HBJ Best Places to Work Top 20!

HBJ Best places to work luncheon, laura u is in top 20

We have some exciting news from the Laura U Studio! The Houston Business Journal hosted their annual HBJ Best Places to Work Luncheon last week and we were one of the finalists. It was held at the fabulous Marriott Marquis in downtown Houston – aka the hotel with the Texas-shaped pool – built for the 2017 Super Bowl. At this full-blown Texas western themed event, the Laura U team broke the Top 20 Best Places to Work in Houston for Small Businesses!

It is such an honor and I am so proud of our team. We’ve all worked hard to build a creative, inspiring work environment over this past 10 years. And this ranking, falling on our 10th year anniversary, is the icing on the cake!

HBJ Best places to work luncheon, laura u is in top 20

This luncheon hosted 104 companies ranging from Small, Medium and Large scale.”Best Places to Work” recognizes companies in the Houston area with the most satisfied employees, ranking them based on a survey created by Quantum Workplace. This detailed survey was sent out to the employees of each company to gather their feedback on five major categories:

  • corporate culture
  • amenities
  • benefits
  • worker retention
  • attraction strategies

HBJ then compiled each of these scores and we were thrilled to be among those finalists! HBJ best places to work, Laura U is in top 20

Drum-roll, please…

Laura U came in at #20 of 53 small businesses in Houston, TX with a score of 95.694 out of 100! (It was a close call, coming down to decimal points between each company.)

Some of our top attributes are:

  • Unlimited days off, it’s important to have a good balance of work and play.
  • Creative work environment – we love our bright, modern and open office!
  • Champagne Friday – Our weekly tradition where we toast the accomplishments of the week with a bubbly glass of Champagne (only the best for the Laura U Team). Here we check in with each other and review the events of the week. We show a slideshow of images from the week – site visits, progress photos of projects, event photos, etc. The whole office attends!
  • Creative blocks – Sometimes the design teams need to block out some time to refresh and recharge. The design team gathers to share new products they’ve seen in the latest magazines, social media, etc. to help trigger some new inspiration and see what is trending in design.
  • Community involvement and attending social events such as our exciting work with Dec My Room.
  • Holiday parties – Valentine’s, Halloween, Christmas, Rodeo Day, Thanksgiving, and Holiday (the biggest party of them all).
  • Puppy Fridays – our team is welcome to bring their pups to work, typically on a Friday..but they are really welcomed anytime. We love with our Laura U mascot, Cooper the Goldendoodle comes to visit.
  • Employee of the month and employee of the quarter prizes were created to award hard work and help build workplace camaraderie. They are voted by fellow co-workers, who always have fun, kind things to say!

Top 20 is a great start and shows we are doing something right over here! Now that this bar has been set, we’ve got our eyes set to move up in the ranks at next year’s luncheon. But, most importantly, I love this team and becoming a “best place to work” would not be possible without them!

So, a big thank you to the fab Laura U team. And Happy 10th-anniversary…cheers to 10 more!


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It’s all in the details: our love affair with crown moulding

detailed crown moulding makes this office space super modern and interesting

When it comes to design, there is always something more than what meets the eye. Whether it’s opening up the room or making it feel more intimate, every item has a practical and visual function. It’s proof that when it comes to design, it’s all about the details. Let’s take moulding and trim for example. Practically speaking crown moulding is used to cap a wall, but visually it adds depth and dimension to the space and makes a huge impact.

white crown moulding adds some gorgeous detail to this living room

Play with proportions

Moulding and trim can be used to add dimension, separation, and intimacy to the space. Traditional moulding and trim profiles like crown moulding and baseboards give the wall a visual starting and ending point, which makes the ceiling closer. It also protects the ceiling and floors from damage.

crown moulding adds details of elegance to this dining room

But don’t be afraid to use moulding and trim to divide the space up in interesting ways though. A chair railing on the wall creates a horizontal line. Visually, it separates the top from the bottom and practically, it protects the wall finish from potential furniture damage. Add a skylight feel to your ceiling by using moulding to create different sections.

