07/31/12 12:54pm

Even without the flag waving as punctuation, this 1890 Victorian serves as a pint-sized Americana residential souvenir, complete with gingerbread trim and turned posts on the porch. The fence, however, is of more modern scale — and function, given its automated gate across the driveway. Flashbacks continue inside the cottage, listed earlier this month at $369,5000. It’s located in the Bartholomew Place tendril of Sunset Heights, a long block west of Metro’s Heights Transit Center.


07/20/12 5:29pm

The Alamo reinforcements have arrived! Okay, they’re just temporary steel props, but they’re now holding the tilt-up concrete facade out of the mud around the tamale-themed strip center Warwick Construction is putting up on Houston’s Northside. The 23,000-sq.-ft. Alamo Tamale Company development at 809 Berry Rd. just west of Irvington will include a bakery, a reception hall, a restaurant and cantina, a dessert bar, and — yes — an on-site tamale-construction facility. Plus: a drive-thru meant to accommodate about 20 tamale-pickup vehicles.


05/08/12 3:05pm

Even without a thatched roof, this Spring home makes a tidy example of suburban Tudor Revival, early seventies-style. The dormers, half-timbers, herringbone accents, and diamond-paned windows associated with that style only face the street. The back elevation has a simpler, lighter, more modern design, focused on a tall exposed chimney. Listed earlier this month at $175,000, the 2,652-sq.-ft. home occupies a third-of-an-acre lot just south of the Willowcreek Golf Club — and less than 8 miles west of the new ExxonMobil campus.


04/23/12 11:31am

The brand-new home of the Menninger Clinic — tucked behind the Fiesta on South Main south of the Loop, just east of South Post Oak Rd. — has only 15 more beds than the facility it’s been leasing from Metro National at the corner of Gessner and Kempwood in West Houston for the last 9 years. Plans from 5 years ago to build a significantly larger facility closer to the Texas Medical Center with enough space for 24 additional psychiatric patients were scaled back — and the project delayed — because of fundraising difficulties. But among other improvements, the new place should feel a whole lot more open. At 50 acres, the new $65 million campus is 36 acres larger than the current one, and features 650 trees. The buildings, designed by Kirksey Architecture and just completed by Tellepsen Builders, mimic a Frank Lloyd Wright-flavored Prairie style, but apparently without any of those annoying low ceilings.


04/02/12 11:53pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHY THEY WOULD HAVE HAD TO GUT JERRY J. MOORE’S MANSION ANYWAY “By the way, I still have the interior room keys to that house. Each was unique and labelled in French. Plain nickel plated keys for the utility areas, bronze keys for the secondary bedrooms and elaborate sculpted gold keys for the formal areas. It was quite a unique place.” [John McReynolds, commenting on On Second Thought, Nevermind: The $5 Million Gut-and-Flip of Jerry J. Moore’s Little French Castle in Houston]

01/18/12 11:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE ORIGINS OF THE FRANKENTUSCAN STYLE “. . . It is an extremely unfortunate and yet pervasive fallacy to equate contemporary, non-kitschy architecture with splashy, risky design and poor quality construction done with non-durable materials. There are plenty of examples of understated, elegant, and yes, conventionally constructed and well-built modern design here in Houston. They include local firms such as Lake|Flato (designer of the new HEB) or Kirksey. It’s silly to lump all of modernism together, but depending on your definition of it, Modernism in one form or another has been extensively practiced all over the world ever since the Bauhaus school attempted to develop a formal pedagogy for it in the 1920′s. I *think* over 100 years and x-number of buildings later, we’ve figured out how to build it without leaks. Your second false assumption is that Marvy Finger builds in the Faux-traditional style because it’s ‘tried-and-true’ or ‘inexpensive.’ Ok, well maybe if you go faux all the way (as in crappy plaster cast stone facades) then it would be cheaper. But either way, I’d wager that Finger, who didn’t get to where he is by . . . losing money, is pitching his products at a very specific market segment. Namely, wealthy people and those with aspirations of even more wealth. In the United States it seems that modern architecture is associated with public buildings and some kind of suspicious, alien, and vaguely socialist agenda. Who wants their family, friends, or boss to think that they’re weird or some kind of communist? Hence, the best way to have your dwelling embody your conservative social stance and financial aspirations (or status) is to live in a nice replica of a Tuscan Pallazo or French chateau. Of course, this is absurd and impossible to pull off when you try to cram all the programming and functions of a multi-family apartment or condo building into it, so you usually end up with some kind of a hideous Frankenstein behemoth. Witness any Randall Davis project as an example. It’s alive… ALIVE!!!!” [JL, commenting on Comment of the Day: In Defense of the Same Old-Looking Stuff]

