HOUSTON – By Cynthia Lescalleet (for Realty News Report) – With the purchase of adjacent bayou-front properties tucked into the hidden neighborhood of Briar Hollow, award-winning architect and interior designer Lauren Rottet will be forging a modernist headquarters for her busy team. Rottet Studio has long been a tenant downtown in the Esperson building, a Jazz Age landmark in Houston’s skyline.
One of the mid-century structures on the 1.72 acre site — a 1960 custom home by notable Houston architect Howard Barnstone, in collaboration with Preston Bolton – was as intriguing a draw as its woodsy and rolling grounds that hug a bend in Buffalo Bayou south of Memorial Park.
Barnstone’s modernist style, influenced by Mies van der Rohe, is apparent in the existing structure’s flat-roofed rectilinear form, exposed steel skeleton and full height glass panels.
Equally apparent is the residual damage of time and 2017’s Hurricane Harvey, which flooded the home’s lower level built into the hillside and the grounds. The adjacent homestead, also a ‘60s vintage estate, fared better.
While Rottet’s detailed plans for the properties are pending, the underlying idea is to restore and repurpose the Barnstone home and to add space for offices, a materials library, indoor/outdoor meetings and showroom functions, a project announcement said.
“We don’t want our new building to look like we’re trying to match a mid-century modernist style,” Lauren Rottet said. “We want it to be constructed of glass because the site is so beautiful.”
With her studio team’s remote work habit well established, the architect and interior designer does not anticipate having everyone in the new space every day. However, “we need a desk for everybody as well as a parking space.”
Meanwhile, the second home at the site will likely be refreshed and rented out for a small business or startup while the new owner explores the longer term possibilities of the site, company sources noted.
MAXIMIZING the MINIMALISM
Raising the structure six feet above the flood plain is under consideration as part of restoring a choice piece of Houston’s architectural history, said Rottet Studio’s Kyle Rottet, marketing director. “We are honored to continue the legacy,” he said. That means not doing anything extreme while adding modern conveniences, additional parking — and perhaps some free range for the design team’s pets, he quipped.
As property pedigrees go, the so-called Owsley House at 65 Briar Hollow Lane was considered a sensational design by Barnstone and Bolton, with original landscaping by Fred Buxton, according to Houston Mod’s directory of mid-century architecture.
The 7,500 SF home’s main entry is reached by a wooden bridge leading from a tree-screened motor court to the home’s mid-level. Accounts of the day described an interior featuring teak flooring on the main level and draperies lined in raw silk. Renovations in 2011 reportedly changed out the exterior paint from mustard-colored to its current gray.
The new owner is seeking the property’s inclusion on landmark and historic property registries at the local, state and national levels.
Even the location has a history in Houston circles. The property listing mentioned its location on two of the remaining four original lots lingering from the Briar Hollow subdivision. A description in the AIA Houston Architectural Guide describes that subdivision as a mid-century outpost populated by country estates. The arrival of the adjacent West Loop segment touched off a transformation of the once-secluded pocket into juxtaposed higher-density communities of gated townhomes, condos and low-rise office buildings.
Then and now, the tree-lined streets meandering between developments all seem to include Briar in their name.
Rottet Studio’ home since 1998 has been downtown in the Esperson Building, one of Houston’s iconic skyscrapers, noted for its temple-topped presence. With a national practice of 75 people, the studio has a local design team of 20 in its office of approximately 7,000 SF. Its portfolio of projects includes residential, hospitality, corporate and maritime projects worldwide. Among the recent examples in Houston are the Four Seasons Hotel, La Columbe d’Or, Hotel Alessandra, C. Baldwin and The River Oaks condo tower.
The decision to swap out tenancy for ownership had been under discussion for years, with the timing fueled a bit by a little “now-or-never encouragement” courtesy of this past year, said Kyle Rottet, who holds a brokerage license under Rottet Real Estate Partners. He represented the buyer in the transaction, with the seller represented by Barbara Bone of Unique Inc.
A listing for the side-by-side properties indicated they were sold “as is” and suitable for commercial use. The studio declined to disclose purchase price. Realty web sites estimated the portfolio sale at $4 million.
The Briar Hollow property’s availability was a bit under the radar, he said. Once found, however, it was a prudent option as it enables showcasing the full range of the studio’s architecture and design services, plus furniture and accessories from the Rottet Collection.
As the project takes shape, could one of the challenges be having the architect/designer as her own client? While there is freedom to test creativity and explore endless design possibilities, he said, there is also the obligation of fiscal responsibility. As with any client, budget and managing subconscious “necessities” require finding attainable expectations and meeting them effectively and intelligently.
“Considering the personal requests of the staff plays into this idea as well,” he said. “Rottet is a big family…Listening, planning and incorporating personal requests in such a way that it benefits everyone is really important.”
May 22, 2021 Realty News Report Copyright 2021
Images: courtesy of Rottet Studio
File: HQ On The Bayou for Rottet Studio. Howard Barnstone. Lauren Rottet. Mies van der Rohr.
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File: (2) HQ On The Bayou in Briar Hollow. Houston Mod. Memorial Park.