Article By Diane Dowen,

Leaders In Design, the program that for more than a decade has honored Houston’s top interior designers, is back with six new honorees: Cathy Chapman, Steve Clifton, Connie LeFevre, Micqui McGowen, Teri Pugh, and Rainey Richardson.

The program was started by the Houston Design Center back in 2012, but ended in 2019 with nearly 90 inductees when it lost its presenting sponsor. It’s now a product of the larger Houston Design District and has a new presenting sponsor in Stuart Rae’s Thorntree Slate, Marble and Porcelain.

The first awards will be given out during a reception in his Design Center showroom in the spring, followed by monthly additions of new inductees.

A long list of past winners includes some of the city’s most notable names in design and architecture, including Lynne T. Jones – part of the first class inducted – as well as Benjamin Johnston, Nina Magon, Cheryl Baker, Anne Breux, Kara Childress and Lauren Rottet.

“While it is not the norm for us to recognize such a large group of Leaders In Design in one quarter, each of these designers is very well accomplished with a great body of work and should have been recognized as Leaders in Design a decade ago,” said Denzil Hollingsworth, managing director of the Houston Design District.


Steve Clifton was certain that a career in architecture was his best path. A smart professor at the University of Houston steered him toward interior design, and Steve, who has succeeded on every level, hasn’t looked back. He founded his Scene One Interiors design firm from his bedroom 42 years ago and jokes that back then he was peddling mini-blinds. Today he has a design studio and retail store- front that caters to interior designers leaning more contemporary but has plenty to offer to traditional fans, too. He and his team handle 60 to 70 high-end custom homes a year, many of which they’re in on from the early design phase through move-in.

“Most of my jobs start with a blank piece of paper and new construction,” Steve said. “I love residential design for the person-to-per- son connection and I think a home should reflect who people are, not what’s pretty and what’s in.”

Many of Steve’s clients are repeat customers, and he talked about one for whom he’s designing their fifth home. He was with the clients when their architect handed over his final drawings. The wife in the couple handed them directly to Steve and said, “I’ll see you in a year; I don’t want to see it until it’s done.” When Steve protested that they should be more involved, she told him that in the past her involvement may have slowed him down or held back creativ- ity. On their fifth home together, she trusted him to get things done.

Steve Clifton Leaders In Design
Steve Clifton Photo
Rainey Richardon Image


Rainey Richardson, an upbeat, get-things-done kind of person, came to design after a short career in education. She worked as a Texas history teacher for Katy ISD for several years and shifted to interior design 23 years ago.

Soon, the detail-oriented Richardson was getting more involved in the remodeling and construction process and the scope of her design firm, Rainey Richardson Interiors, expanded. She works on new-build spec homes with builders as well as custom home design with clients, handles the details of remodeling projects and, of course, fills homes with furnishings.

She and husband, Tom, a partner in her busi- ness, have three grown daughters and three grandchildren, so she’s fully aware of the need for both function and beauty in a home.

“We are a little different in that we focus on function first. We get to know how our cli- ents live and what they value and then design around those values and make things beauti- ful,” Rainey said.

So, if a family room is used for frequent game nights, furniture might need to be movable and adequate seating is important.

“Now, we live, work and celebrate in our homes and the function is even more import- ant,” she said. “The pandemic emphasized how important home is, and I don’t see that going away.”


Connie LeFevre followed her high school sweetheart to Louisiana for college, married, and then followed him to Houston for his job in the energy industry. She’d already studied business, but after settling in Houston, she signed up for courses that spoke to her heart: fine art and interior design.

Today, Connie and her husband, Ross, have three children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, and she manages a busy design studio plus two

showrooms at the Houston Design Center: Design House and Fabric House, where she sells hundreds of brands of furnishings, lighting, accessories and fabric. Design House opened in 2002 and Fabric House opened in 2011.

“When I went back to school and studied what I wanted to do, I started wondering, ‘Is this too frivolous? Is this really what I should do?’ Then I realized that interior design positively affects how people live, and I got really good at it,” Connie said.

Connie LeFevre Condo
Connie LeFevre Cozy Library
Micqui McGowen Leaders In Design


When Micqui McGowen was in college, holiday and summer jobs were auto-matic – working for Kitchen and Bath Concepts, a specialty showroom and design firm founded in 1986 by her mother, Peggy McGowen, a legend in Houston’s design community.

Eventually, Micqui and her sister were partners with her mother, but Micqui now owns the showroom on her own, using the skills she has learned through 34 years of experience. Her team works on 20 to 30 projects a year, some directly with clients, and some with designers who bring in projects that are bigger, more complex and within the luxury market.

“A good kitchen design will last a lot of years. A lot of the advances are the technology that’s being integrated into the kitchen,” Micqui said. “Now you have to be able to pivot to stay in business. I learned that from my mother: “Always stay in the forefront and always be ready to pivot.”

Kitchen and Bath Concepts LBJ Construction
BeSpoke Style


Cathy Chapman lived all over the country as her dad’s job as an Alcoa executive meant frequent moves. Always, Houston was an anchoring city since she came here frequently to visit her maternal grandparents.

She married a native Houstonian and arrived for good with degrees from Vanderbilt University, the New York School of Interior Design. Though her husband died six years ago, Cathy’s two sons and five grandchildren live here.

While she does some hospitality and commercial design in her Chapman Design firm, Cathy’s focus is on residential design, creating unique homes that speak to clients’ personalities, and mixing new things with antiques and existing furniture.

While recently shopping for clients in Paris, Cathy said, “I often use clients’ existing furnishings and art, mixed with fun new fabrics and furniture. I have always enjoyed using antiques and love the warmth they add to a room. I truly believe having a beautiful bespoke home adds so much to a family’s well being.”


Teri Pugh is happiest when she has a paintbrush in her hand, which is obvious in her art-driven approach to interior design. While she studied fine art, she always had an interest in architecture and interiors, working for a decade at her family’s business, Termeer Custom Homes.

In 2009, she opened Teri Pugh Studio and has helped dozens of clients create beautiful homes.

“My taste is fairly eclectic. I like to mix antiques and new and I like to have some- thing unexpected in a space. It might not be a safe choice, but it makes a statement,” Teri said. “It’s a signature for me to have modern art in a space that has antiques.”

While most of her work is residential, Teri also takes on commercial jobs, such as a medical office and offices for a wealth man- agement firm. They get a residential treat- ment, too, so they feel like more relaxed places to be.

Interior Design Teri Pugh
Teri Pugh Kitchen
The Houston Design District