15 August 2008

House Psychology!

 

Searching through Houston Area Realtors for houses on the market  is usually a boring way to spend a few hours.  House after house is filled with brown or black poufy leather sofas with matching chairs, floors that are stained a color that could only be described as light orange, humongous TV systems that overtake the room, terrible window treatments like these limp, arched, curtains above,   and everyday clutter - and I don't mean  your attractive faux English country manor clutter, but just the regular flotsam and jetsam  homegrown type of clutter.   The picture above represents the upper end of most homes in Houston, believe it or not!   I can whip through over a 1,000 homes just like it on MLS and not see even one that sparks my attention or makes me stop to linger longer than a nanosecond.   So, when there IS something that is just a little out of the ordinary or just a little different than your average "everything is brown" interior, I call it a hit, a victory, a score, a win.    I'm ecstatic that I've found just one home that makes the time spent weeding through the 1,000 fugly homes worthwhile.  

 

When I do get a hit, it becomes a process.   Out of an insane curiosity,  I go first to the Harris County Tax Rolls and look up who owns the house (and, yes, that information is public record and available free on your Internet) and then I do a quick Google search on the person, and within a few minutes, an attractive house becomes a mystery to solve - why is the house for sale?   Was there a divorce, a new job out of town, did the owner fall on hard times, or, in our oil industry rich town -  boom times?   Who was the designer, or did the owner decorate his house himself?  When the interiors are fabulous, I look with an twinge of envy at the talent that created such a beautiful home.    Could I do it as well as they did?   Did they shop in Houston, or New Orleans or France?  Do  the interiors reflect the owner's sensibilities, or the designer's alone?  Do they appreciate the beauty of their home?   Oy vey, a pretty house can cause such mental turmoil!

 

The hit today is a home in Houston's most exclusive neighborhood, River Oaks.  It is not a huge house for River Oaks, and it's not one of it's classic old mansions - there are plenty of those filled with nasty wall to wall carpeting and antique reproductions badly in need of reupholstering.  No, this house is different.   It is average sized by the neighborhood's standard, measuring in at 5,300 sq ft.  There are 4 or 5 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms and 3 half baths.   It has   a three car garage and two fireplaces and it was built in 2004.  It's interiors and exterior are very unique and quite different than the average Georgian or French home that line the gorgeous streets of River Oaks.   Just four years old, I wonder about this, why does someone build a custom house in which they probably invested  over 2 or 3 years going through the process, only to turn around and sell it a few years later?  Odd.  The owner is an attorney, of course.  Most home in River Oaks are owned either by  attorneys or oil men.    The rest are owned by their heirs.   This owner's biggest case was defending one of the Enron executives, which garners the homeowner thousands of Google hits.   

                                            

Just by looking at a  house and it's interiors,  you can tell so much about it's owners, what they are like, how they spend their time, are they extroverted or introverted, well read and intelligent, or are they high school drop outs?   A quick glance at this house and it's obvious to see that the couple are refined, wealthy, well read and very intelligent.  They also are very independent - they certainly aren't a couple who follow the crowd or even care what the crowd thinks of them.  They aren't very social, preferring instead to spend their time at home, puttering around in their yard or reading in their library.   The husband is very strong willed, and requires privacy - his library is noted to be "soundproofed."      The wife fills her time by antiquing and fluffing up her interiors.   She's not on the Best Dressed List and probably wears a lot of jeans as she loves to garden and cook.    They don't entertain at home much, preferring to be by themselves.  Their children are grown and have flown the nest.    All this information comes from just a few pictures on the MLS web site.  And all the information is just a figment of my imagination.   There  probably should be a profession called house psychology.  I don't know the owners so I have no clue if my description of them as an intelligent, worldly, well read, and private couple is correct.  Look at their house and decide how you would describe the people who live here.  

 

 

The Normandy home.  Beautiful windows surrounded by limestone.  The front yard is a wild abandonment of natural landscaping - roses and flowers.  At first glance, there is no discernable front door, further suggesting a couple who likes their privacy and doesn't entertain at home at lot.   One of them is definitely a gardener, a hobby of quiet solitude and suggestive of a caring, thoughtful, and empathetic person. 

 

 

 

The front yard.     Crushed stone pathways wind around what is described as an organic garden.   I'm sure the wife plants herbs which she then  uses in her cooking.

 

 

 

Another view of the front "lawn."   When Ben and I were first married, we rented a cottage with landscaping very similar to this.   About once a year the City of West University cited us for our "overgrown" yard and demanded we cut it down.     I wonder how the neighbors and the home association feel about this yard which is definitely not your typical River Oaks front lawn of azaleas and boxwoods?

