Two Houses, Two Additions, Same Architect



In Houston, there have been many architects who have left their mark on the city.  Perhaps the one most associated with Houston is John Staub, who designed some of the original houses in exclusive River Oaks.  There were others,  greats, like Philip Johnson whose  soaring buildings certainly changed our landscape.    Today, there is a new crop of younger talents who have risen up along with all the custom houses built, many on lots where the older ones have been torn down.   One of my personal favorite of today’s residential architects is Kurt Aichler.   So many of the houses I admire are ones he designed for clients – each is different, each unique.   Over the years his reputation has grown along with his portfolio.   Any house designed by him is always proudly identified as such in real estate brochures and on neighborhood tours.     My own dream house was built by Aichler and every time I drive by it, I slow to a crawl and look at it longingly – as if one day it might truly be mine. 

While Aichler has mostly designed custom houses for clients from the ground up – there are some that he tastefully and sensitively renovated.   One of the houses shown here today is a true addition, made to a house built in the 1930s.  The other house shows an addition to a house he originally designed.  These two houses are vastly different – which certainly shows the range of the man.    I hope you enjoy them!




Kurt Aichler House #1

An eagle-eyed  Cote de Texas reader emailed me about a house that was just listed for sale in Houston:  “Quick – go look, you are going to love it!”  Of course I did – what is not to love about a charming cottage with cute as can be dormer windows?  But really got my attention was that Kurt Aichler had designed its addition.   Addition?    What addition?   All you can really see is how adorable the house is – a small cottage with a  picket fence and a cobblestone walkway.    Once the house had truly revealed itself, I was wondering if I could afford it and how fast could I move in?    The facade is an illusion -   Aichler left it untouched so that it would blend in with the neighborhood.    His goal was certainly reached:  from the front it is virtually impossible to see how large the addition is.    It is also impossible to see from the street that this house was designed by Aichler.


image Once inside the picket fence – an English styled garden is revealed with flowerbeds on all sides.  


The house for sale is located in one of Houston’s older and more beautiful neighborhoods, Southampton, the one area I would truly love to move to.  House after house is just as charming as this.   Unlike in my neighborhood, West University, many houses here have been restored instead of torn down.   Even the newly built houses in Southampton are special – most avoid that cookie-cutter red brick faux Georgian style that plagues my area.  But, without a doubt, what really makes this neighborhood special (besides all the towering oak trees and lush landscaping) is the alleys!   Alleys mean there are  no front loading garages overshadowing the houses.  And alleys mean there are no driveways up and down the street.  Instead, without all the excess concrete,  Southamptons’ front yards meld into one another with large expanses of grass and flowerbeds.  The current trend against alleys is certainly regrettable especially in areas where the lots are so tiny that all you see are garages on top of garages.




The Front Living Room.

Ready to go inside?   To the left of the front door is the living area – are you drooling right now?  I am, for sure.   The white walls are highlighted by gray painted moldings.   Newly installed doors on both sides of the fireplace lead to the side yard.  A wonderful, worn antique rug in pinks and greens blends with the French settee which is covered in a pink and cream antique textile.    A large canvas behind the sofa is in perfect proportion – almost as if it was painted to fill that space.   I love this type of designing – where each piece was purchased because someone loved it – as opposed to because they needed it.    Nothing here screams decorator or interior designer – instead it looks like the house is owned by someone who knows herself, her style, someone who doesn’t need any help with her house, someone who is probably as chic as her interiors!



The Formal Dining Room.

Across from the front living room is the dining room with its mixture of antique furniture.   Simply hung linen curtains soften the look.    A trendy Italian styled candlestick fixture lights the room, while a large armoire anchors it.  Two different styles of chairs surround the stone topped table creating extra interest.  




The Kitchen/Breakfast Room.


