27 July 2012

This is Houston? No Seagrass? No Slipcovers?

 

What? A house in Houston without seagrass or slipcovers and no shabby, faux antiques???? Seriously?

 

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   The new Luxe magazine,  Houston edition, has the most gorgeous cover.  It stopped me cold and I ripped it open, looking for the house that this beautiful check-laden room belonged to.  If you are from Houston, you might have seen the article – but if not, I want to share it with you.  The cover is a room in this house, below, which is so wonderful I couldn’t stop staring at it! 

 

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The Federal Style House near downtown Houston – could it be more charming or beautiful? 

The most interesting fact about the house is who owns it – the dynamic designing duo of interior designer Michael Siller and his partner, rug designer and CEO of Hokanson Carpets, Larry Hokanson.  Once learning these two were behind this white Federal style beauty, I’m wasn’t surprised at all.  This is just the latest in a series of houses that they’ve lived in – and each has been a very special treat.  This Federal style house and their previous one, a Neoclassical style house, are both the work of San Francisco and NYC based architect John Ike of Ike, Kligerman Barkley Architects.

 

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The Summer Derby House

 

The Siller/Hokanson house is based on the 1794 Summer Derby House, built by Samuel McIntire, in Massachusetts.   The Summer Derby house was moved in 1901 to Glen Magna Farms, which is today a popular wedding venue.   Considered one of the finer examples of Federal style in the United States, the Summer Derby house is a National Historic Landmark.   The resemblance to the Houston house is remarkable.  If you look at the two houses, you can see that the corner urns are included in the Houston house, but the two large wooden figures of the shepherdess and the reaper were excluded.  Other similar details are both houses are white with black accents and the arched  window placements are the same as are the shutters and door.  The main differences are the center window is much larger in the Houston house and the wing that juts out  to the right side is unique to the Houston house.  The fabulous picket fence and gate that surrounds the Houston property also sets it apart from the Summer Derby House. 

 While the exterior of the house is a rare look for Houston, the interiors are too.   Houston is known for its slipcovers, light linens, and painted antiques, but Michael Siller definitely marches to his own fabulous beat.  His personal aesthetic is far from what I call the “Houston Look.”  He has a love of fine antiques – the finest there are.  He loves color and pattern and delicate silks.  And most importantly, he and Hokanson have a particular affinity for anything Russian – Royal Russian, that is.   This love of Imperial Russia all started when Hokanson read the best selling biography Nicholas and Alexandra.  I can totally relate.  I read the same book and became consumed with the mystery of the Princess Anastasia who was purported to have escaped the execution that killed her entire family, including her parents the Czar Nicholas and Czarina Alexandra.   For years – almost her entire adult lifetime – the Polish Anna Anderson proclaimed she was the missing Anastasia.   Some relatives of the European Royalty families, believed her story and visited their “cousin”  sporadically during her long life.  Unfortunately for Anna, DNA testing became available  - and after her death, she was proven to be a fraud.  The real Anastasia’s bones along with her brother, were eventually found – separate from the rest of their family – and DNA also proved this.  One of the great mysteries of the Russian Revolution was cleared up, thanks to modern technology.  The story of the of the Romanovs, the Russian royal family, with their untold riches, glorious palaces and opulent lifestyle, along with the misery of the hemophilia which struck the crown Prince, is a great romantic tale of epic proportions.  Since I too fell under the spell of the Romanov’s tale, I can understand how Hokanson, and then Siller, got hooked on everything Russian.    Most exciting though, the two were fortunate enough to take their obsession a little further than most of us. 

When designing their previous house – the Neoclassical one, Siller and Hokanson went to St. Petersburg’s State Hermitage Museum where they were interviewed for two days by curators in hopes of purchasing some reproductions of the royal furniture.  The designing duo had a list of antiques from the Hermitage they wanted copied – but first they had to pass inspection to see if they and their house were worthy.  The number of people who are in possession of these Russian reproductions is  quite small, actually tiny, and includes European royalty.  Siller and Hokanson, along with the plans for their house, passed the inspection and today are owners of exquisite furniture hand made and hand carved in the same exact manner and out of the same material as they were originally crafted.  Besides these pricey reproductions, they have a large collection of Russian art work and antiques.  They happily lived in their Russian inspired Neoclassical house for several years, before the bug to create a new house bit them.  They spent several years with John Ike, fine tuning the plans for their new house – laboring over each and every tiny detail – and that house became the Federal style house seen in Luxe magazine.

