It’s telling that designer Laura C. Singleton had never been to her best friend’s weekend house in Galveston during the 13 years she and her husband owned beach properties. “We never entertained at the beach house because it wasn’t really decorated to our family’s tastes,” explains the homeowner. “It never really felt like home to us.” That changed when the Houston couple decided to buy a new retreat on Galveston’s quieter bay side.
This time, however, the wife was in charge of the décor, and she asked Singleton to mastermind the interior design during a total overhaul of the 1980s-era house, which was reorganized to accommodate a new ground-level outdoor kitchen, lounge and pool; an open main level for cooking and entertaining; plenty of beds and bunks for the daughter’s friends (and guest quarters for their parents); and a private master suite away from the fray. “I’d never done a beach house,” says the designer. Perhaps that’s why she was able to avoid the expected coastal vernacular. “I wanted the design to be hip,” she adds. “It’s Malibu meets Galveston.”
Singleton joined a team that included builder Jimmy Clore and architect David Mullican. Together with architectural designer Michael Andrew Meller, who had worked on the couple’s primary residence, they transformed the existing house into a gracious, well-appointed vacation home. “It was unique for us to turn an older house into the look of what we are building today,” Clore says.
The wife, who runs a marketing firm whose clients include real estate developers, had a few ideas of her own. “I’m exposed to really great interior design and architecture all the time,” she says. “So I pretty much knew what I wanted.” To that end, she prepared an extensive look book of every architectural detail and interior design style she was after and distributed it to the team. “I’ve never had a client bring so much information to the table—it was very organized,” Mullican says. And during the construction, the husband was also instrumental with his own ideas—and elbow grease, helping with everything from the framing to purchasing and installing windows. “He was very involved, a kind of self-appointed builder-contractor,” Meller says, adding that the husband was especially helpful with the kitchen and master suite. The resulting open-plan design makes the most of the water views, Mullican says, including a new tower addition off the rear corner where three of the four sides face Galveston’s main canal. “Giving people every opportunity to see the view from inside was a primary goal,” Mullican explains.
As for the inspiration behind the interior design, Singleton says, “the owners are a vibrant couple with a young daughter, and she’s got a ton of friends. I knew they would be there every weekend, so the million-dollar question was: how do you make it glam and super-chic while withstanding sandy bathing suits?” Her Solution: bathe everything in white, with durable, easy-to-clean fabrics and flooring. She then turned to chrome accents and mirrored surfaces throughout the main living areas. The white upholstery, wall paneling and bleached- oak floors, she says, visually expand the space. “As for the mirrored surfaces,” she says, “they reflect light, which is so important, especially in a house on the water. And the mirror adds a touch of glamour that the client wanted.”
The living room’s crowning piece is a massive 10-by-10-foot plexiglas-mounted photograph of wild horses on Canada’s Sable Island, which the owners purchased from wildlife photographer Debra Garside. “We really wanted to have a killer image of a horse,” says the wife, noting that her daughter is an avid equestrienne.
Art enlivens other spaces in the house, as well. “We picked one piece of artwork for each room and were really selective,” says the wife. Three of artist Hunt Slonem’s signature bunny paintings hang over the bed in the master suite, while the guest room features a vivid aerial view of a Saint-Tropez beach by photographer Gray Malin.
Singleton also incorporated her friend’s many finds throughout the house. “I’m a major ‘junker’ and always have been,” the wife says, ticking off markets in Paris, Manhattan, and closer to home, the Marburger Farm Antique Show in round top as her favorite haunts. One of her best scores, a
white peacock she found at Marburger, holds pride of place on a perch overlooking the living room. Downstairs, a pair of vintage chairs shaped like giant hands adds personality to the new Restoration Hardware furnishings near the pool.
Built with an indoor-outdoor feel, the new house has now become the go-to party spot for their neighbors, both in Galveston and Houston. “The house is just the right size to push you outdoors while still feeling comfortable,” says the wife. “We entertain all the time but it’s fun and informal. We’re able to sit by the water, eat dinner and visit with friends. It’s such a wonderful place where we can truly relax.”