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.