Once past the living room and dining room – you enter into the two story addition where the drama of the Aichler addition begins.   Here, the flooring changes from wood planks to a wonderful herringbone pattern which has a very Belgian look to it.    In the kitchen, thick countertops and no overhead cabinets sets the mood - saying this is no ordinary kitchen.  Instead of being a utilitarian space, it almost looks as if it is an art gallery with all the paintings.  I wonder if the owner is an artist?    Notice the worn antique runner in the long galley area:  using decorative items such as the rug and the lamp in a kitchen is a great way to warm up the space and humanize it.    The bar stools are fabulous and add an industrial touch  - all the different styles make the space eclectic and interesting.  




The Breakfast Area.


Looking from the kitchen sink out towards the breakfast area and the side courtyard.  Notice the wonderful wooden shelf holding all the dishes, glasses and cookbooks.   Two antique chairs surround a small iron table.  But, to be sure,  it’s the huge steel door that steals the show here.  How glorious it is!!!!!    Of course there are no curtains here – the windows are a work of art!   These steel beauties, along with the wood floor further the Belgian vibe that runs through this space.  




Kitchen and Breakfast Room.

In this view of the kitchen – you can the wonderful farm sink – I just love these large sinks! And to the left – is the brick wall from the original house, left exposed.  Through this opening – you can see into the front living room. 




One last view of the kitchen/breakfast room – showing the opening that leads to the family room and music room beyond it. 





Family Room.

Walking past the kitchen and breakfast room is a large family room.  The space is furnished with comfy, cushy slipcovered furniture in linen along with an assortment of wood antique tables mixed with a contemporary glass coffee table.  Another huge canvas provides the color.   A pass through divides the family room from the music room on the other side of the wall.  Seagrass completes the room – of course seagrass, this is Houston after all, the seagrass capitol of the world!



The view from the family room into the kitchen/breakfast room.   A large barley twist console holds the TV.   




The Music Room.


The music room, at the back of the house overlooks the rear of the property with its vine covered fence.  I love the Spanish table surrounded by chairs and deftly accessorized with just an urn, a cactus, and an Italian candlestick.     Again large steel windows add that something special here.   The beautiful and graceful stairs leads to the bedrooms upstairs.     The stairs – something so simple – yet there is something so perfect about these.  What is it?  I’m not sure, but they are definitely designed by someone who knows exactly what he is doing and is doing it expertly.  Which is exactly why you would hire Kurt Aichler to design your home.      Just wonderful!!!!!




The Master Bedroom/Bathroom


Upstairs, the master bedroom is furnished with more antiques and a slipcovered headboard with dreamy white linens.  A vintage zebra skin adds an exotic touch, I love the brown tones in the zebra.  This room is so romantic – I halfway expect Karen Blixen to waltz in!   Again, this room has that undecorated look that is so hard to capture.   Very few people can do this look “right” – and this homeowner has it in spades.     Through the door you can see the bathroom with the vanity made from a piece of furniture, a Venetian mirror, and a vessel sink with wall mounted faucet.  It looks like there is an antique rug in here too.    



The Master Bedroom

I just love this room – the beige taffeta curtains, the oval religious portrait, the simple bed, the French antique nightstand with its aged  mirror.    Through the door – you can see the vintage tub that overlooks a window in the bathroom. 




And finally, a view of the original house with the addition.    It’s almost impossible to see the addition from the street – thus the house still fits in the neighborhood with all its small cottages.   The cupola was taken off the original house and put here on top of the addition.   The side yard is huge and there is definitely room for a pool – I wonder if the new owners will add one?   Through the steel windows here – you can see the family room, then the kitchen/breakfast room and there appears to be another steel window where the brick house connects to the addition.    The formal living room is seen in the brick house, where the window is.    The three bedrooms are all upstairs.  



Kurt Aichler House #2


Readers of Cote de Texas may remember that the house where The Fabulous Flea is located was also built by Kurt Aichler.  The house was built first, and then a few years later, the adjoining lot was purchased and the fabulous showroom space to the right of the house was added along with a pool house.   With the addition, Aichler gave the walled compound a country-like atmosphere in the middle of the city.   This is one of my favorite Aichler properties – The Fabulous Flea house.



image The addition where the Fab Flea is located.  Open window fully to see pictures, or click on it.  


