E Talks Season’s Interior Design Trends with Laura U

Elaine & Laura catch up at Beckrew Wine House.


You probably know this by now, but I am deeply interested in interior design. I think this is the case with a lot of fashion designers, that a love of good design and creativity extends into other areas in life. It’s the home for me but it could also be art, cooking or gardening for others.

I am thrilled to feature Houston designer Laura Umansky on the blog today. I first heard about Laura U at an Elaine Turner photo shoot several years ago. We were lucky enough to host it at the most stunning home in River Oaks and Laura had designed the interiors. The theme of the shoot that year was retro Hollywood glamour and Marilyn Monroe was our muse. You can only imagine the interiors — they were absolutely gorgeous, and I loved meeting Laura and her adorable husband Michael.

So I was thrilled to reconnect with Laura recently over wine. It was so fun learning how much we actually have in common — we are both entrepreneurs who work with our husbands!  And we are moms and UT alums — go horns! I loved chatting with  her and getting the scoop on what’s new in interior design this season. It’s always fun to see any crossover in trends in fashion and interior design.

So enjoy my Q & A with Laura! Then head on over to Laura’s blog where you’ll find our lively discussion about fall fashion, and be sure to check out her stunning portfolio!  XOXO, Elaine

Laura designed the interiors of a beautiful River Oaks home which was featured in an ET photoshoot several years ago.

ET: What trends are you seeing this fall in interior design?

  • Modern farm style – warm, rustic, clean and contemporary combined.
  • Deep colors – like crimson – paired with softer hues like clay pink or blush.
  • Green, green and more green! From emerald to sage.
  • Metallics, especially rose gold and bright silver.
  • Large-scale antique floral and botanical prints.

ET: What are some things readers can do for a quick fall refresh in the home? 

LU: My current obsession – table linens – is an easy seasonal change with a huge impact. For fall, I switched up my summery green, botanical, Oscar de la Renta table cloth for my Ember table cloth from my capsule collection with Ellisha Alexina. Instant Autumn vibes!

As an aspiring gardener, I believe plants make a home. Bring in fall colors via an indoor container garden. My favorites right now are Flowering Maple (while it mostly blooms through summer, it will also bloom right through winter) and Oxalis (aka Purple Shamrock), which has gorgeous, deep purple leaves. Aubergine is definitely a fall color!

ET: Any thoughts or tips on expressing one’s personal style in the home?

LU: While your large-scale upholstery and case goods set the tone for your home, your personality is displayed in the details. I am a collector of vintage vernacular photography, and it is a big element in my own dining room. Yes, the dining table rocks, but the photography is what makes me the happiest! Invest in what makes you happy, and display it in a thoughtful way. Music is always playing in my home because that is how I grew up: around my mother’s record player. I just brought a record player into my home so I can share my love of music (and vinyl!) with my daughters, and the super cool lucite trunk that I keep my records in is just a bonus!

Laura’s dining room with the photography she loves.

ET: Tell us about your background and how you got into interior design?

LU: Art and design have always intrigued me. I studied art as an undergraduate, but I never felt like an artist — at least not a painter or a sculptor. However, I love to create, and I have always loved to linger in beautiful spaces, even from very young age. I drafted house plans and furniture layouts from the time I could hold a crayon! After graduation from UT, I was lucky enough to work with a fantastic designer. We focused on commercial interiors – mainly car dealerships – and this taught me to manage large-scale projects and demanding timelines. I then went to graduate school where I received my Masters in Architecture and landed a dream job even before graduation.

I worked for a firm designing amazing vacation homes in Cabo San Lucas – who wouldn’t want to do that? Here, I honed my project management and logistical skills while exploring the best of the best lines of furnishings and high design. The hardest thing I have done is to leave that firm and venture out on my own, but I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and the timing was right.

I opened my firm alongside my small, namesake, furniture shop: Laura U Interior Design and Laura U Collection. I had my shop for six years, but my heart was increasingly with my interior design projects. Because I felt that I couldn’t give my shop enough attention, I retired from retail in 2012 to focus solely on creating classically current, residential interiors and building a team of uber-talented interior design professionals. We all believe in leaving every space we touch better, stronger and more beautiful.