colorful crown moulding adds luxury to this bedroom

detailed crown moulding makes this office space super modern and interesting

Add dimension

A more modern way to use moulding and trim is around doors. Using casing around a door adds visual dimension. It creates an almost mysterious and secretive entrance to the space, leaving the person wondering what they’ll find behind the door.

crown moulding and trim are a great way to add interest to a wall and door

Door Casing: An entry door at 160 West 12th Street, part of the Greenwich Lane, designed by Thomas O’Brien and Aero. Photography by Pieter Estersohn.

crown moulding and trim are a great way to compliment a bold ceiling

The color of the moulding and trim is also a way to make the space feel different. Painting the moulding the same color as the wall makes the room appear larger. It hides imperfections and gives the room a very polished feel. For a more artistic and defined feel, paint the moulding and trim a bold color. It’s fun way to add a whimsical touch to the room.

crown moulding and trim are a fun way to add some whimsical details to room

Finishing Touch

One of our other favorite ways to use it is on your kitchen cabinets. Though usually forgotten about the edge of your cabinets is the perfect place for showing off that little something extra. To create a clean, finished look opt for a shaker-style trim. A Victorian style gives the kitchen a bit of European flair, while a country style moulding gives the space a homier feel.

monochromatic trim and crown moulding give this vanity a European flair

Shaker style kitchen cabinets: by Caitlin Creer and Christopher Scott Cabinetry

simplistic crown moulding and trim give a space a finished look

For us, all the little details make your space complete. They’re what take the look of your room up an extra notch so it feels truly personalized and Currently Classic. Moulding and trim is definitely something that can add impact to a space in a very subtle or dramatic way. For more design inspiration, you can follow us on Pinterest and Instagram.

~The Laura U Team

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Laura U means Classically Current!

Classically Current entry with black and white tile

Classically Current© describes the luxurious livability Laura Umansky incorporates into all of her interiors – spaces that are grand, but also grounded. It is the careful balance of a playful and whimsical aesthetic that is balanced, sophisticated and refined. Laura U’s designs – which ultimately represent a unique collaboration with each client – create well-tailored, inviting environments that are, above all, unforgettable. Laura U Interior Design adapts the Classically Current© style to fit each client’s individual taste in a variety of homes.

At Laura U we believe strongly in providing our clients with warm and welcoming luxury. The rooms we design for homeowners are livable yet elevated. As a firm, we are highly collaborative. The design team accommodates client preferences while maintaining a strong design concept.

I believe strongly in providing my clients with warm and welcoming luxury. The rooms my team and I design for homeowners are livable yet elevated. Collaboration is key and sharing my interior design inspirations helps clients craft their vision. Of course, it also lets me rave about my favorite design styles!

I am and always have been an advocate for a “classically current” style that, while evergreen, provides a timely presence to any room. Though I tailor each experience to every client for a unique collaboration, I secretly live for those small touches that balance whimsy and sophistication! But “classically current” isn’t a limiting phrase by any means.

Whether you’re looking for a mid-century sofa in a distinct fabric, that perfect statement mirror, or something else entirely – there’s a timely yet timeless piece out there for you.


Classics for Any Room


Classically Current is expressed in this black and white kitchen


This high rise kitchen is a prime example of what I love about the “classically current” style. Notice the detailing of the marble, white walls, and rich leather chairs. Balanced against these elements you have the dark cabinetry, stainless steel appliances, and — of course — the gold touches.

Maybe it reminds you of your favorite haunt in New York City or a classic Parisian pied-a-terre? It may mean something different to everyone depending on personal experiences. No matter the style of kitchen you want (galley, cook’s, open, etc), this concept of using neutral color palettes and warm materials with punchy design elements in your current artistic zeitgeist never goes out of style.

Now let’s get to the meat and potatoes of any house: the living room!


