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Refining River Oaks

Society fixtures Melissa and Michael Mithoff bring new-style “down-to-earth glamour” home.

The “lounge” and the rest of Melissa and Michael Mithoff’s new house was designed in part for hosting philanthropic bashes, in the tradition of Michael’s parents—now his River Oaks neighbors.

A Corbett Lighting fixture of handmade Japanese rice paper and silver leaf hangs over the dining room’s large, round, custom walnut table.

Countertops in the kitchen are of quartzite in mother of pearl, and gray Caesarstone quartz.

Highlights of the lounge include a rug by Houston artist Randy Twaddle, sourced from Carol Piper Rugs—and a chandelier of chrome and hand-woven braided glass from Lighting Inc.

A first-floor hallway is outfitted with Andy Warhol’s silk-screen portraits of Geronimo, John Wayne and others.

A single seamless slab of marble surrounds the fireplace in a cozy living space in the master suite, where a GH Leather cowhide rug softens the ambience

The bright den boasts a pair of large sofas of white Ultrasuede

For amiable financial consultant Michael Mithoff, 41, and his vivacious and famously fashionable wife Melissa, 44, the rainbow after one terrible storm led—years later—to a fabulous new home in River Oaks. “This all started with Hurricane Ike,” says Michael as he stands in the stunning entry of the brand-new 11,000-square-foot home where he’s lived with Melissa, daughter Mia, 10, and twin sons Matthew and Max, 7, since February. “We were living in Memorial, and our house was damaged by the hurricane, so while our home was being repaired, we moved in with my parents.”

Michael’s parents, Richard and Ginni Mithoff, are well-known philanthropists who not only share their home with family at times of crisis, but who often open their River Oaks residence for noteworthy causes; in fact, they hosted then-presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008 for a fundraiser. Well, if it’s good enough for the commander in chief...

“We liked the River Oaks location,” says Michael, “and decided to find a teardown and build a house in this neighborhood.”

The white stucco exterior of the three-story home, designed by local architect Martha Bute, looks like a contemporary take on a country estate in Provence, with touches of limestone on the porch. The front door is of frosted glass because, as Michael notes, “We wanted to let light in, but we didn’t want people to be able to see in.” And there’s a lot to see!

The magnificent foyer is paved with polished cream and gray limestone. An enormous and whimsical oil-on-canvas of cockatoos by neo-expressionist Hunt Slonem, a staple of both the Whitney and the Guggenheim, hangs above a long custom bench with iron legs and a cushion of gray, faintly metallic Italian fabric resembling sharkskin. People feel a bit as if they’re entering a chic art museum, which is exactly what the Mithoffs, along with their interior designers Marjorie Slovack and Michelle Glennon of the Slovack-Bass firm, were going for. “Almost every furnishing in this house is custom-made,” says Slovack. “We designed and built everything for the scale of the home, and to give a sense of down-to-earth glamour.”

The only other piece in the entry is a Tibetan antique, a wooden statue of Buddha resting tranquilly off to one side on a glass pedestal near a pale-gray-painted mahogany stairway with a banister of glass and steal. There’s the showstopping, glass-tiled formal powder room just off the stairs. Michael flips
on the bathroom switch and an under-lit, floating slab of golden onyx of a countertop starts to glow.

“We wanted to keep the entry open for entertaining,” says Michael. “We can put several tables in this space, and a bar.” And in the tradition of his parents, Michael and Melissa have already hosted a number of events in their new home, including fundraisers for Texas Children’s Hospital and the Ballet, and this month, they’ll host a party for the Society for the Performing Arts.

Open to the foyer is a bright and crisply sophisticated dining room with light gray, linen-textured walls—and a large round table of walnut and iron, 9 feet in diameter and surrounded by custom chairs with champagne-colored vinyl seats and soft, green upholstery. And there’s another Slonem masterpiece, this time colorful butterflies.

A long hall that leads to the rest of the first-floor living spaces is dotted with silk-screen portraits of John Wayne, Teddy Roosevelt, Geronimo and Annie Oakley by another modern master—Andy Warhol. “When Melissa and I were first married, we moved to New York... and didn’t need cars, so we traded our BMWs for our first two Warhols!”

Off the hall is a very posh space they call “the lounge,” created with their interior designers as a space for adult entertaining. “In our other house, guests kept gravitating to the kitchen, and we wanted a special place for our friends to gather,” says Michael.

“We purposely made the kitchen in our new house not inviting for people to hang out,” laughs Melissa. “It’s purely functional.”

The lounge has a luxurious nightclub vibe with a custom sofa in midnight-blue velvet, custom swivel chairs in black hair-on-hide, a black granite bar with bar stools in dark olive snakeskin, a fireplace wall of gun-smoke onyx and walnut, and a large built-in two-sided aquarium on one wall allowing for the brilliantly colored exotic fish to also be seen in the next room, a den. Michael smiles to admit that the aquarium serves another purpose beyond being a beautiful conversation piece. “Melissa and I can be entertaining in the lounge while the kids are in the den,” he says, “and all we need to do is to look through the aquarium to see what they’re up to.”

The second floor houses the sleeping quarters, which include a cozy sanctuary for Michael and Melissa off of their master bedroom with a fireplace set into one large slab of cream and gray marble, a white custom-made bunk bed in Mia’s room that is festooned with multicolored beads per her request, and the twins’ space favoring a cowboy theme outfitted with cowhide ottomans. In both of the children’s bedrooms hang enchanting paintings of rabbits by Slonem.

One of Melissa’s favorite upstairs features is her expansive, two-level closet, which starts in a walk-in off the master bath and leads via a spiral staircase to what she calls “a boutique setting” on the third floor. Here, the lithe and leggy fashionista’s designer wardrobe is artfully displayed—complete with a tall, glass case for her sexy stilettos, a cedar closet and a full-length three-way mirror. Carrie Bradshaw would weep with envy.

Across the hall is her in-house beauty salon. “This is where hair and makeup artists come to prepare me for events… which is all the time,” she says with a nod to her nonstop social and charity schedule. “I call it ‘the M and M room’ for ‘me and mommy,’ because my daughter loves to join me, to watch and chat and get away from her brothers.”

And then, with a twinkle in her eye, Melissa admits what might just be the main reason for the all the glamour and grandeur of her impressive new home. “I wanted my kids to have ‘the cool house,’” she says, “where all of their friends would want to come.”