Emily’s Small but Mighty Houston Home

updated Feb 20, 2019
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(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)

Name: Emily Moore, founder of Moore Design Works, and Xia, Loyal Yellow Lab
Location: Museum District, Houston, Texas
Size: 600 square feet
Years lived in: 2 years; Rented

The first thing you’ll notice about Emily’s Houston apartment is probably the boldly painted blue walls in the living room. She chose the diagonal shape because it reminded her of cozy top-floor apartments tucked under the eaves in Paris; it also gives the room a great energy and provides the perfect backdrop for her carefully selected collection of furnishings and decor.

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(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)

Emily is an architect with an impressive design pedigree — she spent 11 years living and working in Genoa, Italy, before being sent to Texas three years ago by the Renzo Piano Building Workshop to be the on-site project manager of the addition to the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth. Since then, she’s settled in Houston and founded Moore Design Works, dedicated to architectural design and custom furniture. (The geometric air plant ‘planter’ in the living room is one of her creations.)

Emily’s whole home is a labor of love — the blue and white living room used to be a particularly appealing shade of brown, and when she moved in, the kitchen was a little bit of a disaster. Lots and lots of painting later, the apartment feels modern and playful. The dynamic walls and streamlined furnishings come together to create a home that feels minimal and spacious but still cozy and colorful.

(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: It is a mixture of found, curated, and collected objects combined with the strong lines of the modern design era and a palette of clean, contemporary pieces used as props to showcase those objects.

Inspiration: Anything with a history either personal or temporal. Travel. Art. True craftsmanship.

Favorite Element: I really enjoy the dining nook. The dappled light from the tall windows and the view of vegetation and trees makes you feel like you’re in a tree house.

Biggest Challenge: The kitchen was a real piece of work. Not only is it comically small, but I took the time to sand and repaint all the cabinets, the walls, the ceiling, and the faux marble laminate counter tops. My neighbor once found me actually sitting in the sink, sander in hand, and covered head to toe in dust.

What Friends Say: Usually, “Wow.” They are very surprised by the result. Many of them saw the house when I first moved in and were probably questioning my judgement.

Biggest Embarrassment: The bathroom. It’s very small and has no natural light.

Proudest DIY: The whole apartment is really a DIY, but I would say the study/living room. It was a dark mushroom brown room that showed a lot of wear. The blue angled walls help make the space feel intimate and dynamic. Also when you walk in the back door, your eye is drawn to the blue angle. This focal point makes the apartment itself appear larger and less segmented. Everything else in the room just organically came together.

Biggest Indulgence: Probably the sheer amount of time and patience it took to make this apartment an inviting and enjoyable space. It doesn’t happen overnight.

Best Advice: Live in a space and let it evolve. Paint can go a long way in transforming a room. Don’t force an aesthetic that is not applicable to your space. I was surprised at how playful this home became the more I worked on it, but I feel that it is appropriate to the scale and nature of the project.

Dream Sources: Isabella Gardner’s storage unit, exotic flea markets, unlimited access to excellent fabricators and craftsmen.

(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)

Resources of Note:


• Behr : Blue Luxury • Glidden : Crisp Linen •Behr : Seafoam Spray •Glidden: Smooth Stone

•Glidden: Moonstone

•Wall paints, BEHR Blue Luxury and Glidden Crisp Linen
Vertical Air plant Gardens: I designed thes. Fabricated by Atlasinnova (atlasinnova@gmail.com)
•Italian Vintage School map, G.B. Paravia & C. This was a gift from a friend when I lived in Italy. It is a map of the United States in Italian. I love it. You can see where children wrote Italian curse words around the edges!
•Bar Cart, DIY of Grandmother’s plant stand : paint, Behr : Seafoam Spray
• Industrial Media Cart, CB2
•Couch, Craigslist
•White chair, CB2
•Blanket, ABC Carpet and Home
•Floor cushion, I bought in Morocco
•The drafting desk, given to me by a former colleague.
•Drafting stool, given to me by a former classmate.
•Cow hide, bought in Australia by my father over 40 years ago.
•Paris print, bought in a Paris by my mother.
•New York Skyline pen and ink, from my Grandfather’s office.
•Sketch of the Kimbell Art Museum by Renzo Piano
•Glass side table/record storage, rejected retail case from a project I was working on
•Orange Lamp, DALU by Vico Magistretti for Artemide
•Shelves, IKEA
•Cameras, bought in Italian flea markets
•Bull horn, family heirloom


•Wall Paint, Glidden: Smooth Stone •Table, Ikea •Pendant, Ikea •Chairs, DIY found at a rental property, I painted and reupholstered them •Bench, my Dad made from the original breakfast nook of his boyhood home. He says he used it as a bench press. •Shelves, Ikea •Wire Baskets, Anthropology • Wood Bowl, Jim Thillen made this for me from the concrete formwork of the Kimbell Art Museum •Clock, Italian Flea Market •Green Mirror, Austin thrift store •Rooster and Hen chocolate forms, Italian Flea Market •Mirror on the wall, farm house hand me down •Mirror on the floor, hand me down •Rug, overstock.com •Maroon Painting, William Cook,
Art from the Streets, Austin, Texas

•Water Color, I did that.


•Rust-Oleum Counter top Paint, Gray Mist •Wall Paint, Glidden: Moonstone •Dish Towel, Marimekko Textile •Moto Guzzi Vintage Advertisement, bought in an Italian flea market

•Pyrex Colorful bowls, My Grandmother’s


•Wall Paint, Glidden: Moonstone •Painting, Donna Burstein of Burstein Art •White Chair, CB2 •Collage Chair, DIY $5 at an Austin thrift store – I did the collage. •Dresser, family heirloom •Jewelry Box, made for me when I was born by my 2nd Cousin •Dressing Rack, My Grandfather’s •Pillow on Bed, Anthropologie •Side Table, DIY $5 Texas Junk Company, paint Behr : Seafoam Spray •Bed, Overstock.com •Armoire, IKEA •Mirrors, IKEA

•Rug, IKEA

(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)

Thanks, Emily!

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