Eclectic, But Simple


Classically Current designs are used in this calming, neutral living room


You can also apply this mentality to your living room!

As an example of classically current style, this Boho modern living room employs some similar features to the kitchen. Notice the crisp white? But there are clear differences.

The wood-work, metalwork, and natural woven lounge chairs add another layer of personality. The clean walls keep things light and bright and the blending of materials grants a modern feel without adding weight to the room. The finishes on the overhead accents are brushed copper which is a great alternative to antiqued or brushed gold. There are so many different kinds of materials and textures at work in this room, but none of them fight each other. That is the beauty of classically current styling and another reason why I love our design philosophy so SO much.


Minimalist Drama


Classically Current entry with black and white tile

Doesn’t everyone love a fabulous foyer?

After all, it’s the very first space your guests see when they enter your home. This is the spot to plant your feet and make a firm statement.

While your eyes are automatically drawn to the stellar floor pattern in this gorgeous Houston foyer, other moments in the room stand apart as well. If you’ve noticed the trend of mixed materials, fresh white walls, and metal accents, you’re grasping the concept of the “classically current” design philosophy!

One thing to note, minimalist does not equal boring. But it does mean that everything ins thoughtfully placed and has a specific function.


Color is your friend, really!

Classically current design with neutrals, navy and metallic

At this point, you might be thinking: is “classically current” style ALL about white and metal? Short answer: definitely not!

Our clients built this beautiful custom home in The Woodlands, Texas and we created this living room in the “classically current” mode. While the home is not inherently contemporary in style (the architecture is more traditional) our clients admire and love the contemporary interior design. Here, we make these two intersecting styles work! We showcase how we use color by placing it as a grounding neutral (the modern rug) and then inject key elements like the mid-century modern Barcelona bench in Pony and the natural stacked stone on the fireplace. The key to this strategy is in balance.

I can go on for days about our Classically Current philosophy so, for more ideas on designing with this in mind, I’ve got you covered on our socials. The Laura U blog has an entire tag dedicated to “classically current” because…well, it is my jam!


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Investing in Art? 3 must-know rules!

art can act as the perfect pop of color or statement piece for a bold hallway

Art can be called many things – thought-provoking, simple, contemporary, basically, anything you want it to be. The beauty of art is that it means something different to each of us and it’s one of the best ways to make your home unforgettably “you”.

Finding the right art piece for your home can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be! Read on to see how we’ve worked with our clients to place exceptional artwork in their homes.

Abstract art is a great way to soften a metallic


Show off your personality


What makes an art collection great? Diversity. Think about when you’re walking through an art museum and about the pieces that catch your eye. There are definitely similarities in the pieces you like, but they aren’t identical. One may be an abstract oil painting and another a black and white photograph, but you then notice that you are looking entirely at portraits, even though created in different mediums. Or, perhaps you are drawn entirely to one color palette, and the medium doesn’t matter. As long as that piece is a soft lilac, you are in!

select art with complimentary tones of the space

The contemporary art piece picks up cool neutral tones of the bench and the warmer tones in the rug.


Color, subject or time period are a few different ways to curate your collection. But don’t feel as if you have to choose that one genre and stick to it. By mixing old world paintings with contemporary pieces in different sizes and mediums, you have created a diverse and active collection that will create plenty of interest for you and your guests.


Art that has cultural influences and traditional touches are great accents and even better investments for a space


art can tie a room together by pulling in colors from the accent pieces surrounding it

The colors and composition of this piece create a lovely visual texture.


Ah hem… Size matters

When it comes to selecting art, don’t be afraid to go big. In fact, sometimes, larger format is just more fun! A large painting or framed photograph makes a bold statement and becomes the centerpiece of the space. These pieces make the space feel warm, full of character and pulled together.


Art can be fun and reflect personality, make it big and the centerpiece of room

A large-scale photograph makes this room unique and oh so exciting!


