Island Living: Inside the West U Cottage That Didn’t Get Away

Among the just-announced winners of this year’s Good Brick Awards given out by the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance is this not-so-recently renovated home on Nottingham St. in West University, which belongs to Carol Triebel and Rick Gist. And it does appear to have some good original bricks on the exterior. In a neighborhood where teardowns or the occasional awkward addition are the norm, Natalye Appel + Associates Architects designed an unusual renovation that kept the 1935 home’s outward cottage form, but twisted its innards around.

The design removed most of the home’s walls and doors, and smushed a core of closets, bath, and laundry into the center of the house along the driveway side. The new main living spaces are now arranged in a C shape around that core.

Then there’s the giant island, meant to do more than Kitchen duty:


It contains a sink, a cooktop, and an eating space, but it’s also supposed to function as a central hangout for the home and a general workspace.

More views:

Photos: Ralph Smith

22 Comment

  • A friend of mind did the same thing. He had an interior designer go through redo the entire innards of his brick cottage. It wen from a 2 bedroom, 1 bath home at 1500 sq-ft to a 2 bedroom, 2 bath home at the same square footage. The entire inside has been completely stripped and rebuilt. The hardwood floors were refinished where they were good (most rooms). It would reveal an inside similar to the home above. I’m sure if I get his permission, he wouldn’t mind me getting photos for Swamplot.

    The home is located just behind the CVS on Waugh. It is nestled between two towering townhomes.

  • I love that this bungalow was saved, especially because the trees, streetscape & neighborhood feel remain intact. I do like the very livable interior, too; the sun-porch bedroom is delightful.

    But I’m no fan of gutting a place in order to cram something else inside: like a bowling alley or a kitchen suitable for a cooking show…

    I feel that a person who really respects architectural design will be able to live within it and not need to annihilate it. Call me a Luddite.

    “Adaptive Reuse” (keeping the shell required by historical requirements & yet gutting the interior) is often necessary in commercial & industrial uses because industries & technologies change so radically.
    Yet, people & families have not evolved like that! Are we cooking for dozens of people? Are we driving Segways through the home? No. In fact island-kitchens are a fad, though they seem necessary to us today. Sewing rooms were the suburban norm years ago. Today’s backyard pool & spa replaces the space & effort of yesteryear’s Victory Garden.

    I’m just sayin’ if you’re going to talk the talk…

  • One word. Wow.

  • I think it depends on whether you feel that the uses of the kitchen have changed over time since the home was built. In my home we use the island for kids art and crafts, having guests for drinks and or dinner, homework and home working, watching tv, etc. All this on top of the normal eating and food prep duties. In this way the island and the kitchen in general are taking the place of rooms such as a dining room, office, library etc that might have been included in an older home. In that case I think a good argument can be made that the room and the island can be expanded to fill some of the space that would have been taken up by those now obsolete rooms.

  • Without the island opening up the kitchen you would probably have a really cramped feeling area a few feet wide as I have seen in old, unrenovated houses.

    I’m not a fan of the new pedantic genre of cooking shows with the guests sitting at a counter in the kitchen. But, in this case, opening the kitchen up also allows the hosts to visit with the guests while cooking. I remember in our old house everyone used to congregate in the kitchen before dinner anyway even though it was too small for that purpose. This design avoids that problem.

  • I have to agree with Jimbo here about the islands. My friend’s cottage that just was remodeled on the inside went with an island kitchen also. Within the last 3 weeks he and his partner had an afternoon gathering each Sunday. Each time, the group of people always sat and stood around the kitchen island instead of the living room. You couldn’t think of doing this prior to the remodel. Prior to the remodel, the cottage under it’s original layout was HORRIBLE for gatherings.

  • Beautiful.
    But….when they wish to sell the place, it will probably be overpriced.

  • Brilliant.

  • Bravo to clean lines and understated elegance — and a kitchen that doesn’t make me shudder.

  • That picture of the orange cat wearing sunglasses really ties the whole place together. :)

    All joking aside, it looks fantastic.

  • Random Poster said:
    But….when they wish to sell the place, it will probably be overpriced.”
    What are you saying here?
    That you can appreciate excellent design, but would not be willing to pay for it? (Or maybe you think no one else would?)
    Lucky for you, dreary tract houses, and sullen cheeziness is always available and waiting for you.
    And terrific design, while a rarer jewel, is actually cherished by some.
    (and yup, there is money involved)

  • What I am saying is that I think that the place is beautiful, but that the current owners, when they wish to sell, will likely overvalue their (or their designer’s) efforts and work and, consequently, will price the house too high.

    Does “excellent” or “terrific” design have a price? Sure. But can you recoup, from others, all, or almost all, of the outlay that you incurred in achieving such design? I doubt it…

  • RP,

    There are a lot of people that will pay more for a house like this that has been completely remodeled. It’s not inconceivable that a seller would get their price. The value of not having to fix up a house yourself it high.

    I don’t know how will they overvalue it. There was a price to do the upgrades. If their designer didn’t rip them a new one, they could recoup the costs.

    Also, if a homeowner is going to hire out to a design firm to completely redo their home, selling that home is not a top concern. They are doing this to live in it. If they sell in 10, 20, or after they die, the home will be worth whatever it should be then.

  • This is very well done.

    As for the island comments. Design for your lifestyle and to hell with what others want. Think islands are overdone? They work great for me, so I have one. Need room to ride your Segue? Put in a Segue run. Do what fits your lifestyle, just do it well.

  • A very nice renovation and a lovey home. Regarding the comments of Random Poster. My take is it is not that the owners would “overvalue” the home but that they might expect to recoup the majority of the cost of the renovation if they did sell. Meaning, how likely is it that the owners can find a buyer willing to pay top dollar for a small cottage, even with a auperb renovation, in a neighborhood filled with Mcmansions?

  • Dig it, very well done. Seems this blog is overly concerned with return on dollars spent. Buy right, improve to your tastes and lifestyle and enjoy for years to come but always remain within your means. I’m sure we have spent more on our home than we would realize in a sale but we love it all the same and it’s home. Given the state of the national housing market those who treat their homes as a major investment or piggy bank to tap now non-existing equity are not happy.

  • It looks great – and kudos to them for doing such a good job on the renovation. I agree with Brad – you have to design for your lifestyle (within reason). Personally, I want a very traditional (modern) layout with formal rooms and little to no mixed use – I would never use an island, but we use our formal dining room nearly every night. I wouldn’t be in the market to buy a cottage like this because it wouldn’t fit my lifestyle – but there are plenty of people whose lifestyle it would fit perfectly. Got to love diversity of design – there is something for everyone.

  • It looks very “September 2009” and unfortunately will read exactly that in September 2019. Meh….

  • If you are looking at a house as an investment to be flipped in a few years and not as a home, probably most major renovations aren’t justified, esp. as many are finding out that the house-as-investment thesis drummed into the heads of Americans is flawed and mostly serves the interest of those who profit from it.

    However, if, like most of us, you are are actually going to live in the house as a home and count the enjoyment of life for something, these renovations are certainly worthwhile IMHO.

  • “However, if, like most of us, you are are actually going to live in the house as a home and count the enjoyment of life for something, these renovations are certainly worthwhile IMHO.”

    I think this is the most important thing some people are missing. Living and enjoying your newly renovated home is the return on investment. You may never monetarily recoup the cost put in, but if you live in that home for many years with enjoyment because the interior is the way you want it, then you profited handsomely.

  • Movocelot –