After a summer spent enjoying their vacation home on Texas’ Gulf Coast, a Houston couple was inspired to spruce up their primary residence in Bellaire. “We thought we would refresh the house a little,” says the wife, “maybe change the color of the kitchen cabinets.” But after consulting with designer Marie Flanigan, they realized their wish list required more than just a few coats of paint. The couple’s goal was to “modernize the house and open it up,” says Flanigan, who worked in collaboration with design director Rachel Anderson. “They were in search of the peaceful feel that they had at their vacation property. They wanted that same retreat-like ambience.”
Flanigan’s background in architecture led her to immediately rethink the way the spaces were being used. “It was your typical 1990s-style construction with chopped-up spaces, dark rooms, low-cased openings and awkward transitions,” says builder Cade Wiley, who was in charge of the demolition and renovation. To address those challenges, walls were removed in the kitchen, case openings were raised and widened, and new steel windows and doors were installed throughout the first floor. Black metal frames added modernity while the slender muntins allowed for large expanses of glass that flood the house with natural light. As the project evolved, so did the need for additional windows. “Once we had one of the steel windows installed, I wanted to add more,” says the wife. “They completely changed the house.”
For the interiors, Flanigan and Anderson channeled the homeowners’ clean and organic style, where a bounty of natural texture lends interest to the creamy white walls and quiet earthy palette. “We were able to infuse peace and tranquility into this home by allowing in more natural light, working with a bright yet gentle color palette and adding varied rich textures,” says Flanigan. “There aren’t a lot of loud colors, but there are a lot of bold textures that add warmth. Everything is very touchable.” In the living room, a stone-clad fireplace soars to the 23-foot-high ceiling and an 8-inch-thick slab of reclaimed cedar with a live edge serves as a mantel. Flanking the fireplace are shadow boxes that display delicate tangles of tree branches; an iron-and-rope light fixture hangs above, and an antique kilim rug grounds the seating area below.
Texture continues throughout the rest of the home. An antiqued door featuring a rosette detail at the far end of the main hallway leads to the master suite, where a wall covered in sea-grass wallpaper provides the backdrop for a headboard upholstered in lush, silk velvet. Simple wood stools serve as bedside tables, their spare lines accentuating the grain of the timber. Flanigan designed reclaimed-wood beams overhead to underscore the dramatic slope of the ceiling and to make the voluminous space feel more intimate.
Spare furnishings throughout allow the architecture, and the individuality of each selected piece, to shine. “Editing was very important to achieve a tranquil feel,” says Flanigan. “I wanted everything to have a specific meaning and purpose.” She also wanted to celebrate the items that were important to her clients, such as a collection of antique clocks and rugs—all of which were handed down from the wife’s parents—seen in the living room and hanging on a wall outside of the master suite.
For better functionality and easier entertaining, the kitchen was gutted and rearranged. Flanigan doubled the size of the island, removed upper cabinets and added soft arches around the perimeter to visually delineate adjacent spaces. “We mimicked the archways existing in the main hallway to blend with the original architecture,” says Wiley. A combination of soapstone and vanilla marble was chosen for the countertops; the creamy marble complementing the ivory veining that runs throughout the travertine floor. Per Anderson’s specification, the sink was fabricated out of the same soapstone as the countertop for a sleek, uninterrupted sightline. Dressing the wall behind the reclaimed-wood shelving in the butler’s pantry is three-dimensional, undulating mosaic tile in a mix of matte and polished finishes that add subtle depth and dazzle.
Outside, the gardens are an extension of the laid-back feel found in the interiors. “They didn’t want anything overly structured or formal,” says landscape designer Tim Lincoln of the homeowners, with whom he has a long history. “Each time I landscape the house, the design gets a little looser and more free-formed. You can see things blooming from every room inside the home.” The wife’s preferred vantage point is a reading chair in a cozy corner of the master suite, where walls of windows frame the garden, which wraps around the exterior of the entire room; it’s her favorite spot in the house. “Sitting in my room in my chair, is just heaven,” she says. “I wanted my house to be warm and restful, and that’s exactly what I got.”