- The Hamptons
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- Washington, D.C.
Helen Thompson | Photo: Tria Giovan and Phoebe Rourke-Gahabriel | April 10, 2014
Designer Kevin Spearman’s Minnesota heritage and affinity for the state’s simple, yet elegant, Scandanavian design shines in his newest Texas abode.
Designer Kevin Spearman’s luxuriously executed Old World style mansions appeal to sophisticated globe-trotters accustomed to the finer things in life. Yet art collector and frequent traveler Spearman has a soft spot for sleek architecture and a preference for clean lines. So when the designer became his own client after a divorce, he opted for a clean slate. “I decided to start over completely,” says the father of four boys, who’s a principal of Bellacasa Design and a partner with his brother in custom home builder Windstone Partners.
But surprisingly, Spearman didn’t build his own house (“I’d already done that”). Nor did he choose an architectural style for which he is known. Thanks to an obsession with a particular style of house, Spearman opted for the one that would make him happy. “I’ve always loved brownstones,” he says about the multistory townhouses typical of New York and densely populated cities in Europe. Spearman found an end unit for sale in a cluster of five brownstone-like townhouses in The Woodlands. “It was already sold,” he recalls, “but I felt like something would work out.” Three weeks later, it did. With a clear vision already in his head, Spearman gutted the four-story dwelling.
“I moved every wall and changed every surface,” he says. “I had a new life and I wanted the house to be a reflection of me.” A big part of Spearman is that he’s a Minnesotan, where he, his parents, and his five brothers and sister lived until they moved the family business (a medical technology company) to Houston 28 years ago when Spearman was in his 20s. “I was very influenced by the Scandinavian heritage there,” he says about the state with the largest Scandinavian population in the United States. Scandinavian decor is characterized by simplicity, minimalism and functionality: “I find it very refreshing,” says Spearman.
The 4,000-square-foot townhouse is organized according to functionality. Garage, storage and guest bedroom occupy the entry level; living, kitchen and dining areas are on the second floor; the master and boys’ bedrooms fill out the third floor; and a game room has taken over the top floor. Spearman cleared away all traces of the generic during the renovation: Out went humdrum oak floors, which he replaced with reclaimed wide-plank French oak that’s been used in monasteries, castles, villas and wine barrels for centuries because of its tight grain and distressed pattern idiosyncrasies. Stained brown-black, the floors set up a dramatic dialogue with the cloudy white walls throughout—a must-have for the pared-down attitude Spearman was after. “I really can’t live without white walls,” he says. His custom color always has a whisper of gray, which stands out here against window frames, muntins and mullions, all painted black. The many floor-to-ceiling windows are the main reason the new homeowner loves his house. “The light in here is great.”
Furniture is a deliberate mix: Most, such as the curvaceously classic living room chairs and the dining room table, is designed by Spearman. But the rest is a mélange of iconic midcentury pieces (the four-light pendant in the dining room and the kitchen’s Knoll chairs) and antiques he’s found while traveling. “I always select pieces that are great now and will still be great 20 years from now,” he says. And because he had to pare down his possessions, the designer chose only the things that mattered most to him. “It was an exercise in restraint.”
However, while the new homeowner used restraint in some areas, others make a statement primarily because there is no restraint. Spearman makes judicious use of black as an accent color, a no-holds-barred testament to the effect that contrast can yield. One son’s bedroom is all black (“They love it, of course,” he says); the shutters in the master bedroom are black; appliances in the laundry room are black; and a wall in the kitchen is black.
“It all started with the kitchen,” he says. With it he established the crisp European look he carried out on all four floors. Setting the tone with a Poggenpohl (the German branch of the Swedish corporation Nobia) cabinet system, Spearman aims for both versatility and looks in this room that opens onto the dining room. Although, he notes, “I was careful not to allow a view of the dishes from the living room.” He demurs about his culinary talents and has designed the space for eating and gathering as much as for cooking, using a wenge wood peninsula that juts out perpendicularly from the island as the room’s dining table and general place to hang out and watch TV.
The room that most reflects Spearman’s virtuosity with contrasting elements is his master bedroom. There, a reclaimed brick wall behind the bed is softened by floor-to-ceiling linen sheers that are both a backdrop for the bed and an unexpected flourish in the masculine room. A silk-and-wool rug that Spearman likes because it looks like an ocean spreads out underneath the bed upholstered in bomber-jacket leather. Overhead, the formal drum shape of the linen pendant curbs any chance that the room overstates with too much swagger.
It’s no surprise that Spearman has lived in a lot of houses—this is No. 12. There undoubtedly will be others (an occupational hazard), but this one is the designer’s favorite. For one thing, it’s the light that bestows every room with that special glow. “But it’s also because this house is the right size and the right feel,” explains Spearman. “It’s not too much. It’s what a home should be.”
Architect and Interior Designer
Kevin Spearman, Bellacasa Design
Lighting pendant in master bedroom
Wood flooring throughout, 2410 Bissonnet, 713.522.1422
Master bedroom rug