Known for putting her own vibrant spin on traditional interiors, Houston-based designer
Catherine Brooks Giuffre
has been transforming spaces throughout the country for nearly 15 years. After working for such powerhouse design firms as Jane Moore Interiors and J. Randall Powers, she branched out on her own in 2012, with notable projects including a 1928 Tudor-style home in Houston and a farmhouse in Litchfield, Connecticut. Here, Giuffre talks porcelain, Provence, and J Brand jeans with domino.
A silver serving tray flanked by a pair of lamps transforms an antique cabinet into an elegant bar.
Occupation: Interior designer
Current location: Houston, Texas
How would you describe your personal style?
I strive for a refined, tailored, timeless style. This is my philosophy for clothing, accessories, and furniture.
What’s your most prized possession?
A Katy Briscoe gold ring that J. Randall Powers, my former employer, gave me for the birth of my son. I wear it every day. Her jewelry feels so good, and the gold has a gorgeous green hue. Each piece looks like it came out of a museum.
What’s your favorite travel destination?
La Mirande Hotel, in Avignon, France. It’s located in Provence, where many of the Impressionist painters lived and worked, frequently commenting on the region’s magnificent light. And it’s true—the wisteria seems bluer, the limes are greener; every color is intensified. All interior fabrics in the lounge areas and bedrooms are by Brunschwig & Fils, and the courtyard and dining areas are furnished in glorious antiques. Aesthetically, it’s the most beautiful and understated hotel in France.
An onyx chandelier helps delineate a dining space in the open living room.
I love to visit the Cullen Sculpture Garden, across from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. It showcases the amazing, large-scale works of such masters as Ellsworth Kelly, Giacometti, and Rodin in a tailored garden atmosphere. It’s peaceful and kinetic at the same time. You can stroll in and out, or bring lunch and enjoy the surroundings.
If you had to wear one outfit for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Jeans, white cotton shirt, blazer, and riding boots. It’s the perfect transitional outfit, capable of segueing from client meetings to cocktail hour. Add a string of pearls, and you’re ready for dinner, or dress it down by throwing on a casual scarf. I recommend J Brand jeans; they keep their stretch from morning until bedtime.
On what items do you scrimp? On what do you splurge?
Scrimp: Instead of fine bone china, buy porcelain (such as Crate & Barrel’s white serving pieces). It doesn’t chip and will last forever. Splurge: Your bed is where you spend most of your time, and, personally, I look forward to that time! Quality bedding is a simple pleasure that’s worth the investment. If you invest in your bedding, it’ll last for years, whereas less-expensive linens can start looking tired after a couple of washes.
Great lighting can make a huge impact, through the use of sconces, art lights, and lamps. And of course, collections are key—they’re intriguing and reveal something about the personality of a homeowner.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Rose Tarlow: “Words and furniture have a lot in common. Both are inanimate. They don’t move themselves. Yet they can move you.”
Who do you most admire?
My father, for encouraging me to find what inspires and motivates me.
What items do you never leave home without?
A Nature’s Own “Oats & Honey” granola bar, just in case a client meeting or an installation runs long. An L.L.Bean canvas tote that stays in my car, filled with the following designer essentials: scissors, white and brown extension cords, a Klein Tools reversible screwdriver, a 24-foot tape measure, and chandelier brackets (50 to 100 pounds). And a wrap or scarf (the air-conditioning in Houston can be bone-chilling!).