After living in a 1950s single-story brick ranch house for 10 years, owners Pam and Patrick Cohan wanted a fresh start. “We loved our previous home, but it just wasn’t our vision for the future,” recalls Patrick. So, the couple decided to tear down their old place—in the Houston neighborhood they loved—and rebuild, this time with every room looking out to the pool, as well as space for parties and the husband’s art collection. “I was so excited that I ran out to buy graph paper and began sketching out the plans,” Patrick adds. “Then we put together our A-team.”
That team started with interior designer Suzanne Duin—Pam’s friend since their teens. Duin then introduced the couple to architect Kurt Aichler, whose design hewed closely to the couple’s vision. “We added an internal courtyard with no opening to the street to give the home more privacy and a certain wow factor,” Aichler says. “You have no idea what the house will be like when you walk through the door. The symmetrical plan gives a sense of formality and sets the tone for more eclectic spaces to follow.” According to Aichler, the rooms are all stylistically a bit different but work together well.
As for the interior, the couple wanted it to be “casual and elegant,” says Pam, “with an old-world French-Moroccan feel set against white plaster on the walls and wide-plank oak floors.” As luck would have it, Duin had recently returned from a trip to Morocco. “When Patrick had described building the house around a pool, it made me think of the riads there,” says the designer. Also influenced by Moroccan design, Duin created sconces and window screens for the bar area. Her trip solved a design dilemma in the dining room, as well. “We had to figure out how to bring the high ceilings in union with the rest of the room,” she says. “So, we reproduced a beautiful ceiling I’d seen in Marrakesh.” In addition, the fixture in the hallway was custom-made in Morocco and a bone-inlaid side table resides in the master bathroom.
With the exception of a carpet in Patrick’s library and a few lamps—all with family provenances—most of the couple’s old furnishings were replaced with new pieces, such as a handmade carpet in the living room, nightstands in a guest bedroom and custom-designed sconces in the loggia. “The first thing we bought for the house was a chandelier with blue, gold and red tones at an antiques shop in New Orleans,” Pam says. “Suzanne took one look at it and said, ‘There’s your palette.’” More notable pieces followed, including the master bedroom’s headboard, for which Duin designed a monogram with the couple’s initials. The designer’s touch also extended to the banquette in the bar area—with an elaborate nailhead pattern on the base inspired by an old paisley shawl—and to the kitchen, where she designed the ample island.
The refined interiors provided Patrick with the ideal environment to display his extensive art collection, which ranges from Diego Rivera to notable Texas artist Porfirio Salinas. Seascapes by both Montague Dawson and Gordon Grant, and paintings by Charles Napier Hemy appear throughout the home, along with Lucite sculptures by Frederick Hart in niches off the dining room and the vestibule off the entry. In the library, Duin custom-designed a case to hold memorabilia related to noted boat builder and racer Gar Wood, which joins shelving filled with Patrick’s collection of model boats and hydroplanes. In addition, builder Doug Doyle and project manager Jim Bob Taylor fabricated cabinetry and installed onyx countertops in niches off the dining room, as well as the vestibule off the entry with the same care as the groin vaults and corbels. Says Taylor: “There was a lot of detail; it was a true custom house.”
Outside, there’s a similar level of detail that exudes a fresh yet classic feel. “Pam had photos of courtyards with European topiary boxwoods, as well as square and rectangular pots that would make sense with the rhythm of the house,” says landscape architect Tom Read. “We kept it simple in the enclosed courtyard because the pool is the focal point.”
After more than 2 1/2 years of design and construction, along with the combined talents of a simpatico band of professionals, Pam and Patrick finally got what they wanted. “We worked on the house with blood, sweat and tears,” says Pam. “This is our forever home, and our goal was to make it perfect.”
—Lisa Bingham Dewart