For avid collectors, the best artworks conjure a sense of discovery, unveiling fresh revelations and delights with each new viewing. A similar spirit imbues one couple’s modern abode in Houston. Filled with contemporary art, including pieces by Latin American luminaries Carlos Cruz-Diez and Fernando Botero, rooms unfold in a parade of dynamic geometric spaces immersed in color and light. As passionate connoisseurs of design and art, the clients have built diverse residences around the world—from a hacienda-style ranch just outside the city, to a tropical Los Cabos retreat in their native Mexico. This house, however, “is clean and contemporary, with inspiration from modern Mexican architecture as a nod to our heritage,” notes the husband. They called on their frequent collaborators, designer Jon Green and builder David Stone, both of whom eagerly embraced this newest challenge.
Well-versed in contemporary Mexican design, Green envisioned “something extremely fresh and simple,” he explains, “taking a bit from Luis Barragán’s clean, boxy style with accent colors.” As this home displays both art and antiques, “we also wanted it to have a gallery feel,” the designer adds. The plan fell into place when residential designer Mauricio Vela Carvajalino joined the team, bringing a streamlined yet sculptural sensibility. “The difference between architecture and art is in the actual use,” he notes. Together, the duo focused on playing with perception, “as your mind has a very important role in defining space,” explains Carvajalino, whose drawings were translated into plans by D.R. Design Group, LLC.
This experience begins to unfold at the front entrance, which is marked by three trapezoidal metal louvers. Blurring the lines between architecture and art installation, these elements can fully rotate into multiple configurations to conceal or reveal the space beyond. Moreover, ceilings throughout the residence feature dropped panels engineered with visible gaps that seemingly float above rooms on their own accord. “They create this sense that the ceiling is buoyant and not boxed in,” describes Green.
Standout pieces from the clients’ art collection were integrated into the very bones of the structure. Examples include a recessed niche above the living room fireplace custom fitted for the Botero figurative painting. The dining room window was also precisely situated to frame an abstract outdoor sculpture by Carlos Agustín, surrounded by plantings selected by landscape designer Serena Gibson. Further highlighting the collection, a minimalist pin lighting system illuminates the art without any overt equipment. Meanwhile, Green favored gallery-white walls and gleaming floors in massive slabs of pale quartz, painstakingly installed by Stone and his assistant superintendent, David Messa, to minimize any discernible seams. This provides a pristine backdrop for color, “which I would definitely describe as unabashed,” laughs Green. “We wanted to be unafraid of any color.” Bold, graphic black-and-white patterns provide high contrast against a slew of primary hues often pulled from the surrounding artwork. For example, Cruz-Diez’s electric blues and yellows permeate through the prismatic living room furniture while the signature pears of Spanish artist Miguel Canals echo in the kitchen’s vivid green cabinets. Breaking up the plethora of white, the few wallcoverings function more as murals, including the powder room’s abstract wallpaper and the Rorschach inkblot-inspired marble slabs flanking the couple’s bathroom vanity.
This artful approach also guided the furnishings, which “are plush and comfortable, but always in a sculptural way,” notes Green, who curated simple yet bold silhouettes in the form of rounded armchairs and minimalist geometric tables. Leaning into the abode’s decidedly contemporary edge, he finished wood surfaces with a sleek marine polish typical of yacht interiors, as seen in the round dining table. Meanwhile, the luster of satin, velvet and leather upholstery enhances the saturated hues. These purely distilled shapes and colors provide a striking contrast for ornate antiques that include the couple’s classic bargueño desk. “The unexpected combination of our antiques with this riot of colors turned out to be really dramatic,” notes the husband.
Surrounded by such immaculate architectural lines and emotive hues, guests would be forgiven for feeling as though they strolled into one of the couple’s vibrant paintings come to life. The home radiates the same qualities the clients enjoy most in their artwork. “It’s bold, fun and explosive. That’s who we are, and what we love most,” says the husband with a smile.