Menil Collection Taking Bill Stern’s Art, but Trying To Sell His Museum District House for $1.475 Million

1202 Milford St., Museum District, Houston

1202 Milford St., Museum District, Houston

The few interior photos included in the listing of William F. Stern’s house at the corner of Milford and Mt. Vernon show the 1990 structure stripped of most of its furnishings — but with much of its famed artwork still on the walls. Are those paintings museum-quality, though? Certifiably, it turns out: Stern, who passed away a year ago from pancreatic cancer, willed the house and its artwork to the Menil Collection. The Menil is accepting all the art into its collection, but put the house on the market last month — with an asking price of $1.475 million.


1202 Milford St., Museum District, Houston

1202 Milford St., Museum District, Houston

Stern, a former Menil trustee, was the architect in charge of the multi-year restoration of the Menils’ own house at 3363 San Felipe, an early design by Phillip Johnson. Stern also designed the 1997 renovation of the Contemporary Arts Museum at the corner of Montrose and Bissonnet, a quarter-mile southeast from his own home. Stern designed the house at 1202 Milford in the late 1980s, with the assistance of the proprietor of this juicy establishment.

1202 Milford St., Museum District, Houston

1202 Milford St., Museum District, Houston

The 2-bedroom, 2-1/2-bath home mixed references to both the then-new Menil Collection and the bungalows that surrounded it in a 3-story design; inside, carefully controlled lighting and a central stair gave Stern and visitors a chance to tour his growing collection of modern paintings. A colorful 3-story interior wall drawing designed by Sol Lewitt for the 30-ft.-tall front wall of Stern’s living room is being painted over by the Menil before the sale, but the museum is accepting Lewitt’s instructions into its collection.

1202 Milford St., Museum District, Houston

1202 Milford St., Museum District, Houston

Paintings Without a Home

16 Comment

  • Sorry to see the Sol Lewitt painted over. I toured the house once with Stern and I think he considered it an essential piece of the building. It seems well priced.

  • In my humble opinion, this house is absolutely perfect. I truly regret that I am not (and probably never will be) able to afford it.

  • it’s a big lot but it’s overpriced. as a neighbor i hope it sells but predict it will sit. not sure i understand why they would paint over the art….makes no sense

  • This is surely overpriced, sorry to say it is not worth the asking price $1.47 Million dollars are too much for this art piece, if you think realistically you would agree with me. No offence please!

  • Nobody’s buying it for >$1m for the luxury of two-bedroom living, so what is left if they paint over the drawing?

  • This is an incredible bargain. This was designed by one of Houston’s premier architecture firms and the thought and energy put into the design is intangible. The architecture is timeless and award-winning. Also consider it’s custom construction. You must realize that a custom builder vs a spec one uses vastly lower quality building materials and how much is that worth? Those of you who build know what is means to have well designed and executed waterproofing details. There are no water streaks on this house. Countless times I see all the new cheap spec construction with water streaks all over it even before it’s sold. Look for it, those things are not wearing well now and will only look worse. On the other hand, this house has crazy deep overhangs to block weather and provide shade. I can only imagine how many piers are under this house. If you know anything about architecture, you know the value of a Stern & Bucek design. Someone will be lucky to have this house.

  • The lot is probably worth about $900k, so the price seems reasonable to me. Not my tastes, but it is unique so I suspect it will find a buyer fairly quickly.

  • About the painted over Sol Lewitt, don’t sweat it. The deal with Sol Lewitt wall drawing was that he essentially provided the owner with a set of instructions. The artwork was the set of instructions on how to draw the wall piece, not the wall piece itself. So presumably when Stern willed his collection to the Menil, they got the instructions. They can can now draw their own wall piece if they like. I realize this sounds slightly crazy, and it seems unlikely to produce visually interesting art–but Sol Lewitt’s wall pieces look unexpectedly wonderful. I guess he had a good idea how his instructions would turn out when executed.

  • This is an extremely special house and a bargain at the asking price. It is one of the best houses in Houston and was a labor of love by one of Houston’s best architects.

    Sol Lewitt is a conceptual artist. There is no value in the painting on the wall. The value is in Lewitt’s instructions for the painting that allows it to be reproduced by the owner when and where the owner chooses. Lewitt does not paint them himself.

  • People are willing to pay over a million for the new custom stuff (was going to say crap, but we’ll see if it ages/looks as good as this after 15 years) going up in GOOF on 7200 sf lots. If people really care about how many bedrooms they are going to have they’ve got lots of choices. This house will likely go for at least asking and soon.

  • I can’t see why anyone would say this is overpriced. Yes- a distictive layout suitable for a smaller pool of buyers, but look at the last dozen sales in the price range and I think you would see major value here.
    My only disapointment is in this important house is how it is being displayed–
    How much of a big deal does a house have to be before it deserves a cleaning and a “tightening up” before being brought to market?
    Even just Merrie Maids and linens on the bare matress would show some respect…………….

  • For someone not in the art scene, would anyone care to explain this Sol Lewitt stuff. What is it, why is it important, what does it have to do with this place, etc.?

  • To answer a question as to why the wall drawing was painted over, when the Menil was willed the artworks, they could not sell them. If it’s on the wall in the house and can’t be removed, the act of selling the house would cause the art to be sold.
    As to the wall drawing itself, most Lewitt stuff I’ve seen is heavily graphic, geometric, and brightly colored,( or black and white graphite), but not exceptionally original. I’m sure a group of art students over at HSPVA could come up with something just as interesting for the new owner’s wall.

  • The listing photos are surprisingly poor. They don’t show the living room or the kitchen, both of which are quite nice. Strange.

  • Its over priced. I was there when he built it and it is a fraction of what its selling for. He also had a bunch of custom make furniture that should stay in the house. Without the artwork of his collection, the house makes no sense. It was custom made for his collection. That’s why its a tow bedroom house that is three stories tall!

  • The current owner has discovered that the Menil did a poor job in “painting” over the LeWitt. She has undertaken a conceptual art project to “un-erase” it, with a nod and wink to Rauschenberg.

    You can read more and see photos as the project progresses at: