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Chris Kelly | Photo: Julie Soefer | October 29, 2013
The First Project Texans star Duane Brown and his new broadcaster Bride tackled together was a hip, Indian-esque makeover of their Bellaire home.
Devi Brown, 28, promptly fell in love with her future husband, Houston Texans offensive tackle Duane Brown, also 28, shortly after the two met. The same cannot be said, however, of the decor of Duane’s home in Bellaire. “Everything had to go,” laughs the outgoing broadcaster Devi. “It was dark with heavy furniture. It was supposed to have a hacienda look, but it reminded me of the home of an 80-year-old woman.”
And so last fall after the happy couple—who happen to share a love of philanthropic causes like the American Diabetes Association, which Duane champions in honor of his diabetic mom, and Devi’s own new mentorship program, Power Play Women—wed in California and honeymooned in Thailand, they got to work. The bride teamed up with designer Laura Umansky of Laura U and set about a total transformation—a dramatic lightening and brightening, tinged with a touch of contemporary Indian chic. “We replaced everything from the furnishings and light fixtures down to the dishes and silverware,” says Devi, a radio personality on a hip-hop and R&B station and a correspondent for MTV.
“This is the only thing that remains from before,” she adds, playfully pointing to a chrome paper-towel dispenser on the kitchen counter.
The remodel was a bit like the ones you see on those home-makeover TV shows. After months of scheming with their designer, the couple went on a five-week European vacation, leaving Umansky and her group of experts, including top professional organizer Jason Reeves, to execute the plan. “It was fantastic,” raves Devi. “We left this dark dungeon and came home to this beautiful home with everything exactly the way we wanted it!”
The exterior of the two-story, 4,400-square-foot traditional was painted a vibrant white, and a new front door of carved wood painted an electric cobalt was installed, with large panels of frosted glass on either side to let in light. Dark wood floors in the entry were replaced with luscious white Calcutta marble faintly veined with gold; Raul Caracoza’s colorful portrait of Frida Kahlo hangs on the wall.
The first room off of the entry is what the Browns call “the hookah lounge.” The centerpiece is a tall, ornate hookah pipe of silver that elegantly rests on a round coffee table of hammered gold metal. Around the coffee table are four plush custom swivel chairs covered in velvety teal fabric—and underneath is a luxurious custom rug by Hokanson Carpet with swirling wave-like patterns of teal, aqua and taupe. “This is one of my favorite rooms,” says Devi. “I love to invite my girlfriends over and we drink wine, smoke the hookah and let our hair down!”
The seductive Indian makes perfect sense as, on the subcontinent, the word devi means goddess. And the statuesque Devi, with her silky brown waist-length hair and a radiant smile, could rival the allure of any Indian deity.
Both the hookah lounge and the foyer open to the dining room, where an enormous gold bust of Buddha rests serenely on the hardwood floor. There is a long, simple wood-topped dining table from Morocco, with guest chairs that Umansky describes as “a rustic take on Chippendale” with distressed wood finishes. The host chairs at each end are oversized wingbacks upholstered in white. Large-scale is a critical part of the design, as Duane is an imposing 6-foot-4, weighing in at 300 pounds.
In the back of the house, an airy, light-filled open space combines den, kitchen and an intimate dining nook. “This is where Duane and I do most of our entertaining,” says Devi. “It’s usually casual, and this year we’re going to start a new ritual and throw a winter barbecue.”
There are two super-sized sectional sofas, again upholstered in white, and a teak-root coffee table. The entryway’s striking marble reappears to frame the fireplace and top the counters in the kitchen, where “Happiness is not a destination, it is a way of life” is inscribed on a painting on one wall. And for a pop of color, a huge wooden chandelier painted aqua and draped with strands and strands of wooden beads hangs over a small wooden dinette set in the corner.
If the kitchen area is meant to be open and inviting, the upstairs master bedroom is a private and utterly unique sanctuary. Their custom mattress is a whopping foot longer and six inches wider than a California king, encased in a custom-made four-poster bed strewn with oatmeal-colored drapes on three sides. “We do draw those curtains at night,” advises Devi. “It’s like a cocoon in there when we go to sleep.” Soft white carpeting covers the floor, and on one beige-and-white wallpapered wall hangs an arrangement of juju hats—traditional African headdresses artfully created from delicate bird feathers—in varying shades of brown, beige, white and yellow.
The master bathroom goes glam with the floors and oversized countertops paved in more of the white Calcutta marble, and a large, white, tufted ottoman in the middle. And there are separate his-and-hers walk-in closets. Duane’s size-17 sneaker collection is on display in his, while Devi’s, lined with designer dresses and stilettos, is eclectically decorated with a Modigliani-esque distorted painting of a topless woman sourced from Barcelona, and a framed blueprint of Carrie Bradshaw’s fictional New York apartment. “I love Sex and the City,” Devi enthuses.
It’s all very adult and sophisticated in theme and style, but won’t the Browns be integrating little children into the environs soon? “No,” Devi smiles. “We’re still practically newlyweds! That will come in time, but for now our home is our new baby.”