Laura’s living room comes alive with pops of color.

ET: What’s your personal style — in the home, fashion-wise, etc.

LU: My style is super quiet, fashion-wise. I look at piles of fabric and tile all day, every day, and pull it together into a meaningful interior. To do that, I can’t think too much about my wardrobe, which is mainly monochromatic, but texturally rich. A go-to outfit will typically include a cream, silk blouse by Equipment Femme with simple black Joe’s denim, and my favorite cork shoes by my favorite shoe designer, ahem…

At home, my style is clean and collected and a little bit like my wardrobe: simple upholstered pieces mixed with textural fabrics and floorcoverings, and my art is my jewelry!

ET: How do you juggle the chaos that can come with running a business and motherhood?

LU: Two words: family and team. My husband works with me, and we have a united front and a strong partnership, both at work and at home. We are both entrepreneurs working on multiple businesses, which we are incredibly passionate about. It helps that we share this drive to create. We are each other’s biggest cheerleaders and constant sounding board. My twin girls (Liv and Ryan) keep me totally grounded, and I couldn’t be more in love. It is totally chaotic with two 4-year-olds at home, but I welcome that chaos any day!

I am also lucky to have the best design and operations team in the world! While I pride myself on the fabulous interiors we design, I am most proud of the whole team here at Laura U. There is absolutely no way I could be as creative or as fulfilled in my designs without this group of amazing professionals.


ET: What advice would you give to other young entrepreneurs hoping to make their mark on their industry?

LU: Work hard, constantly learn something new, be nice, and be (tastefully) loud. When you are just starting out, be open to everything. Take every project that happens to cross your desk, and learn everything you can. Pound the pavement, get involved in your industry and community and be a diligent project manager. It’s not just about the design; it’s about managing the project for your client so they can focus solely on the design. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you make along the way (there will be a lot). Be prepared, do your research, but don’t make up answers. Always remember that your main strengths are your knowledge and your resources: know where to find answers, and go get them.

Most importantly, get along with your team, your vendors, trade pros, builders and subs, but never be a push over, and market, market, market. No magazine will come to you at the beginning. Get the word out about how amazing you are so no one misses you. Easy enough!

Connect with Laura:
IG: @laurauinteriordesign
FB: @laurauinteriordesign
T: @laurauinc

P.S. If you enjoyed this post, I’d be thrilled if you’d share it. And don’t forget to follow and subscribe to Join the Collective!

Sara Eliason on the Visual Conversation of Color

Friends — Today on the blog I am delighted to feature color guru and interior designer Sara Eliason. Sara’s a color expert who has delivered a Tedx Talk about creating a better relationship with our environments.cropped headshot 2

In the Q&A below, she speaks of color as a visual conversation we are constantly engaged in, whether we know it or not. Her idea of elevating the home to altar status and adorning it as a show of love, gratitude and connection to the spirit really resonated with me. And don’t miss her thoughts on determining your signature color palette. It is sure to have you thinking hard about the hues to which you are naturally drawn.

What follows is a super interesting, in-depth dialog. As a fashion designer who also works with color, I find Sara’s message fascinating. This is a read so worthy of your time and attention, as I know you will enjoy Sara’s insightful take on color and environment.
XOXO, Elaine

ET: What is your background and how did the interest in color and design emerge?

SE: My interest in color and design emerged in early childhood, possibly as far back as kindergarten. I have memories in early childhood of conversations around color – for instance I remember an argument that my mother and uncle had when I was about 5 or 6. My uncle was much younger that my mom and so was still a teenager at the time. He got ready to leave my grandmother’s house in a pair of red athletic shorts and a purple T shirt. My mom told him he couldn’t wear that because purple and red didn’t go together. This really struck a nerve for me, and I have honestly spent way too much of this lifetime considering if and how red and purple work together. I’m pretty sure I’ve worked that one out!

