Friday, October 31, 2008

An Interview with Designer, Joni Webb

When I asked one of my favorite bloggers and professional interior designers, the multi-talented and lovely, Joni Webb, to do an interview for Color Outside the Lines, she immediately said, "I'd love to!" Many of you already take part in the educational experience that is Cote de Texas, Joni's design blog. It's pages of information, and pictures are as thorough and beautiful as any I've ever seen. Each and every day, I visit Joni's blog waiting for the next inspirational post, hoping to gain ideas from the wisdom she shares, and the designers she profiles. Joni is a gifted, expressive, generous, and positively fabulous woman! She has a trained eye and a natural ability when it comes to writing, and interior design. Her beautiful interiors, both in her own home and her many clients are tantalizing, fresh, timeless and elegant.

1. What would you say are some of the common mistakes made by homeowners in their own decor? How would you suggest avoiding or correcting those mistakes?
Wall to wall carpet! I hate plain wall to wall carpet. It is so boring. Such a huge surface to be so "plain." If you have to have wall to wall carpet = consider wall to wall seagrass, which is a wonderful alternative. Or choose a wall to wall patterned carpet - such as a lattice pattern. But be sure the pattern is two toned, not monotone. Otherwise, what's the point? Patterned carpet can really pop a bedroom, seriously warm it up and cozy it out. I love that look when you have to have carpet.

Client Bedroom, with Patterned Carpeting

Another mistake is uncovered windows. Again, a large surface left plain. I love curtains and use them in all my interiors unless the client is totally against it. I think curtains change the atmosphere, they add so much romance and softness - they make a room cozy and inviting. I can't sing their praises enough. Of course I have certain formulas I use - in fact I'm planning on writing about that on my blog - formulas to follow for curtains.

Client Living Room, with Gorgeous puddled drapery.

Another mistake? not having fabric in a room. Just buying furniture, with store bought leather or fabric on it and then not having custom pillows or curtains made to bring it all together. Nothing looks less put together than a room with out some fabric treatments. It looks amateurish and unfinished I think.

Client, Living Room.

2. When tackling a new decorating project, what would you suggest a homeowner do first?

I always start with a floor plan. That way - you can see what you need to buy, what you can repurpose. What will fit - how will it fit, what you options are. Next, comes an inspiration fabric. I will show a client as many fabrics as need be until she/he says - that's the one. Now, that fabric may be so expensive it ends up on one pillow - but I will devise my entire scheme around that one inspiration fabric that the client really dies for.

Client Living Room.
3. What advice/tips can you give to someone decorating on a limited budget? Where should the place the majority of their money?
Well, that's a hard one - you can buy one great piece of wood - a big piece like an armoire, or a chest and mirror over it - if you can afford it. But, you know - if you are on a tight budget - I always suggest the fabulous slipcovered sofa and matching chair and ottoman from Ikea. Incredibly cheap, comfortable, but great looking. Next, you could add a seagrass rug from PB, and paint the room a deep chocolate, eggplant, or a celery green color, add a Z Gallerie mirror and you would have a great looking room for about $1,000. seriously. JC Penney's has some really good looking Chris Madden chairs that I would use. Or rattan - another good look to stretch the budget. You don't have to have a lot of money to have style, especially today.

Budget Friendly Client Bedroom

4. What tips do you have on decorating a room that will remain timeless, and long lasting?

Antiques. French or English or Swedish antiques. For instance, go back and look through Frances Elkin's work - rooms where she used French chairs and antiques - they look like they were decorated last year. Amazing. Or any English country house - the look is timeless. Again - you don't have to have period antiques - buy reproductions - it's the line - the wood framed furniture - that gives it a timeless look. But any interior using classic French or English chairs and chests is timeless. It's hard to date it.

Joni's Formal Living Room in her Houston, Texas home, filled with French Antiques.

Avoid trendy fabrics - like 60s inspired fabrics. Use damasks, stripes, solids in living areas, toiles in bedrooms - those are timeless fabrics. Fabrics really date a room. So does contemporary furniture - like Danish modern, or Mid Century modern, 50s, 60s - very dating. Soon, all this Tuscany inspired furniture is going to be so dated! Stick with the classics - mouton legs, Louis XVI, Georgian III, etc - what ever particular style you are drawn to.

Webb Family Room, boasting a gorgeous slip covered mouton leg sofa.

5. Many people like the idea of updating or changing their interiors for the seasons. What tips can you share that you use in your own home?

