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Simple, Elegant Houston Home
Fashion-forward interiors and old-world-inspired architectural features beautifully accommodate a family’s entertaining needs.
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Come holiday time, there’s no shortage of gathering room at Thang N. Le and Amanda Ton’s Houston home. Expansive tables in the breakfast and dining rooms work with kitchen barstools and family room seating to accommodate 60 people without strain. All the while, guests bask in natural light, which floods the home through steel-frame French doors and bounces happily off striking gallery-white walls.
Curving balustrades, weighty columns, and a two-story portico make a grand first impression that tells guests they’ve truly arrived at a very special chateau.
Photography: Julie Soefer
Produced by Donna Talley
Architect: Sullivan, Henry, Oggero & Associates, Inc., 8584 Katy Fwy., Suite 101, Houston, TX 77024; 713/464-0740; shoplans.com.
Interior designer: Marie Flanigan, Marie Flanigan Interiors, 2525 Driscoll St., Houston, TX 77019; 979/574-9686; marieflanigan.com.
Builder: Cade Wiley, Cade Wiley Homes, 1411 Upland Dr., Houston, TX 77043; 713/397-8487; wileyhomes.com.
Landscape designer: Amy Ping, Enchanted Nurseries & Landscapes, 10611 FM 2759, Richmond, TX 77469; 281/937-9449; myenchanted.com.
“It was our dream to build a home where our three kids could grow and that we could share with friends and family,” Amanda says. “We wanted a home that would be comfortable for us now and down the road when future grandkids visit—someplace we could grow old together in.”
Minimal shifts in rooflines and a stucco exterior provide a plainly profiled façade that showcases arched and straight-lined windows and doors and a pair of decorative dormers cued by dormers the couple saw on homes when visiting France.
Bright Living Room
The couple’s forever vision—which they articulated to architect John Sullivan, builder Cade Wiley, designer Marie Flanigan, and Amanda’s brother, art dealer Quang Bao—included incorporating architectural elements inspired by French designs, such as arched entries and exposed wood beams, that would lend the home a timeless quality. But they didn’t want the interiors to feel like a museum.
Positioned adjacent to the spacious foyer, this sitting area is one of the first things people see upon entering the front door. Reclaimed beams and white upholstery fabrics link this space to the family room viewed through arched doorways that also provide egress to the kitchen.
Amanda credits Flanigan with marrying the home’s historic features with the couple’s desire for streamlined spaces. In the grand entry foyer and adjacent living room—designed as a formal reception area for welcoming guests—chiseled limestone floors introduce old-world dimension in step with the beamed ceilings and arched doorways.
“Metal finishes and grand light fixtures incorporate touches of glamour,” Flanigan says. A whimsical curlicue fixture was custom-finished to match the steel doors; graceful chairs sport bronze frames with branchlike motifs; and a contemporary-cool antiqued-brass table wears a lacquered wood top that presents a book-matched grain pattern.
This artwork depicts a hallway that looks much like the hallway to the right of the fireplace leading to the study and master bedroom, says Amanda: “When we open the doors from our master bathroom, the light spilling into our hallway looks like the light at the end of this hall.”
Here, and throughout the house, neutral backdrops allow abstract artworks, antiqued and modern metals, and sculptural fixtures to shine. “Each space serves up a welcome dose of minimalism, with every design element playing an essential role,” Flanigan says. “No inch of space is wasted, no unnecessary ornaments can be found. There’s something appealing and unapologetically sexy about the simplicity.”
A vivacious canvas by Alexander Kroll cuts a wow-powered figure in the hallway adjacent to the formal living area. Tantalizing textures—from the velvet-clad sofa and the silk-and-wool Madison Lily rug to a mirror-topped crackled drum table—please the eye without disrupting the peace.
While dining in a restaurant in Guatemala, Amanda took pictures of the restaurant’s rocky walls and asked that the look be duplicated in her home. The stacked rocks make natural partners for a cobblestone-style floor created from tumbled slabs of vintage limestone detailed with chiseled edges. Smartly shaped chairs wear blue silk velvet upholstery, antiqued nickel nail head trim, and circular pulls designed for pulling out chairs. The theatrical chandelier made of translucent stone and frosted glass hangs from steel cables suspended from the wood-clad ceiling to form an appealing interplay of rough and refined elements.
The couple purchased two razed barns to tap into a supply of rough-hewn lumber used for flooring and steps, as well as to clad walls and ceilings. “Ceilings adorned and paneled in the rough-hewn wood beams infuse a raw, rustic vibe into spaces that plays nicely with contemporary furnishings and artwork throughout,” Flanigan says. “The reclaimed wood also works with antiqued brass and bronze elements and organic surfaces to add warmth.”
