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Posts from September 2016

Blake Tartt III: “I Wouldn’t Be Where I Am Without Ole Miss”

Posted on September 30, 2016 in

His focus is on being significant and, for him, being significant is giving back and helping others.

He is passionate about both his business and Ole Miss, and he believes his greatest achievement is being fortunate enough to give back to the places that have molded him into the man he is today.

Tartt is a fifth-generation Houstonian who made his first trip to the University of Mississippi in 1980.

“I had never been to Ole Miss, and I flew into Oxford directly from Memphis on a beautiful spring day for Sigma Chi Derby Days,” he said. “Long story short, I drove up Sorority Row and then saw The Grove and said, ‘I’m coming to Ole Miss, and I’m going to be a Sigma Chi,’ and I never left.”

“I’ve had a job since I was 10 years old, and there was never a time when I didn’t work,” he said.

Tartt began as a newspaper boy at age 10, became a manager at Baskin-Robbins at 15 and started selling cars at the local Chevrolet dealership at 17. The summer he graduated from high school, Tartt had an internship opportunity to sell real estate, sparking his interest in the field. His work experiences translated into one of his biggest opportunities, becoming the campus representative for Coors Brewing Co.

As a Coors representative, he marketed beer to Ole Miss students through giveaways and promotions. The idea for the Coors Silver Bullet was even founded at Ole Miss.

“Terrell Knight, a fraternity brother of mine, came up with the idea of the ‘silver bullet,’ because after he would run eight miles in the heat, he would need a silver bullet,” he said. “I asked Terrell permission to use the name in a summer marketing contest at training in Golden, Colorado. It won.”

His efforts translated into becoming the top college beer salesman in the nation, winning the marketing contest and, inevitably, getting a job in Golden.

While at Ole Miss, Tartt majored in marketing because at the time, integrated marketing communications (IMC) was not an option.

“If I could go back, I would major in IMC,” he said. “The quality of education that is produced at Ole Miss and the Meek School of Journalism and New Media is outstanding.”

Scott Fiene, a professor at the Meek School, said Tartt is deeply involved with the IMC program and Ole Miss.

“He is an IMC guy to the core,” Fiene said, “and that applies to his Houston real estate firm, New Regional Planning.”

IMC focuses on the experiences incorporated into all aspects of business, such as marketing, advertising and public relations.

“Tartt would have succeeded exponentially in our program,” Fiene said.

Tartt’s undergraduate experience was transformed when he had an opportunity to get to know and spend time with history professor David Sansing, now professor emeritus.

“He was a big inspiration and taught me as much about the history of Mississippi as diversity and race relations,” Tartt said.

“Blake was one of my all-time favorite students,” Sansing said. “He had such a lively interest in everything and was one of the few students I would often see outside of the classroom.”

Their friendship is still of great importance to Tartt. It has become so much of an influence on him that he attributes much of his passion and love for Ole Miss and Oxford to Sansing’s influence.

“I am inspired to give back to the school and town and, in fact, the new shopping center I’m building will be called ‘The Sansing at Oxford Commons’ after my friend, mentor and former professor,” he said.

Linda Spargo, special projects coordinator and academic adviser, attests to how much Tartt has given back.

“Blake has been very involved with recruiting students and with job placement for students. He has hired students to work in his businesses in Oxford and Houston, and he has expressed to me how impressed he is with the work ethic, dependability and creativity of our students.

“He has created a niche that benefits the university and our students by providing real-life experiences in the work place, lively discussions and meaningful business practices for our students,” Spargo said.

Through New Regional Planning, Tartt has made a name for himself by investing
in developments and real estate. Beginning in Houston and, in recent years, expanding to Oxford, he has developed properties that house a variety of retail and office spaces.

“We live in the fastest economy ever, and if you’re not willing to change and adapt, you will fail,” Tartt said.

He said owning a company and expanding his business results in new challenges every day. “I don’t ever look in the rearview mirror, and I make decisions very fast. It’s hard on the people that work with me,” Tartt said.

As Tartt explained his business in greater detail, he revealed one of the keys to his success: hiring individuals from the millennial generation and taking advantage of their knowledge and expertise.

“I’ve learned in the last five years that hiring younger people and putting them in positions of ownership has resulted in the most progress,” he said.

Tartt not only has learned to adapt with the environment, but also to embrace it to better his business. He said the most important aspect of running a successful business is to not expect perfection.

“You’re doing well if 20 percent of your work is mistakes, because no one is perfect and that means a majority of your work is succeeding,” he said.