Oh Gosh = I never do that - but I live in a city that really doesn't have seasons. But - the obvious things - change slipcovers from cotton to wool flannel, or white linen to khaki denim. Put down seagrass in the summer, and layer it with a Kilim in the winter. Use blue and white striped pillows in the summer with white slips and in the winter, use black velvet or persimmon velvet for pillows in the winter. Use white cotton or bright colored throws over the sofa in the summer, and change them out for cashmere (!) or wool plaid in the winter.

Joni's Formal Dining Room.

6. You have a great eye. What is the first thing you notice in a room done well? What is the first thing you notice in a room done wrong? How would you change it?
I go green when I walk in a house I love, positively green. I start hyperventilating and immediately start wondering about the owner - did she do this herself? who was her designer? does she have this great taste? haha!! totally green. Then I want to move in there or copy it and I go home feeling horrible and hate my house. I wrote about that on my blog The Fabulous Flea. That was the last time it really hit me hard. I just love, love, love seeing something that inspires me. Seriously - it is really a physical experience being in a home that really speaks to me. On the other hand, it's just as physical if it's really ugly or horribly decorated in my opinion. It makes me nervous and I sit around and think what I would have done differently and rearrange everything in my head. I once had a bf for years and years that had the most horrible house (well, he was a punk rocker after all!) and I would just sit there and think if I lived here what I would do differently. Every day. It almost made me ill. ha!!!! No, really, it is just as emotional on a bad level as a good level. I am never, ever, not aware of the house I am in, pretty or ugly.

Client, Formal Entry.

7. Paint color is a large part of a rooms overall feeling. Do you have any tips on paint colors, or hues?
Not really - that's so personal. It comes down to two things - either you are a cool person or a warm person (not your personality) - but either you are drawn to cool colors such as blues, silvers, grays, taupes, etc. or you are drawn to the warm spectrum - the yellows, oranges, reds, etc. And then there are the cool shades of warm colors and vice versa. I've found that people are automatically attracted to either one or the other, but rarely both. so, with a client - I try to find that out as soon as possible. You are either a blue person or you're not. I usually use Pratt and Lambert, so I really know those colors pretty well. I like to use the off shades - the ones that you really aren't quite sure what color they are. Myself, I'm a cool person, even though my house is presently painted a brownish yellowish sort of shade. but the woodwork is all gray. I was going for a French look. Even though it is basically a warm color, it's from the cool shades of Pratt and Lambert's colors.

The breakfast room of Joni's Houston Home.

8. Many people sacrifice comfort for good design. What do you think is more important, and how do you deal with these challenges as a designer in your clients and your own home?
I do! Most definitely! Oh - good design over comfort, always, of course! What could be more comfortable that a recliner? or a couch with a recliner built in? omg!!! too funny! but seriously - when I have a client that runs her hands over a fabric and goes - no, that doesn't "feel" good, or runs her hands over the carpet and says "oh, it's not soft enough" ---- I just roll my eyes and drift off. I do not understand that thinking AT ALL. But, my baby learned to crawl on seagrass, so don't ask me about comfort! Seriously - I could care less if a fabric is soft or plush, how does it look instead? I mean how soft is linen or cotton or silk? I detest chenille with a passion. I don't care how soft it is, I'm just not going to show a client a soft chenille usually.

Client, Library.

In the end, you have to give the client what they like, but that's why I don't show some of my work - it's not my work - - it's the clients, they live there, they like it, but not me particularly. It's rare to get a client w
ho has the same taste. And I can't demand that of my clients, I am not at that level.

Client, Library.

Pricey designers
just don't take jobs that aren't going to be their aesthetic. They can tell the client - everything you own is going away. I'm not at that level and probably will never be. But I do find that I am turning down more clients lately that want contemporary or mid century or whatever. I'm just not taking on those kind of clients hardly ever anymore. It's just not fun, it's labor. And that's not fair to the client.

Joni's Home Office, The HUB of Webb Design.

