When Laura Singleton isn’t consulting with homeowners in Austin, collaborating with architects in Houston or on site in Galveston discussing ideas for a beach cottage makeover, she’s busy tending to another integral component of her interior design business: Shopping.
“If I’m in Austin, I’m shopping for Houston, and if I’m in Houston, I’m shopping for Austin…and vice versa,” Singleton says, adding with a laugh, “and I’m shopping everywhere in-between.”
Houston native Singleton, principal designer at Laura C. Singleton Interiors in Austin, takes us on a photo tour of two completed projects, both examples of her aesthetic: An elegant blend of classic and contemporary, even modern, design combined in a timeless fashion.
"The homeowner has a very strong, Southern traditional style...and five children, all boys, and a large extended family," Singleton says of the proprietors of this 10,000-square-foot West University house. "My goal was to make the home liveable, inviting, comfortable and accommodating."
The breakfast room, with JANUS et Cie chairs for a sophisticated garden feel, leather-framed botanical prints from France in groupings, urns from Austin's Bill Gardner Antiques and happy, round topiaries from Houston's Thompson + Hanson. The chandelier is an architectural element Singleton discovered at Wendow Fine Living in Austin.
Singleton has 17 years of interior design under her belt and specializes in high-end residential and commercial interiors. The majority of her work has been in Austin and Houston, with a few out-of-market clients in South Texas, Chicago and Calgary, Canada.
She shares a few philosophies and tricks-of-the-trade, so to speak, learned through her blossoming career.
"I love beautiful upholstery," Singleton says of one of her design mantras. "It's almost like a couture dress. What paint does for a room, the next thing to dress it up is upholstery. Fabulous upholstery really updates a home."
Thick, cream, kubby linen by Henry Calvin covers couch and chairs custom made for the family room. Side tables, also custom made, are of wooden X bases with concrete tops. Accent pillows are in a green, cream and white lattice-work fabric by F. Schumacher. The kitchen is convenient to the family and breakfast rooms.
Singleton earned her bachelor’s degree in art history from the University of Texas in Austin and continued her studies to receive a master’s degree in 17th and 18th century decorative arts and 19th and 20th century decorative arts from Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London.
Add to her history knowledge a keen eye for color, for which she has received praise from numerous clients.
"The homeowner loves blue, so we decided to saturate this room with that hue," Singleton says of the living room. "We had the divans covered in a rich, blue velvet from Travers, as well as the ottoman atop the metal X frame."
The day bed received the same light blue upholstery treatment from Kravat as the two cushy arm chairs in the foreground.
The Gustavian day bed is a fab find from Bill Gardner. An original Amanda Talley painting hangs above the fireplace. Nineteenth-century sketches of birds from Carl Moore Antiques in Houston neatly cluster on either side. A plush area rug by Stark Carpet adds softness underfoot.
Singleton's services extend far beyond selecting fabrics and colors for a home to helping manage an entire new structure or renovation project. For example, she recommended the architect for the West U house and worked hand-in-hand with him from the ground up.
She also works closely with builders, contractors and landscape designers.
The large portrait of an unknown woman commands one wall in the living room. Singleton purchased the piece from Houston's Made in France.
The blue color scheme flows easily into the game room with walls in a Benjamin Moore blend. A stately china cabinet sits quietly at the far end.
"We purchased the cabinet when it was raw wood and had it painted, including the Tiffany-blue back," Singleton says. "It became the perfect piece to showcase the homeowner's collection of china and old books."
The rounded chairs covered in a blue, cream and tan nubby textile by Lee Jofa fit neatly around square tables. All chairs and tables were custom made in Houston.
A Joe Macuso original from Barbara Davis Gallery serves as the focal point on the main wall.
The next home on Singleton's tour takes us to Austin — Terrytown, to be specific. And just as Singleton translated and incorporated the personal tastes and lifestyle of her Houston client into the West U home, she was ready to give that same special attention to the next customer.
The 3,700-square-foot house needed a remodel for a family of four, including a teenager and 8-year-old child. The two-story structure sits on a hill in the wooded neighborhood as a split-level or "upside-down" home.
A Minode white leather sectional affords comfortable seating in the family room. Singleton purchased the Japanese robes in the Houston Heights and had them mounted by Frame Tek Art Service in Houston. The chandelier is a Marberger Farm Antique Show treasure that received Singleton's creative touches, including painting and the addition of 2,000 crystals she purchased on eBay.
Singleton decided to completely gut the kitchen, and chose alder wood for the cabinets and carrera marble for the countertops, kitchen island and backsplash. The oak flooring throughout the house was refinished and stained in ebony.
"The black finish on the cabinets took as a straight black," Singleton says, "while the wood grain in the flooring gave the ebony staining a totally different 'black.'"
She adds of the sitting area, "A lot of designers say this, but I really do it. I truly mix a lot of high-low items. Done right, it looks great."
The Minode table is surrounded by complementing chairs from IKEA. The cascading chandelier is an eBay win.
A sleek, chrome-finished four-poster bed makes a bold statement in the master bedroom with its dramatic presence. The metal version from Room & Board is a fresh and contemporary take on the traditional style.
The his and hers vanities in the master bath give the homeowners plenty of space for pampering, and the sitting area in the foreground, a place for relaxing.
"One of the ultimate luxuries in the bedroom is having a sitting area," Singleton says. "If you have that space, then it's fabulous to use it for that purpose."
The custom-made sofa is upholstered in chocolate velvet. The coffee table is actually a Chinese reverse mirror painting - a Singleton trademark of incorporating a touch of the Orient into decor. Seagrass carpet is found throughout the house.
"I like to incorporate things that you can't find just anywhere, in fact, one-of-a-kind items," Singleton says. "I want to do that for my clients."
The oversized mirror is by Barry Jelinski of Howl Interiors and consists of thousands of oyster shell pieces he collected on Galveston beaches. The office desk is custom made, and the chandelier is from Vaughan Designs.
With one job each in Austin and Galveston underway, as well as two in Houston and her own house remodel, Singleton is one busy woman.
And she likes it that way and welcomes more opportunities to be creative with customers.
"I love what I do," she says. "It's stimulating and challenging. And I think it's fascinating meeting and working with people. I love to make my clients happy."
In the dining room, a Milo Baughman burl wood table with Knoll chairs, custom-made antler chandelier, ornate floor mirror from Austin's Shabby Slips and bright, Longhorn burnt-orange buffet from the former Spazio.
Laura C. Singleton Interiors is located at 3500 Oakmont Blvd., Suite 102, in Austin. For more information, visit the website.