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An inside look at a historic Houston home!

While I adore all the wonderful homes I get to see and all the projects I get to do, it's always refreshing to be involved in historic home renovations, especially in a city of tear downs and big new constructions.  I really appreciated the opportunity to work on this 1930s French chateau, designed by famed architect John Staub.  The gorgeous estate was just featured in the August edition of Architectural Digest.  Some of you may have also seen Miss Joni's wonderful write up on this house over at her blog, Cote De Texas.  After uprooting their lives from New Orleans in the wake of Katrina, homeowners John and Terri Havens lovingly restored and brought life to this stunning Houston gem with the help of designer extraordinaire Kara Childress and talented architect Ken Newberry!!! Old time great Tyne Sparks was the chosen builder for the initial remodel and his forman sweet Ernest Melchor still works for the Havens today.

Led by Terri and John’s direction, the team was ready to go.  As Kara explained quite well, “the Havens love the house, they love its history, they love design and art and all that is involved in making a project like this happen. They value and insist upon authenticity in bringing their house back to its original splendor; they truly appreciate the labor and efforts to attain that goal.”  With that, I certainly agree!  I was brought in to restore and re-plaster the interior of the home as well as to finish much of the cabinetry, paneling and moldings.  What a treat for me!!!  We started in 2007, and we're still working on some of the new additions to the home!

The stone flooring and railings were hand-selected in France and brought over for the original construction. Although the whole experience was wonderful for Kara, one of her biggest challenges was mixing in the fresh, modern touches that Terri wanted while also staying true to the period of the home as John insisted.   A compromise was reached when Kara selected a gorgeous, citron-colored silk to modernize the antique settee!

Another shot taken at a different time-the staircase and railing are stunning!!! 

Kara’s favorite room in the house is the library!  With gorgeous French oak paneling that's original to the home, custom Fortuny drapes, one-of-a-kind, centuries-old light fixtures, an antique Sivas rug, and a stunning ceiling that they found, restored, and installed, how could you disagree?!!!

Painted on canvas and hung in a villa near Parma, Italy, the ceiling dates back to the late 16th century.  Kara went on so many incredible buying trips with the Havens - they even brought Kara's daughter, who is currently studying design, along for one of them!

The ballroom, beautiful, elegant, and comfortable, has many unique features.  Kara's particularly fond of the pocket doors throughout.  All the windows are actually floor-to-ceiling doors that slide into the walls, revealing the gorgeous terraces outside!!!  Since there was no air conditioning when the residence was built, John Staub situated the house in such a way as to receive the best of the Gulf breeze during the hot, humid months of summer.

Here's another view which was taken years earlier!  This room was particularly difficult for us. Before we could re-plaster the ceiling, we had to remove the canvas backing from the first plaster job without harming the beautiful plaster medallions above the light fixtures.  The walls in this room were left as they were when the Havens purchased the home.

The music room is perhaps my favorite!!!  Elegant, warm, and tranquil, I love the mix of luxurious fabrics and beautiful, soft hues. 

Here is an earlier shot right after we finished plastering the room and glazing the beautiful moldings to bring out more detail!!!

The home boasts a sunken dining room adorned with the original moldings, flooring and chandelier, as well as a 15-foot ceiling!  We plastered the walls in this room in Venetian plaster, just as it was in the 1930s. 

 The ceiling was plastered in a traditional gypsum plaster like the rest of the home, lending continuity from room to room. I love how this offsets the walls from the ceiling with a slight sheen difference.  The moldings were glazed to bring out their carved details and soften the feel of the room, allowing the wonderful furnishings and fabrics to remain center stage.

The way families use their homes has changed significantly since the 1930s.  The small kitchen, baths and closets all needed to be revamped for this modern family of five, with two dogs and lots of visitors.  “The house had no family room when we began the project,” said Kara.  “Instead, there were only formal spaces.  In the '30s, I don’t suppose any of those things were negative, but with today’s busy families – sports, friends, entertaining, etc. – the Havens’ needs are different.”

Architect Ken Newberry extensively researched John Staub and the period in which the home was built in order to stay true to the intended architecture of the home. Using this research, he designed a breathtaking conservatory to give the family a more casual space to eat and hang out. Kara furnished the new addition with a gorgeous breakfast table and a cozy settee, perfect for a sunlit morning with coffee and a good book.

The new addition also included this wonderful family room!! "Family is of the utmost importance (and enjoyment) to the Havens", smiles Kara. " I also love the fact that John Staub combined the formality of  ‘pure Louis Quinze’ with country French to make the house as spectacular as it is."  She has also mixed the two so seamlessly in her exquisite design.

Going down to the wine cellar is certainly a treat! It feels as if you are traveling back to Europe in time!

This wine cellar is a new addition to the home, created from a space in the already existing basement. Ken outdid himself in the design — so warm and charming!  The floors and stone from Chateau Domingue and the wonderful furnishings that Kara and the Havens found melt together to create an amazing ambiance. A hangout room for the kids was also fashioned from space in the basement. Fun and comfortable, this space was true genius from Kara.  With four kids of her own, she knew exactly how to combine functionality with charm! Sorry I don't have pics!

To keep the additions seamlessly consistent with the period and style of the rest of the house, Kara and the Havens selected tiles and old stone flooring from Chateau Dominque, which has an amazing collection and assortment of old floors, tiles, doors, and fountains.  To see my visit to Chateau Domingue, click here. The wood floors were restored beautifully by Custom Floors Unlimited, Inc..

The master suite and dressing areas are simply divine!!  Painted a solid cream when the home was purchased, Kara wanted to bring it back to its original splendor!  With drapes as our color inspiration, we layered a series of glazes to lend that been-there look.  Here's the room in progress... you can see the bottom half is complete, and we're still adding more embellishment to the top.  The corner panels flanking the opening to the bedroom are hidden closet doors!!!

Stunning!!! I love the fabrics that Kara chose here - they remind me of ornate, ball gowns.

Finishing the cabinetry in a way that would blend with the built-in reclaimed doors and stone was quite a fun challenge for us.  It was of utmost importance that the finishes retain authenticity and not look contrived.

A room for a princess, the daughter's suite is so charming!  Kara created a timeless space that will last from elementary to the teen years and beyond.  We plastered the ceiling a soft shade of pink to complement the fabrics and furnishings.

This project truly had a dream team!  The Havens are as philanthropic as they are warm and fun, Kara Childress is one of the most talented and sincerely sweet people I know, and Ken Newberry had such knowledge and an unwavering commitment to the project. I was honored to watch them all do their magic and to help them restore this historical beauty!!!  In asking Kara what were her best memories of the project her response was-"Though probably some of the strongest memories about the decoration project itself tend to be in regards for different events generously hosted by the Havens ~ and crazy deadlines…everything from an intimate wedding in the chapel, grand gala for 350 people tented in the backyard, a seated dinner for 2 different US Presidents, or a romantic 8 course meal in the wine room (nothing like a party to get things done)!  I was honored to watch them all do their magic and to help them restore this historical beauty!!! Please visit Kara's website-still under construction--beautiful homes!!!

I hope you have a great week!  I'm off to California to spend time with family. It'll be the first time we've taken the boyfriends along!  Should be fun!  xo  Leslie

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Reader Comments (2)

What a gorgeous, elegant home- I will be returning to study this post again- simply beautiful beyond words!!

July 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMimi

I want to live in a historic home like this! My grandma has a historic home that is why I like with her. :)

April 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaula M

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