A Modern Georgian-Style Houston Home with Art Deco-Inspired Furnishings


Modern White Living Room with Sculptural Furnishings

In the living room, sculptures by Joseph Havel are ethereal in presentation. “They’re old book pages buried in Lucite,” says interior designer Elisabeth McCabe. Additionally, the designer juxtaposed a pair of white barrel chairs with vintage crystal sconces and a fanciful Hal Bienenfeld Art Deco mirror.

Modern White Entry with Striped Stair Runner

In the entry of this Houston home reimagined by interior designer and homeowner Elisabeth McCabe, a Dirk Rathke painting from Gallery Sonja Roesch hangs above a bench from Reeves Antiques upholstered with Pindler suede. Cowhide rugs from Design Within Reach lend texture, while a vintage hand chair provides a sculptural quality.

Modern White Living Room with Blue Velvet Stools

McCabe outfitted the living room with a modernist sofa from Connors Roth in Chicago covered in Holly Hunt’s Great Plains fabric, a pair of antique French stools from Watkins Culver upholstered with Fabricut blue velvet and a custom cowhide rug by Creative Flooring Resources. A Jeffrey Dell artwork from Art Palace hangs above a chair from Ceylon et Cie.

Modern White Living Room Vignette with Horse Sculpture

A painting by William Betts is displayed above a demilune from Mrs. PK and Oz in the living room.

Modern White Entry Vignette with Black-and-White Lithograph

A lithograph by Robert Longo anchors the entry.

Modern White Living Room Vignette with Midcentury Desk

A Mary Mattingly photograph hangs above the living room’s midcentury desk.

Modern Black Study with Custom Lacquered Black Paint

In the study, where the walls, ceiling and bookshelves are covered in custom lacquered black paint, an oil painting by Dana Frankfort from Inman Gallery resides above the fireplace. Custom swivel armchairs and ottomans are upholstered with Fabricut purple velvet that adds a plush vibrancy to the sleek room.

Modern Black Study with Purple Velvet Armchairs

McCabe selected a silver-colored carpet from Madison Lily Rugs to contrast with the purple velvet on the furnishings in the study. A black-and-white Donald Baechler work and a piece by Ebru Uygun from Dirimart in Istanbul flank the doors, which lead to the living room featuring a Gaetano Sciolari-designed chandelier from Mrs. PK and Oz.

Modern White Dining Room with White Suede Chairs

An Art Deco crystal chandelier from Brown hangs above the dining room’s Eero Saarinen-designed table from Knoll and antique French Louis XV chairs covered in white suede. The mirrors are from Reeves Antiques, and the drapery wool is from Holly Hunt.

Modern White Dining Room with Traditional-Style Molding

Louis Ghost chairs designed by Philippe Starck for Kartell flank the dining room fireplace, which showcases high-profile traditional-style molding. A painting by Barbara Takenaga from Gregory Lind Gallery in San Francisco adds a dose of color; vintage dog sculptures inject a playful note.

Modern White Kitchen with Black Lacquered Oak Floors

High-polish white Poggenpohl cabinetry with appliances from K&N Sales, Carrara marble countertops by Terra Firma of Houston, and a stainless-steel hood and accent wall by Sharman Services create a crisp look in the kitchen. A Murano glass chandelier hangs above a large center island, also covered with Carrara marble, and contrasts with black-lacquered oak floors from Frias Hardwood Floors.

Modern White Breakfast Area with Molded Plastic Chairs

For the breakfast area, molded plastic chairs designed by Charles and Ray Eames encircle a granite-topped table with an antique French metal base from Thompson + Hanson. A photograph by the late Christine Bruni Fondren is positioned near the door, which includes brass hardware from Fixtures & Fittings.

Modern White Family Room with Embroidered Stools

Trees in minimalist zinc planters edge the television in the family room. McCabe also furnished the space with a contemporary-style console from Blu Dot, a leather ottoman from Sloan Hall, stools covered with embroidered linen and a sofa from ABC Carpet & Home in New York.

Modern White Bedroom with Antinque Gold Wooden Mirror

McCabe chose a metal four-poster bed and an antique gold wooden mirror that was her mother’s for the master bedroom. She draped side tables from Area with fabric that displays vintage Greek-key trim and topped them with brass table lamps from Lynn Goode Vintage.

Modern White Hallway with Striped Floorcovering

Benjamin Moore’s Cloud White paint covers the walls on the second-level landing, where a large Sputnik chandelier illuminates the setting. A striped floorcovering adds a graphic look, and a custom built-in bench fabricated by Texas Fine Home Builders is dressed in a Kelly Wearstler textile for Lee Jofa’s Groundworks.

Modern White Bedroom Sitting Area with Brass Drum Tables

The sitting area in the master bedroom showcases a sectional sofa from ABC Carpet & Home, vintage brass drum tables with marble tops and cowhide rugs that create dimension. Eero Saarinen-designed chairs pull up to a vintage Lucite table.

