up when there’s a lot of work to do.

• Numi toilet by Kohler has heated seat and warming element to keep tushies comfy in the winter, a built-in speaker system where you can plug in an iPod and a night light. By the way, it offers one of the most conservative flushes in the business, using as little as .6 of a gallon.

• Armstrong cabinetry. Carefully constructed without nasty glues or varnishes, Armstrong goes for indoor air quality with materials that won’t emit out-gassing. No formaldehyde will be found here.

The Vision House has a lot of green elements that you would expect to find in a green demonstration home today, including a charging station for plugging in an electric car, systems for capturing rainwater for outdoor irrigation, solar panels and world class insulation in the walls.

The next time you go to Disney in Orlando, the Vision House may be something you want to check out. You won’t embrace every idea.

But there are some ideas that can help you make your home safer, more sustainable and comfortable.

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Luxe plastic surgery center injects River Oaks with cutting-edge techniques, posh recovery suites, secret access, and more

A-list treatment

With the holiday season in full swing and many prepping for a new look for the new year, image-conscious Houstonians have a new option for cutting-edge cosmetic treatments and plastic surgery in one of Houston’s most elite neighborhoods.

Nuveau Plastic Surgery + Medical Aesthetics, a local leader in cosmetic medical procedures, has quietly opened a sleek new facility in River Oaks (3720 Westheimer Rd.). Owned and operated by renowned (and board-certified) plastic surgeon Dr. Edward Lee, the facility offers myriad reconstructive surgeries for men, women, and children, as well as beauty treatments, touch-ups, and more.

Aside from top-of-the-line technology, instrumentation, and treatments, the boutique center has personalized service and features to the tony RO crowd. A secret entrance ensures privacy for discreet clients, much like similar operations in Los Angeles and New York.

Another top-drawer feature: Tastefully appointed pre-op and post-op suites keep patients in-house, rather than having to leave posh treatment centers and head to crowded hospital rooms for recovery.

In keeping with Lee’s insistence on a medicine-first approach, anesthesia for patients is provided by Medical Anesthesia Associates, an MD-only group.

A cut above

Notably, the center places a primary focus on plastic surgery, which, for the uninitiated, has a clear distinction from cosmetic surgery. Randy Rakes, managing partner, tells CultureMap that it’s important for clients to understand the difference.

“You have to understand, you have to go through hundreds of hours of training and cases — face and the entire body — to get that board certification, and go through rigorous testing in order to meet that specification,” he says.

Why is that important? The industry, Rakes notes, is rife with practitioners such as “OBGYNs or dermatologists or people who have not really been trained in the art of plastic surgery, who take a class somewhere and learn how to do liposuction or a fat transfer — and then they're ‘experts’ in aesthetic surgery.”

That’s especially key when selecting a provider for highly invasive — and potentially serious — procedures such as facelifts, eyelid surgeries, tummy tucks, liposuction, rhinoplasty, breast lifts and augmentations, breast reconstruction, and more, Rakes adds.

In an era of Instagram beauty demands, more choosy clients are opting for streamlining facial features. To that end, Lee is one of a select few surgeons in the U.S. who regularly performs “V-Line '' surgery. The set of procedures, popularized in South Korea where Lee honed many of his skills, aim to narrow the width of the jawline and the face.

Aesthetics with an expert eye

Lee’s elegant, 5,500-square-foot center is adorned with CASA Houston designs, Italian-influenced finishes, and soothing elements evocative of a modern art museum or luxury spa. The facility houses a Visia Skin Analysis Studio and seven treatment suites aesthetic work such as Botox, microneedling, VI peels, Halo Laser Resurfacing, Moxi Non-Ablative Laser, Broad Band Light Photofacials, Coolsculpting, Emsculpt, and more.

Rakes says that his registered nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and estheticians are elite, by design, as he and Lee insist on credentials. “All of our injectors are licensed in the State of Texas,” he says. “Most places don't have that, the reason being is that they are much more highly skilled than a traditional, regular nurse injector. So they have a much higher skill set. The people who do our lasers and things of that nature have 10 to 15 years of experience, so clients know that they're getting the best possible treatment with the best possible devices — we own every medical device that's considered cutting edge in the industry.”

Facing forward

Rakes, a longtime medical industry processional with a keen eye for trends and technology, says that his clients aren’t just looking for traditional services, but new technologies and treatment, such as PRP and other regenerative therapies. “I think patients are kind of moving a little bit away from the traditional Hyaluronic fillers like Restylane and really looking for something with a more natural approach.”

His treatment teams stimulate collagen with fillers such as Radiesse, “and then we combine that with energy-based devices to even further lift the tissue and work as a synergy between using the injectable and the device, because the combination of both of those things give the patient the best possible results,” Rakes notes. Lee and Rakes also focus facial care on medical-grade skincare brands Alastin, Revision, and Elta MD.

