An Ornate Oasis

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Interior designer Laura Umansky, president and creative director of the Houston, Texas–based firm Laura U Inc., spearheads the design of luxury residences and commercial projects in all corners of the world. Although she often brings a bit of Texas to her global and contemporary interiors, in this project, she brought international influence home to Texas.

 Located in the Southampton neighborhood of Houston, this 3,500-square-foot residence is home to a family of three and is playfully infused with the exotic colors, textures, and patterns of Morocco. “[The homeowners] asked for an interior that would include special pieces they acquired during their travels,” says Umansky, who used an antique Moroccan mirror that the clients found on vacation as a jumping-off point for the entire design.

From there, she focused on color. The foundation of each room is light and airy, with neutral walls,
drapery, and flooring complemented by bold cobalt furnishings and details. “I do like to incorporate carefully chosen, high-impact pieces into every space that we design,” says Umansky. “I think that sets us apart.” And the cobalt accents do just that. The shade of blue is the homeowner’s favorite and the designer introduced it with the console in the foyer, the bed in the master, the blue doors throughout the home, and the striking, custom sectional in the living room. “The client always wanted a blue sofa,” says Umansky, who had this piece finished in cotton velvet. “Velvets are beautiful because they have such deep, rich hues. Cotton velvets are very resilient and are relatively easy to clean. Silk velvets crush easily, so we tend to steer clear of them in family rooms.”

In the family room and the other spaces in the home, there are durable fabrics in an assortment of patterns and textures. “Mixing patterns in a variety of scales adds interest and layers,” says the designer. “We used Moroccan-inspired motifs like suzanis; we also mixed in kilims as well as more contemporary, graphic-patterned carpets for a truly collected feel. Many of the fabrics we selected are textural solids. . . . Others are tone-on-tone graphic woven fabrics, fun patterns in a small repeat, and lots of varied stripes.”

Textiles are an accessible way to introduce pattern, but Umansky was careful to incorporate internationally inspired details with the carved furniture, columns, and tile finishes as well. “The columns in the dining room are custom designed using several types of tile, as you may see in an authentic Moroccan residence,” she says. Additionally, the fireplace features a chevron tile pattern, and the walls of the kitchen and master bath are adorned with common Moroccan tile motifs. 


The main living spaces are easily considered “contemporary and collected”—the words Umansky uses to describe the home’s aesthetic—but there are also some less expected rooms that the designer infused with lively, international flair. Off the foyer and through the custom barn door is the office, or writer’s room, as the clients call it. “The homeowner is a fantastic writer and she asked for a space to feel inspired in,” explains Umansky. Whimsical window seats and a neutral sofa offer plenty of seating for reading, while custom architectural bookshelves house books and colorful collected items. The natural stone flooring, which runs throughout the first and second stories, is original to the home yet conveniently introduces a subtle pattern that is juxtaposed by a contemporary graphic rug. 

When the homeowner isn’t working in the writer’s room, she joins the family upstairs in the media room. Umansky converted the bonus room above the garage into a vibrant lounge for the family. Here, chevrons and stripes live in harmony and introduce playful energy to this family space that’s dripping in high-impact pieces.

The outdoor room also packs a colorful punch. “This is absolutely one of our favorite outdoor spaces,” says Umansky. “Exterior drapery and carpets really make this feel like another room in the home. And it really becomes an entertaining space that you can enjoy year-round.” Carved chairs with inlays, a tiled tabletop, and a durable patterned rug underfoot continue the details that abound indoors. “We custom painted the benches to be just the right shade of blue,” adds Umansky. “The mix of teal and cobalt is refreshing and fun, too.”

Both indoors and out, the three-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bathroom home reflects its foreign inspiration through the architectural details. Arched and pointed doorways, carved window dressings, and custom built-ins are all reminiscent of the architecture in Morocco. These details are highlighted and illuminated by groups of hanging light fixtures throughout the home. Metal and glass pendants marry the materials and designs of the Middle East and are the finishing touches on this contemporary and collected Southampton Moroccan masterpiece.

The 4 Dangers of Pricing Too High

Price is the most important element when selling a home. You don't want to price too low because you'll leave money on the table. You also don't want to price too high because you could scare away buyers.

A lot of sellers think that if you price high in the first days on the market you leave room for negotiations. While this seems like a good theory, there are actually four downfalls. Did you know that overpricing your home by as little as 5 percent can reduce your chances of selling by 90 percent? Why?
  1. Potential buyers won't see your home - If you price too high, your home won't show up on a price range search for many buyers. You eliminated a large amount of potential buyers. 
  2. Your home sits on the market longer - Once a home has been on the market for so many weeks, a stigma is developed: what's wrong with your home? Why doesn't anyone want it? 
  3. You get the reputation as an unrealistic seller - Buyers won't want to work with you if they think your expectations are unrealistic. 
  4. You will have to price reduce - To make up for the time on the market, you will have to reduce your price to entice buyers.
What if you priced your home correctly in the first place? If you price reasonably in the first place, most of the time you will get multiple offers. Then there is an auction for your home and many times you get more than you asked for originally.

If you are having trouble determining which is the best price for your home, give me a call. Let's figure out what's best for you. Thanks for watching!

3 Reasons to Sell During the Holidays

The holiday season is here and I’ve been hearing a lot of people say they are going to wait to list their home until the spring. While we do see the most transactions during the spring months, there are actually some great benefits to listing your home now.
  1. There is less competition - Yes, there are more transactions in the beginning of the year, but there are also more homes for buyers to choose from. There are fewer homes on the market which means your home is in higher demand and that means a better price or you. 
  2. Buyers are serious - Selling is stressful and you don’t want people who aren’t serious about purchasing viewing your home. If a buyer is taking time out of the holiday season, they are motivated and ready to commit. 
  3. The holidays are more emotional - Homes look great this time of year with the lights and decorations. Buyers often use emotion instead of logic to make decisions.
Listing your home now can be truly beneficial. I recently worked with a client who wanted to wait to list until the spring, I spread the word through without listing and within the first week we got a contract. They don’t even have to move until February. 

Now is a great time of year to sell. Give me a call at 703.629.9022 and we can get started on listing your home.

Improving Northern Virginia and Washington D.C. Market

Looking to buy or sell a home? Contact us!

Hi everyone, welcome to my brand new video blog, where we give you relative information so you can make informed decisions.

Lately I’ve been getting a lot of questions about how the market is doing. We’ve seen a lot of reports lately about how great the market is and how now is the best time to sell your home. It’s quite an abrupt change from the declining market we’ve been so accustomed to hearing about over the past few years. So I wanted to give you just a couple statistics about today’s market.

The sold dollar volume last month rose 27% from the same month in 2012. The number of homes sold that same month rose 17% and the average purchase price rose 8% from last year.  There were 3,900 homes sold in the Virginia area last month!

There has been a steady increase in the demand for homes, but the supply is at an all-time low. There are only 6,000 homes on the market in the Northern Virginia market right now! That’s only a quarter of what was considered the benchmark in the 2006 market!

This high demand and low supply is putting an increased amount of pressure on upward pricing. The bottom line is now is a great time to be a seller whether you are looking to move up or move down. It’s the perfect time to get your home on the market!

If you need some resources on what it takes visit my website! If you aren’t receiving the market snapshot and you own a home here locally, click on the link located on the side of my blog; you can get a number of relative statistics and facts about the current market.

Thank you for watching!