The Fabulous Flea antique business was moved into the Aichler addition – a large space divided into two rooms.  The carriage door designed by Aichler is so charming, as is the awning that marks the proper entrance into the shop.  The Fabulous Flea sells fabulous, of course! antiques mostly from France, procured on trips taken several times a year.   To visit the Fabulous Flea, go HERE and make an appointment.   Don’t be shy!  They love appointments!  And, if you don’t live in Houston – you can still shop there on the web site.




The addition to the Fab Flea house is divided into two areas, the studio with its soaring ceiling is on one side.  OMG – it’s too beautiful for words in there!!!!



imageThe Fabulous Flea Showroom. 

The left side is the “showroom.”  I took these pictures a few months ago and that table with the scrolled base in now in my daughter’s room!  I couldn’t resist it!   I love that settee too with its scalloped top and bottom – just beautiful.  Through the window you can see the main house.  Between the Fab Flea addition and the main house is the swimming pool and pool house designed by Aichler.   If you have never been to the Fab Flea – I really recommend going – if only just to see this space.  I can’t think of many antique stores that are prettier.



image The Swimming Pool between the main house and the pool house.

The Fab Flea house and shop were featured in the newest issue of Antique Stores and Designers from which these pictures were taken.  Here is the pool house – thick stucco arches lead into the open space where there is a large outdoor fireplace, a bar, and a kitchen.    The Fab Flea Shop is set on an axis with the Pool House – all designed to perfection by Aichler. 



image The Pool House.

On this side of the pool house is an outdoor kitchen, bar and dining table.   Through the doorway is the Fab Flea shop.   Is this Houston or Belgium?  Hard to tell! 


imageThe Pool House.

I took this picture of the pool house last year.   The horns are wonderful above the fireplace.   I love how Aichler designed the open windows above the niches holding firewood.    Notice the play between the arched openings and the straight openings with the circular window topping it all.   



The Living Room.

Inside the main house, in the living room – slipcovered furniture in linen is child and pet friendly.   The sofa has wonderful lines – I love its tall, scalloped back.    The house is almost Spartan in feel – there are no fancy moldings or built ins.  The trim is very restrained.   The walls are painted white.   Everything is calming – there are no jarring colors or patterns.  Linen is found everywhere.   It would be a very peaceful and quiet house – if it wasn’t filled with a lively family and lots of pets!


image The Family Room.

Through arched doors is the family room with its linen sofa and cream colored console.  Contemporary pieces blend with antiques.  Through this window you can see the pool house.




The Kitchen

I love the Fab Flea’s kitchen!   The light fixture is wonderful – and I really like open shelves.    She has a mix of ironstone and silver, which is so attractive together.   And of course, there is a farm sink.





The Master Bedroom


And finally, the master bedroom has a tall vaulted ceiling with an antique light fixture.  The end tables are slip covered in linen, and the headboard is tufted.  Wall to wall seagrass, of course!  The large tapestry brings in the color – as does the bench with its silk velvet fabric.   The owner of the Fab Flea is another woman with great style and an instinctive sense of how to put it all together.    She is another chic woman who chose Kurt Aichler to design her house.   Is there a theme here?  


Pictures of the Fabulous Flea were taken from the magazine Antiques Shops and Designers HERE.  Photographer: James Farmer HERE.

If you are interested in buying the house designed by Kurt Aichler in Southampton, go HERE for more information. 

It’s Complicated in Traditional Home


It's Complicated

Nancy Meyers new movie “It’s Complicated” stars Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, and Alec Baldwin


I almost had a heart attack late last night,  racing like madwoman to buy the December issue of Traditional Home magazine.  A reader had emailed me, casually asking if I knew that Nancy Meyer’s latest movie, due to arrive in theatres this Christmas Eve, was featured in the magazine? 