White lacquer upper cabinets (custom crafted by Eggersman, a European cabinetmaker) flank an impressive hammered copper range hood treated to look like aged zinc. A substantial island and extra-wide traffic paths make it easy for multiple chefs to work in the kitchen at one time. The island’s marble countertop extends beyond the cabinet to create a waterfall edge that creates a breakfast bar with a table-like profile, which houses chrome stools that mirror the shimmer of the formal pendants.
Base cabinets on the range wall and the refrigerator paneling boast a wire-brushed finish simulating rift-sawn oak’s horizontal grain; the grays punctuate the room with color and texture, which take the chill off the sleeker lacquered and marble surfaces. The back stairway connects to the garage and a mudroom equipped with lockers. Glass panels enclose stair banisters to provide up-to-the-minute passage.
Expansive tables in the breakfast and dining rooms work with kitchen barstools and family room seating to accommodate 60 people at the holidays. In the breakfast room, frosted glass ribbons align to fashion a chandelier with progressive panache. Chosen for their easy-clean leather upholstery, the slim-lined chairs supply transitional silhouettes that bridge new-age and old world design elements.
“We wanted to bring a masculine feel into his study, so we used lots of wood and medium gray paint,” says Flanigan, who selected a distinctive desk with an antiqued-brass base and a laminated vellum top. The light fixture wraps a classic candelabra-style light with a futuristic steel structure—a spot-on depiction of this home’s refreshing blend of vintage and current design ideas.
Reclaimed barn wood boards rustically line formally paneled bookcases that hold collectibles, photos, and references. Leather inlays on the cabinet pulls introduce another natural texture into the mix.
Cozy Family Room
Book-matched slabs of marble fashion a symmetrical pattern on the family room fireplace. Thang requested that contemporary shelves (rather than built-in bookcases) be used to flank the massive fireplace that is equipped with a hearth bench reinforced with steel and clad in marble. A bright orange chair, a cork side table, and an area rug shimmering with noticeable brushstroke patterns supply fashionable forms that warm up the monochromatic gathering place.
The formal powder room walls were paneled and the back wall accommodates inset mirrored tiles, which provide reflective backdrops for mirrored sconces and a vintage French stone sink retrofitted with a steel base. The stone on the floor was chosen for its close resemblance to the sink.
Though simply arranged, every room boasts fetching features that partner beautifully with painterly patterned rugs. The formal sitting area houses a custom-carved limestone mantel with a decidedly French feel. Calacatta marble slabs upholster kitchen walls, waterfall over the island, and form a floor-to-ceiling fireplace surround in the family room. Light streams into the breakfast room through tall French doors topped with transoms, highlighting vivid modern paintings. Statuesque objects—including a soaking tub, floating vanities, and a limestone fireplace—comprise an exceptional master suite.
“We wanted the master bedroom to be calm, soothing, but have a grandiose impact,” says Flanigan, pointing to the dramatic chandelier, the custom limestone mantel, and the vaulted wood-clad ceiling. Pieced together dyed cowhides fashion a geometric-patterned area rug that plays well with the upholstered bedstead and clean-lined furnishings.
“I love that every room has its own feel,” Amanda says. “We agonized over every little detail, but it was a lot of fun! It is a big house, but when you come in it feels warm, inviting, and elegant. It really is our dream home.”
The curvaceous tub was one of the first pieces selected for the home. It sits in front of light-inviting arched window and beneath a triple groin vault ceiling that also spans his-and-her vanities flanking the tub. Three white shaded pendant lights brighten the room’s upper reaches and define bathing and prep areas.
Limiting the number of materials creates a cohesive flow and imbues the home with modernity. Waterfall-edge marble countertops and a rift-sawn oak finish subtly tie the master bathroom’s floating vanities to surfaces in the kitchen.
Designed to resemble a boutique, Amanda’s closet gets shots of color from an Alexander Kroll painting, an over-dyed oushak rug, and her fashion accessories. Glass insets in the top of the perimeter countertop allow views of jewels stowed in the cabinet drawers below. Differently shaped cut crystals seemingly cascading from the ceiling fashion a chandelier that brings on plentiful bling.
The outdoor dining area that abuts an alfresco kitchen provides generous seating for daily dinners and more expansive crawfish boils. Retro seats pull up to the bluestone-topped table featuring a natural wood frame.