Chatting With Leslie Sinclair Of Segreto - Part One!

One of the most accomplished and admirable woman I have had the pleasure of getting to know is Leslie Sinclair, founder and owner of Segreto Finishes, a premier finish design firm. Segreto is well known to Houstonites and the design world as the name behind countless, jaw-dropping beautiful homes. Working in conjunction with many of Houston's top designers and architects, Leslie and the Segreto team transform the ordinary into the extraordinary thru custom finishes including gypsum plaster, murals, stencils and glazes. Segreto has been featured in many top shelter magazines including Veranda, Traditional Home and House Beautiful.

Leslie is very hands on in the day to day operations of Segreto. In addition to being the creative force, she oversees a large and loyal staff and meets individually with every homeowner to ensure their vision and personal taste are successfully developed.  In addition to the huge task of managing Segreto, Leslie is a wonderfully talented and in demand artist and owns Segreto Studios where she helps promote new talent.

Leslie is also a blogger and author of the wildly successful book, "Segreto, Secrets To Finishing Beautiful Interiors",  a luscious, photo rich treasure trove of Segreto projects. Leslie is already contemplating another book, sure to be equally as exciting and well received as her first!

One could reasonably expect to find in Leslie a harried, frenetic woman or a design snob. Instead, she is great fun with a wonderful sense of humor, a loving wife and mother of three, hugely talented and generous with her time and self!  Leslie is an early riser who likely accomplishes more in a day than most of us do in a week! You are sure to be inspired by the very gracious and down to earth, Leslie Sinclair!


Q-  Leslie, when did you conceive the idea for your decorative painting company, Segreto Finishes?
I have always loved home design, art and painting. I was always doing projects at my own home and began experimenting with faux finishes.  Reading books about the subject and asking the paint stores a million questions, they began to tell me that they felt my finishes were better than many professionals in the field.  I decided to quit my corporate consulting job, hire a basecoat painter to help and start my own business, thinking I would do it part time.  With a love for the old European painting and plastering techniques, I named the company Segreto Finishes after my husbands Italian family who had changed their name from Segreto to Sinclair in hopes to be viewed as more American.  The name means secret in Italian and I felt it was perfect for my new adventure.  I have been so blessed to find a career that mixes all my passions; art, architecture, home interiors, color, paint and business.

Q-  Who were some of your first customers and how did you gain their trust to hire you?     

So excited about the new venture, I talked to everyone about what I was doing.  I had some friends and acquaintances hire me and then it just continued to spread by word of mouth. I laugh and say when I first started with little knowledge that I grew because I was on time, on schedule and truly put my all in making every client feel special.  Since I have learned so much and with that knowledge and the mastering of new techniques, Segreto continues to grow, improve and evolve.

Q-  Are any of your family involved in your business?  Do any of them have an interest in art?

My husband and I are complete opposites so before I started this I would say he had no interest in art or home design.  He has been very supportive, however, in my business ventures and has been a great support and help with the household chores and the raising of our three children.  He is semi-retired now and does help with the insurance, bank reconciliations and deposits.  My mom, more like my husband, is my CPA.  All my kids have really grown up around the business and when they were young I took them to work with me many times.  They have taped off rooms, painted, filed and run errands for me.  I am currently helping my son with his new apartment in Dallas and have been so excited to see that he has picked up so much and is really loving furnishing and picking out things for his new place.  Although I offered him many of my antiques, he likes mid-century modern, so its really been fun.  My middle daughter has interned with us the last 4 summers.  She has a real knack for the whole business.  Just graduating from college she is looking for a job in  marketing.  Hopefully, she will come back one day to Segreto.  The baby studying to be a teacher is creative differently.  She has a beautiful voice and was very active in drama in high school.  With a love and flair for fashion, she would rather I just do her room for her.  I couldn't have grown and accomplished what I have today  without the support of all of my family!!

Q-  You have successfully married a business degree with your personal interest in art. Do you find yourself spending more time on the business or the creative end of things?

Wow- that's a tough one- I think both equally.  It is the frustrating part trying to do both well.  With a staff of 35 and a huge payroll, I have to make sure that I keep up with the paperwork, billing and employee concerns.  I also know that my spending time with the clients and in carefully designing and overseeing each project is key to client satisfaction and a beautiful room.  My greatest joy is working with the clients coming up with designs and overseeing their project.  It makes me so happy to leave a beautiful space we have worked in and see how happy it makes the client.  I struggle constantly with the balance and in delegating my staff in a manner that things run smoothly. I have been really blessed with a hardworking, loyal staff who take pride in their work! Thank you, God!!!

Q-  You are quite a fabulous artist.  Did you put this aside while you were in the corporate world?

Wow- thank you!  While in corporate America I did things for fun on the side, like I had a clothing business, painting t-shirts and outfits for adults and children. Haha-the 90s. I also made my own drapes, always loved to redecorate, made crafts and floral arrangements.  I used to have shows at my house with the things I made.

Q-  Tell us about your art gallery.  I love your paintings! For example, "The Party Dress" and "Dazzled" are stunning, but it is hard to choose as I love your style.  Where do you find your inspiration?