BUT, as far as comfort goes - to finish that - you should always do the obvious - always have a lamp and a table for drinks right next to the chair. Order down or down wrapped cushions, always. Order only down pillows, always, only down. I like to use slips so that you don't have to worry about your pets getting on the furniture - you can really get comfortable on your sofa, put your feet up. That kind of comfort is important to me. An ottoman for every chair, always. And lighting - you didn't discuss lighting - always use lamps and sconces and chandeliers instead of overhead recessed lighting. I have overhead lighting that is never, ever turned on. I like soft lamp light only. That's comfort for the eyes. I mean - you aren't going to be doing surgery at home, what's with all the blaring lights. That drives me crazy in other people's houses too. Bright lights. Soft lighting is so romantic and cozy, like a fireplace. And a soft, or a good mattress is important. The Four Seasons have the best beds in the world. I like to put a down comforter under the mattress pad on a bed, then layer the top with another down comforter over the sheets, with down pillows - it is sooo comfortable.!! But, as for dining chairs, I would chose a beautiful antique over a nice, big comfortable chair, every time. But then again, I like straight back, hard back, chairs.

Client, High Rise Dining and Family Room.

9. How would you categorize your own taste?

French antiques really send me. And clutter, I'm a the more the merrier.

The Webb's Guest Room in their Beautiful Houston Home.

10. Is there any advice you wish someone had given you when you began decorating your own home?
No, not really I guess, that's a hard one to answer. But, if I had the money, I would love to collaborate on my home with people like Charlotte Moss or David Easton or Salidino - you know, the greats. If you only had the money - that would be so much fun!!!

Client, High Rise Living Room.

Remember to check out more of Joni's fantastic client and personal spaces on her blog, Cote de Texas. I'm sure that this charismatic and friendly design diva would be more than happy to answer any personal questions you might have for her, there.

Thank you Joni!


  1. ooooooooooh! Prayers - they are just answered all over the place. Thanks for this, Artie! and Joni! can you both fly out here? hehe


  2. Wow !!!!!!!

    There were so many of Joni's likes and dislikes that I agree with. Especially the comment about contemparary decorating. I have such a hard time with that, to me it feels so cold. And I love lots of furniture in a room and accent pieces. My brother made the comment, many years ago, that I didn't have a flat surface with less than three pieces on it. LOL ;) I forgot what I wanted to comment on about yesterday's post.

    Later..... My new issue of TRADITIONAL HOME came tpday, I have to go read now.

    Thanks Artie, great post.

  3. I have lurked around for a long time on Joni's wonderful blog! Her pictures and her descriptions are always fantastic. I love the way she points out something that I might not have noticed. I may instinctively know that I love a room, but then Joni starts telling me why, and I have an ah ha moment! Thanks for feature Joni and for asking her the perfect questions. laurie

  4. I just love Joni's rooms. I could give her carte blanche to decorate for me anytime.
    This was a wonderful, entertaining and informative post.

    Thank you Artie!

    hugs, b.

  5. Very nice Artie...I really enjoyed your interview...Joni's house is scrumptious!

  6. HAPPY HALLOWEEN ARTIE, speaking of which, it is about that adorable pumpkin you posted yesterday....smiles. Such a cutie you were (and still are).

    Thank you for posting this interview as it was soooo verrrry
    informative. With sixteen spaces to give a face-lift to, I definitely appreciated it!!!!!!!
    Your questions were perfect by the way. Hugs -RMS mrsben-

  7. Hi, Arti, and Joni, too, if you read these comments: I'm a friend of Buffie's. Thank you so much for this post! We live in Houston, and my boyfriend and I are just beginning the process of redoing his home which was about 75 percent destroyed in Hurricane Ike. These are great hints, and I apprecite the timing of your posting them as well as Joni being willing to share her thoughts with us! Thank you so much, and if I get stuck, I am calling Joni!

  8. Thank you for the interview and such wonderful questions. I consider myself a friend of Joni's and all the good comments are so deserved. She is the most talented and generous designer out there!! She needs to write a book!!

    Also, love this's a daily read for me.

  9. Wow thanks for all this information Artie & Joni... I loved it and the pictures... so many great ideas... Thanks a lot...


  10. Artie, this was one of my most favorite blogs of yours! I have been reading j's blog for awhile and left my first comment yesterday! I would love to see more of these types of blogs in the future. Thanks vickydarnell

  11. Artie: wow - this looks great! Who is this designer again? hehe!!!

    Thank you so much my friend - this was really too sweet of you to do this. I'm out of town and just got wind this was up already.

    I'll link it on my blog asap!!!! Thanks again buddy - I owe you a big one!


  12. Artie, I found you through Joni's blog..what a GREAT blog you have here! I love it and will keep coming back! This interview is so good. What great tips! Joni's rooms are beautifully done, and the advice is priceless! :)

  13. Wonderful post!

    I love Joni and have been a fan ever since I found Cote de Texas.

    Thanks so much for featuring Joni Webb!

