A New Home Elegantly Blends Old World-Style with Modern Details
Classic and contemporary marry beautifully in a newly built Houston home.
Old-world style and traditional architecture shape this home: stone flooring, plaster walls, thick coffered ceilings, graceful groin vaults, and arched doorways. But modern sophistication comfortably lives here too: black steel-frame windows, organic curves, and heady jewel tones.
"It's a Mediterranean-inspired project with contemporary details," designer Marie Flanigan says. "It's all about juxtaposition in this house."
That jibes perfectly with the vision Ira Lieber had for his home. "So many homes today are sleek, minimalistic, ultra-modern," he says. "I wanted to incorporate old world with modern in my home. I wanted that warm old-Europe feel."
A table from Bliss Studio sounds a classic note that jibes with limestone floors.
Murphy Mears Architects set the stage for the designers to shape spaces that hark to the past as they live for today: simple yet ornate, layered yet uncluttered, airy yet spiced with drama.
"The interior design captures the essence of the architecture," Flanigan says. "The house was built around a courtyard and emphasizes indoor-outdoor connections and views through the steel-frame windows. The architecture is so beautiful, we wanted to emphasize the play of light and shadows through the groin vaults and other structural details."
A large abstract oil painting discovered at the Round Top Antiques Fair matches the inky hues of the formal living room's marble fireplace.
Flanigan and design associate Sydney Manning let light flow through the tall windows, layering white draperies discreetly to the side against tranquil pearl-hue plaster walls. Soft carpets invite barefoot moments on limestone floors, a pairing of patinaed fossil green and beige rather than the expected black and white. A black marble fireplace warms a new curved sofa clad in sumptuous merlot-hue velvet in the formal living room. A 1940s Asian screen starts a design conversation with glamorous brass-base armchairs in the family room.
Antiques mingle with new custom furnishing pieces like the tall tufted velvet chair in the family room. "The homeowner found a really contemporary sofa and chair he loved, and that became our inspiration for this new chair," Flanigan says. "One of my favorite things about our work in design is that each client gives us a new set of eyes and a new sense of beauty that we wouldn't find on our own."
Instead of using an antique Chinese screen as a room divider, the design team hung it as art.
"The homeowner loves pattern and texture," Manning says. "We gave him the authentic materials he craves as we layered on materials, textures, and styles. It's a mixture of ornate details and simplicity in a way that feels collected over time."
"The essence of the room started with the flooring," Flanigan says of the library. She and associate Sydney Manning used two kinds of wood in a basket-weave pattern. Black bookcases further the seductiveness.
The designers also saw beauty through nature's eyes, bringing in a palette inspired by outdoor views. "We like to infuse color in a nuanced way," Manning says. Neutrals pulled from the paint box of stone and wood set a calm backdrop enlivened with jewel tones: blue, green, rust, and eggplant.
The warmth of wood threads throughout, from the dark-stained—and black-painted—grandeur of the library to the light tones on the breakfast table and kitchen barstools.
"My favorite moment in this house is the kitchen," Flanigan says. "I love the contrast of the stone surround and mirrored hood against the color and texture of the islands, the warmth of wood against powder-coated cabinets."
Vintage travertine marble forms a hearthlike range surround, part of a sophisticated layering of materials that also includes stainless-steel appliances, wood cabinets, powder-coated islands, and a mirror above the range backsplash that accentuates light—and the homeowner's copper cookware.
A gilded pendant and brass fixtures infuse sultry attitude into the groin-vault bar with its slab Negro Marquina marble backsplash.
Sunlight from the courtyard pours into this casual dining spot, outfitted with an oak table, linen-covered chairs, a gold-leafed wrought-iron chandelier, and an antique horse painting.
Delightful contrasts continue in the dining room. "Murphy Mears led the way with the architecture," Flanigan says. "In this classic home, all at once there's this cloudlike ceiling structure. We used draperies to give the space privacy and softness, then created this almost Brutalist-inspired chandelier that's recessed into the ceiling. I love the juxtaposition of the sheer drapery against the steel-and-glass windows and the chandelier, which is reminiscent of 1970s Brutalist designs."
Traditional French armchairs engage in repartee with a new cherry-stained table and a custom chandelier from Spike Lighting.
Nods to the past continue in the master suite, in another unexpected way. "The homeowner loves old movies," Manning says. "It was fun to speak to that here."
She and Flanigan pulled from one of Ira's favorite flicks, Casablanca, in designing doors reminiscent of the neoclassical paneled beauties that opened to Rick's Café Américain.
Their dark good looks dovetail with stained paneling used as a privacy screen, hugging the bed with texture and warmth. "The bed was inspired by shelter furniture," Manning says. "It cocoons you." A tufted bench in a gemlike hue plays against dark-stained panels and ebony fabrics.
The master bath, meanwhile, intertwines reclaimed marble flooring, an antique gilded mirror, and a custom tub that fuses copper and antique nickel finishes. "I love metals that tarnish in a beautiful way," Manning says. "There's such beauty in patina, and I love how it threads throughout this home."
A custom William Holland tub showcases Flanigan's mastery of mixed materials.
Reclaimed antique marble sets the stage for wood-and-stone vanities in the master bath.
Billowy drapery panels bring dreamy softness to the guest quarters.
Hand-painted tile used as wainscoting wraps the powder room, also home to a hand-carved stone sink.