A French Revival Houston Home with Modern Interiors


Modern French-Revival Exterior

This horseshoe-shaped French Revival home encircles a courtyard, providing abundant natural light to the interiors.

French-Revival Foyer

The foyer is appointed with objects procured by designer Ashley Goforth—like the cowhide rug from GH Leather, a Goodman pendant from Circa Lighting and the gilded iron table of her own design—and art collected by the homeowners when they lived in New York. Skull, a mixed-media collage by Peter Tunney, was acquired directly from the artist.

French-Revival Living Room

A bronze-limestone-and-glass coffee table centers the living room.

Neutral French-Revival Traditional Living Room Detail

A Merida rug runs underfoot.

French-Revival Breakfast Nook

Masculine squares off against feminine in the breakfast nook. Goforth designed a petite banquette covered in Schumacher’s High Voltage linen-cotton chevron and paired it with leather chairs by Mies van der Rohe, via Design Within Reach. 'Double Bunny,' an oil-on-wood piece by Hunt Slonem, hangs in the background.

White Traditional French-Revival Kitchen

The kitchen—with its Calacatta marble countertops, Daltile subway tile, Viking range and Sub-Zero refrigerator—was among the existing features of the house that the owners chose to leave intact. It is also where the wife says she learned that polished nickel could stylishly co-exist with a gilded mirror.

French-Revival Dining Room

Goforth added warmth to the dining room with texture and pattern through a faux bois-inspired carpet by Safavieh, a circa 1930s French chandelier from Carl Moore Antiques and white linen tufted chairs by Restoration Hardware. Graphite taffeta draperies were found at Schumacher. A work by Steven Seinberg injects contemporary flair.

French-Revival Study

Built-ins frame a graphic painting by Amanda Stone Talley in the husband’s study; a collage by Tunney, 'In God We Trust...Sometimes,' hangs above the study sofa.

French-Revival Study Detail

Built-ins frame a graphic painting by Amanda Stone Talley in the husband’s study; a collage by Tunney, 'In God We Trust...Sometimes,' hangs above the study sofa.

Neutral French-Revival Modern Den

Tunney’s 'Lonely No More' encapsulates the vibe in the den, where an antique table and zebra benches ground the space.

Black and White Modern Guest Room

Goforth aimed for “high contrast” in the guest room, choosing white linen draperies with graphic black trim and pleather headboards ornamented with brass tacks. Both were custom-fabricated. The black lacquered chest and white porcelain lamp between the beds is Bungalow 5.

Black High-Contrast French-Revival Guest Room

The wife says the guest bedroom, with its charcoal-gray walls and electric cobalt pillows, is her favorite space in the house. Pippa, the owners’ much adored (and rescued) Jack Russell terrier mix, seems to share her view.

When Melissa and Ray Strong learned they would be leaving their apartment in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood for an address in Houston, they flew down to the city where Melissa had grown up and walked through 10 listings in a single day. Though the trip was not intended to end in an actual purchase, Melissa zeroed in on a house in a leafy neighborhood adjacent to River Oaks, and soon afterward, they made an offer. “This is the only one I liked,” she says of the two-story structure that is now their home. “My heart was set. It just felt right.”

Designed by architect Travis Mattingly of Architectural Solutions six years ago, the stucco center-hall French Revival set among stately oaks makes an elegant impression from the street and includes a cache of bedrooms, self-contained guest quarters and 101⁄2-foot ceilings. Among the many existing attributes Melissa chose to save are dark hardwood floors, Calacatta marble and travertine countertops in the kitchen and master bath, and crown molding painted in colors other than white.

With the exception of their art collection, the Strongs would not be bringing many pieces down from their New York abode. So Melissa tapped a friend from college, designer Ashley Goforth, to furnish and accessorize the lion’s share of the new house, including the entire first floor. The designer completed the job in seven months.

“Everything Ashley does is phenomenal,” says Melissa. “She gets the big picture and nine out of 10 times I immediately love what she presents.” The relationship worked, the homeowner continues, because she herself is very decisive and because Goforth was willing to entertain all possibilities, yet wasn’t afraid to be frank about the ones that didn’t work.

Goforth took to her assignment with creativity and zeal, energized, she says, not only by her client’s good design sense and confidence in her abilities but also by the structure’s horseshoe shape, which draws natural light into nearly every room.

As exiles from New York, the designer surmised, her clients would thrive in an environment of metropolitan high style. So Goforth blended antiques with modern accessories, designed a handful of custom items— such as the gilded iron table she installed in the foyer—and strategically placed several of the contemporary artworks her clients had acquired in their former habitat throughout the house, where each serves as the defining feature of its assigned space. “This house looks collected and curated, as though it’s evolved over time,” she says.

The designer also took into consideration the gender balance in the household—Ray, who, when he’s not financing oil and gas deals, is a competitive triathlete and recreational water-skier; and Melissa, a legal recruiter-turned-passionate international volunteer focused on child welfare—and used it as a template for contrasts in silhouette and style, and color and texture. “I wanted to achieve a yin-yang between the masculine and feminine elements in the space,” says Goforth.

Working in a palette of charcoal gray, camel beige and white with gold accents, the designer juxtaposed, for example, the straight, tailored lines of a sofa she likens to menswear with the feminine fluidity of silk-taffeta draperies. She upholstered dark wooden chairs with light fabrics and threw into the mix touches of graphic pattern—a kitchen banquette featuring a chevron motif, a faux-bois carpet—as well as materials from nature, such as cowhide rugs and zebra-covered benches.

Looking back on the process, a contented Melissa says, “Ashley taught me that rules are made to be broken. Our house has style, but it’s also really livable. And that’s representative of us.”

—Suzanne Gannon