 

 

I assume this is the way to the front door - through the black gate.   It's all very mysterious  - are the owners mysterious too?

 

 

The main hall, the wood is painted glossy black, the walls are a  faux sage color.  Oil paintings of people long passed line the walls.   Are they relatives, or "bought" family?   The floor is marble.   Not my taste or style, but still, the entry hall is intriguing and very, very attractive.

 

 

Looking back towards the front door,  antiques line the walls - mirror and sconces, old maps, french chairs and benches.  The wife has added soft touches - the needlepoint pillows and flowers, presumably from her garden.   Otherwise, the entry hall screams masculine.

 

 

The front drawing room, again filled with antiques.  To me, these antique appear to be inherited.  They don't seem the kind that are so in vogue in Houston now - the pale, peeling Swedish or rustic country French antiques.  This room with it's chintz curtains and pink upholstery is definitely the wife's area.   It's very elegant.  I like how the chandelier is over one area as opposed to the entire room.   And I love the sweet portrait of the young girl on the left.   Through the back door is the dining room.

 

A view from the opposite end.  The oil painting on the left is  wonderful and appears to be a significant piece of art.   Looking from this view, I'm more convinced that the furniture and artwork is a mixture of that inherited and purchased by the owners.    This room's upholstery needs some updating.   And the wife must agree as I spy a piece of fabric sample on the chair's arm.   I think the couple decorated their house mostly themselves.  It has a real homey quality to it as opposed to the glamorous, don't touch type of matchy matchy decorating that a designer would have done in this room.  Though a designer would probably have been needed for the window treatments. 

 

 

 

The dining room is again filled with antique furniture - a mix of English and French.  People, do NOT hang your mirror horizontally!  Ever!  NEVER!   The mirror would look so much better vertically.    I like how the doors are stained dark.  I always paint my doors black - throughout the house.   It makes them look so special as opposed to just being from Home Depot.  The walls have a lovely faux treatment on them, barely noticeable at all, just how is should be.  The French doors are wonderful and be sure to notice the hardware on them.   Now that's some hardware!

 

 

The soundproofed library aka the husband's domain.   I'm so envious of this space!  I want a library this big!   I need one this big!!   A mixture of leather armchairs and ottomans.   Comfy, well used couch on the right.   The fireplace is large, and everything is painted glossy black.  The home doesn't have a family room, just the drawing room and this  library, so I suspect all the husband's time is spent right here.   I just wonder if the wife is invited in?  There is no noticeable TV and I think there isn't one at all.    He's too busy reading to watch television anyway.

 

I like the antique library table with the tole chandelier over it.  The wall to wall carpet was chosen to simulate a  large antique rug.  They definitely like to collect leather wing chairs and arm chairs.   And butterflies too.   What a wonderful space - so warm and cozy feeling.  It feels so "real" - this room isn't staged.  It is used and loved.   Myself,  I would take out all the leather and replace it with down cushioned, white slipcovered chairs and sofas.   Look at the small chairs around the table slipcovered in white - don't they look wonderful?    Last, I would install seagrass wall to wall.  But, of course I would!    I LOVE this room!!!

 

 

 

I love the kitchen!  This is a cook's kitchen and it's obvious they do love to cook.   Spices are out on the counter for easy reach as are the knives and utensils.  The large farm table is surrounded by various French park chairs.  The floors are concrete.  I adore the farm sink and take a look at the pantry door!     Again, this room is not staged, rather it's a reflection of the wife's warmth and love of cooking and gardening and home.

 

 

The breakfast room with its round table surrounded by an assortment of chairs, furthering my theory that there was no designer.   Rather, this collection of chairs was obtained over a long period of time - something a designer wouldn't have the patience for!!    There's even a stool included here.  Note the concrete floors and a stone fireplace which is so authentic looking - it could be in the country side of Normandy or England.  The show stopper though is the huge antique station clock.  Wow.  I love that!  All the rough textures are juxtaposed by the rock crystal chandelier and soft gray curtains.  Again, the walls are fauxed to perfection. 

 

The last shot of the back yard, probably part of the driveway.   I love their wire fence.   And the wisteria looks so old and overgrown, hard to believe it's only four years old.  Vintage French iron patio furniture is painted white.   The breakfast room overlooks this area.  I wish there were pictures of the upstairs, but I have to settle with these.    I want more pictures!!!!!   What a tease!   I love the crushed stone paths and driveway, so French looking and authentic.  One trick to having a stone pathway is not to make the stones deep.  There should be just one level of stones so that it is easy to walk on.  If the stones are too deep, your feet will sink down.  One layer is enough.  

