Good things happen to those who jog: Just ask Jill Egan. While the Houston designer’s future client was on a daily run through her Southgate neighborhood, she noticed her heart race and pace plummet each time she passed one house in particular. There was something about its façade—perhaps the manicured landscape or straightforward architecture—that intrigued her and resonated with her style. It would be years before the jogger learned the abode belonged to Egan, while she was researching designers who could help flesh out a residence she and her husband were constructing for their family.
Fast forward to early meetings about that new build between the couple and architect Kelly Cusimano. Having outgrown their home’s antiquated floor plan but reluctant to leave their beloved street, they tasked Cusimano and builder Austen Potts with demolishing their existing dwelling and replacing it with a larger, more functional structure better suited to their young brood. In turn, Cusimano, with project architect Pawel Czekaj, designed a contemporary Craftsman-style home with European influences—“a style characterized by symmetry and attention to details,” the architect describes. And for a sense of permanence, he leaned on features like slurried brick, metal roofing and exposed rafters.
As the architectural plans developed, the wife rigorously set out to find a designer who would understand her aesthetic. Egan’s name popped up time and again. And as fate would have it, the owner realized upon further investigation that the house she had long admired while jogging was Egan’s. “Clearly, it was meant to be,” says the designer, who collaborated with Cusimano, drew elevations and handled selections from conception to completion. “The client and I immediately clicked upon discovering we share similar backgrounds and styles.” Both appreciate spaces that are streamlined and calming. They also favor clean lines and gravitate toward the minimal, more masculine aesthetic of Belgian-style interiors. But on the flip side, the designer notes, “We love a mix and the unexpectedness that comes from bringing in a quirky or more traditional component.”
When it comes to color, Egan and her client once again found themselves standing firmly on common ground. Each champions a neutral palette including soft whites, tans and taupes—with strokes of slate vacillating between gray and blue. As evidenced by this project, they both also prefer expressing these hazy monochromatic hues through a variety of materials, textures and finishes. To that end, handsome white oak wraps rooms and provides warmth, depth and richness without the visual weight often imparted by darker, knottier woods. While the fumed-oak floors are lightly wire brushed to impart instant patina, the overhead rafters, beams and inverted planks remain unfinished for graceful aging over time. “The beauty of this house is in the balance of its elements,” Egan explains.
Throughout, windows devoid of intricate trim and flowing draperies flood spaces with natural light, showcasing the perfect imperfections of mottled plaster fireplaces, leathered quartzite kitchen countertops, veiny Calacatta marble bathroom vanities and Moroccan Zellige tile pantry walls. As a counterpoint to these finishes, unlacquered brass accents run the gamut from statement lighting to Bauhaus-style hardware. “Brass ranks high on our long list of mutual obsessions, so we brought it in wherever we could to inject a touch of glam,” the designer explains. “So many aspects of this project stand out, but the lighting and hardware are definitely ‘the jewelry.’ ” And in rooms where privacy is a must, Egan opted for simple woven window shades to diffuse light and cast pretty shadows.
It is this push and pull from contrasting layers that keeps the interiors from feeling forced or contrived. Even the furnishings evoke this type of exquisite tension. Atop sprawling hand-knotted rugs, upholstered seating holds pillows and throws woven from sumptuous textiles like wool, alpaca, sherpa and linen. These juxtapose hardy tables and case pieces crafted from stone, plaster, hand-hewn woods and heavy metals. Many are one-of-a-kind and made-to-measure, but Egan also meticulously sourced items like the living room’s 18th-century armoire. “The couple loves the fact that it was originally used in a convent in Siena, Italy,” she says.
Much like the jogger and the designer’s serendipitous collaboration, everything fell into place exactly as it should. “It’s like piecing together a puzzle,” Egan explains. “Hard and soft, light and heavy, casual and chic—if one element is missing or out of place, you’ll never see the overall, beautiful picture.”