Although Tartt is continuing to push his developments in Houston, he has begun to expand his business to Oxford, and with much success.

“Oxford is a culturally sound and an economically viable city, and it is a real, natural growth point for what I am trying to do as I expand out of Houston,” he said.

Currently, Tartt owns multiple properties in the city of Oxford, both retail and office space. In addition to developing The Sansing shopping center, he has invested in PureRyde Cycling and Pilates.

Tartt credits the University of Mississippi.

“I wouldn’t be where I am without Ole Miss,” Tartt said.

“I’m the happiest I have ever been in my life, and I attribute much of that to the experience I had while at the University of Mississippi.”

Lindsey Andrews is a 2016 Meek School graduate from Collinsville, Illinois.

The Meek School Magazine is a collaborative effort of journalism and Integrated Marketing Communications students with the faculty of Meek School of Journalism and New Media. Every week, for the next few weeks, will feature an article from Meek Magazine, Issue 4 (2016-2017).

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A Look At Courtnay Elias of Creative Tonic

Posted on September 14, 2016 in

A few weeks ago I showed a house designed by Courtnay Tartt Elias of Creative Tonic.  Courtnay is a very in-demand interior designer based in Houston.

As the Creative Director and Founding Principal of Creative Tonic, Courtney is known for her vibrant color palette and a love of mixing design styles.  After graduating from SMU, Courtnay attended the prestigious Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London.  Working with Courtnay at Creative Tonic is Lila Chumbley, Head Design Associate and Project Manager.  Lila is a graduate of U of Alabama.

Courtnay has embraced the contemporary look mixed with antique accents that the younger set are claiming.  Her designs are a cacophony of color, texture and sophistication.

Creative Tonic has won several, much deserved awards from Paper City magazine.  In 2014, Creative Tonic won an unheard of 5 awards and in the 2015 contest, they won 2. This year, Courtnay’s design was awarded First Place.  Wow!  The uber talented interior & jewelry designer Katie Scott named Courtnay as one of her favorites, locally.  I couldn’t agree more.

Courtnay was kind enough to share some highlights of her portfolio with us.  Below is a selection of photographs that show the scope of her amazing abilities.




“The Heights”


The first Creative Tonic house is in the Houston Heights where many of the new houses are designed to look like New Orleans shotguns.  The original Heights houses are Victorian and many of the interiors are of that era.  But, for this new house, Courtnay went soft contemporary.

The living room is all gray with a khaki sectional.  The curtains soften the look.  The Eames chair gives it a classic touch.




The pillows are the main source of color and pattern.




Window shades – gray with white trim – tie the open kitchen in with the living room.




The glass pendants allow the view to pass through without too much distraction.




The Cole & Sons Lily paper in black is stunning.  To die for!!  Love!!!!




The master bedroom is classic with two Eames accent chairs.  Love those!




The bath is a mix of the new linear look in tile with the more traditional tile on the floor.  Reverse shades of those found elsewhere – white with gray trim.




Great idea for a smaller bedroom – twin beds with one headboard.




This tiny bedroom was made to look larger with tall curtains brought up to the ceiling – it brings your eye up and fools it into thinking the room is bigger.



Next, we visit “The Bachelor”


This project is a new townhouse designed for a successful businessman who just happens to be a bachelor.  The townhouse is incredible with so much detail, so much thought put into the house – I can’t imagine how long it took Courtnay to actually put it all together!!



The townhouse is located in a very small gated complex in Tanglewood.



The entry gives a hint of what is to come: colorful contemporary with classic accents.  This townhouse showcases what Courtnay is well known for:  creating fabulous detailed and organized spaces in kitchens, libraries, bathrooms, offices, and utility rooms. 




The living room is a mix of color and comfort with a leather sofa and blue velvet chairs.  Courtnay installed the fabulous Calico Wallpaper on the back shelves.  Choros two tier light fixture from Circa Lighting.



I love the touch of the antique chair, fun in green velvet.  Love it – this is a trademark of Courtnay’s – mix in a fine antique in a contemporary setting.  The sofa is incredible with its oversized arms.  And the Starke rug is a colorful modern choice.




The owner collects vinyl – and this chest was specifically built to house his records.




The lacquered built ins are accented with brass.  The walls are papered in a shimmery gold and the ceiling is lacquered in her famous marine paint, which looks wet when dry.



The room overlooks the courtyard and the swimming pool.