  14. What a great interview with the fabulous, talented and ever so warm and wonderful Joni!!!

  15. Thanks for the wonderful post on Joni. She's my favorite blogger and quite an incredible designer. She's also very generous with her time and comments to anyone who inquires. Quite an angel!

  16. I'm a Joni fan, too, so it's fun getting more of a glimpse into her and her style, which I love, by the way. I totally agree with her views on comfort versus style. Great post!

  17. Delightful and informative, just like Joni herself!

  18. What I like the best is the fact that Joni is cofident in all of her answers! That's a great designer - no sitting on the fence!

  19. Like I have said before... Cream rises to the top!

  20. Joni...Calls it like she sees it.

    Great interview!

  21. Great interview, I love her work!

  22. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  23. Excellent interview! So happy to have discovered your blog through Joni & Cote de Texas! I'll be back browsing your gorgeous photos and tips!
    The Antiques Diva

  24. Hi Artie,

    This is my first time visiting your blog. Great article!

    Now, I am going to go take a look around.

  25. Joni said you were a expat Texan so you'd truly appreciate my vanity plate on my car - "TEXPAT" - we lived overseas for many years but I'm a Texan at heart. Now we're back in Texas, in west Houston (Katy) where I discovered Joni and have become fast-email-friends. Thanks for the interview - it's nice to "hear" her from another perspective.

    I'm a bit of an anglo-phile myself having lived in London for almost 10 years. So between my "to the manor born" predilections and her "all things French" aesthetic, we tick along quite well.


  26. Artie B!! How could you do this interview and not tell me?!! You know what a french fanatic I am! And Joni's blog is one of the absolute best! (yep I'm a lurker too) *winks* I enjoyed every second! Your questions were perfect! Just the things I would love to know! And Joni I agree with all your likes and dislikes...even if I am currently stuck with the dreaded "wall to wall" Lol! Color me GREEN!! *winks* Vanna

  27. Great interview Artie; I really enjoyed getting Joni's take on decorating!


  28. Gosh - thank you - all of you. I am totally overwhelmed by your comments - except for the one that Artie had to remove!!!

    Thank you all so much! You have no idea what this means to me.


  29. Hi Artie -
    Just found your great blog through Cote de Texas. Thanks for the very interesting, straight forward interview with Joni. I have been in the interior design business for a long time and now have a retail shop. Joni really tells it like it is. Everyone interested in joining our field should listen very carefully to what she is saying. She is so talented and very generous in sharing all her knowledge with all of us. Her blog is always so visually appealing and informative. I love the fact that she stands her ground and sticks to what she truly loves and is obviously very good at. The current trend towards the modern/mid century is just that - a trend that will quickly look very dated. As a designer and a retailer you have to find the balance between keeping current but still design warm interiors. I have moved away from the traditional as is still shown on my website to the more Belgian inspired look. This look allows us to have lighter, cleaner looking interiors without sacrificing warmth, and the use of beautiful antiques. Joni expressed her design opinions so honestly in your interview - it was so refreshing to hear another veteran designer say what we are all thinking! Joni is so adamant about certain design ideas - loved the response to your questions concerning "common mistakes made by homeowners". All so true! I would add scale to the list. Homeowners are shy about buying furniture to fill up their spaces. In most cases the furniture is too small and sitting on a postage stamp sized rug! The current trend towards buying the biggest house you can afford and then furnishing it all from PB is totally disgusting. The new economy is a lousy excuse for having a boring, cold home. We can all manage to have two or three beautiful pillows on a slipcovered sofa. Artie, you made the most enchanting table in your tent with a lot of talent, effort, and burlap! That was an absolutely beautiful setting. I am sure that was a most memorable evening! Thanks to you both for a wonderful interview from two very talented people!
    Nancy M. Toon
    Hound Hill Design

  30. Joni is a great inspiration for all of us decorators! She has a fantastic home & great style.

  31. It's interesting how regional design can be. My first thought when I saw these photos was "It looks like Dallas." When I lived there briefly, I noticed a particular Dallas style: antique/traditional furniture, but with everything brand-new or cleaned within an inch of its life.

    What New Englanders consider charming patina, Dallas-ites consider "dirty." And forget mismatched heirlooms -- in Big D, everything has to look like it was put together with one of those swatch boards.

  32. Love your blog-being a curtain maker-love what you said about never leaving your windows bare! Beautiful window treatments can transform a room.....

  33. Each of those pictures are absolutely to die for. I think I could move into any of those rooms and be very happy. :)