For this new house, Siller changed up his color scheme. Instead of the more vibrant reds, bright yellows and forest greens of their former house, there is now a sea of gray, platinum and silver which Siller feels updates the look of the period antiques.  But, have no fear, despite being primarily gray, there is nothing Shabby Chic or Rough Luxe about this house.   Instead it is a house that is the height of elegance and rarefied taste. 

Despite the changes in the color scheme, one design element didn’t change.  Both houses that Ike designed for Siller and Hokanson are Piano Nobiles, with the main floor being on the second story.   Additionally, both houses have intricate and extensive molding and classic detailing.  One interesting note – when a prominent Houston couple toured Siller’s former house, they tried to buy it from him and Hokanson.  At the time they wanted to stay put, so instead, Ike designed a Piano Nobile in the Georgian style, right next door – and Siller decorated it. 

 

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The two houses designed by architect John Ike.  The one on the right, the Neoclassical styled house, is Siller & Hokanson’s first collaboration with Ike.  The house on the left was built a few years later – and Siller did the interiors for that house too.    As you can see, their former has a much dressier façade than the one they live in today.   Read about the Georgian house in Architectural Digest HERE.

 

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The Federal styled house is only two rooms deep.  On the first floor there is the kitchen and guest room.  On the main floor is the living room, with a solarium, and master bedroom.  The dining room doubles as the grand entrance.   Through a bridge – two studies are found over the garage – one for each  man.  The ceilings on the main floor are 15’ high which affords them wonderful views over the verdant landscape of their neighborhood.

I have photographs of both this new house from Luxe, along with their former house which was seen in Architectural Digest.  First, we’ll look at the new, Federal Style house.   Ready to go inside? 

 

The Ground Floor:

 

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You enter through the double black doors into the large European styled lobby.  The entrance double as the dining room.  Flanking the front door are the large portraits of the Czarina Alexandra and the Czar Nicholas - not seen – commissioned from the Hermitage Museum.

 

 

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At the other end of the entrance hall are the two sets of doors from the Hermitage Museum.  The doors are made of five different woods and were moved here from their previous house.   Normally the chairs are placed around the walls rather than at the table.  The chandelier is one of three from Russia.  Notice the gorgeous moldings – they are incredible! 

 

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Here the chairs are set at the table.  Siller and Hokanson had 12 of these chairs made –based on one they saw in Russia that had been made for Alexander 1.   The Hermitage put provisions on the reproductions – each piece had to be the same exact size and made of same materials as the originals.  This way, the new pieces would be exact copies.  

 

 

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The floors are white marble.  Between the white columns is a wall of antiqued mirror.  In front, is a carved stone urn.  Notice the beautiful cabinet.  What an entry hall!  Behind the doors is the staircase and the kitchen and a guest room.  The walls are a warm gray, with a yellow/green undertone as opposed to a cool gray with a blue undertone.  I love the color against the white molding.

 

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A close up detail of the exquisite doors.

 

 

 

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Behind the wood doors is the stair hall which runs horizontally to the house. It’s hard to tell if it is lined with brick or that is wallpaper!

 

 

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On the wall is a portrait of the Russian Crown Prince  Alexis who suffered terribly from hemophilia.   This untreatable, at the time, disease ran through many of the European royal houses which were populated with the children and grandchildren of Queen Victoria who was a carrier.

 

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Past the stairhall is the kitchen.   White marble and subway tiles, with European styled cabinets.   The chairs are from Crate and Barrel, wow!  Siller mixes high and low just like everybody!   The light fixture is from Houston’s Visual Comfort aka Circa Lighting.

 

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Looking towards the other view. Through the door you can see the entry hall/dining room with the portrait of Czar Nicholas.  Great lamp on the island. 

 

THE PIANO NOBILE LEVEL:

 

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The first room shown is the gray living room on the Piano Nobile floor.  The gilt & wood console is one of the pieces made by the Hermitage Museum.  The chandelier is another reproduction from Russia, one of three in the house.  The plate on the mantel is from Alexander I!!  Wow.  I love the French trumeau and the oil painting over the console.  All rugs are by Hokanson, of course.  Love the gray silk curtains.  Be sure to notice the molding – it is amazing, especially the architrave over the doors.  You can see the check room through the doorway.  I have to say, this living room is prettier than the Green Room in the White House. 

 

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Looking towards the back of the room – the staircase and master bedroom are through the doors on either side of the sofa.

 

 

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  Close up view of the living room, showing a collection of modern art.

 

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The living room is so elegant and serene.  Beautiful! 