Past the living room is the dining room and…




past the dining room through the door to the right is the master bedroom.  All three rooms form a U shape around the courtyard where the pool is.




The kitchen and breakfast room are behind the dining room’s back mirrored wall which reflects the courtyard.




The butler’s pantry is behind the dining room, through a glass door.




The butler’s pantry is stocked full of entertaining choices.  What storage!!  This is an example of the details that Courtnay puts into her work – the thick glass top, the tray storage racks, the drawers, and even as small a detail as the silver matching the hardware!




The powder room features a mural with mirrored tiles.




The kitchen mixes white marble and patterned tiles.  David Hicks Pendants.




The breakfast room with a wine refrigerator, ice maker, and bar.  The patterned tile is carried over here.  Through the door is the outdoor kitchen.




The bricked patio has an outdoor kitchen, along with a fireplace and a flatscreen.




Past the dining room, the master bedroom overlooks the central courtyard with the swimming pool.


This is a man who clearly loves his clothes!  Notice the ceiling.  Again, the closet was designed taking into account every detail.




Perfect spot for shoe shining.  Mr. Slippers Socks Man would love this closet!!!!




The floor is beyond gorgeous!  Wood in a bathroom???  It’s actually a tile.  Amazing.  Stunning!!!  Notice the crown and base moldings are actually marble tile.


Want more information on the tile?  Call Courtnay.




The brick courtyard has a small swimming pool with a fountain and fire.



And off the courtyard is another sitting area with a fireplace.  I have a feeling this bachelor is a HUGE college football fan.  Just a gut feeling, from someone who is married to one.



Upstairs is the guest bedroom with Cole & Sons Malachite wallpaper.




The guest bedroom has the trendy tile with horizontal movement.




Upstairs is the billiard room/wine cellar/man cave.  The banister in bronze and the stair rail in black iron is gorgeous.  Past the stairs is the work out room.




Three(!) TVs for the huge sports fan.  Must be fun on a Saturday Game Day.  OK, Mr. Slipper Socks Man just turned a bright shade of green.



And the adjoining bar.  This bachelor is SO interesting!  I’m dying to find him a wife!!!  I love people who have myriad interests like he obviously does.




Very organized and neat, to be sure.




And across the hall from the pool room is the work out room.  Courtnay = perfection.  Be sure to notice the ceiling.




The office is conveniently located off the exercise room.


I really admire how Courtnay kept the decorative scheme of blue & gray with gold accents running throughout the large townhouse so that it all blends together.  You could move the furniture from the living room into the bedroom and it would still work with the decorative scheme.


This next project “The French House” is something completely different from The Bachelor.  A couple lives here with their baby daughter and the wife is very much into French decor and she likes a very feminine design.




The antique filled foyer has dark hardwoods and a scrolled banister.  You know immediately that you are entering another world, one filled with beautiful French decor!




Off the foyer is the living room in white, mauve, and BViz pillows.  I love this vignette.  The contemporary art work is just the right touch with all the French antiques.


The living room is filled with French antiques.  The day bed takes the place of a sofa.




The dining room with chairs in lavender velvet.




The chandelier is so pretty.  Just beautiful!  I love these fixtures with the icicle crystals and wood candlestick base.




The cabinetry is painted in two tones of French blue and cream.  Notice the custom cabinetry on the right side, looks like armoire.  Love the beams.




I love the sun porch – notice the ceiling and beams.  Courtnay took a Houston house and made it look as if it was located in the French countryside.





The powder room with its antique tiled floor and door.



The owners closet is so pretty with its mirrored chest and desk.  Every inch has been thought out by Courtnay.



The nursery is so sweet sweet with her framed christening dress.



This next house “Lynnview” is an amazing before & after.  It is a very small house, only 2000 sq. ft. that was originally chopped up into tiny rooms.  But – it’s been totally opened up as you will see:


BEFORE:  The house needed a little updating.




After:  New landscaping, windows, door and columns give the house curb appeal.




Before:  The foyer divided the living room from the dining room.





After:  There’s a new front door with stained floors.  Walls are now white.




Before:  To the right is the formal living room.




After:  The formal living room doubles now as the library.  Courtnay totally updated the room with lacquered blue walls and molding.  Brass lights highlight the shelves.





Before:  To the left is the dining room with the kitchen past it.




Before:  The kitchen, past the dining room.




Before:  And the family room is on the other side of the dining room.  These three rooms were all opened up to each when the walls were removed and they become one open concept room:




After:  From the foyer is the former dining room and kitchen and family room.




After:  With the walls between the three rooms now gone, the space is opened up and the room becomes very large.  The floor is such a beautiful pattern – again, it’s actually custom designed tile.  Fabulous tile.





Looking towards the entry hall, the family room is open with the dining area to the front of the house.





The fireplace was painted and restyled with a contemporary brass mantle.  It’s amazing how different the room looks now that the walls are gone!




The kitchen is in the same footprint, but it is completely new.  A modern light fixture sits above the island.






Since it is opened to the dining and living area, it’s sophisticated and quiet.





The back yard is seen through the new French doors.




I love the way Courtney designed the hood.  Subway tile was laid on a diagonal.




New utility room with shiplap walls and marble countertops.




The bedrooms are very small – so twin chests were placed to make better use of the wall space.




New bathrooms.  Beautiful marble countertop.





The guest bathroom has a concrete tile floor with a pedestal sink to save space.

This house was put up for sale and quickly sold, due to the beautiful redone interiors by Creative Tonic.



“Courtnay’s House”


AND next, Courtnay’s own house was featured in the Houston Chronicle.  Her house is also located in Tanglewood, but in this neighborhood known for its original ranchburgers and new macmansions, she lives in a very unusual type of house for the area:  a true contemporary.


Courtnay bid for the house against others who also wanted it, no doubt for the beauty and originality of the design.  In the end, she won the house where she now lives with her husband and three sons.


I was lucky to find a few “before” photographs so you can see the magic she created with the renovations of her house.




The decor is a mix of new with antiques and the entry proves this at the front door.  Her favorite color is lilac or lavender – and I love what she did with these gilt chairs.  The floor is gorgeous.  Be sure to notice it.




Before:  The living room is large with a tall ceiling and beams that create visual interest.  Next to the fireplace is a library nook with clerestory windows.  The beautiful mantel remains.


The windows overlook the pool area.  To the right of the fireplace, Courtnay opened up this bar area.




After:  Wow!  Love!  The walls were painted a bright white while the fireplace was painted gray using marine paint, which looks wet when dry.  The sofa is gorgeous in lilac cotton with a gold Greek Key trim and Kelly Wearstler fabric on the pillow.




The Amanda Talley above the sofa is Courtnay’s favorite artist and its colors drove the room’s color palette.  To the left is a piano in wood stain.




The antique chaise is from Courtnay’s design savvy mom.



And antique chair in damask.  To the right of the fireplace is a wall of mirrored tiles.




The library shelves is painted in a deep lilac.



The library nook with reading lights and assortment of contemporary furniture.




Before:  The dining room and sitting area with its walls of glass.




The contemporary dining table and chairs sit on the Starke rug.




The view past the dining area to the sitting area.




Grays and oranges mixed with purple accents.  The coffee table was found in Round Top.



Another view.



Off the dining area is the breakfast room.  Courtnay painted the overhead beams blue.




The opaline antique chandelier was her grandmothers and she has used it in every home.




Overlooking the breakfast area and stairs is the renovated kitchen.




Before:  The footprint remains the same today with the long island.  Today there are new drawers and cabinet faces, new windows and appliances.  The row of upper cabinets along the back wall was removed.




Trendy linear marble on the island.  Notice the hardware.  The cabinet faces are beautiful.  On the wall, Courtnay placed mirror in the cabinet faces.  Above are two lights from Arteriors.  Art work on a brass shelf that replaced the cabinets.




A mirrored iron door leads to the pantry.




The powder room with silvery Cole & Sons Wallpaper “Woods.”




One son’s room in blue and white with orange accents.




The second bedroom is a contemporary stunner.



This bedroom won First Place in the Paper City Design Contest!  Congrats Courtnay!!


Finally, this is my favorite Creative Tonic Design – it’s a dining room:



So Pretty In Pink!  Courtnay used Cole & Sons Magnolia wallpaper here – with pink silk curtains.




Just perfect!!  Love!!

A huge thank you to Courtnay Elias of Creative Tonic for sharing her portfolio with us.  Can’t wait to see more and more from her.

To see more of Courtnay Elias and Creative Tonic go HERE.

Shop the Blog:

These items were found in some of Courtnay’s designs:

The Eames chair – a good copy, very inexpensive.  Click HERE.




This is another inexpensive copy of the Eames chairs.  Click HERE for info.



The David Hicks Pendants are a classic.  Click HERE






And, this is the large Diallo chandelier.  Click HERE for more info!








Click HERE – to see the small version of The Bachelor light fixture.



The large light fixture here.