Want a Great Place to Entertain at Home?

It’s not a university: Laura U offers hot lines for contemporary living.

Visit the new improved Laura U!
by Marene Gustin

Who doesn’t love to entertain? But it can be a chore—unless you have the perfect entertainment pad.

And Laura Umansky, of the newly expanded Laura U Collection in Montrose, can help you with that.

Laura U is one of Montrose’s most chic design spots.

Umansky recently more than doubled her design showcase space on Westheimer, expanding into the 2,300-square-foot store next door. She created a new façade for the store with a bright, fuchsia gate and a café-lit corridor that runs between the two spaces. The original brick-lined room houses her new line of repurposed vintage furniture, and the new space next door, with its whitewashed walls, showcases home décor items plus a new line of Coyuchi organic baby linens and clothes. Her new home design in-house partner, Audio Video Designs, is also represented in the new space.

Umansky graduated from UH’s Gerald D. Hines College with a master’s degree in architecture. Although the bubbly redhead and her team design destination homes and multi-million-dollar international abodes, you can sample her advice (free in OutSmart!) on designing the perfect party place—and you won’t need a multi-million-dollar budget.


Umansky says that couples often want flexible space for entertaining. “They may want to entertain as a couple, but then maybe she wants to entertain some women on her own.” If that sounds like you, Umansky suggests creating a space that is flexible enough to provide a different feel and seating arrangement for dinner parties and for girl’s nights in.

“Make sure you can move your furniture around,” she says, “because it’s all about the arrangement.” An open floor plan allows you to be creative and move furniture around to suit the occasion.

Laura Umansky


Of course you’ll want your guests to be comfortable, and Umansky says little touches can make a difference.

“Soft seatings, throw pillows, and throw blankets give your home a real comfortable feeling,” she says. “Of course, no one is going to wrap up in a blanket! But it makes the space feel cozy.” And cozy equals comfort for you and your guests.


“I love to use benches and tête-à-têtes—those French benches with one seat facing one way and one the other—in addition to a sofa and chairs,” Umansky says. People like their personal space, and no one wants to be squished on a sofa with three other guests. Adding little benches expands the seating choices and gives your guests more room.

Don’t Forget the Kitchen

You don’t need a huge kitchen, but it needs to be efficient and functional. Umanksy’s home kitchen is small, but she says it’s well laid out with plenty of counter space.

“People like to gather in the kitchen during a party, so if you have room, put seating in there as well,” she adds. “Bar stools or a small kitchen table and chairs will make them feel welcome.” While you’re cooking and prepping the food, they can chat and have a glass of wine, keeping the party going.

Take It Outdoors

Who doesn’t love an outdoor barbecue? Many homes now feature entire outdoor kitchens and dining spaces. Even if you’re not cooking outdoors, having a party in the backyard can be just as comfortable as inside—with the right furniture.

“I’m seeing a real trend toward plush outdoor furniture,” she says. “Not the old lawn furniture, but actual living room seating or French bistro furniture.” It may require a little more maintenance, but it can make all the difference in throwing a fabulous outdoor soirée.

Now that you have your party place in order, all you need to do is whip up a guest list and a menu. And don’t forget the wine!

Laura U, Inc.
1840 Westheimer Rd.
Houston, Texas 77098
713/522-0855 • laurau.com

Marene Gustin is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine.



Marene Gustin

Marene Gustin has written about Texas culture, food, fashion, the arts, and Lone Star politics and crime for television, magazines, the web and newspapers nationwide, and worked in Houston politics for six years. Her freelance work has appeared in the Austin Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, Texas Monthly, Dance International, Dance Magazine, the Advocate, Prime Living, InTown magazine, OutSmart magazine and web sites CultureMap Houston and Austin, Eater Houston and Gayot.com, among others.

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