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Houston Home with Classic Style

Design on the wing was the only approach for a Houston home and its indefatigable owner

Written by Candace Ord Manroe
  • Alise O’Brien

    Elizabeth DeLuca: children’s health advocate, mom, foster mom, and perseverance personified.

    Of all the people on this earth who deserve the small break offered by beautiful surroundings, surely nonstop givers like Elizabeth top the list. With no time to spare, they also top the list of people who most need help—who need an interior designer not as a mere collaborator, a power-shopper, or a second set of eyes, but as the can-do, stand-alone person who makes beauty magically happen. For Elizabeth and husband Anthony, an oil-industry hedge-fund owner, interior designer Michele Allman was that person.

    Photography: Alise O'Brien
    Produced by Suan Fox

    Interior designer: Michele Allman, Michele Allman Interiors, 2357 Claremont Lane, Houston, TX 77019; 713/626-9401

  • Alise O’Brien


    The back-drops of their Houston home—once-dark paneled walls now painted a pale shade and a blue-tinted ceiling—soothe.     

    “It took some arm-twisting to convince them to paint the paneling,” recalls Allman. “It was oppressively dark and hadn’t been touched since the house was built in 1961.”

    Elizabeth DeLuca with Darby in her home’s foyer, where large furniture and upbeat yellow paint make its vastness manageable.

    Pastoral paintings: David Lackey Antiques, 713/942-8555.
    Drapery (“Cathay Toile’’/Periwinkle #7251-3); sofa fabric (“Chemin de Fer’’/Bronze #5922-6): Marvic Textiles, through Sloan Miyasato, 800/783-1398,, trade only.
    Sofa: owner’s collection.
    Paint (“Hawthorne Yellow’’ #HC-4): BenjaminMoore & Co., 888/236-6667.

  • Alise O’Brien


    The redo started in the entry, which had all-white walls and furniture, and a black-and-white marble floor. “They loved the floor, but this huge space needed some color,” Allman says. “Yellow is fabulous with black and white, Elizabeth likes it, and it’s youthful. It also fits the family. They’re sports-oriented and unpretentious. Once we painted the foyer yellow, it drastically changed the feel of the home.”

    Large-scale antiques and a custom runner for the staircase were next. “Trying to get the scale of the furniture right so you didn’t feel teeny-tiny when you walked in the front door was a challenge,” notes Allman. Only a few pieces from the family’s previous home worked—most were too small.

    Louis XV-style fauteuils flank a new painted buffet.

    Stair runner (custom); rugs (Serapi): Matt Camron Rugs & Tapestries, 713/528-2666.
    Painted buffet: Brownstone Gallery, 713/523-8171.
    French mirror: Design District, 713/840-9877.
    Candelabras converted to lamps (antique,): Neal & Co., 713/942-9800.
    Fauteuils (Louis XV with old tapestry): R-Z Antiques, 214/351-3442.

  • Alise O’Brien

    Soaring Living Room

    Allman furnished the living room with French, English, and Italian antiques, which she combined with a few heirlooms—a tall cupboard and rose club chairs from Elizabeth’s grandmother’s house in West Sussex, England. She kept choices to a minimum. “I worked up different scenarios and drawings of different furniture options, providing Elizabeth with a few very, very good choices to make her selections easier,” the designer explains. 

    Pale paint on dark paneling lightens the large living room, where two conversation areas create intimacy. Club chairs and a breakfront are from Elizabeth’s grandmother’s farmhouse in West Sussex, England. 

    Sofas (custom); club chairs; breakfront (antique); brass lamps on sideboard: owner’s collection.
    Sofa fabric (“Monte Rosa Woven’’ #89600-232); blue pillows on sofa (“Portsmouth Linen Velvet’’/Sea Moss #89063-E): Brunschwig & Fils, 212/838-7878, trade only.
    Pillow trim (“Bel-lagio Tassel Fringe’’/Border #985-29717, color 01): Samuel & Sons, 212/704-8000, trade only. 
    Antique pillow on sofa: Maison Maison, 713/520-1654. Club-chair fabric (“Bagatelle’’/Coral #404502): Travers, 212/888-7900, trade only.
    Club-chair fabric (“Palace Garden’’ #2001139): Lee Jofa, 800/453-3563,, trade only.
    Iron coffee table: W. Gardner Ltd., 713/521-1027,
    Sofa table (antique): Brian Stringer Antiques, 713/526-7380.
    Antique floral vases, converted into lamps: Jas A. Gundry Inc., 713/524-6622.
    Trumeau over mantel: W. Gardner Ltd., 713/521-1027.
    Blue-and-white Chinese export porcelain: Jane J. Marsden Antiques, 404/355-1288.
    Candelabras on mantel (antique): Maison Maison, 713/520-1654.
    Faience centerpiece on mantel: David Lackey Antiques, 713/942-7171.
    Armchairs (antique) by sideboard in old Fortuny fabric: Antiques & Interiors at Dunlavy, 713/522-6996.
    Mahogany sideboard (antique): The Mews, 214/748-9070.
    Landscape paintings (antique): David Lackey Antiques, 713/942-7171.
    Lamps on sideboard: owner’s collection. Chairs by breakfront: Lewis & Maese Antiques, 713/529-9300.
    Chair fabric (“Louvre Silk’’/Teal #83583-225): Brunschwig & Fils, 212/838-7878, trade only.
    Area rugs (custom): Matt Camron Rugs & Tapestries, 713/528-2666.
    Drapery (“Kohli Silk’’ 825-TAPS 16): Kohli Silks, 866/805-2929,
    Paint (“Straw Hat’’ #270): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667. 

