Paloma Contreras'slatest venture is about as much of a long time coming as you can get: "Having a shop was one of the first professional aspirations I had as a child, even before I really understood that a career in design was possible," the Houston-based blogger turned designer tells AD PRO. "I was always enamored with the idea of finding treasures, beautiful things."
Since turning her blog side projectLa Dolce Vitainto a full-time career as a designer, Contreras has done just that for her clients, scouring unique pieces abroad and close to home. Eagle-eyed Instagram followers may well have noticed that she'd been stashing more pieces than usual over the past few months, and for good reason: Contreras is bringing her finds to Houston with the opening ofPaloma & Co.,a shop in the city's River Oaks neighborhood.
"Thanks to my work I get to travel and get access to a lot of really unique and cool things, to meet makers and manufacturers and artists," the designer says. "I thought, 'How amazing would it be to showcase all the things we think are really special and unique and tell a story?'"
Despite this long-term aspiration, the plan for a shop really began to take shape once Contreras hired Devon Liedtke, who quickly became a collaborator. "I hired her at my design firm and we became fast friends. We discovered we had a lot of shared interests and a really similar aesthetic, so we thought, 'Wouldn't it be fun to do something together?'"
The two initially planned to launch online—an unsurprising move, given Contreras's loyal following on social media and her blog—but a chance turn of events while relocating her design firm flipped the concept on its head. "As luck would have it, we outgrew our former studio and needed a bigger space," Contreras recalls. "As we were looking we came across this adorable little cottage, which really lent itself well to having the shop in the front and the studio in the back."
After a "long and lengthy" renovation, the space—a former hair salon that is part of a development called the Creative Cottages, owned by Matt Camron Rugs' Matt Camron—is a bright, fresh, and—of course—Instagram-friendly setting for Contreras's finds.
"It needed a lot of love," Contreras says, laughing. "It probably hadn't been renovated in the last 20 years so there was dark, cheap laminate on the floor and there were a lot of strange walls in the space that made it feel really choppy." Plus, she recalls, "all the salon equipment was still in the back so we had to find someone to take that."
After removing the choppy walls, separating the shop and studio with custom French doors, adding custom millwork, and swathing the whole thing in Benjamin Moore's White Dove, the shop has new light and flow.
"We wanted it to be really clean and beautiful and not have the design of the space take away from the product," explains the designer. "It really feels like you're in somebody's home, and that's what we wanted, for it to feel super warm and welcoming."
The product on offer is a mix of vintage and new items, with furniture from larger outfits like Highland House and Bunny Williams Home as well as "hand-thrown plates from Mexico, a great candle line from Australia, ceramics from Japan," and art from Southern U.S. artists William McLure, Alexis Walter, Jane Timberlake Cooper, and San Franciscan Rob Delamater. "100 percent of what's in the store are things I've sourced for my own projects," Contreras says.
The other key distinction? "We really wanted to make sure that anything that wasn't really unique to us had limited distribution," says the designer. "When I set out to do this and we started talking about what we wanted the store to be, it was important to create an experience that was unique to anything in Houston."