photography by colleen duffley
After years of designing, styling and making beautiful pieces for her surroundings, artist and designer Yvette Leihgeber has finally curated the perfect home in the East Texas countryside where her creations can all come together. In full transparency, this incredible woman is my mother, and I can speak from experience about the way she’s inspired me to not take everything so seriously and to create and love with my whole heart. She and my father (who is a real hoot as well and doesn’t get as much credit… you’re welcome, Dad!) built this house in 2009, and since then I’ve watched its years-long transformation.
At times I thought my mother was crazy – running around the house slopping chalk paint on everything we own and singing show tunes while doing it – but in hindsight, this home is her biggest work of art yet. She finally agreed to have the space photographed after years of saying, “it’s not ready yet!”, and now I couldn’t be more excited to share it with all of you. So, here it is: the pad I threw epic high school house parties in (they had to find out at some point, right?) and my favorite place in the world.
What is your neighborhood like?
We live in a beautiful lakeside community located in the center of town in Tyler, Texas – about an hour and a half east of Dallas. We’re plotted next to a spring-fed lake surrounded by beautiful pine trees and dogwoods. It is the perfect city location that feels like you’re in the country.
What was the inspiration behind your kitchen?
This kitchen is so inspiring and absolutely made for entertaining. The monochromatic tones are like a canvas for stunning food and flower presentations. One of my favorite memories is having a French chef over to help create the most wonderful Texas-chateau wedding reception, and whenever I have art and jewelry shows, we inevitably gravitate toward the kitchen. It’s definitely the heartbeat of our home.
pictured: original prints by yvette leihgeber, butcher block from williams sonoma
Who are your dream house guests?
My three daughters, and then my celebrity wish list: Elsa Klensch, India Hicks, Rachel Zoe, designer Pamela Pierce, Trevor Hall, Anna Wintour, Karl Lagerfeld, Kate Hudson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Charlize Theron, ballet dancer Sergei Polunin, sculptor Richard McDonald, Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman.
pictured: pot rack and spice rack from ikea
What was the design inspiration for your home?
My first trip to Paris and the French countryside in 2000, where my husband took me to tour as many museums and chateaus as possible! I am so grateful for him and for this adventure of life, and will never forget the abundance of art and architecture in France, so my goal was to have this way of life in the U.S.
pictured: mauviel copper sauce pan
The house is so big! How long did it take you to feel like it was finally ready?
Never really ready, I feel like it’s an ongoing process and evolving your ideas of design. Reinventing your space is very important so it feels alive. I felt comfortable that the house looked beautiful even the first year we moved in, because the staple pieces were very grounding. Adding the rest of the furniture and details is the fun part! I hope the fluffing continues forever.
pictured: dining table and dining chairs from restoration hardware
Do you use art as functional pieces in your home?
One of my favorite pieces is my Maya Blu ceramic cheeseboard. My daughter, Megan, designed it for me as a Christmas gift, and I love the shape, texture, and color of this one of a kind, handmade piece. It is so organic and pairs nicely with my favorite charcuterie spread. I’ve had to watch it very closely so my other daughters don’t steal it!
pictured: cheeseboard from maya blu
What is your biggest design challenge for the space?
Dampening the noise level of a 28 foot ceiling. Many rugs and curtains helped quite a bit!
pictured: baroque oversized mirror, original artwork by yvette leihgeber, ceramic bowls from maya blu
What is your favorite weekend activity?
Paddle boarding and biking! Also, my husband and I like to sneak into new builds to look at house designs for inspiration.
pictured: original artwork by yvette leihgeber, lamps from paul michael
Fill in the blank: A well-designed home should ___.
Incorporate Neoclassical style.
If you combine old with new – timeless finds with new pieces – it gives it balance and warmth to the space. I think this makes your home appealing to everybody with different levels of interests and design values.
pictured: bernard buffet lithograph
Your master bedroom looks very serene. What was your inspiration behind designing this space?
