Cathy Robinson can make a phone call as fun as a dance hall. I know this because the first time I met her we were at the Round Top Dance Hall and Asleep at the Wheel was playing in the background. When we reconnected six weeks later for the phone interview, we talked for an hour and a half, and my abs were sore from all of the belly laughs.
She divides her time between her home in Houston, where her family has lived for four generations, and her farmhouse in New Ulm, which allows her to be in Round Top in 20 minutes. She concentrates her talents on the high-end established neighborhoods of Houston as well as her clients’ country getaways.
Designing a Career:
“I’ve been arranging and rearranging furniture since I was a little girl. My family laughs about my obsession, which is ironic since my career got its start from a family project. When my children, who are now 30 and 29, were young, we had a fixer-upper of a fixer-upper—and a budget of about zero. It was an interesting challenge, but when I was done, people liked what they saw and began asking me to help them with their homes. I did—and the rest, as they say, is history.”
Road to Round Top:
“In 1996, when my kids were in elementary school, some friends insisted that I come to Round Top with them. I’ve been back twice a year ever since. I adore having people come in for the show, taking them around and helping them make connections with people who share their passions.”
“Polished rustic. I like very rustic antiques, the kind with two layers of paint and a patina. Then, I love to set them off with a pop of polish from bright metal or elegant fabrics. My kitchen table at the farm is an old, curvy Swedish table that I paired with an upholstered bench and two fairly formal English chairs.
“The light fixture is constructed from a shiny metal basket to add the pop and shine that every girl needs.”
“My absolute favorite find is—and I will admit to spending a lot to get it—the sign that hung over the depot at New Ulm. It’s now suspended from the ceiling in my farmhouse on eye hooks because it’s too warped to mount on the wall. Normally, I go to the opening day of Marburger, but this particular year I planned to go later in the week. My phone rang, and a friend said you better get here now. She was right. I have a thing for trains because my grandfather was a railroad man. Plus, the dealer had black-and-white photographs of the sign taken the month and year I was born. It was just meant to be.”
Favorite Shopping Stops:
“If someone only has one day to shop, I would suggest either The Compound or the Arbors because they offer such a wide variety. I enjoy the vendors around Zapp Hall, and one of my favorites is Rust in Peace that features light fixtures and lamps. I actually helped the owner unload last year, so I could get first pick.”
“The Round Top Antiques Show is unique because of its size and selection. I can buy a rare antique, a vintage piece, a high-quality reproduction and seasonal plants all before 1:00 p.m. If you can’t find it at Round Top, it can’t be found.”
“This show sprawls, so it can be overwhelming. If you get a map, a plan and good sun hat, you’ll be set.”
“For me the best part of the show experience is the vendors. I love seeing old friends and catching up on what they’re doing and meeting new people, so I can keep things fresh. The vendors’ staging and displays blow me away, especially when you consider that they move it all in, set it up, take it all down and then move on to the next location. It’s inspiring.”
Favorite DIY Advice:
“Look at a magazine and find a room that appeals to you and copy that. Even designers sometimes have pictures in our heads that we can’t pull off, so if you find a photo that appeals to you it can serve as blue print. Then you can put your room into the picture.”
Renovate • Houston
Round Top Regular: since 1996
Regardless of their individual aesthetic, designers succeed because they know a good thing when they see it. The consensus among our panel of professionals is that the Round Top Antiques Show is a good thing—a very good thing—for trendsetters, taste makers, collectors and “civilians” who yearn to add pops of personality to their homes with one-of-a-kind finds.
In a move that’s akin to asking a mother to choose her favorite child, we boldly asked the experts to identify their favorite finds, foods, shopping strategies, stories and more.
by Lorie Woodward Cantu
photos courtesy of Cathy Robinson