As a child I was obsessed with my surroundings and the little details that went into them. Years at school were spent considering the wall colors on the cinder blocks and thoughtfully considering what about them worked, and how they could be improved. I noticed spaces and the materials that made them and how lines and colors interacted, and by the latter half of grade school I was lending a hand at decorating for my mother’s friends when I was meant to be employed as a mother’s helper for the little ones. I had subscriptions to magazines like Victoria and spent my savings on decorating schemes for my bedroom.

By the time I got to high school, I knew my strength and interest was in the arts, but I wasn’t sure how to go about making that a living or a life. I was also torn between the love of art, design, fashion and hands-on work. I had dabbled in all of them and it was hard to know which one I loved most. Twenty years later, I’ve cultivated all of them really, and incorporate all of them into my work. I cannot live without nurturing all of those pursuits.

The initial foray into a career was not so much a matter of decision as a stroke of luck. In my early twenties, I had already spent several years working in banks and financial institutions and it was clear that spending days in a cubicle – no matter how well paid the position or how wonderful the colleagues, was not going to get me out of bed every morning. About two weeks after my first son was born, I needed a little escape from the house and I stumbled into a decorative painting store. They offered classes and sold materials and understood a great deal about finishes and materials from Europe and I was smitten. I took every class that  I could, and painted everything I could get my hands on, and then began teaching classes and taking the odd decorative painting job and before long I had a little business going. Read More

Designer Katie Scott on Creativity & Faith

I am thrilled to introduce another creative guru today, my dear friend Katie Scott. Katie’s playground crosses many mediums — interior design, jewelry and writing — and I feel she truly embodies the creative life. She finds inspiration deep within her heart, and her book is about the spiritual journey that awakened her soul several years ago. Clearly, the fruits of that journey are spilling out into her creative efforts, and I admire the honesty and passion of her faith. Savor Katie’s beautiful, divinely inspired designs and enjoy her take on living a creative life. XOXO, Elaine

Kennon1736 ET: Can you describe your daily creative process? Are you disciplined about it and follow daily routines or are you instinctual about it and just let it happen?

KS: My daily creative process begins with prayer and meditation. I recognize my ability to design as a God-given gift, so I believe it must be nurtured by a higher power. Not only do I seek creativity, but first and foremost peace, love and divine direction. When this is at your core, everything else begins to fall into place and the universe begins to work for you. Inspiration can be found everywhere. No doubt, my creativity has grown tremendously through this vehicle.

I require routine during the work week because you must be scheduled, disciplined and organized in order to manage time efficiently. That being said, I remain open and flexible to the unexpected changes that may be required. My day starts at 5:00 a.m. to center myself in peace through prayer and meditation. I am dressed and out of the door by 7:00 a.m. to drop kids off at school, and my meetings start by 8:00 a.m.

ET: How do you recover from a creative block? Are there any practices you engage in to get you out of a rut?

KS: A creative block is essentially mental exhaustion. When this happens, I literally step away from everything and clear out the clutter that has accumulated in my mind. Nature is my cure – whether it’s escaping to the beach or something as simple as a walk in the park or through my neighborhood. It carries my soul back to just being, letting go of acquired “thoughts” so I can be open to receive inspiration and develop new ideas. I breathe out what was, and breathe in “today,” this very moment of simplicity and life in itself, circling back to purpose and accomplishing what has been placed on my heart.

Once I have cleared my mind, I recharge by getting back into my element, and my environment is very influential – I adjust the lighting, I light a candle, I turn on my favorite music. I ask God to infuse me with knowledge, wisdom and new ideas. I take a deep breath and I grasp what comes naturally to me, using my senses to guide my inspiration – looking at color, touching and feeling fabrics and metals, turning to the past and reinterpreting the inspiration through a modern eye with a fresh perspective.

ET: What are your feelings about your career being connected to your creativity? Do you struggle with this? Or is it natural for you?

KS: Being creative is what comes naturally to me, it’s all I know. Everything I do has been “self” taught, and practiced over time. I am definitely a student of life.

ET: Do you have other outlets of creativity that you engage in that fill your soul other than interior and jewelry design? If so, what? And how does that enhance your creative process if at all? Read More