“Use this tool—it makes better monster eyes,” Stephanie Lienhard advises as we attempt to make a clay ornament in her Heights gift shop, Sparrow and The Nest, which doubles as a workshop space on nights and weekends. “He looks lumpy—smooth him out with this,” she adds, “unless you want him to be lumpy; in that case, he looks great!” With that, she runs to the kitchen for the lunch she’s whipped up for us.
Looking like a modern-day Coco Chanel who’s just been glitter-bombed, Lienhard is a natural host, pivoting easily between being interviewed, holding court with the beautiful French girl who dropped in asking for a recipe, lending a hand to the local husband who just can’t remember what ring his wife wanted for Christmas (don’t worry, Lienhard knows), and frothing milk for hazelnut coffees because “everybody needs a little pep-me-up in the afternoon.” All day long, folks stop by to shop, work on abandoned projects from previous workshops, and, of course, catch a glimpse of the lady who created this rag-tag headquarters for Houston’s craftiest denizens.
What are you wearing?
Swing coat from Max Studio, vintage Calvin Klein skirt, Franco Sarto Mary Janes, and turtleneck from Jones New York.
How has your style evolved?
I’m definitely more conservative than I used to be. One of the first times I met [future husband] Andrew, we were going to the River Oaks Theatre for a screening of Vertigo, and I was wearing men’s 1950s pajamas and a Chinese hat. In my mind, the Chinese hat totally went with the pajamas—I have no idea why.
You have quite an extensive history as a makeup artist, a chef, and, now, a small-business owner—how did you forge your unusual career path?
I got into doing theater makeup after costuming a few films – I worked on that movie The Trust that came through Houston. Later, I worked at Bergdorf Goodman in New York and did celebrity makeup. I got fired from that job for showing up with a henna tattoo on my hands. In New York, of all places! It was the only time I have ever been fired—it was devastating, but it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I regularly did Molly Ringwald’s makeup at Bergdorf Goodman, and once she found out I was fired, she invited me to her birthday party. It was great!
And that naturally led to your stint as a pub owner?
From there, Andrew and I randomly decided to open a pub in Bellville, Texas. We always said one day that we’d open a jazz club that would be a silly pub. When it opened, we named it The Fainting Goat, because pubs should always be named after animals doing silly things. It’s a rule. We did it for exactly a year. When it came time to renew our licenses, we were literally like, “I’m good. Did you get the experience you wanted? Me too. Let’s close.” Owning a pub was lovely and awful, all in one.
Do you abide by any fashion rules?
I don’t really have rules, but I have some pet peeves. I don’t understand how this generation of guys will show up for every life event in flip-flops and cargo shorts. There was once a time when people would make an effort to look nice when they were going somewhere. I think it shows care as a person for the experience you’re going to have that day. I wish more people showed up for life in shoes.