Decorating Therapy

When her mom passed away, a Texas homeowner found a surprising outlet to get through the hard time. HGTV Magazine shows you how she healed.
By: Jessica Dodell-Feder and Jennifer Berno DeCleene

Photo By: David A. Land (styled by Elizabeth Demos)

Photo By: David A. Land (styled by Elizabeth Demos)

Photo By: David A. Land (styled by Elizabeth Demos)

Photo By: David A. Land (styled by Elizabeth Demos)

Photo By: David A. Land (styled by Elizabeth Demos)

Photo By: David A. Land (styled by Elizabeth Demos)

Photo By: David A. Land (styled by Elizabeth Demos)

Photo By: David A. Land (styled by Elizabeth Demos)

Photo By: David A. Land (styled by Elizabeth Demos)

Photo By: David A. Land (styled by Elizabeth Demos)

Photo By: David A. Land (styled by Elizabeth Demos)

Photo By: David A. Land (styled by Elizabeth Demos)

Remembering Mom

There’s a small blue ceramic donkey that sits on the kitchen counter of Natalie Lea’s Houston, TX, house. It’s cracked, and you might not notice it if you walked by. But as a hand-me-down from her mother, the sculpture tops the list of Natalie’s most cherished belongings—and is just one of the ways she has paid homage to her mom, Diana, who passed away from cancer two and a half years ago.

Mother-Daughter Style

Diana liked a traditional look "but with flair," says Natalie, an attorney who has two kids of her own. So after buying a three-bedroom home with her husband, Matt (here with their daughter, Harper, 1, son, Houston, 3, and Maltipoo, Milly), in 2013, Natalie enlisted the help of a pro. Bailey McCarthy, Houston designer and owner of Biscuit, worked with Natalie to create the home she envisioned. It took about seven months for the two women to transform the 1950s ranch house from dated and choppy to open, cheerful, and packed with personality. "Decorating this home with Bailey brought color back into my life after a very dark spell," says Natalie. "I feel like we’ve captured my mom’s spirit in every room."

Dining Room

In the formal dining space, pieces Natalie inherited from her mother, including an antique buffet and blue-and-white pottery, mingle with modern finds like Eero Saarinen chairs and a graphic rug from The Rug Company. "My mom always had fun with design, and I do, too," says Natalie. Even unlit, a painted chandelier glows against the barely there lavender walls (Nosegay by Benjamin Moore).


The house’s Crayola-inspired color scheme comes from this playful F. Schumacher wallpaper, which Natalie chose in honor of her mom’s love of butterflies. "I feel her presence as soon as I walk through the front door," says Natalie. The wainscoting and trim are painted Jet Black by Benjamin Moore.


With its grass green walls (Amazon Moss by Benjamin Moore) and lilac sofa (from Biscuit, Bailey’s bedding line and home goods store), this room could have looked very Barney the dinosaur. To make it feel like a grown-up hideaway, Natalie and Bailey chose black lacquered furniture in sophisticated shapes. Then they brought in even more color with an antique kilim rug from and a painting by Natalie’s sister. "It seems a little crazy, but it works so well," Natalie says.

Family Memories

A note from Natalie’s grandmother that Natalie had turned into a glass tray sits among family photos.

Breakfast Nook

"The Queen is fancy, and my mom loved fancy things," says Natalie of the Queen Elizabeth portrait reigning over the kitchen table. The royal print is from Austin design shop Shabby Slips, and the table, an IKEA find, is covered in a Paule Marrot cloth from Neiman Marcus. The chairs are from Ballard Designs, and the chandelier is from Circa Lighting.


Natalie’s mom wasn’t the only one who influenced her singular style. "I have a little Liberace in me," she jokes, in reference to the lavish gold accents throughout her kitchen. The precious metal adds shimmer to the marble backsplash and counters and gives the cabinet hardware, Thomas O’Brien pendants, Williams-Sonoma island, and La Cornue stove a rich gleam. The cheetah-print rug is from

Master Bathroom

The Leas didn’t bat an eye when Bailey suggested painting everything lipstick red (Ruby Red by Benjamin Moore). "It’s more fun than the builder’s beige that was here before," Natalie says. A bold flower-and-bird-print fabric makes the Roman shade a showpiece, while gold Restoration Hardware mirrors and Ralph Lauren Home sconces hike up the glam factor.

Master Bedroom

Natalie and her mom picked out the linen headboard together at Pottery Barn years ago. As cushiony as it is, designer Bailey felt the bed needed extra plushness, so she had a valance built to serve as a pseudo canopy. Red-trimmed linens from Biscuit and crimson Robert Abbey lamps give the creamy blue-and-white palette an unexpected pop.

Houston's Bedroom

Equal parts formal and fun, the Brunschwig & Fils wallpaper depicting scenes from a French battle sets the tone for Houston’s room. A cutesy splatter-print duvet—a nod to Diana’s adventurous painting attempts—offsets the tufted headboard, while an overdyed rug from Lulu & Georgia softens the floor for little toes.

Harper's Bedroom

"I nearly cried when I saw this wallpaper, I loved it so much," says Natalie of the Paule Marrot floral that livens up the nursery’s walls. Her childhood Jenny Lind rocker and a matching version of her baby crib from Target (both painted Peppermint by Benjamin Moore) give the nursery a sweet, old-fashioned look. Upholstered in velvet, the sleeper sofa is perfect for snuggling.

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