How That New Houston Look Kept Making Its Way from Old Europe

HOW THAT NEW HOUSTON LOOK KEPT MAKING ITS WAY FROM OLD EUROPE “I have always felt that this North Boulevard house was the one that changed the way Houston looked at decor and antiques,” writes West U design blogger Joni Webb about a stucco mansion in Broadacres by Rice University architect William Ward Watkin, who designed it in 1923 for a drug-company executive after a 4-month inspirational European tour. The property at 1318 North Blvd. later served for more than a decade as the home of Tootsie’s founder Micky Rosmarin, who died after a heart attack last month; it’s now up for sale for $4.75 million. “Back in 1995,” Webb writes, “it was featured on the cover of Veranda and I think it was this house that marked the true beginning of the Houston Look — the white slipcover, seagrass, antique filled aesthetic whose origins I attribute to designer Babs Cooper Watkins . . . it launched Watkins into prominence.” Watkins, Webb explains, “used antiques in a casual way, her interiors were never about a hands-off approach. She mixed in religious relics and priceless antiques with vintage chairs slipcovered in inexpensive plain linen. She repurposed outside garden elements to be used inside the house. And Babs was one of the first ones who favored dramatic paint treatments that turned ordinary sheetrock into centuries old grottos.” Watkins passed away in February of last year. But Webb recalls how the home launched a store — and a whole new Old World orientation for Houston interiors: “The Veranda photoshoot not only created a new aesthetic, it also created a new partnership and the Watkins Schatte antique shop on Bissonnet was born.” The shop (still at 2308 Bissonnet, but now known as Watkins-Culver Antiques) “was an instant hit and during those days, lines would form when a new shipment was unveiled.  Everyone wanted to see what Babs and Bill [Gardner] and Annette [Schatte] had bought in Europe.” [Cote de Texas; previously on Swamplot]

8 Comment

  • this person lives in a different world than most Houstonians…the real “Houston look” is a cheap townhouse with windows that aren’t meant to be opened and a slick interior.

  • @JoeDirt, i guess to be taken with a grain of salt in that this write-up as for a very particular subset of folks. However, old world european flair was nothing new to america in the early 20th century and if anything just relates to how Houston was finally developing enough income growth for this to actually become a thing in our subtropical swampland for a particular subset of folks.
    .
    Otherwise, I’ve never noticed anything unique in Houstonian decor aside from the ties to hunting and farming in our southwestern region which. is again, nothing out of the ordinary Every major subdivision add-on to this city or design influence I can think of was copy and paste of prevailing national trends. Same would apply for townhomes.

  • @JoeDirt let’s be real, the actual “Houston look” is a single-family detached brick or stone facade on the front, cheap wood siding on all three other sides. The townhouses are just for when we want to pretty up for out-of-towners

  • Love the interior. Exterior needs a lot of work: stucco dirty, gardens overgrown, roof in dire straits. Since the seller/realtor made no effort there, I wonder if this is a tear-down.

  • The art deco pieces in the dinning room are fantastic. I really wish designers would finally give up on the greige monochromatic thing and get back to using amazing antiques to decorate.

    This house is in the Broadacres historic district. So, for the 36 year old hedge fund guy who made $200 mil shorting the energy markets, NO! You cannot tear this house down and build your douchecastle.

    While Houston is definitely the last place to find original design trends over the past few decades, I think John Staub and his contemporaries did create a unique southern version of European estates that is fairly original to Houston. Also, Houston was right with the times during the MCM days with a lot of great residential and commercial developments.

  • Haha I nominate best “greige douchecastle” for a Swampie category.

  • Agreed @Gisgo. There’s still leaves/grass/flowers in the pool. Wonder why they didn’t at least spend a couple hundred to fix up back yard before taking pictures.

  • Dear Houston Historic Preservation Gods (if there are any):
    Please do not let this house be a tear down!