Authenticity. Longevity. Functionality. Homeowners R. Steven and Rene´e Klimczak had these attributes, and then some, in mind for their house in Houston’s exclusive Tanglewood neighborhood. What they needed was a plan. For that, they turned to architect Kevin Harris, whose work they had admired for years. “Rene´e and I had specific wants and desires: open living areas, minimal hallways and an entertainment-friendly setting,” explains Steven, who was also responsible for the home’s build. “Kevin started with scale and floor plan components, and then positioned the house according to the historical perspective we were looking for.”
“It’s about how the house works for the site,” says Harris. “Style doesn’t come into play in my mind until after the floor plan is done.” In this case, the elegance of the house, with its many elliptical arches, groin vaults, columns clad in refined stone and stucco, and reclaimed red clay tile roof, has attributes of Florentine design, which happens to be the predominant architectural style of the Klimczaks’ alma mater, Louisiana State University. “The reason one’s eye is attracted to the house lies in the architectural proportions,” says Harris. “The placement, alignment, sizing and sloping of all the elements create a visual singularity: something that has guided architecture in Florence.”
The formidable task of drawing the Florentine theme throughout the home went to interior designer Darla Bankston May. “We’d seen Darla’s work on various houses and could tell very early on that she got what we wanted,” says Rene´e. “The ideas she was bringing to us were really hitting the spot.” Adds May, “The exterior was fine-tuned but not too formal, like it had been there for years. We wanted to incorporate that feeling inside and chose to make the spaces inviting and comfortable while enhancing the flow.”
At Rene´e’s request, a neutral color palette was established, creating an elegant, streamlined background for select design elements, accessories and art pieces that provide pops of color and visual interest. A key example is right inside the front door, where a continuum of arches greets guests. “The entry sets the tone, with muted Venetian plaster walls by Leslie Sinclair of Segreto Finishes and artwork by Steven Alexander incorporating a jolt of color,” says May. An off-center stairway with an ornamented custom-fabricated iron rail adds a sculptural accent.
Furnishings and finishes are a reflection of the owners’ tastes. “My aesthetic is more contemporary than Steven’s,” Rene´e says. “One of our goals was to blend the two styles using clean-lined furniture balanced by warmth from wood detailing and antiques while enhancing the contemporary art pieces.” The concept works particularly well in key living areas. The two-story family room, for instance, features a modern wall sculpture by Caprice Pierucci and a more traditional fireplace with a stone mantel, which both accentuates the space and acts as a focal point for an intimate grouping of sleek upholstered furnishings. In turn, the master bedroom sitting area features structured chairs, which are juxtaposed with a scroll side table.
Three major axes organize the first floor and provide uninterrupted views through the house and landscape. The precision of these axes and the alignment of their respective arches were designed to orchestrate the spacial sequencing of the home, and affected everyone’s creative process at one time or another. For Steven, getting their alignment right was one of his biggest construction challenges. May treated them as frames for certain areas, such as the entry to the pantry and the master bedroom sitting area. Landscape designer Steve Henry accented them, and the home in general, with a landscape program that includes olive trees, iris and myrtle, and a self-watering planter below a front window. “The overall design is so European,” Henry says. “Our approach was to create a textural bridge between bold and refined.”
Reflecting on the result, Steven says, “People can’t put a finger on what attracts them to the house or what makes it special. We kept our eye on the final product, and I’m simply amazed with the outcome.” Adds May, “The home feels timeless and current all at once. As soon as you walk into the house you feel warmth. It makes you want to stay awhile.”