 

   

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My absolute favorite room is the solarium!  Taupe check from Marvic covers all the French antiques.  The walls are papered in a birch tree print.  The plates on the wall are from a set of 16,000 from 1820 – part of a Russian dowry!!!   So beautiful!!! This room leads off the living room and is at the front of the house where all the beautiful arched windows are!

 

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  On the day bed, I spy a pillow from Restoration Hardware – I know because I have it too.  Aww, me and Michael are just so alike!!!  (I wish!!!!)

 

 

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These two French corner slipper chairs are the cutest things I have EVER seen!!!!  This is the front of the house – where the center arched window is.  It overlooks the front yard and street.

 

 

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  I would be right here, 24/7, with my laptop.  Maybe my favorite room ever!!!

 

 

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The master bedroom on the second floor is taupe gray. Notice the medallions on the crown molding. The oriental chest on the right is beautiful! The portrait is of  a Russian royal Princess.

 

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Another, brighter picture of the bedroom.   The curtains are in such perfect proportion to the tall ceilings, as is the bed canopy.  Siller is a master at details and execution. 

 

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A vignette in the bedroom – with two of the Russian Hermitage chairs around an antique desk.  Notice the beautiful frames on the paintings.

 

 

 

 

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Over the garage wing, each owner has his own study.  Hokanson’s shown here is an octagon while Siller’s is in an ellipse shape.  Notice that magnificent globe!!!   The portrait is of a Russian guard.   No pictures of Siller’s office, unfortunately.  The chandelier is the third reproduction made by the Hermitage Museum.    The golden color on the upholstery is inspired by the Russian palace.

 

 

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Of course, writing this story made me want to revisit the magazine stories about their previous Ike house – one was in Architectural Digest – and the other in Gloss.  Also, I had the original pictures from the real estate sale which I showed on my blog – my first year - 2007. 

 

 

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Google Map:   Close up of the Neoclassical white house, the former house of Siller and Hokanson.  It is a Piano Nobile, with the main floor on the second level.  This house is certainly more formal than their current one.  It also appears to be a lot larger. 

 

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WOW!!!!  The colors in this Neoclassical styled house are much brighter than in the new house with its grays and platinums.  Here the living room, on the second level, is all red and gold.  Though it resembles the Russian palaces, the elegance and fine antiques remind me more of the Red Room in the White House!  Again, Hokanson rugs throughout.  Do you notice any of the same pieces of furniture from their new house?   The gray trumeau, the mantelscape, the chandelier, the chinoiserie tea table – are all the same, as are the French chairs and sofas.    Notice the gorgeous molding in this room!   How different it all looks in the gray silks.  Which do you like better – the red version or the gray?  BTW, Hokanson Carpets has designed a rug for the White House.   

 

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Looking the other direction:   here you can see the gorgeous architecture – the curving stair overlooks the living room separated from the hall by four massive columns.  Isn’t this room gorgeous?  Look how high the ceilings are!  It’s so elegant.  I will say – seeing the elegant staircase makes me miss one like this in the new house.  This staircase curves through 3 levels.  Just stunning. 

 

 

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Looking from the stair lobby into the living room – this picture looks so much darker, but I do think the reds are more vibrant than they look here.   You can see the stairs reflected in the trumeau over the fireplace. I bet this was an especially gorgeous room at night.  Notice the two portraits of the Czar and Czarina which are now in the entry hall of the new house.   

 

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Looking through to the dining room. 

 

 

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The dining room has the commissioned reproduction chairs – upholstered in deep Russian royalty gold.  The chandelier is one of the three made in Russia.  This is one of my favorite rugs! 

 

 

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The green check library.   The portrait above is the Crown Prince Alexis.

 

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  The other view of the study.   That’s an old Russian uniform. 

 

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The master bedroom is filled with French antique.  I might prefer this version to the new house.  I like the browns.  Pretty ottoman. 

 

  I hope you have enjoyed this look at the interiors of Michael Siller and the rugs of Larry Hokanson!   It’s so nice to see a Houston house that isn’t just seagrass and slipcovers for a change!!!!   The Luxe issue is now online if you want to read it HERE.

Be sure to visit Michael J. Siller Interior’s web site HERE to read the various magazine articles and see more photographs from his portfolio.  Also, be sure to visit his Facebook page – I found several pictures of the house there and there are lots more!!!  HERE.

To visit Hokanson Carpets – go HERE.

  To order the biography that inspired Sillers and Hokanson’s obsession with Russian Royalty – click on the title at the right, below: