Vision gives her designs life, but Pamela O’Brien knows that the secret to a successful space is to find and use the perfect accessories and rugs.
Thanks for joining us, Pamela! Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into interior design.
I grew up in an antique-loving family. A nicely decorated home, no matter what your means, was an important family value. When my parents first married, my father was a new Navy officer stationed in Honolulu, HI. They lived in a hotel for the first six months to save money and even then, my mother would save up for a tablecloth or pretty napkins. I guess I just got that gene and began appreciating it from day one. I chose design as a second career when I decided I had to know if I really wanted more than a hobby. I left my job in 2000 and have never looked back.
What would you describe as your style? Influences? Designers you emulate?
My style is an eclectic mix of things I cherish, collect, find and occasionally stumble upon. The fun and the challenge is making sense of the mix. I think my best and highest use is when I create a beautiful environment that makes my client happy, fits his or her lifestyle, works within the budget and was completed on schedule. We hit the mark nearly all of the time and I am very proud of that. I am a die-hard Martha Stewart fan. I love how she makes simplicity absolutely fantastic. She also has a strong retro vibe which I really cherish. I am continuously impressed by Candice Olson’s viability in the market. I have also met Joe Ruggiero and appreciate his vim, vigor and signature style. I envy Alexa Hampton’s dream projects, Barclay Butera’s combinations of clean lines and great fabrics and find Charlotte Moss’ representation of nature to be pure fantasy.
When you enter a room can you tell if it has been professionally decorated? What are the tell tale signs?
I think I can generally tell although people are getting very design-savvy these days and often they pleasantly surprise me with their skill. However, when a design professional is involved I think the paint colors tend to be much better, the furniture layout is comfortable — not too sparse and not overly full — and the accessories feel interesting yet cohesive.
Texas is a state that does everything on a massive scale. What are some projects you most proud of and why?
I worked on Tradition Bank Plaza, an award-winning, historic remodel in the Houston Museum District. What was particularly great about this project was it was a splendid building that had been vacant for many, many years so it was a treat to be involved in its renaissance. The museum district location allowed me to recruit some wonderful local, emerging artists. We were able to preserve the historic provenance of the building as well as giving a nod to its hotel roots, all while designing a wonderful bank and community space. I also really enjoyed refurbishing two, prominent high-rise building lobbies and turning a very nice but rather vanilla Woodlands, Texas suburban home into a French-style Burgundian manor house for one of my favorite families.
Are there any rules you must follow when decorating your own space? When should you call in a designer?
Have a plan of action, measure, take photos, pull paint chips and fabric samples. Spend more time planning and less time shopping and you should have excellent results. When you can’t make yourself do the planning or you hit a roadblock, then you should consider calling in a pro. Remember, nearly always, two heads are better than one and if one of those heads has a really good eye for design, you should benefit from the liaison. And of course, buy what you love but also be sure to buy what you need as well.
We like rugs. Tell me a little about the various ways your incorporate them into your designs.
I LOVE rugs. I think you need them in most rooms. Houston is having a love affair with hard surface floors. The challenge is that many clients were used to carpeting and they have a hard time envisioning covering up their beautiful new floors. However, I educate them on the many benefits of rugs and how much beauty, texture, interest and style they will impart. Often it takes a few weeks of working together but invariably, their rugs are some of their favorite purchases.
Do you have a particular type, size or color rug that you like to include in your work? Any that you avoid?
I like to make sure rugs are the correct size, many people order rugs in too small of size. I prefer using 100% wool whenever appropriate. I love runners on stairs and I insist on them for safety. I try to convince my clients to save up for the right rug and not buy cheap throw-away rugs for just a year or two’s use. A good rug can hold its value so I think it is a place to splurge rather than scrimp.
Anything else to add?
I think we covered quite a bit!
Thanks for your time!
Thank you! It was a pleasure.