“No, I didn’t know.  Are you sure – have you seen it?”   Oh yes, the reader informed me, she had not only seen it, but the issue had been out for a week already.   That was news to me since I subscribe to Traditional Home – where is my copy??!!?     At the store, I had to pay more for this one issue than a two year subscription, but who cares?  There was no way I was going to wait patiently for my own magazine to arrive - I wanted to see those pictures NOW!

In case you are new to Cote de Texas,  I am slightly obsessed with Nancy Meyers, the film writer/director behind  classics such as Something’s Gotta Give, The Holiday, The Parent Trap, and Father of the Bride to name a few.   Meyers is something of a design aficionado and in her last two movies, Something’s Gotta Give and The Holiday,  the movies houses were almost more of  the star of the show than the actors.   The promise of a new Nancy Meyers movie has kept design lovers anxiously waiting with this question:  will her new movie’s house be as great as the one  in Something’s Gotta Give?  That one – the beach house in the Hamptons -  started a national trend of white kitchens with subway tile backsplashes, black countertops, and dark wood floors.   The Something’s Gotta Give house is probably the most favorite movie house ever – overtaking Tara for the top spot.  




Something’s Gotta Give’s famous living room with it’s slipcovered furniture, blue and white striped dhurri, Mora clock, white walls, dark hardwoods and Hamptons style architecture is probably the most loved movie house of all time.  Despite the movie now being over six years old, magazines still feature houses that are designed in what they describe as a “Something’s Gotta Give” style.




The dining room – with the linen floral slipcovered chairs, sisal rug, and white ironstone filled shelves was a particularly attractive room.



something1 A rarely seen shot of the famous SGG kitchen.  The countertops were not really slate, but were just painted wood – in this picture you can see evidence of that movie trick for the first time. 




The new movie from Nancy Meyers:  It’s Complicated – stars Meryl Streep,  Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin.   For Meyers fans - the most important credit is the pairing of Production Designer Jon Hutman with Set Decorator Beth Rubino.  This is their first movie together since Something’s Gotta Give.  Rubino was absent during the The Holiday shoot. 


 image The movie is a love triangle between the stars, but this scene seems oddly familiar!




The famous bedroom scene from Something’s Gotta Give with Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson.   Director Nancy Meyers is shown working her magic.   



The star of It’s Complicated:  a 1920’s Mediterreanean house in Santa Barbara that Meryl Streep remodels with the help of her architect turned lover Steve Martin. 


 image It’s Complicated – the main living room

Film writer Nancy Meyers says that since so much of the movie is filmed inside the house, she wanted Streep to look good in it.  Thus, the interiors were done in creams with punches of orange – to play up Streep’s peaches and cream complexion.  Meyers was heavily influenced by the trendy Belgian style and that was the starting point for the interiors.  Certainly, the oversized, comfortable slipcovered furniture shown in the living room above reflects the Belgian look, as does the large x-motif coffee table with its slate top.   I love the pillows on the sofa, but the blue ones don’t do much for me, I’m afraid.  The rug looks interesting – a textured style with a stripe running through it.  I love the window seat and the steel windows and I particularly like the furniture arrangement with the four chairs – two pairs, two odd ones, circling the coffee table. 


image In this picture of the living room, taken from the movie’s trailer – you can see the large slipcovered sofa with the assortment of orange pillows – solid and patterned.   Behind the sofa just out view is a bleached wood console with lamps – further reflecting the Belgian vibe.  This scene is when Streep announces to her shocked friends that she is having an affair!


image And across from the sofa is this large limed wood French armoire.  In this scene Streep wears an outfit done in browns and oranges that perfectly coordinates with the interiors.  The colors of the walls and pillows look much more muted in the trailer than in the Traditional Home pictures.



image Here you can see thst behind the sofa is a long, Belgian styled console table topped with two lamps.



image Off the entry hall is another bleached wood console – surrounded by white plates hanging on the wall.   Those lanterns look like the ones from Vintage Vagabond.  In this scene  - who knows what is going on????