 I have had so much fun with the gallery.  I joke that I start a new facet every time a kid goes to college- a way to fight the empty nest syndrome.  I have had so much fun working with other artists, many young and up and coming!! I started painting canvas art when I was opening my gallery and artists- many don't have the concept of need by a certain date.  I was so worried I would have no art for the show.  My first pieces I signed with my grandmothers name because I didn't want people to feel bad if they were talking about pieces with me and they didn't like mine.  I was really shocked when so many of mine sold.  I loved using just leftover plaster and paints I had in my garage and playing on colors and textures.

Q-  You have worked with some of Houston's top designers including Ginger Barber and Eleanor Cummings.  Do you have any tips you can pass along that you have observed in working with them?

Pam Pierce, Kara Childress, Celerie Kemble from New York and so many more.  Although I have never met Miles Redd, I even got to silver leaf a ceiling in a home he was doing here.  I have learned so much from them; their fabrics, surfaces and vision.  I really like my place in home design being the backdrop to their wonderful vision!!!

A project Leslie worked on with Joni Webb. An antique finish on the paneling wraps the room in a warm backdrop.

Q-  How about your own personal decorating style?  Your home is absolutely stunning.  Is there any decorator who had a major influence?

The dressing room in Leslie's master bedroom features a stencil design over plaster.

It is hard to imagine that a mud room could look so beautiful! The formerly white cabinets have been glazed to look like furniture and a French tree mural has been painted on the walls and ceiling.

The hard part for me is I like so many different styles and see so many beautiful homes and work with so much talent.  It is hard for me to choose what I want for my own home.  I am now currently redoing some of it and that has been the hard part. I like to mix in so many different styles and of course love paint and plaster.  How to mix all of this into a cohesive, warm, interesting home, instead of a hodgepodge mess- haha.

Leslie's elegant living room displays her enormous talent in a hand-painted mural which even includes her Australian Shepherd!

The kitchen walls in Leslie's home are plastered and the cabinets are distressed and glazed. The refrigerator on the right features a hand-painted mural.

The kitchen cabinets beautifully illustrate the use of decorative finishes- just gorgeous!

Q-  Your book, "Segreto- Secrets to Finishing Beautiful Interiors" is a huge hit and is filled with luscious photos of different projects you have worked on.  What was it like working on the book?  Would you do another?

I love to learn so this was definitely challenging but I so enjoyed it and learned so much- like the basics past and present tense. Thank goodness for spell check!! The publishing industry is interesting as well though I am not sure I have a grasp of it.  I did decide to self-publish mainly because right or wrong, good or bad, I really wanted creative freedom.  I will publish a book two and hope to start on it sometime this year.  The hard part is pulling all- nighters at my age isn't as easy as it used to be.

Q-  When I look at all your accomplishments, I am astounded at how you find time to do it all.  Business owner, artist, author, blogger, wife, mother.  I know I am missing something.  Have you cloned yourself or are you just a really excellent multi-tasker?

I love to multi-task and feel that I am better with a lot of different things to do.  I also do have a wonderful staff and family that without them, I couldn't do any of it. I am not saying it is easy though, or that I have done a good job in all areas at all times.  There are so many women that are trying to mix it all in and I am so impressed with so many of them- they are inspiring to me.

Q-  You have been interviewed by The Skirted Roundtable (here).  Yes, and I have never been so nervous in my life!!!  You mentioned your first job was a Hill Country house that was plastered.  You ended up running the plaster to the floor and eliminating the molding.  Is this something that would work in every home?

It depends on the style of the home.  Also, there are maintenance issues of running a mop and getting water on the plaster or cleaning solution.  I have done many homes like this, however, and have had no complaints.  Having baseboards definitely creates less maintenance.  

Q-  Let's talk about the average homeowner.  Obviously, you have finessed your work to the pint of perfection- but most homeowners are looking to replicate this look within their own abilities.  Especially those of us who live far from Texas and Segreto Finishes!  Is this even possible? Or advisable?

I started painting for myself  so it is possible.  There are so many YouTube videos out now on how- to which makes it easier.  I think certain techniques are better to try than others.  I get many questions on our difficult techniques and some of these take years of experience.  Others, I say go for it.  Remember, it's just paint and can be painted over if you are not happy with it.

Q-  What is your personal favorite decorative finish?  A favorite project you have worked on?  Your favorite room in your own home?  A favorite work of art you have painted?

The master bath in Leslie's home features an old world faux finish and mural.

Gosh, so hard, I love so many- I love the gypsum based plasters and cabinet and furniture finishes.  I also adore some of the allover stencil designs and some hand painted ceiling and wall treatments.  I truly love finishes and have so much fun researching new and innovative ones!

The den in Leslie's home is so warm and inviting with its soft colors and beautiful fabrics.

I adore how Leslie has styled her shelves with corals.

Segreto has worked on some of the most beautiful homes in the Houston area with Leslie the driving force behind each design. 

This is only a small sample of the stunning homes that Leslie and her Segreto team have performed their magic on. To see more of Segreto Finishes go here. See here or here to order "Segreto, Secrets To Finishing Beautiful Interiors. See here to read Leslie's blog.

Don't miss Part 2 of my feature on Leslie Sinclair and Segreto where Leslie offers decorative painting advice for the average home (mine)!   Coming Soon!


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