A global scope

Aside from his board certification in plastic surgery, Lee has also trained in craniofacial and pediatric surgery. His medical mission work has taken him to Thailand, Haiti, and Cambodia, where he has performed surgeries for nonprofits such as Operation Smile and Smile Train for those in need.

Those in need of non-traditional treatments can also trust Lee, says Rakes, who points to Lee’s work in the cosmetic and plastic surgery-obsessed Korea. “Some of the Korean techniques are much more advanced than the techniques that are available here in the United States,” says Rakes. “Dr. Lee does a lot of things that other physicians here just don't do.”

Those interested should book early, Rakes advises, as the holiday and new year rush is in full swing. The center offers “pre-buying” slots where clients can reserve space and time. “We’ve been very busy,” says Rakes, noting the local celebs who’ve shared the work they’ve received there on social media. “I think people come here because they know they’re getting the very best treatment and results available.”

Photo courtesy of Nuveau PlasticSurgery + Medical Aesthetics

Nuveau's sleek River Oaks center boasts designs from CASA.

Beloved Houston urban farm toasts local culinary legend with new cooking courses and classroom


For longtime Houston food insiders, Peg Lee needs no introduction. A lifelong local culinary instructor, she has been a fixture in the food scene since the 1970s, where she (often humorously) led cooking classes at Houston Community College.

She was a no-brainer to found and direct Rice Epicurean's cooking school. And the newly launched Central Market made waves in 2001 by enticing her to launch its now wildly successful cooking school, which, thanks to Lee, has lured top national and international chefs and food names.

Along the way, Lee mentored now well-known chefs such as Robert Del Grande, Greg Martin, and Mark Cox.

Quite apropos, the Houston legend is now the namesake for a new cooking school in one of the city's most beloved urban green sanctuaries, Hope Farms. The Peg Lee Culinary Classroom in Hope Farms' Gathering Barn now hosts field trips, classes, tastings, and free cooking demonstrations for children and adults.

Locals can also book the charming space, spearheaded by Recipe for Success/Hope Farms founder Gracie Cavnar, for cooking parties and cooking classes for anywhere from four to 24 students. Those interested can find more information on classes, which center on Cavnar's passion for healthy eating, and more here.

As for the classroom, visitors can expect a white, farmhouse-style kitchen with custom cabinets and high-end appliances, all reflective of a home kitchen. Butcherblock countertops, matte black accents, and farm-made tables and more adorn the space, while a Wolf Induction cooktop, A GE Café Smart Five-in-One Wall Oven, and other state-of-the-art appliances get folks cooking.

Fittingly, classroom water is tied into the farm's new rainwater capture system for the ultimate in sustainability.

“Peg was one of my earliest mentors in the imagining and crafting of what Recipe for Success Foundation would become,” Cavnar noted in a statement. “Then, when we began programing, she rolled up her sleeves and got to work, helping us teach children to cook and bringing her many resources to help us raise money and awareness for our efforts. It is my deepest honor to pay her tribute with the naming of our classroom.”

New craft brewery bringing 'bold American beer,' Texas comfort food, live music, and more to Sugar Land

Sugar land's new craft brewery

Houston’s growing craft brewery scene will add a new outpost in Sugar Land. Talyard Brewing Co. recently began construction on a 15,000-square-foot production and tap room that will open in early 2024.

Located in Imperial, a massive mixed-use development on the site of the former Imperial Sugar refinery, Talyard will occupy a three-and-a-half acre site that will include a beer garden with shaded seating areas, pickle ball courts, a playground, and a stage for live entertainment.

Principals Keith Teague and Chuck Laughter are Sugar Land natives and neighbors who bring experience from the business world to Talyard. In a release, Teague says that intend to serve “bold American beer” paired with a food menu of Texas comfort food made from locally sourced ingredients.

“We want to push the boundaries of style and tradition by combining old practices and new,” Teague added.

Ultimately, the brewery’s 20-barrel brewhouse will be capable of producing 10,000 barrels per year. For now, brew master Sean Maloney is dialing in recipes on a test system. Formerly of 8th Wonder Brewing, Maloney has been working on the West Coast and recently finished the World Brewing Academy’s Master Brewer Program, administered by the Siebel Institute in Chicago and the Doemens Academy in Munich.

“As I’m sure is the case for many ventures like ours, the idea of starting a craft brewery was hatched over beers in the backyard,” Teague said. “Sean attended high school with Chuck’s son, and over the years, we’d see him at family gatherings during the holidays when he was visiting from the West Coast. Those backyard beer sessions turned into area brewery tours together, and eventually the idea of sharing our passion here locally was born.”

Talyard will add to Imperial’s extensive entertainment options. The area also includes Constellation Field, home to the Sugar Land Space Cowboys, a weekly farmers market, and the Fort Bend Children’s Discovery Center.