Angelica and Gustavo Nechar often moved to Brazil, where they were born and raised, and to France, where their careers flourished and they owned a Haussmann-style apartment in the 17th arrondissement of Paris. But it wasn’t until Nechar’s job as an HR executive brought the couple to Houston in 2013 that they realized that all of their previous homes lacked one attractive thing: a design designed just for them.
The large suburban house they bought upon arrival in Houston, they said, was not quite right. For starters, it was too big for a couple with two grown sons. And it was too far from the action of the city, which had pleasantly surprised them with its cosmopolitan atmosphere and cultural offerings, even after 13 years in Paris.
What they wanted, they realized, was to build a home in the city that would support an urban, walkable lifestyle.
“After 30 years of marriage, we decided to build our own house for the first time,” said Ms. Nechar, 48, who left her job as a lawyer to open a showroom for Brazilian furniture company Etel around the same time.
Mr Nechar, 55, added: “We had always moved and bought houses from others and lived in places that did not have our souls.”
They wanted to be able to entertain friends in style. “We love welcoming people into our home and cooking, which we learned in France,” he said. “When we talked about our home, we wanted a place where people would feel good to be with us, share a meal or have a nice glass of wine.”
In 2018, they found a tired bungalow on a sought-after mid-block lot in the Montrose neighborhood, within walking distance of the Menil Collection museum, Rothko Chapel, and many restaurants. They bought it for about $550,000, with plans to demolish it and start over.
Their search for an architect to design the house led them to StudioMET Architects, after admiring the boxy, modernist homes with long, flat roofs and lots of glass that the firm had built in Houston.
“A modern house – that’s what we wanted,” said Mrs. Nechar. “We didn’t want to play like some people here who build houses like castles.”
By the end of that year, StudioMET had designed a four-bedroom, 3,800-square-foot home with an L-shaped footprint and had applied for planning permission.
“They wanted it to be somewhat subtle — they didn’t want a big statement from the outside,” said Stephen Andrews, a partner at the company. The two-story design, with a top floor over a poolside terrace and an outdoor kitchen at the back, was intended to maximize natural light and connections to the outside, he said, while maintaining privacy from the street and neighbors. Remained.
But once the plans were finalized, the Nechars began to have doubts. They were afraid that the house would resemble the other projects of the architects too much, while they wanted something unique. So the couple turned to Meedi Hidalgo, a local interior designer, for a second opinion.
“I saw that this was a really great opportunity to highlight their cultural background and personalities,” said Ms. Hidalgo. “I really wanted to capture their culture and bring some emotion and poetry to the space.”
She not only gave advice on furniture and finishes, but also suggested some architectural changes. She studied the mid-century modern designs of Brazil and concluded that the house should have some sensuous shapes.
“Mid-century Brazilian design was dominated by Oscar Niemeyer, who really loved the curve, and women,” she said. “So I decided we should try to introduce as many curved lines as possible.”
In the front door, Mrs. Hidalgo turned a straight staircase into a sculptural, curved staircase with open steps. She added another large, flowing curve where the ceiling falls between the living room and the kitchen. Upstairs, she replaced a rectangular pivot door to the primary suite with a pocket door set in an asymmetrical arch. And as a nod to the couple’s time in France, she added a floor-to-ceiling, wood and copper screen from the Paris-based Red Edition between the kitchen and dining room.
She also tried to add attractive textures and colors. Where there were plans to use a standard brick on exterior walls, she insisted on a thin, glazed Italian brick that wraps from the outside inward of the house. For the living room, she ordered custom concrete panels decorated with abstract shapes, including one that rolls back to reveal a television.
In the first bedroom, she installed dip-dyed wool curtains in a watery blue from Holly Hunt. In the primary bathroom, she used large-scale porcelain wall tiles, for the appearance of worn plaster walls.
By the time the house was completed in April 2021, the Nechars had spent about $1.3 million, confident they had created an inimitable home. “It’s a project that really embodies who we are, and it’s just phenomenal,” said Mr. Nechar. “We are very happy that we have achieved this.”
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