 

Do you think I was correct in my analysis of the owners?  How would you describe them differently than I did?  Do they seem like people you would like to meet and share a meal with?  Would you rather eat the meal in the dining room, or the breakfast room, the kitchen table OR the library table?  Such choices!!! 

 

Be sure to check back over the weekend when I'll be doing an extensive piece on ----- libraries, inspired by this one!!!   Thanks as always for your continued support, comments, and general good wishes.  They all mean the world to me and make blogging so worthwhile.

 

Joni aka Cote de Texas

85 comments:

  1. Very interesting, as always. I like some of it, but not other bits. I would like the library a lot lighter. White glossy wood. Brighter carpet, lighter furniture. To me the black and dark are very oppressive.

    The hall and the library are almost too big. They look like a hotel, not a house. But then, I live in a tiny house, so everything seems HUGE!

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  2. loved your insight on this home... home psychology... what a cool major that would be... my favorite room was the kitchen... loved it me thinks this couple has some great but simple meals prepared there with the freshest of ingredients. Another great job Dr. Webb !

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  3. Home Psychology 101...can I sign up Mrs. Webb? You'd be the best professor I ever had!!!!!!

    This house is so interesting. The kitchen is my favorite room but I love the library. I like the rug and the leather. Every room can't be seagrass and white slipcovers. LOL Although, in your hands it would indeed be perfectly done.

    Can't wait for your library post.

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  4. A house shrink - Dr. Webb it is! Great imagination. Too bad the 'burbs of Houston are so dull. You are "spot on" about brown leather sofas, orange floors, honkin' TVs - it's the average home of Houston: yuk! I would absolutely KILL for the yard(s). And, the kitchen - swoon worthy. Thanks as always for the eye candy.

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  5. I love the glossy black staircase and the study!! So unexpected!! It's a very serious, elegant look--but to me, it's a little disjointed from the rest of the house. The kitchen and nook look like they belong in a different house---especially with the large clock which is almost humourous---quite the opposite of those dark oil paintings and daunting law books.

    I think she did get some help from a designer. But with a short-leash and in a very "controlled" fashion. ;)

    Fun read!!

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  6. So glad I took a break from my nightly Olympics marathon to read this post and enjoy the home! So fun to imagine the couple you've described. Hope you don't come to my house via the miracle of the internet - My decorating philosophy is a honkin' TV in every room!

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  7. Joni, I think you are right on! I am a Realtor... totally agree..so much on the MLS.. so boring.. we agents try to encourage the sellers as MUCH as possible to re-vamp so our pics INVITE the public in...GREAT POST .. I do like the breakfast room..I am of the more casual sort.. I did like the collection of chairs..

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  8. Dear Joni,

    I think you are spot on! I can't imagine having a house full of children and no TV - so definitely empty nesters. My favorite room was the breakfast room - gorgeous. But the black library with white slipcovers and seagrass would be stunning - so would bright red leather chairs with nickel nailheads, white flokati rugs. Very fun!

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  9. Yeah, I've been waiting for your next post. Again, you did not disappoint. While I am all too familiar with MLS, we've owned 11 houses so far, they were not in such stately homes. I had some comfort in our first house when I realized that huge gorgeous homes were not necessarily so gorgeous inside. I'd want to eat with the homeowners in the kitchen on that big beautiful farm table. I also love the breakfast room. I agree that the house is a little disjointed, but obviously very much to the owners personality. Lovely indeed!

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  10. Can I eat my meal in the library? Or actually can I just live in the library? It looks so cozy- I dont think I would ever come out of there!

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  11. The kitchen is my favorite! Love it!!!

    You gave me quite the chuckle reading through your analysis.

    Hope your class isn't full, professor....I want in too!!! :)

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  12. I think the house, garden and rooms were created by the owners with things collected throughout their life, either from family or bought impulsively. I think I see acedemics...maybe literature or law, but I see a professor here. I am reminded of a home here...the wife was European and a gourmet and the food was...lasagna with spinach pasta the wife had made and with a cream sauce... I want to go here...often. I want a casual meal in the kitchen and dinner in the dining room. And I want to see what books they read. This was delicious.

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  13. Joni, you and I are two of a kind. Your description of the process that you go through when finding real estate gems is EXACTLY what I do when I find an intriguing listing. I am always speculating on why people are moving...and I love to solve the mystery.

    Great post! This is definitely a house of empty nesters. No children anywhere to be seen...so no grandchildren yet. It is too dark and not pulled together enough for my taste, yet there are some beautiful touches and I love that rock crystal chandelier. In fact, I like most of their lighting. I wonder why there are no pictures of the bedrooms?

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  14. I adore the kitchen but it seems disjointed from the rest of the decor to me. The kitchen seems in tune with the exterior of the house and the gardens, while the rest of the interior seems separate in feel.