Modern White Exterior with Striped Outdoor Furniture

Architect Reagan Miller gave the Georgian-style house a more modern sensibility by painting the traditional red brick white. McCabe then dressed the back terrace with a sofa from West Elm, armchairs from Serena & Lily and ottomans from Thompson + Hanson.

Modern Neutral Pool Area with Black Lounge Chairs

Miller collaborated with Cinco Pools, changing the pool’s form from an L-shape to a large rectangle. Additionally, Cinco Pools laid a series of stone pavers from A.J. Brauer Stone. Landscaping was designed by McCabe. Black lounge chairs and ottomans from Thompson + Hanson provide seating.

A lover of contemporary aesthetics, interior designer and homeowner Elisabeth McCabe didn’t seem likely to be taken with a traditional-style home. But when she saw a stately Georgian-style residence in the River Oaks neighborhood of Houston, she was captivated. “The house was dark and the kitchen was too small,” McCabe says. “But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I came back seven times and kept visualizing how I would open it up and create this clean, simple interior as a backdrop for the things I love.”

McCabe had been house hunting for mainly one reason: Her family needed more space. “I have a husband, Brian, three children, two dogs, a cat and a fish,” she says. “We were outgrowing our old home.” The designer and her brood, however, were already living in River Oaks and wanted to stay there. “We moved to this neighborhood from New York City 16 years ago and haven’t left,” she says. “It’s near the city and is filled with beautiful old-growth trees.”

The designer gave into what felt like a gravitational pull and purchased her ideally situated would-be dream home. She was then poised to make changes but required assistance with the architecture. “My husband and I prefer contemporary design,” she says. “So, when I saw another house close by that had clean lines but still fit in with the traditional style of the neighborhood, I left a note for the owners, who called and gave me the name of their architect.” That architect was Reagan Miller—and he quickly joined forces with McCabe to help reimagine her new home. “The house was generally well-done,” Miller says.

“It was just dated, and Elisabeth wanted a more current sensibility.” Therefore, Miller painted the typical red brick white and replaced the traditional-style entrance with a modernist steel canopy that hangs above double steel front doors. For the interior, he modernized the layout. “I opened up the kitchen to the family room by removing a staircase that compartmentalized the areas,” he explains. “There were two other staircases, so the third wasn’t necessary.” Using the square footage he had gained, the architect added a small office and bedroom on the upper level.

The third staircase was superfluous, but the prominent trimwork throughout the house was not. “I fell for the high- profile moldings,” McCabe says. “When I first looked at the house, I imagined painting them and the walls white so everything from the ground up would be monochromatic.” Eventually, the designer did just that. And the effect of the white-on-white design gesture was a neutralization that let the texture of the moldings burst forth. McCabe made the wood floors a textural experience, too, by layering high-gloss polish on top of an ebony stain. Similarly, the walls and the ceiling of the study are painted black and glisten with a lacquer finish. “We added so much sleekness to this house; it’s everywhere you look,” says builder David Stone.

Once the interior architecture was transformed into a bright and richly textured setting, McCabe, who resides on the board of the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, was able to place her collection of significant contemporary artworks. “There’s a light box by Leo Villareal in the entry,” she says. “At night, the space turns different colors depending on the color of the box.” In the living room, sculptures by Joseph Havel are ethereal in presentation. “They’re old book pages buried in Lucite,” says McCabe. And above the study fireplace, an abstract work by Dana Frankfort has the word “think” hidden within its paint. Some works the owners identify with on a personal level, such as a lithograph by Robert Longo, while others focus on form and color. The wildly diverse collection, which McCabe cultivated with the help of art consultant Melissa Kepke Grobmyer of MKG Art Management, also includes works by Kenneth Noland, Pat Steir, Andy Coolquitt and Jackie Saccoccio.

The achromatic luster of the flooring and the walls was the ideal background for McCabe’s collection of whimsical furnishings, too. “I design the way I choose art,” she says. “I buy things I love, and they all seem to work together.” To this end, the designer combined antiques and modern pieces in each of the rooms. “It’s more interesting and unexpected,” she explains. Antique French chairs surround a Eero Saarinen-designed table in the dining room, where a massive and glittering Art Deco-style crystal chandelier hangs from the ceiling. “I wanted that fixture for years,” McCabe says. In the entry, the designer offset an iconic vintage black plastic hand chair with a midcentury Italian Lucite pendant, while in the living room, she juxtaposed a pair of white barrel chairs with vintage crystal sconces and a fanciful Hal Bienenfeld Art Deco mirror.

McCabe’s home—a design that celebrates both traditional and contemporary styles—is a beautifully minimalist scene where her dynamic collections have the spotlight. But that’s not how it began. “This house was on the market for almost two years,” McCabe says. “I don’t think people could see how to open it up.” In her mind’s eye, the designer knew almost immediately exactly how she would transform the space. “I envisioned having almost no color and lots of texture,” she says. “I wanted to give my favorite things great presence by making everything else aesthetically peaceful.” Today, the house appears exactly the way she visualized it, proving imagination really is everything.

—Laura Mauk