Even with smaller format items, you can group them to create a beautifully curated gallery wall. A collection of items tells a fascinating story and it’s the perfect way to make an impact without making a huge investment. It’s easy to swap out prints and photographs so you can make sure your gallery wall is always fresh and up to date.

art can be used to create a gallery wall, perfect for an entry or foyer space


Travel and Art

No matter where you are, art can be scouted out. Traveling is the perfect opportunity to select art because, whether it’s at a local market or in a gallery, these are great places to discover artists and find artwork that represents your time in this new city. These pieces add variety to your collection and can be quite the conversation starters.


art can act as the perfect pop of color or statement piece for a bold hallway


Don’t forget about the photographs you take on vacation! Even if you feel you don’t have the best photographic eye, these pieces are special to you. Don’t let them live in cyberspace forever! Print out the photos you take on your vacation so you can enjoy them at home and not just on social media. Family photos add a personal touch to the room and help create a unique, personalized and well-tailored collection.


art can be simple and tell a story of past trips and memories


These are just a few, fun ways to invest in, acquire, or create your own art collection. Are you in need of some additional art inspiration or a few interior design ideas? Check us out on Instagram and Pinterest for all of the latest!


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The Boulevard Show House: Ask the Experts with Blue River Custom Builders

Boulevard Show House : Ask the experts with BlueRiver Custom Builders

The Boulevard Show House renovation is in full swing (check out the big announcement here!) and there is some major construction going on right now. With most of the walls stripped to the studs and the first floor to the trusses (you can see through to the basement), I haven’t been spending a ton of time hanging out there. Soon enough the subfloors and sheetrock will go in but, in the meantime, I am happy to share some updates with you all. Today we are sitting down with the talented Tylor Hearn, owner of Blue River Custom Builders, for an info-packed edition of “Ask the Experts.”

‘Ask the Experts’…Take 2!

Initially, Michael and I reached out to Tylor when we were considering a renovation/addition to our home on DrydenWe needed more space for our growing kiddos and Newberry Architecture had created a lovely plan to add on to our bungalow. Well… that was out the window as soon as we saw all of the space and the perfect layout of our new home on North Boulevard! It needs tons of work, but I knew exactly who to call for that! Newberry Architecture drew up the plans and then Blue River Custom Builders was on board to dive into the renovation; lucky for us, they have the expertise to guide Michael and I through the ups and downs of a historic renovation. Blue River is taking our 1925 Tudor Revival house that needed lots of TLC to the gorgeous home we envision. Today, we sit down with CEO, Tylor Hearn, to get to know this invaluable partner and to dig into his company’s role in the Boulevard Show House.

Boulevard Show House : Laura, Tylor and Jose on Demo Day of ask the experts

Tylor Hearn (middle), CEO of Blue River Custom Builders, and Jose Sanchez (left), project manager, take the lead on the renovation our historic home!

So, let’s get started!

LU: We are so happy to have Blue River Custom Builders a part of this project! Can you tell us what your role is in the Boulevard Show House and what Blue River is working on specifically?

BR: Blue River Custom Builders manages the full scope of the reconstruction of the Show House. From A to Z, we are working on the construction of each room within the home making sure that we construct new and more structurally sound walls, flooring, windows and a modern electrical plan. Right now, we are working on the mechanicals within the home, so we are placing the HVAC [Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning] system and finding a location for the condenser units so that they are not visible or in the way of moving within the home. We are also dealing with wood rot and termite damage, which has been an ongoing issue for this house. Next, we are going to be finalizing the locations of all the switches and plugs throughout the house. Electrical is a huge part so we are very careful and detailed in our process to make sure everything is placed exactly where Laura and Michael want it, and that it is done correctly.

LU: So you are the means of getting all of Laura’s and Newberry Architecture’s plans from paper to reality?

BR: Yes. As custom builders, we really make sure each room is constructed according to Newberry’s layout plans and Laura’s (and her team’s) plans for each room. From the first meeting with Laura and Michael where we walked through and analyzed the house, to working with Newberry, the structural engineer, and the other build and brand partners, we are the means to which all of their ideas and planes take physical form.