The kitchen and dining room.


This kitchen plays an important role in the movie as it is remodeled by Streep and her architect.  I love the island – it looks like it is made of a vintage steel piece with a thick slab of Carrara marble on top of it.   There is a double range to the right of the sink, and to the left are exposed shelves.  Underneath, is a linen skirt instead of cabinet doors.  I love the zinc pendant lights and the large dining room table.  The dining room is separated from the kitchen by a thick arched wall – and the flooring is different in both rooms.  Again, these rooms are bathed in creamy tones with orange accents.  It all looks so charming and authentic – no word yet if the house was constructed for the movie – or if the interiors were built on a sound stage.  All those details will probably come out after the movie.     This picture comes from Traditional Home’s December issue. 




image Meryl Streep’s Bedroom.


The bedroom is a cozy and warm space – filled with an assortment of antique furniture from different styles.  An English chest is paired with a French Louis Philippe gilt mirror, while a large wood desk serves as a night stand.  The headboard is upholstered and the bed is made up with khaki and white linens and an orange shawl is used as a coverlet.  At the end of the bed is an antique bench.   Linen curtains are hung along with textured blinds.   One of the movies funniest scenes takes place in this bedroom.  




The Master Bathroom.


The bathroom also looks charming with its cast iron tub and limestone floors mixed with the house’s original steel windows.  It appears that a Ghost chair is holding an assortment of towels.  The shower curtain seems to made out of the same linen as the bedroom curtains.   This is a publicity still issued by the studio.   



In this scene –  there is a party, maybe to celebrate the remodeling.  Inside the building, it looks like it was once a garage that has been turned into a family room – with  high ceilings and rafters.   This scene looks so funny in the trailer.   I can’t WAIT to see the movie, it looks so good, plus I want to check out all the interiors up close.  But, I have to say – judging from what I have seen so far, the Something’s Gotta Give house’s crown appears to be safe – it looks like it will remain the favorite movie house of all time.


To read how to get the Something’s Gotta Give look for your own home – what design elements of that house are important to incorporate if you want the same look – go HERE.   To read all about the house in It’s Complicated – pick up the December issue of Traditional Home.

Tablescape Thursday: A Brush With Gloss




Awhile ago, I told you about  a photoshoot I had done with our local paper, The Houston Chronicle.   While the photoshoot was a personal disaster (a very, very sick dog, candle wax drippings all over my silk tablecloth, etc. etc.) – the end results of all the hard work of the photographer and the reporter turned out very nicely, I think. 

Once a month the Chronicle produces a glossy magazine, called Gloss – of course - which concentrates on Houston design, style, fashion, and society.   Their writer had emailed me wondering what one special or sentimental  item did I use over and over again while entertaining.   After laughing hysterically at my being asked about entertaining  – I told the reporter I’d get right back to her with an answer.  Nothing like stalling for time!   The only favorite entertaining  item I could come up with  was my antique silver dome.  The reporter liked that idea and asked for a photograph of it.  Once approved – a date was set and she and the photographer came out to my house to take pictures of this oh-so-special (not!) dome.   I don’t even know what the domes are officially called -  but I’m sure the Victorians had some fancy name for them.    The reporter asked me about their history, but even the antique dealer I contacted drew a blank.   All I know is that I love the way they look.  I own two now – both are large, with finely etched designs – but their main duty is just to gleam on my dining room table, dinner guests or not.  



The two silver domes as they usually are – one stays on the table, while the other rests on the breakfront.  (open window wide to see the full picture.)


Looking at this picture of my dining room as it is today – it’s almost embarrassing how quickly things change around here.     At the photoshoot just a few weeks ago, the shelves were filled with blue and white transferware, but now my new collection of creamware has really changed the room’s appearance.  And this Friday, there will be more changes when those humongous iron sconces go bye-bye.  Thank God!  Those sconces were a mistake from day one.   They are pretty, to be sure, but they totally overpower my small dining room.    They were originally painted black when, in a moment of impaired judgment,  I bought them.  But that first night after being hung, while my stomach was in knots from knowing how wrong I had been in choosing them, I hastily painted the black sconces cream in a desperate attempt to make their size less noticeable.    I can’t wait for their replacements:   dainty gilt sconces, with three arms delicately scrolled.   Anyone want to buy a pair of cream painted sconces???