  • Alise O’Brien

    Dining Room

    She continued the large-scale furniture and light paint over dark paneling in the dining room, using a massive refectory table Elizabeth found as the room’s centerpiece. “It was actually even larger—we had to cut it to fit,” says Allman, who completed the room with a tall 18th-century Italian cupboard filled with colorful Italian pottery.

    Twelve mahogany Chippendale-style chairs serve the large refectory table, which is crowned with a pair of vintage Italian wood-and-iron candelabras.

    Tablecandelabras; chandelier; Italian sconces: Brian Stringer Antiques, 713/526-7380.
    Dining chairs (antique): Neal & Co., 713/942-9800.
    Chair fabric (“Richmond Velvet’’/Old Blue #F3227-06, by Colefax & Fowler): Cowtan & Tout, 212/647-6900, trade only. 
    Biblioteque; painted candlesticks: Watkins Culver, 713/529-0597.
    Carnation plates; accessories: Edish, 713/942-7171.
    Area rug (Sultanabad): Matt Camron Rugs & Tapestries, 713/528-2666.
    Chest: Blue Leaf, 713/520-9975.
    Ornithological studies (antique, by Archibald Fullarton): Jas A. Gundry, 713/524-6622.
    Silver service: owner’s collection.
    Paint-color base (“Woodlawn Blue’’ #HC-147): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667. All surfaces flogged with second, slightly darker shade of blue. 

  • Alise O’Brien

    Silver Service

    Elizabeth found the old painted chest, which holds a silver service handed down from her great-grandmother. Ornithological studies on the walls are 18th century.

  • Alise O’Brien

    Sunny Kitchen

    Allman continued her lighten-and-brighten tack in the “dark, cavernous” kitchen, painting the existing dark-stained cabinets a cheery yellow. “We also removed some of the cabinets," she says, "trimmed the others with moldings, and dressed them with new hardware.”

    Paint (“Weston Flax’’ #HC-5), with antique glaze on all woodwork: Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667.
    Granite and tile: Colors of the Rainbow, 713/993-0727.
    Chandelier; bar stool; accessories: owner’s collection.

  • Alise O’Brien


    Family-friendly furniture was her goal for the library and the family room. “I wanted all of the library’s upholstery to be in soft and hardy fabrics that would wear well,” says Allman. “I also thought it was important that the room have a table where the girls could do their homework.”

    The library, Elizabeth’s favorite room, includes a century-old Scottish mantel adorned with 19th-century delft and two stories of bookshelves. A painting by Elizabeth’s great-grandmother personalizes the coffee table.

    Sofas; club chairs; small pedestal table; candlesticks; small painting: owner’s collection.
    Sofa fabric (“Monte Carlo’’/Nutmeg #404022); club-chair fabric (“Wicksor Chenille’’/Honey #401603, discontinued): Travers, 212/888-7900, trade only.
    Bullion at chair base (“Boucher Bullion’’ #984-31731, color 720): Samuel & Sons, 212/704-8000,, trade only.
    Large sofa pillows (“Kyoto Linen Print’’/Pongee #79082-811); smaller sofa pillows (“Romagna Print’’/Blue #70276-02, discontinued): Brunschwig & Fils, 212/838-7878,, trade only.
    Antique needlepoint pillows: Maison Maison, 713/520-1654.
    Square coffee table in distressed walnut: Brian Stringer Antiques, 713/526-7380,
    Tapestry: Nick Brock Antiques, 214/828-0624.
    Blue-and-white Delft garniture set (antique): The Mews, 214/748-9070.
    Area rug (hand-made Serapi): Matt Camron Rugs & Tapestries, 713/528-2666.
    Yellow glazed plates on coffee table: Neal & Co., 713/942-9800. 

  • Alise O’Brien

    Family Room

    Likewise, in the family room a long Italian school table complete with its school-days graffiti functions for games, schoolwork, and an informal place to eat. “It’s really a fun piece and it makes the room very functional,” says the designer.

    Daughters Virginia Claire, Lauren, and Allie at work on a puzzle on an old Italian schoolhouse table that bears its original graffiti.

    Table (Italian school table): Watkins Culver, 713/529-0597.
    Blue-painted corbels mounted as lamps: Design District, 713/840-9877.
    Ottoman: owner’s collection.
    Ottoman fabric (“Plougastel Linen Print’’/Red #71557-166): Brunschwig & Fils, 212/838-7878, trade only. 

  • Alise O’Brien

    Powder Room

    Chinoiserie wallpaper and an antique vanity add charm to the powder room.

    Wallpaper: existing.
    Vanity (antique, Chinoiserie): Antiques & Interiors at Dunlavy, 713/522-6996.
    Remaining items: owner’s collection.

  • Alise O’Brien

    Cozy Bedroom

    Ease was essential for Elizabeth’s whirlwind lifestyle. “She is such a dear, dear person, I just wanted to create lovely, welcoming surroundings that would make her life more enjoyable,” says Allman.