I wanted the design of the master to be modern, yet minimalistic, since it’s a space of rest. I started with the Charles bed from Ligne Roset, and focused on keeping the room neutral, with a French tone, through the crown moulding and herringbone white oak floors. By adding neoclassical style with the antiques, their clean lines added a sense of grandeur without being too ornate. I prefer a chandelier over a ceiling fan – it adds romance and style to the space, while making it feel like an escape.
pictured: original artwork by yvette leihgeber
Your favorite design resources:
Vogue Living, Milieu, Cote Ouest, Cote Paris and I love John Saladino’s work (especially his Santa Barbara home). Also, Pinterest.
Your secrets to finding and refurbishing decor for your home:
Thrifting! Resale and estate sales are my go-to spots. When you search for your pieces, they add an eclectic feel to your home along with a story. I use Annie Sloan Chalk Paint on almost everything – pieces that I think need some sprucing up, and even things I want to get rid of, but end up falling in love with again.
pictured: wooden mirror from restoration hardware
What’s your favorite spot in the house?
The art gallery. It has a very special feeling; it’s my escape without leaving home that is inspiring, light and bright. Perfect light for creating works of art with an incredible view of the lake, and the pool area surrounded by palms. When my three girls lived at home, so many creative memories were made here, and they continue as everybody returns to this magical place. This space is very dear to my heart!
pictured: original artwork by yvette leihgeber
Why did you include the art gallery in your home?
My love of painting, drawing and creating! I used to have a brick-and-mortar gallery downtown, but decided I needed a space to create and to house my paintings at home. I am confident in my space to host art shows and trunk shows for my jewelry line, Stranded by YL. We installed arc lighting for exhibiting my pieces, because lighting is everything! It’s the best space any artist could hope for. I am forever grateful.
Tell us about your jewelry and your artwork:
I had a passion for French impressionism early on. I started paining when I was 38 after returning home from Paris, Florence and Rome. Degas’s ballet series, Matisse, and Michelangelo inspired me to begin my career as an artist.
I am a self-taught artist and designer, so I studied these masters and hoped to achieve just a hint of the techniques that they had. It grounds me to study and practice my art, and I’m hopeful to sustain fluidity and freedom in my work – to stay true to my style as a figurative painter.
I started my jewelry line to bring an essence of a perfect paradise, the beach, wherever I go. Initially, I stranded together necklaces from the coral I had collected and brought home from the British Virgin Islands, and then gathered shell collections from all of my journeys to the oceanside thereafter. Now, I individually create handmade jewelry with a sexy, luxe, boho vibe.
Describe your home in 5 words or less:
Fashionable, inviting, classic, french-modern, chateau
pictured: canopy bed from anthropologie, baskets from ikea
What interior design advice to you have when it comes to layering neutrals?
Organic elements and textiles everywhere. I like Venetian Plaster on the walls, baskets and handwoven items, fur throws, pillows, cowhides, and washed linen bedding with crisp cotton sheets. Then, add the color with artwork, throw pillows and incorporate interesting patterns. Top it off with fresh plants or florals to the space, even simple palm fronds and olive branches add so much.
pictured: original artwork by yvette leihgeber
What’s your favorite way to relax at home?
I love spending time in the herb garden just outside of the kitchen. I have a passion for French cooking, and I use those techniques to create a healthier spa cuisine. The kitchen is a dream that has a modern feel with open shelving, and with the French cook top and fresh herbs, it’s sort of cheating when creating artful dishes. I believe that you should treat yourself every day as if you were at a spa – a stress-free, relaxed way of living.
We built our home nine years ago, designing it after a chateau in the South of France. Combined with having a love of all things editorial, I cut out inspirational articles from Vogue Living, Elle Decor and many other fashionable publications and saved them in a scrapbook until we built the house. I was searching for a certain avant-garde, eclectic, and free-spirited world we could call our own.
What is your favorite way to utilize your outdoor space?
Sitting by the fire pit all night, drinking wine and grilling food with good company. Alfresco baby!
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