    The front garden area is simply wonderful!

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  15. Joni, very well done. I do this all the time. Like you, I pore over the upscale realtor's websites, and so much of it is just this neo-palladian-tuscan meets wedding cake confection I just cannot stand.

    This was a Normandy breath of fresh air. I'm over the moon about that front garden. I despise cookie cutter front yards of all grass and azaleas and crepe myrtle (not that I hate those plants.

    don't forget publicdata.com in your little arsenal of research! You little Lois Lane you!

    Still, I think you forgot the part where there is no front door because no one is coming to see the man who defended the biggest criminals of the century and how they are moving to Darfur to atone for their ill-gotten gains! (rant mode disengaged)

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  16. Fabulous post, I love your home psychology game - you're good at it!
    Loved the house, even though it's about five houses rolled into one with very little continuity from room to room. They don't care, because when they built it they incorporated little bits of all of the places they've lived in and loved over they years. You see...they lived abroad for many years, he's a writer and she majored in art history, they met in Moscow, never had children, they're selling the house because moving back to the U.S. just isn't what they thought it would be. They miss their eccentric European friends, they're going back.
    Oh my...I'm liking this game you've created.

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  17. I am absolutely cracking up! I found this house on HAR a few weeks ago and was dumfounded myself- I checked out owners on HCAD also (did I really think I would know them???!!!). The kitchen is amazingly unique... the breakfast room looks like a Salem, Massachusetts diorama (think "Bewitched" set- Ugh!).

    Joni- I call HAR surfing a "sport"- it drives the realtors crazy! Nothing unique or "mysterious" about their job anymore. How much fun to check out how other people live and decorate. Keep "surfing" my friend because I love all of your clever postings!!!

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  18. Joni, I love the library and the door in the kitchen! You are right, this house is so atypical Houston. The garden is really unusual.

    Looking forward to your library posts. I've always wanted one of my own :-)

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  19. LOVE th kitchen and the glossy paint hall and library. Gorgeous.

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  20. Beautiful exposition on this home, it made my lunch thoroughly worthwhile!

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  21. That is one unusual home, but it's fun to see such a unique space. I was expecting Vincent Price to be sitting in the library in one of those huge leather wing chairs! All that black paint intriques me--they're brave to coat the entire room with it. I agree with you about white slipcovers--it needs some light. I'd like the library better if the bookcases were slightly smaller/lower so the walls could be dark but the bookcases and window trim could be cream or white. Great post, as usual!!

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  22. Interesting to imagine the house decorated by totally different hands. What a different vibe it would give off. A house can (and should) show the owner's personality and these homeowner's are indeed intriguing, Professor Webb. Nothing more boring than a professionally decorated house that reveals nothing about the people living there.

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  23. What a Great Place!
    Loaded with personality and I'm with you, love the kitchen and breakfast area.
    I would say the owners are comfortable in their skin!
    Great post and photo's.
    Thanks!

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  24. Love the house. So different-I love it when people take risks and they pay off. Especially like the dark hall and library, BUT as the new owner you'd probably have to repaint the entry hall unless you had a huge art collection- the paintings make it work.

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  25. LOVE the architecture and gardens and that fabulous kitchen. Yes, the decor is 'off,' but the good bones are there. Such potential! And your psychological profile sounds spot on to me!

    -Lana

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  26. Love it! You are spot on! I wish there was a close up of the kitchen sink... that kitchen was my favorite room, the pantry door, the lived-in feel... it's simply divine. You are right about 'no designer'... a designer couldn't mismatch that perfectly if they tried.
    That top picture is so sad... the diagonal arrangement of the rug and furniture makes me crazy and those 'high water' window treatments are soooo sad. You can tell they were like "what are we going to do with these arch top windows?"
    Great post!
    erika

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  27. Ka-pow! Knockout post....love slipping into someone else shoes like that. Yea, I played real estate agent for a while and there are so many pottery barn blahs without personality... but this house is something else. the kitchen is wonderful...the library is cool, but felt like a Havard Club. Just not my taste. The gardens are sweet and no grass to mow! Hot damn. love it. Great post Joni, you made my morning.

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  28. Ha! Fun post...scary, but fun. I know it's all public info, but Yowza!

    Loving the architecture and the outside...they even have bananas! Is that common in Houston?

    Not loving all of the interiors...really don't like the wall treatment. But some gorgeous rugs....and a lovely, comfortable kitchen indeed!

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  29. wow, I love that entry area and the front yard - magical!!! The other interiors are lovely if not quite my taste. YOu need to go tour the home and pretend you are on the market! That way you can see the upstairs and further test your diganosis!