In truth, it really doesn’t matter that my dining room looks so different today than it did at the Gloss photoshoot because, despite having taken dozens of pictures of the carefully set table, the magazine ended up showing only one tight, closeup shot of the silver dome – similar to this picture above (although Gloss’ photograph is much more professional looking, of course!)     Also in the article, there is a small picture of me, looking a little like a deer caught in the headlights which is exactly how I felt while they were taking the pictures.    In the magazine, I share my “entertaining secret weapon” story with two other much better known designers in town – the talented Andrea Garrity and Cathy Chapman, whom I have long admired.    I truly feel so honored to be in such great company!




The table set for an imaginary dinner party – ready and waiting for the photographer to arrive.


Although I thoroughly enjoyed decorating my table for my pretend dinner party, after it was all over,  I really wished I had spent more time on it and given it more creative thought.  For the tablescape,  I just used what I had and didn’t buy anything special except for the flowers, a few white pumpkins and the green apples.    Where is Eddie Ross when you really need him???? 




Though the Gloss story was due to come out in the November issue – I didn’t want to set a traditional Thanksgiving table – with faux turkeys and pilgrims in reds and oranges.   Instead I used fall themed pumpkins, but in white to blend with my dining room better.   And I added  the bright green apples for the bright pops of color.




When setting the table, I first put down the large napkins to act as a sort of placemat.  When I have a rare, real dinner party, I always top the table with a white linen cloth over a plastic lined one to protect the silk skirt from spills.   For flowers, I typically use pink roses because I think that color goes good with my china.   The mercury glass vases came from Target, on sale, I think I paid $9 for each!  I used two different sets of candlesticks and staggered them – one set is mercury glass, the other is a pair of antique gilded wood altar sticks and I added votives for extra soft light.    Looking at this picture now,  I probably should not have used the mercury glass candlesticks – they hide the painted antique ones that I think are prettier.   Oh well, live and learn.  





For the dishes I used my wedding china that all the women in my family also have:  my mother, my sister, my two aunts and myself all have identical dishes – Haddon Hall by Minton.  This way, if any of us ever gave a dinner party for a huge crowd, we would have a matching set!  I think that is great idea, but the truth is that I just really loved this pattern when I was choosing my china and I still do.   There is a fine celadon colored rim that encircles the pink and yellow flowered dishes, a small detail that I think is so delicate and pretty.   The bubble glasses are copies of the famous Tiffany ones and I added the green wine glasses that I had bought at Pottery Barn years and years ago. 





The dining room window faces east, but since this is such a small town lot – the house next door is just a mere 10 ft away – that once it hits noon, this space quickly gets very dark.  You can see here how dim it looks since this was late in the afternoon.    No wonder why I keep my chandelier and sconces lit all day!   But, I do think that dim dining rooms are more romantic and atmospheric, so the low light has never really bothered me. 





And here is the actual magazine story!   I love the way the photograph of the table came out.   I wonder how they chose this particular shot – they took so many different ones from all different angles.   Being a part of my town’s newspaper was such a special thrill – something that would never have happened it not for the blog and you, the reader.  As always, thank you so much for all your support of Cote de Texas these past few years.  I don’t say that enough – but I feel it every single day!    I wish I could thank you each individually, and though I try to answer the comments, I fall short as the blog takes up more and more time.  But please understand that all your kind words, your affection and your loyalty mean more to me than you will ever know.


 Gloss is online digitally if you want to read it,  go HERE.





I am linking this to Between Naps on the Porch’s Thursday Tablescapes HERE.  Be sure to visit and see all the other tablescapes that are featured today!!!