Ask the experts - exterior of the boulevard show house

LU: So we have one big team working towards a gorgeous goal! And speaking of the team, who is working with you on this project?

BR: The Blue River team is made ups of Jose Sanchez, Dora Vega, and me. Jose is the project manager, he oversees the scheduling of the project and making sure that everyone is here and that we have the materials we need for the job. He manages the day to day stuff that makes this project run smoothly. Dora is our selections manager; her role is to coordinate all the selections made by Laura and Michael and ensure that we have all of the many fixtures and finishes for the house. Then I work and communicate primarily with Laura and Michael and her team, as well as Newberry Architecture and our fellow brand and build partners to ensure that their wishes and designs for their home come to fruition.

LU: So what needed to happen first before you began the renovation?

BR: After the initial meeting with Laura and Michael, we wanted to dive deep into what was expected for this renovation. So before starting the project, we did a forensic analysis of the entire home, that really gave us an idea of what we should expect throughout the building process.

LU: What does your forensic process entail?

BR: One of the first things that we do when we begin any renovation / remodel is to walk through the house and look at any and all obvious places that are or could be a problem. For Laura’s house, we noticed the windows in the front had a lot of wood rot, especially above the beams and frame. We will be replacing all the windows in the home, so it was good to see what we were working with. Then we looked at the exterior and the roof to see the extent of the wood rot in those areas. There was quite a bit, which is to be expected when working with a home of this age. Next, we moved throughout the home looking at the structure and framing of each room. The house has plaster walls for much of the first floor, so we didn’t dig into the walls too much, simply because that wall finish is so complex to install, we didn’t want to damage it if not necessary. However, we took quite a bit of sheetrock off in the front living room area and upstairs in the bedrooms, exposing some hidden windows.

Ask the experts - interior shot of walls and frames of the boulevard show house

Most of the walls have been stripped to their frames!

LU: Oh yes! Newberry mentioned that as well, that is such a nice surprise.

BR: Yes, it will add to the home and brighten up each room. Those are good surprises when renovating a home. Then, after looking at all the walls and windows we moved to the basement. This house has a basement – which is very rare to find in a Houston home. So, from there, we went down to check out the beams and joists within the structure of the home to see if there was any wood rot, which there was. Lastly, we moved to the new addition upstairs, this space was not done well initially so we had to pull sheetrock off along the walls and determine how to make that structure stronger. It is a day-long process, at least! We want to be as detailed as possible

LU: Wow, there is so much behind the scenes work that goes into remodeling a home. So you mentioned a lot of wood rot – has that caused a lot of structural issues within the home?

BR: Yes, definitely. We have been working with a structural engineer who has made some suggestions for combating that and what he would like us to do. We moved a couple walls and will have to pull in some steel beams to help frame up and add some much-needed support for that back, ‘new addition.’ Besides the poor edition, several of the exterior beams of the original home were rotted and needed to be replaced. These rotted beams have caused the floors to sag, but remarkably the plaster walls had no damage. Another surprise was the basement – which is not common in Houston due to the water table and poor soil – has held up very well for its age. The basement also gave us access to lift the walls, replace the rotted beams, and add additional floor joists. It has been great, allowing us to add some much-needed strength to the floors

LU: Have these structural issues been a big challenge for you?

BR: The home had a sizable and poorly constructed addition that was added about 40 years ago. That area had many poor qualities such as bad framing and support, water damage, and bad windows. To correct this, we had to take the walls down to their studs, and then some! We had to do a considerable amount re-framing to shore up the structure and bring it up today’s standards.

LU: I heard you are adding in a playroom, well really a whole extra room to the addition. The framing is looking great so far! We’re all very excited to see the finished product. 