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  30. I love the library. As a Midwesterner, I'm guessing it's all about cool and dark — the opposite of Houston outside the windows. If you are not familiar with it, David Hicks' library was very dark, though quite small, so it is much more cozy. We have bookcases in almost every room in our house: white in a pale guest room, cherry in my husband's "study" with dark gary walls (Woodcut by Benj Moore) and a black bookcase in my sitting room which has dark furniture, red walls and green trim. Can't wait for your library post. I have files and books devoted to the subject in prep for turning the family room into the main library. I think of the other ones as branch libraries.

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  31. I remember seeing this house when it first came on the market. It makes you feel like you're in a little French or English village, not in the center of Houston. I also love the glossy black staircase and the kitchen.

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  32. Oh Joni, what a great post.

    That top photo is just so sad. All too typical, unfortunately, of what the average McMansion owner thinks is great. I sense that the husband was involved in this design via the horrible brown leather pieces and that the wifey did the window treatments after getting a quote from a real designer for actual window treatments.

    I love the 2nd home, especially the landscaping and the kitchen. For some reason the kitchen reminds me of the Weasley's kitchen in Harry Potter - I think it is the long table.

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  33. I love to play this type of game. :)
    Perhaps they are now in full retirement and have a move to the south of France planned. I hope that they are downsizing and will need to have an estate sale.

    I did a post on libraries, take a peek.

    http://decortoadore.blogspot.com/2008/06/worlds-most-beautiful-libraries.html

    I know you will spend many more hours on your research and I just can't wait.

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  34. I love to play this type of game. :)
    Perhaps they are now in full retirement and have a move to the south of France planned. I hope that they are downsizing and will need to have an estate sale.

    I did a post on libraries, take a peek.

    http://decortoadore.blogspot.com/2008/06/worlds-most-beautiful-libraries.html

    I know you will spend many more hours on your research and I just can't wait.

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  35. Wonderful post, Joni. I definitely think there's a psychology to homes and decorating. The kitchen and breakfast room are wonderful and look very authentic. Great find on Houston's mls!

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  36. If you had a library that big you might not leave even to get your Starbucks! Love the snooping - keep it up.
    Jackie

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  37. I wanted to post before reading the other comments, so as not to be further swayed in my analysis (shrink hat on).

    He is a Commander/Demander. He may walk soft but it isn't a stick he carries rather a cannon. The one slain never saw it coming and never dies rather left with ruin.

    She knows the game. She plays it well. She loves art, music and is eclectic in her life, as you correctly assume. She is a mystery. She is quiet and busy. Living on her own terms, as does he; a good match, odd match but it works for them...at least for mow.

    The house is definitely a designers work. A reflection of him with a soft indulgence for her in pink and eclectic.

    I agree, they don't entertain formally. Perhaps they entertain close friends individually and for a purpose, but not the typical diner club. I can't think of a more mis-matched room than that dining room. Looks as though NO one every goes in there and if they do it's family. They let the designer make the curtains, throw up a sconce or two, but nothing more.

    They may have cocktails with friends in the library or her room, but it would be rare I think.

    The entry way was HIS and she won the right to arrange the stair artwork and family (?) portraits.

    Education is important to them.

    She lives in parts of the mansion and might be happier in a cottage on the lake in Austin with a large music studio and vast walls to display art.

    I hope they priced that house a bit below market. Obviously He cares little for what his neighbors may think and certainly makes no nod to tradition or propriety, as he IS the Joneses.

    Fun game this House Psychology.

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  38. This post was a thrill for me. I was a sociology major in school, with an emphasis on psychology. I once did a paper on how I could read a person's character and personality from seeing their home.
    I got an A as I remember and it is still a *game* I play even now.
    This is a sophisticated couple but not snobbish at all. They appreciate art, music and the theater and travel quite a bit. They are comfortabel with themselves, each other, their closest friends and family. They love their home. It is their haven and respite from the world.
    Well educated and well read, with a good sense of whimsy thrown into the mix.
    They adore Europe and have traveled (Perhaps lived there for a time) there extensively but love being home best.

    They love good food and cook at home quite a bit. Never afraid to try something new and always have a delicious wine to compliment the courses.

    It is a well loved and lived in home. Each new ding and stain just reflects a life well lived. Nothing is too frou frou not to be lived wit. Family pieces have been passed down from generations and still admired.

    I adore all the dark colors but that is just me. I know many who disagree with that. I find them soothing and cozy, no matter the season.
    The kitchen is to die for and is stylish yet a true home kitchen.

    I loved the beginning of the post. So many home I see on the realtors lists look the same. I swear they all shop at the same stores. Look here...I have &^*&^$ amount of dollars, now show me 4 rooms and I will take thenm all. No thougt or personal style involved. I have known so many who have done just that. of course, they come here and I know my home makes them dizzy. I have heard the statements, "How did you know thus would go with that?" or "My, you do like strabge things don't you?" a time or two. I love a home that has been put together over years, not weeks. These homewoners did just that...

