Karen and Scott Puckett moved with their sons from Louisiana and were house hunting in Houston when they met builder Al Ross, known for his meticulous attention to detail and quality construction. They toured a River Oaks residence he was completing in collaboration with residential designer JD Bartell and became smitten with its location and luxurious materials. “We looked at others,” Karen says, “but we kept coming back to this one.” So they signed the papers–and then enlisted interior designer Courtney Cangelosi to fill the new home with furnishings, art and accessories before the beginning of the school year, all with an eye to matching the craftsmanship of the build.
“My philosophy is to take on projects as if I’m the owner,” says Ross, noting that he made it a point to review and approve Bartell’s proposals for the project. A modern house would not have suited the more traditional 1930s-era neighborhood. Instead, this structure was designed to link old and new world. “What distinguishes this house is its Upper Atlantic Federal style,” explains Bartell. “A prominent gable, tall windows and Ionic columns give it an air of strength grounded in tradition, while the custom iron-and-glass entry and simplified ornament bring the classic detail to our modern age.”
The lines of time were blurred inside as well. Period elements like paneling and molding create a feeling of formality, balanced by an open floor plan and retractable glass walls–a hallmark of the indoor-outdoor lifestyle so many homeowners enjoy today. “Al and JD did an incredible job,” says Cangelosi. “They have a keen eye for details and it was all constructed and designed to perfection.”
With the home built and the interior finishes and appliances already in place when she came onboard, Cangelosi kept her focus on incorporating furnishings and accessories geared toward sophisticated and kid-friendly spaces. “The owners wanted livable, functional and simple, with no unnecessary clutter,” she says. To that end, she repurposed a few of the couple’s own items, including a tufted sofa in the formal living room and a midcentury dining table in the breakfast nook. For the most part, however, Cangelosi worked closely with the clients to find new pieces. “This house is different from our previous home so I needed help,” explains Karen, “but I’m not one to simply turn it over.” On the contrary: The hands-on owners accompanied Cangelosi to various showrooms, sitting on sofas and touching fabric options themselves. Their stops included Holly Hunt, where they bought the dining room table, and Cantoni, where they found Karen’s stainless-steel office desk.
Along the way, Cangelosi kept an eye out for pieces with sculptural silhouettes to help soften and add interest to each area. “They’re simple but not simplistic,” she notes. Artful touches in the kitchen, for example, include Viennese-style counter stools, another Holly Hunt find, and a Kelly Wearstler Pop bowl. “Karen loves a super-modern look, but we thought that might feel forced in this house,” Cangelosi explains. So they went for clean lines–yet nothing too cold.
The couple’s collection of art also enhances the decor. Works by artists such as Meredith Pardue, Lucrecia Waggoner and Zhuang Hong Yi, all purchased through Laura Rathe Fine Art, are a source of color and texture throughout. “The art brought that ‘wow’ factor we can enjoy every day,” explains Karen. Likewise, the views similarly punctuate the neutral palette. “Outside every window is greenery, whether it’s magnolia trees or vines,” she adds. “It’s absolutely beautiful.”
Upstairs, the neutral hues continue in the master suite, which is enveloped in serene shades of taupe and charcoal. Here, the sitting room houses an existing midcentury sofa reupholstered in dark linen, which became one of Scott’s favorite pieces. “We didn’t think we’d use the sitting room, but we do,” says Karen. “It’s such a calming area.”
Because the owners purchased the home in large part with their children in mind, they wanted to ensure their sons would have plenty of living space to call their own as well. To help achieve that goal, the couple asked Cangelosi to also furnish the third floor so the boys would have a place “to watch television, study or have friends over,” says Scott. “We wanted our house to be the hangout spot,” Karen adds.
For family focused clients with their hearts set on being settled in before their children’s first day of school, Cangelosi went the extra mile to successfully furnish their new home on a short timeline and down to the last inch–without cutting any corners along the way. “I knew we could do it,” says the interior designer, “but it still felt like a huge accomplishment.”