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American designer Brenda Houston has long been captivated by the allure and sustainability of gemstones, fossils and minerals, and in her contemporary collections she gives them pride of place. Traveling throughout the world, she locates exceptional specimens, showcasing them in her handcrafted custom furnishings and wall coverings. She recognizes that “nature’s artworks” have seduced since ancient times, and will continue to do so, sidestepping passing fads to be coveted for generations.

Some of the minerals Brenda incorporates into her pieces are more than one hundred million years old. She marvels at the juxtaposition between the rocks’ rugged, nondescript exterior and the gleaming luster within. “You never know exactly what to expect before a rock is sliced open,” she notes; “it’s a surprise every time.” The serendipitous aspect of working this way is key to its attraction for her. “Only after cutting it do you know if there is beauty inside; a door magically opening to a whole new world.” Once the interior section is visible, she lets the unique veining, color and silhouette of the cross-section suggest what the slab will ultimately become. Whether the final result is a table, lamp or wallcovering, each piece is unique and represents the individual beauty found in nature.

Brenda's father was a Senior Captain for Braniff International, flying the South American routes, and as a result Brenda travelled throughout the world growing up. These travels are what inspired her to delve into other countries and customs. After graduating with a degree in fine arts, Houston started her design career in visual merchandising and store design, with a focus on luxury retailers. Among the designers she collaborated with were Issey Miyaki, Giorgio Armani and Donna Karan. Houston continued her love of design and travel working with Princess Cruises as the Head of Design for on board shops and spas until a shark-diving accident in Palau precipitated a pause. After two years of rehabilitation, she began designing jewelry store interiors, first for Bailey Banks & Biddle, and then David Yurman in New York.

Gravitating towards residential and hospitality projects, Houston launched her namesake design studio in 2008 after a trip to Uruguay where she discovered the bulk of Agate was being thrown away in the search for small and valuable gemstones. "I thought this was a huge shame since the Agate to me was extremely beautiful and a sustainable product that had not yet been introduced into the market. I saw an opportunity to support these miners while working with materials that were all natural." Houston launched her collections with table lamps whose bases were formed from rare minerals. The next year she added small treasure boxes and tables all hand forged in bronze. As she built a couture following, she won numerous awards, was lauded in the press, and invited to open a store-within-a-store at Barneys New York. She closed the boutique in 2011 with a shift in focus, designing residential interiors, creating designs for the trade, and joining Holly Hunt showrooms. Brenda has since expanded the collection of showrooms offering her designs in both the U.S. and internationally and works directly with designers and design firms. In 2013, Brenda launched Wallcovetings, her line of award winning wall coverings offered in sustainable materials.

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