After World War I, an increased knowledge and appreciation for French architecture spread in the United States. While never as popular as English Tudor, the French Norman-style homes can still be spotted here and there in residential neighborhoods across the country built between 1920 and 1940. Almost always, the houses include a round or octagonal stair tower and asymmetrical facades and floor plans. And like this handsome house, many are built of stone.
Designed in 1930 by Texas architect Lenard Gabert, the Houston house combines the best of French Normandy style with incredibly forward-looking art deco touches. Gabert, a member of the first class at Rice University, had a long career in Texas, designing not only residences but also groceries, restaurants, banks, synagogues, professional and office buildings, as well as elementary schools and clinics. He even designed a mobile home park, a dog pound, and a NASA space food preparation facility.
The remarkably well preserved house, with five bedrooms, three bathrooms, and a powder room, all set in 4,638 square feet, is available via Casey Dewees at Keller Williams Realty for $1.5 million.
On a petite one-third-acre city lot, the walled and gated property manages to squeeze in a porte cohere and a freeform pool and spa. Unlike many in the area, the house also includes a basement and an apartment above the detached garage.
Upon entering the house, a visitor has to be struck by the elegant, sweeping staircase that showcases exceptional iron art deco balustrades. Other period touches include the stained glass, period hardwoods, original light fixtures, and vintage trim, doors and door hardware.
The enormous living room features floor to ceiling windows and offers a coved ceiling detail and an elaborate fireplace mantel. Beyond that is the sunroom, filled with windows and offering access to north and south facing terraces. The dining room, too, is very large and could seat untold numbers of people. The kitchen is updated but might be considered a little small for modern tastes.
Another first floor feature to love is the original phone niche with matching wrought-iron gates surrounding it. (That’s right, kids, phones used to have their own niches!) Below it is a laundry chute. Who knows why those ever went out of fashion because they’re so handy.
The second floor includes a very large primary bedroom, three more guest and family bedrooms, a pair of bathrooms, and a study. There’s also a second phone niche with laundry chute as well as a rooftop terrace. A windowed staircase leads to the third floor, where another bedroom or den is decked out with a wet bar and private bath. Also on tap are two original bathrooms from 1930, one with an attractive deco stepped design in yellow and black, and the other playfully done in mint green and pale pink.
Around 1905-1925 or so, when kitchens and bathrooms were modernized with sinks and toilets and other modern conveniences, hygiene was the byword, so everything needed to be white. The dirt couldn’t hide that way! By the late 1920s, everyone was sick of white, and bathrooms tiled in vibrant colors like orchid and maize and jade, often in exotic combinations, became very popular.
Such immaculately preserved versions of these bathrooms are quickly becoming rare treasures. One hopes the next owner will be as meticulous in their maintenance as previous owners so clearly have.