BR: Yes, and thank you! That room has held most of our attention. It is probably 25′ by 30′ and then the ceiling is 25 ft tall so we are adding a loft to that space, which is about half the size of the room. It is basically giving that space two stories and like we are building a whole new room. The room had a large wall that is about 30′ x 25′ tall and was poorly constructed, so we had to prop up the roof and rebuild that entire wall in order to make that room structurally sound. It had to be strong because we are adding windows to that wall, which will be very heavy.

LU: And you took out the original loft completely?

BR: Yes, well that stairway was holding that loft up. It was not safe!

LU: Definitely not! So was this add-on the most challenging?

BR: The add-on has been challenging, but it is all possible! The challenges now are all the things that we are finding that were unforeseen and just being discovered. Such as the terminate ridden subfloors, that caused us to have to remove all the floors on the first story. We’re currently laying out planks of wood to get around down there. These little hiccups are expected when working with a historic home like this, however as we progress the scope of work gets larger. So that has been a challenge.

Ask the experts - exterior shot of the add on of the boulevard show house

Getting stronger! New beams and walls are being added to make this ‘add-on’ safe and structurally sound. 

LU: I can definitely see how that can be challenging! You think you’ve solved a problem then another pops up.

BR: Exactly! But we have been able to manage it well.

LU: So what advice do you have for people wanting to renovate a historic home like the Boulevard Show House?

BR: Expect the unexpected. We have discovered everything from unidentifiable animals and termite-ridden subfloors to the most unique and interesting floor tile on the front porch. (Laura was really excited about that!) So expect some surprises throughout the process-some good, some stressful. Also, I’d recommend budgeting more than you planned. You’d rather be prepared to put more money and time into your project than not. So that will help you be prepared as well.

LU: Great! Could you tell us a little about Blue River Custom Builders?

BR: Of course, I started remodeling homes in 1999 with Hearn Renovations which then incorporated into Blue River Custom Builders, Inc. in 2005. I named the company after the river that flows through my hometown in Kansas. So, I want every experience and project to be very personal and unique for my clients. We work on projects primarily in the Metro Houston area, inside the Beltway, and they range from large-scale renovations and additions to multi-million-dollar custom homes.

LU: Awesome! If someone is interested in renovating their new home or building new, what is the best way to get started with your team?

BR: You can contact me directly for a consultation, either by phone at 832.962.7753 or by email at thearn@blueriviercustombuilders.com. Also, you can visit our website for more information about our company, check out our portfolio and learn about our main goals for every project.

LU: This has been great and so informative! Is there anything else you would like to add about Blue River or the Boulevard Show House?

BR: Yes, at Blue River we believe that honesty, integrity, and trust are the guiding principles for every project. They guide our daily decisions and help us ensure that each home is built right and we will stand behind them for years to come.

Also, regarding the Show House, I’m so glad we were asked to be a part of this project. It has been such a great experience for our company. I have done renovations like this before and I actually cut my teeth remodeling houses, so this has been fun. I am not scared to really dive in and take on these historic renovations. It is a cool project and Laura and Michael have been great to work with. It’s nice working with a creative mind that really understands and knows the industry like Laura does. So I’m excited for the finished product next Spring.

ask the experts - brainstorming ideas for boulevard show house

We are so excited as well! Tylor and his team at Blue River are the right crew for this job! They know their stuff and aren’t afraid of a challenge! So, with their expertise, along with our fellow build and brand partners, the Boulevard Show House is going to be beautiful. I can’t wait for you all to come by to see it in person…also can’t wait to have floors in my home, again!

I hope this second session of ‘Ask the Experts’ has given you some insight into our process and encouraged you to plan a tour of the Boulevard Show House when it is completed next Spring. We promise an amazing transformation. If you missed the last session with Newberry Architecture, go check it out! Be sure to keep an eye out for more progress updates coming soon – we have tons of exciting things coming up.

For even more information about The Boulevard Show House, check out the announcement and progress updates on our blog, Facebook and on the Boulevard Show House website.

Until next time,



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