The homeowners replaced formal gardens with a limestone deck. Photography by Julie Soefer

Midcentury Magnificent!

by Helen Thompson | Modern Luxury Texas Interiors magazine | July 9, 2012

Sometimes, the best advice is the toughest to follow. So it was from architect Dillon Kyle to his clients, a couple with three teenage children, who purchased their home in 2005. Kyle accompanied the husband and wife on house-hunting forays through some of Houston’s finer neighborhoods, and when it came time to renovate the house they ultimately found, Kyle was their obvious choice of architect. They assumed renovation would come first—then the family would move into a like-new house. Not so fast.

Instead, Kyle advised them to live there for a year before making any changes. “It was the best advice anyone ever gave me,” says the wife.

The house, a ’50s-era one-story in Tanglewood, a prestigious neighborhood located a shopping bag’s throw from the Galleria, had the rambling, California-cool vibe the couple loved. “This was an original Tanglewood house,” says Kyle about the L-shaped structure. “It had an airy feel to it because it was very open to the back.” Inside, the entry flows into a breezy, glassed-in living room, which was expanded by including a former screened-in porch.

“There was very little we wanted to change to that room,” says Kyle. “Even the black flagstone floor was in keeping with the house.”

After the family lived in the house well over a year—per their architect’s sensible advice—they knew what they needed: a bigger master bedroom and bath, and an office in the family wing. The mom, a dietitian, was planning how her dream kitchen would serve the family’s needs. Functionality aside, there was one thing she knew: “It had to have a red banquette—I love them in restaurants, and this way I have my own ‘family restaurant.’”

At Kyle’s suggestion, well-known Houston interior decorator Jerry Jeanmard of Wells Design joined in to carry out the decorating. “I thought he’d bring an interesting perspective to the project,” says Kyle. “We have a long history together, but he isn’t really known for working with modernist houses.” Jeanmard, who worked with Herbert Wells for 20 years before the legendary decorator’s death in 2010, was a counterintuitive choice for the Tanglewood house. “My tastes are not really midcentury,” notes Jeanmard, whose collaboration with Wells leaned more toward subtle glamour. Jeanmard’s plan for new furniture for the Tanglewood house was straightforward: “I just brought in beautiful things.”

Furnishings would have to survive an active family of five, so Jeanmard was careful to put delicate pieces out of harm’s way. In the dining room, a hand-painted silver screen is tucked in a corner; an 18th century painted mirror safely hangs on the wall. He picked fanciful pieces, such as an indestructible faux bois table in the living room and a Janus et Cie faux bois bench outside. He also assembled a modern art collection for the homeowners that includes works by minimalist Keith Johnston, local artist Terrell James and his own original works. The living room, which interior designer Lisa Rowe began working on before Jeanmard was hired, needed only a tiny tweak. Rowe’s contributions—the Barcelona daybed, club chairs and carpet—set the mood for the house’s breezy style. Jeanmard added a sofa and lounge chairs close to the fireplace to complete the room.

To enlarge the kitchen, space was borrowed from the laundry room, and a center island and breakfast area were added. About that red banquette: “I had always wanted one,” says the homeowner, who made sure the long-awaited built-in was a perfect fit. “We sat in banquettes everywhere to find the most comfortable,” she says. The winner, similar to one they’d tried at Café Annie, was a comfortable 23-inches deep. The matching red chairs that Rowe chose provide a dressy complement.

The kitchen was the last component in long renovation and worth the wait. “For me, it’s all about cooking,” says the homeowner. Now there’s a place for everyone at the table, or at the island. “I had a lot of time to think about this,” she says. “But this room works just right—it’s the center of the house. And it’s one of the reasons I want to stay here forever.”