    Many huge homes here are on the market because the people just overextended themselves. Many have little furniture in them at all. They bought the big house and had no money to make it a home.

    Thank you for another wonderful post Joni! I loved it.

    Love,
    Sue

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  39. What a fun post! You had me laughing out loud at being a web detective; I partake in the same sort of "snooping."

    The first room you showed was truly awful. Definitely a la "Rooms to Go."

    Love, love, love the Normandy house. I agree with those who think a designer was involved, but maybe that's because I'm unable to put anything together on my own.

    My favorites from the house were the rug and curtains in the living room and that beautiful piano (or perhaps it's a harpsichord or virginal - how cool would that be?). And that library... wow, oh wow. I love all the dark paneling - think they're very much in keeping with the period of the house. The only things I didn't care for were the window treatments in the dining room and the stain color in the kitchen. But, honestly, I could move right in and not change a thing and still be in heaven.

    Thanks for sharing!

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  40. This was a fun and interesting post. As much as I love this house -- I was more intriqued with your mention of your interior doors painted black. I could hardly sleep last night, thinking about that. Could you share some photos of your black doors? This might be my next design project in my home! Thanks, -shirl

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  41. Very interesting. House number one says divorce to me, or bachelor. Maybe it's sexist of me, but no woman I know would ever pick those Superbowl couches. And I agree with everyone who thinks someone involved with number 2 has an affection for things European. I'm amazed the house is only 4 years old. It has a very individual personality, and it seems hard to imagine that people would put that time in and then move on. But I still think it could be the product of a great collaboration between designer and homeowner and landscape architect. Has anyone checked with Vervoordt? In any case, while it is a bit noir, I love it, and the magical garden leavens the subdued tone of the house.

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  42. Well, you KNOW I was gonna love all that gloss and gild! Completely LOVE the foyer/staircase/library. WEll, not huge on the library furnishings/carpet, but everything else is quite enjoyable.

    I'll be the voice of dissent here..... I think they worked with a designer, however,kept him/her on an as per need basis, but the relationship fizzled towards the end. There aren't enough 'touches' to make it look professionally done through and through, but I have a strong feeling that someone who knew a thing or two about finishes and hanging artwork came in :) Just my .02

    Andrea V.

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  43. Fascinating and fabulous post as usual. I love the library also - especially love how dark it is which surprises me as I'm usually into more light.

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  44. What I can never understand is why new homeowners can't see past the paint selection on the walls or the existing furniture. Come on people if you don't like the red living room you can always paint it!

    My favorite is the exterior with the crushed stone pathways.

    I know that staging homes is a very big business and there are definitely many homeowners who really could use this service. However, this home doesn't need any staging IMO. It looks comfortable, well used and loved.

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  45. Look at that kitchen! Lovely style and feels like you're in the middle of the Provence! But with a bit of American style also!, lol...

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  46. Very interesting post, Joni. I believe you are very close in your idea of the owners.

    I spotted that fabric swatch too. She wants to lighten the mood with some updating of the room, perhaps.

    I wonder, too, why they are selling. A young couple in our development is selling their home, that is only about 4 years old. It's a gorgeous home, pool, pool house, recreation room/bar in lower level. I had an odd idea they would not live there long, from the beginning and guessed the reason it's selling before I heard about it. Divorce is the reason for it being on the market. Not decorated/furnished at all. It is a home/house built for partying. We believe one of them wasn't a partier. Alas, it's on the market.

    Just some neighborhood "gossip" from, Pat

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  47. PLEASE tell me why I can't hang my dining room mirror horizontally. I have a very long buffet and hanging it horizontally works but after your commetn I wonder....

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  48. Okay Joni, I'm ready for you to set up an analysis blog for interiors! We can send in our photos of our home and be "analyzed". Sort of a house horoscope! What FUN that would be for US!

    When I saw the FIRST photo, I feared you thought it a room worth investigating and worried you'd "lost your touch". Relief that it was not so. :)

    As for your assessment, in THAT price bracket, it's hard to tell if the rooms truly reflect the owners or what the owners WANT us to think about them. But it's fun to hypothesize!

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  49. Exquisite. Joni, you should give the link for the listing and save us the hassle of going through house after house to find this beauty.

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  50. I enjoyed your assessment. I am curious about your "paint doors black" comment. I am contemplating such a thing. Can you recommend a paint color and sheen please?
    Dee

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  51. Hi Joni, I was referring in my post to the photo of the first room - the lovely brown sofas and chairs et al - I think I must have made it sound like I thought there were 2 houses...

