In the living room of Louann Barnett and Steve Rogersâ€™ townhome, itâ€™s hard to imagine that this light-filled space looking out to a lush ravine was once dark and dated, lined with shutters and yellowing walls.
Not long ago, Barnett was driving through Briar Hollow, near Memorial Park just inside the Loop, looking for a new gym in what she thought was a cluster of office buildings. Instead, she stumbled onto a row of midcentury-style townhomes that looked irresistible. And one was for sale.
Since Barnett, 57, loves scouring Har.com, touring open houses and watching home-dĂ©cor trends, she grabbed her husband and off they went.
They werenâ€™t really looking to move; theyâ€™d spent only a few years in the River Oaks home they renovated top to bottom.
But one step inside the 4,400-square-foot townhouse, and Barnettâ€™s heart raced. Rogers, 62, stopped inside the door to talk to the Realtor, but Barnett made a beeline for the back of the house, where floor-to-ceiling windows showed an unexpected view of three acres of wooded walking trails.
The neighborhood was about a mile and a half from their house in River Oaks, yet they had no idea it even existed. They moved in in April.
Barnett, Rogers and their interior designer, Pamela Oâ€™Brien of Pamela Hope Designs, suspect that the home, built in 1974, may have had some minor updates â€” the dark granite was a dead giveaway â€” but little else had been done in the past 40 years.
An elevated hall runs from the foyer to the living room at the back of the main floor, giving a â€śsunken roomâ€ť feel to everything around it: the kitchen, billiards room, living room and dining room. Originally, those rooms were separated by walls and felt small and dark. Those interior walls were replaced by glass panels with slim wooden handrails that keep the place light and airy but help define the living areas in a transparent way.
For starters, the whole place was gutted. The kitchen was reconfigured, and bathrooms got complete makeovers. The bedrooms are upstairs, and not only were their bathrooms remodeled, but the massive master bedroom was divided to create a third guest room.
A big renovation project isnâ€™t unheard-of, especially as so many homes flooded by Hurricane Harvey get massive makeovers. But Barnett and Rogers had already gone through a similarly sized project with their 4,800-square-foot home in River Oaks â€” work that included all of the interiors, the exterior of the home and a good deal of outdoor work â€” including a summer kitchen, patio and pool house.
All of the space inside and outside the home worked for the way they lived, hosting Barnettâ€™s two daughters and four grandchildren for pool parties, birthdays and holidays. The couple, married 11 years and now retired, founded and sold a business that did system-implementation consulting for corporate legal departments.
What made them want to go through it all over again for a home thatâ€™s not significantly different in size? Home maintenance.
â€śSeveral years ago, I saw a television interview with former Mayor Bob Lanier about why he was leaving his big home in River Oaks for The Huntingdon, and he said that maintaining a big house in River Oaks is like running a small business. And it is,â€ť Rogers said.
â€śWhen youâ€™re working and in that mode, itâ€™s all right to work all the time and come home and work all the time. But when we retired, it wasnâ€™t OK anymore. It was kind of aggravating,â€ť said Barnett, a native of Deer Park. â€śWe wanted to be able to go down to Galveston whenever we wanted to and have more of a lock-and-leave mentality. And that house required constant attention. The (yard) needed attention, or the pool had leaves in it. It was always something.â€ť
Now, though, their townhome community is cared for by a management company that keeps the parking garage clean, maintains the shared pool and handles landscaping. Not only did they no longer have to do all of that work or pay someone to do it, the dramatic price difference in their homes meant a big tax savings. All combined, Rogers guessed that theyâ€™re saving $8,000 a month because of the move.
Oâ€™Brien had helped the couple redesign and decorate their River Oaks home, as well as a Galveston vacation home â€” one that survived the Great Storm of 1900. When they were considering their new Briar Hollow townhome, they asked her to take a look at it, too. LBJ Construction was their contractor.
â€śWhen they called me to say they were going to look at this townhouse, I was shocked. The house has its own enclosed garage inside a parking garage, you donâ€™t have the maintenance or taxes, this house comes with so much nature â€” and you donâ€™t have to take care of it,â€ť she said.
Oâ€™Brien had plenty of ideas for incorporating many of their traditional furnishings into a townhome with more modern bones.
First, the main floor with the kitchen, dining area, billiards room and living room all were covered in large rectangles of polished travertine. Itâ€™s not what youâ€™d generally find in a midcentury-modern home, but Oâ€™Brien thought that it was classic enough to stay and, in fact, its creamy beige can blend well with their cool palette.
Some of the travertine was replaced by wood flooring, and more wood replaced the builder-grade carpet that had been installed upstairs to help sell the home.
In some rooms, furniture transitioned smoothly. Living-room and family-room sofas, tables and ottomans all combined into a single living room large enough for two seating areas, as well as the Brodman baby grand piano that Rogers plays. To pull them together, Oâ€™Brien found a pair of matching rugs that make the two spaces seem much more alike than they actually are. It helps that the cool color palette continues throughout the entire home.
The dining room got a big change. Floor-to-ceiling mirrors were removed and the wall space was used for a large piece of contemporary art â€” part of a collection they accumulated for their River Oaks home.
And their wood dining table with a set of Queen Anne-style chairs was given to a friend who lost everything in Hurricane Harvey flooding. Now, they have a contemporary glass-topped table with a shiny chrome base and chairs of chrome and leather â€” a style that suits the tone of this new home much better.
Upstairs, the coupleâ€™s bedroom furniture and bedding all made it to the new home. In fact, they even used the same paint colors â€” Benjamin Mooreâ€™s Hollingsworth Green and Wedgewood Gray â€” for guest bedrooms.
In the master suite, a funky, Brady Bunch-style triangular fireplace was removed from an outer wall â€” a move that helped alleviated the load on an exterior support beam that was rusty and had to be replaced. It also allowed them to erect a wall to create a small guest room, while still having a sizable master bedroom.
Marble dominated the coupleâ€™s River Oaks bathroom, but for the townhome they opted for Cambria quartz counters and tough-as-nails porcelain tile that looks like marble but comes with none of the work or worry.
A freestanding bathtub sits in front of a glamour wall covered in a stone mosaic; at a glance, it looks like a beautiful wallpaper design.
â€śWe needed just the perfect-shaped tub,â€ť Oâ€™Brien said. â€śFitting the tub to a person can be pretty complicated. Not every tub fits every person. For my clients who really love to take a bath, it needs to fit them well.â€ť