What are the chances that two of our current listings would both be fundamentally Mid-Century Modern in their DNA and yet so very different?
Both homes are located on highly desirable River Oaks streets (albeit on opposite sides of the subdivision), both were built in 1950 and both are exquisitely realized – one a wholesome paean to the spare aesthetic of Frank Lloyd Wright, and the other a sexy confection that will make you want to sip a Scotch and soda while you sort through old Sinatra albums.
Take a look at both. And then give us a call if you want to know more.
Let’s begin with 67 Tiel Way, which is just off Kirby Drive. Designed by Karl Kamrath of MacKie & Kamrath, the distinguished Houston firm noted for its gifted interpretation of the architecture associated with Frank Lloyd Wright, the Usonian-style home is a celebration of Wright’s concept of living with nature. It is one of Houston’s most significant examples of organic modernism.
Originally a one-story, two-bedroom house, the home had fallen on hard times before its 2004 purchase by the current owners. (Even so, it was included in the 1991 Rice Design Alliance lecture and tour, “The Works of MacKie & Kamrath.”) For restoration and an enlargement to accommodate their family, the owners commissioned Miller/Dahlstrand Architects, Montgomery Design Studio (interiors) and The Southampton Group (construction).
The results – which included demolishing a misbegotten earlier addition and rebuilding a rear wing with three bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs, a new kitchen and den downstairs – were stunning. Since its completion in 2011, the home has been
- presented a 2012 Good Brick Award from Preservation Houston
- featured on the 2013 Azalea Trail
- become a City of Houston Landmark
Texture is an important part of the design of a MacKie & Kamrath house. Lines are clean, but the use of brick, wood, glass and stone gives this house a richness that is hard to find in many Mid-Century Modern homes. The owners have restored the home’s original surfaces and finishes, including interior oak bands that emphasize its cool horizontality. The master bedroom remains on the first floor.
Outside, the 20,000-plus square foot lot is planted with trees and shrubbery native to Texas, while the driveway was redone in flagstone and interspersed with zoysia grass to slow run-off water. The roofline of the house, low and side gabled, makes the house almost melt into the natural landscape. Price: $4,250,000
Traveling across River Oaks to the northwest quadrant, we find 3723 Knollwood Drive, a low-slung brick home perfectly sited on more than three-quarters of a wooded acre. Prompting descriptions like “striking” and “art collector’s fantasy,” this contemporary masterpiece by architect Wylie Vale is notable for its polished white limestone floors, luxurious finishes and fittings, and expanses of glossy white walls. The main house offers more than 7,000 square feet of living space, including five bedrooms, four full baths and three half-baths.
With respect to its clean lines, art lovers will appreciate the floor-to-ceiling windows that allow natural light to fill the rooms as well as unbroken walls that offer space for large art installations. There is a classic rectangular pool and a nicely equipped pool house that could be used as guest cottage or quarters. From the street, the home’s modern silhouette features a massive chimney, as well as several rectangular masses – a composition of volumes – that overlap or intersect horizontal roof slabs. Need a visual? Imagine Palm Springs circa the Rat Pack era.
Liveable and inviting, the private family area is composed of two wings – one for the huge master suite and the other for four secondary bedrooms. (All bedrooms are down.) The spacious master retreat opens to the rear garden and has multiple mirror-fronted closets, Hollywood dressing table, dry bar and wine fridge.
Many homes are described as “built for entertaining,” but this one actually is, with public spaces that flow smoothly out to the loggia, pool and lawn. Across the way, the pool house has a full kitchen, family room and his-and-her dressing room/bathrooms.
The house at 3723 Knollwood Drive was a sensation when it was built 70 years ago: Fortune magazine showcased it in its October 1955 edition in a national round-up of remarkable luxury homes. More recently, it has been featured in Rice Design Alliance’s book Ephemeral City, and it is included on the HoustonMod.com website. Price: $6,995,000