    You are the first designer to post on my website. I may be finished driving again for awhile; today I went to Calico Corners to pick up some samples for my living room...

    You should have seen my tractor when I was driving over the road. The bunk had custom bedspread, lovely sheets and a feather bed. Many pillows. The other drivers (very few actually saw it) loved it, even the men. It was a fabulous adventure and I miss it a lot.

    I loved the freedom of it. You get to spend a great deal of time by yourself, and that works for me. I listened to a lot of books on tape and a lot of NPR. I didn't make enough to afford XM Radio, but found I really didn't need it. I love driving - still do and if someone needs for me to drive them I'm ready. I was driving the wheels off my car and just decided one day to get a commercial driver's license (CDL) because I like big trucks. After a couple of months of school and living with my trainer in a space the size of a small walk-in closet for 6 weeks I was off on my own as a solo driver. I went to 42 states in 2 years. I designed rooms in my mind and buildings to build in the future. The best part may be that NO ONE can micro-manage you. That is something that just makes me crazy. And the older I get the crazier it makes me.

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  52. love that glossy block woodwork in the library and entry- it's a brave and bold move, and it completely works. the faux finish above the wood in the entry, not so much but hey- it's not my house.

    love the crashed stone on the exterior paths as well- so perfect.

    and joni- you have a great ey for detail- the french door hardware is lovely. in a photo, i doubt i would have noticed, but as a designer, i know that's the kind of thing that in person makes a room special...

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  53. I think you are right about them not socializing much. The front of the home looks as though they are trying to hide from the rest of the world.

    The entrance is pure wow factor and it connects to the style of the library perfectly, they might not have had an interior designer work on these two rooms but they for sure had custom wood work done by a specialist.

    Upon seeing the drawing room I got the feeling that yes this was all passed down in the family...... the house, furniture, etc., and it almost seems like there is someone that is dictating that they leave everything alone, possilby the person who passed the furniture to them? I also see a couple of modern paintings in the drawing room, so someone is trying to express something?

    I think the kitchen and breakfast area was done by a designer. In Tennessee designers are always doing a mix match of chairs in the breakfast areas. Also the sweedish farm look and modern lighting strays from the classic english antiques and style they have in the rest of the home.

    One thing for sure is that when you step onto this property you truly go back in time.

    Lovely post.

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  54. Wow, what a difference from the usual ugly brown stuff, and so much nicer than the staged decor you see everywhere. I love all the art, and the antique furniture. I would love to cook and share a meal in that kitchen. And I love that library, although I do see how the seagrass and white upholstered pieces would be an improvement. Thanks for the tour!
    xoxo,
    Mary

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  55. Loved this post!!! That first room looks like an ad staged for Costco or something. Awful. Anyway, this was a fascinating read! Thanks. I love beautiful rooms through the eyes of an "unprofessional" photographer (whether from a real estate agent or you) because the rooms seem more real, somehow. Like another reader, I'd love to see the bedrooms! And I agree with you about the seagrass and white in that library.
    My opinion is that if she's looking at fabric samples, there is not a divorce-- wouldn't that be the last thing on your mind? Maybe he got a business opportunity they couldn't pass up to spend a couple of years in France or London? Or the 130 year old mansion they've always been madly in love with FINALLY went on the market and they just have to get in there and renovate it...

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  56. I often wonder why people sell their beautiful houses as well. I really don't have a strong opinion on this one - I'd say they are probably moving because the house is filled with personal touches - and that's not something you just tire of.
    I will say that I DO think that a designer was consulted for this house - probably one they've worked with before on other houses. That would explain some of the outdated upholstery - the clients didn't want to redo that stuff just then when they were first moving in. Several things make me think this - but most of all is the rug in the living room. It's from Stark. Also, the kitchen is very well done. Very efficient - and done for someone who likes to cook - but I still see a designer's touch there.

    I think this is a really really cool house. The entryway and library make me think of the game "Clue" - it's very very English Manor. But the other parts are softer... it's interesting.
    I think you should pitch this as a show on TV... "the House Psychologists: What Your Home Says About You". I'd watch!!

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  57. The couple that owns this wonderful home loves Europe, especially the gardens. They have been married for awhile and have blended their unique tastes and personalities. They have also learned the art of compromise.

    His rooms are the entry way and library. Hers are the kitchen and breakfast room. He likes order and symentry, she is more carefree and whimsical.

    She is sentimental and will recover those sofa's over and over through the years. She also has a lot of wedding present looking candle sticks around. He loves the more traditional paintings, she has collected the more modern pieces.

    The dining room was also inherited. That is a room only used on holidays.

    This is so much fun. Thanks for my daily respite.

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  58. There is something so wonderful about the written word in your hands. I love the library!!!

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  59. Interesting house! But what's with the sound-proof room? They seem to have extreme privacy already - If they don't entertain much and even have a recognizable front door - why does he need to hide his conversations from his partner?

    hmmm.....

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  60. I love perusing the MLS, lots of beautiful interiors on the Los Angeles MLS. I could never describe them as well as you do though. As always, an interesting and informative post. That kitchen is wonderful, the entry and kitchen alone would sell that home.

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  61. That is a grande hallway! And that library! wow

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  62. Love your blog...I'm a Texan, too....

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  63. Uh oh! I have a horizontal mirror in my dining room! I'll get that changed ASAP. (Please don't hold it against me . . .)

    Angela P.

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  64. Absolutely, I will be doing one of my "hooked on houses" drive-bys....discretely hanging out the SUV window and snapping photos. Sigh. Priced at $3,250,000, it's obviously worth every penny. No Tuscan-inspired, faux stucco, concrete lions at the entrance, Houston builder's special for me.

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  65. J,
    you are such a good read. Isnt it refreshing to see a one in a million home thats not sooo cookie cutter boring? This one is a sparkler, for sure.
    Lisa
    coastal Nest

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  66. Fascinating article on the Kennedys...impressive research.

    However, with all due respect...

    "House after house is filled with brown or black poufy leather sofas with matching chairs, floors that are stained a color that could only be described as light orange, humongous TV systems that overtake the room, terrible window treatments like these limp, arched, curtains...". Wow, harsh! This is someone's home--very hurtful if this post was pointed out to them. IMO.

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  67. "Jane" - actually that comment was about 90 percent of the houses in HOuston, so that's a lot of hurt people. I only showed that picture because of the leather furniture. If the owners didn't want their house up for scrutiny, I suspect they wouldn't have it on the internet. And trust me, by the looks of it, I don't think they really care about their decor that much. Most people really don't and have a sense of humor about their lack of decor. But - you have a point, I do try not to be overly insensitive in my criticisms - but this is MY blog where I express my opinions about decor and like I said, the image was obtained publically.

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  68. I'm going to guess that both of these people are tall! I find this house pretty overwhelming - lots of oversized things. I have a pretty typical suburban 4-bedroom house in NW Houston. It's pretty hard to do much with it. (I did take out the corner bar in the family room!!)

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  69. I love your pictures!

    but I'm curious...why never hang a mirror horizontally? I totally agree that in some spaces vertical is ABSOLUTELY the way to go...but to say "People, do NOT hang your mirror horizontally! Ever! NEVER!"? Isn't that a bit much? Is there some stylistic/design logic of which I'm unaware?

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  70. I love going through all the pictures, and I absolutely love your blog! I am so glad my dear friend, Laurie told me about it! It's fun to surmise about their life. Connie/puddin07

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  71. Another great blog - I could spend all day looking at the beautiful pictures you've taken or have found to describe your design sensibilities and tastes. I too love that dining room, but alas, hubby would be rather upset if I decided to paint all our bungalow's natural woodwork high-gloss ebony. What a beautiful home though, and in such a lovely neighborhood too! I hate the humidity of Houston, but to live in that house, in that neighborhood, with that garden - I might just learn to deal with it! Great post!

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  72. i will tell you, the owner (man) designed and built that house, head to toe. the wife did add some touches with her own antiques and furniture. notice in the kitchen that there are no "toe kicks," true to the era.
    im loving the descriptions of the owners- no they did not meet in moscow and is a second marriage for both. they also have 5 kids between them, and you're right, no grandkids! ages range from 18-28. the husband is extremely brilliant... i will leave the rest to your imagination and not spoil the fun! :)

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  73. "Katie- from August 18th"- you are wrong about all of the above- COSTCO? really? your opinion about the seagrass is fine..but the rest is wrong :) but you can keep guessing!

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  74. ... i dont think the owners would even know what costco is. probably never been inside one?
    in the words of everyone's favorite, Paris Hilton, "what's a walmart?"

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  75. wait!!!!! She is NOT talking about the beautiful house being like Costco - she is talking about the 1st picture of the ugly house!!!! Not the house in River Oaks. Go back to the blog and you will see - that first room is from a home in Bellaire. hahahah!!! And I think I know who one of the Anons is! thanks so much - this is fun.
    Joni

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  76. Joni...I love your imagination and your eloquence. I too, look at the Atlanta MLS and am so discouraged by what I see "designers" do. It all looks the same. Big furniture, no character, matchy-matchy...uggghhh.
    The black staircase is beautiful...I would love to do that, but my husband would croak!

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