01/17/12 11:35pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: IN DEFENSE OF THE SAME OLD-LOOKING STUFF “I hate to say it, but there’s a lot going for inoffensive tried-and-true faux-historical designs built from readily available, durable, and inexpensive materials by contractors that have done dozens of projects before, just like it. Spectacular architecture necessarily entails the risk of spectacular failure.” [TheNiche, commenting on Apartments Planned for Montrose Fiesta Site Will Go Tall Mediterranean]

06/01/11 12:40pm

This somewhat industrial stretch of Berry Rd. just west of Irvington on Houston’s Northside will soon be home to a new food-and-entertainment strip center developed by the Alamo Tamale Company. The 21,000-sq.-ft. theme center and parking lot were designed by Cisneros Design Studio Architects (local ethnographers among our readers may recognize Cisneros as the designer of Katy’s recently shuttered Forbidden Gardens). Lining up on the south-facing strip at 809 Berry will be the best in tamale-themed entertainment: a full-service restaurant, a cantina open late, a panaderia that’ll open early, a banquet and reception hall, and a raspa and dessert bar open primarily on weekends. But the featured destination will likely be the new Alamo Tamale storefront itself, next door to the company’s existing handmade tamale HQ. You should be able to pick it out quickly — it’s the one with the Alamo-like facade:


04/28/11 11:41am

C’mon, we all know what the problem’s been with the old Art Deco River Oaks Shopping Center on West Gray, just east of Shepherd: The place was too black-and-white, the signs were too damn small, and it didn’t have enough turrets. Hey, nothing a little forehead lift and a generous slathering of EIFS can’t fix! Got some can’t-sell brick up there? Time for a little arch-ee-textural adjustment! It’ll look just like stucco — with all those control joints you love, plus they’ll be painting the new glop a nice Pearland-y mustard color. All that and a new wash of beige paint over the rest of the place should make folks driving in from newer suburbs feel more at home when they visit — and may have the added bonus of attracting a few of those nail salons and check-cashing outlets the place has been so sorely missing.


04/26/11 12:41pm

Vespas welcome. And sure, the Italian spirit goes for a little valet now and then too:

Following a brief construction period beginning early summer, the space occupied by Catalan will reopen as Coppa Ristorante Italiano, a long-awaited concept for owners Charles Clark and Grant Cooper. Coppa will bring you a simple, flavorful American translation of classic Italian cuisine in a welcoming and lighthearted atmosphere that characterizes the Italian spirit.

Rendering: Coppa Ristorante Italiano. Photo: Zagat Buzz (license)

04/18/11 9:33am

If, when the place was up for sale last year, you only liked what you saw of the legendary ornate sorta-replica French palace in Sherwood Forest that Houston strip-mall king and car collector Jerry J. Moore pieced together for himself from actual French parts, you’ll absolutely love the home in its latest incarnation: The 12,734-sq.-ft. interior has now been gutted completely. And, the home’s current owners hope, you’ll be willing to pay about $5.15 million more for it in its current condition than they were when they bought it about this time last year for just $3.75 million — you know, when the interior had things in it like floors and walls and ceilings, not to mention functioning electricity and plumbing. Also swept away by demolition crews for today’s more sophisticated, imaginative, and demanding buyer — Moore’s famous 26-car garage at the back of the property, with the “treehouse” quarters above it, as well as the poolhouse. Listing agent Diane Kingshill of Martha Turner Properties tells Swamplot both of those structures were in poor condition and had mold.

But if any mold was also hiding in the marble flooring, chandeliers, or extensive wood paneling of the main house, it’s clearly gone now. All that sweat equity put in by the current owners has many more benefits — certainly enough to justify the $8.9 million asking price with which the home has returned to this year’s much stronger market. Just see what interior vistas have been opened up, in a home once full of visual obstacles:


04/14/11 8:52pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: NOT HOLDING UP SO WELL WITHOUT YOU Missing columns are nothing to snicker about. Have you ever spent sleepless nights wondering if your loved column will return? Have you experienced the pain of seeing your column with a Spanish Colonial from the other side of town? Well, you might think she supports you completely, but you’ll be the one left bearing the load. Mark my words you insensitive clods.” [kilray, commenting on Houston Home Listing Photo of the Day: Dramatic Entry]

03/24/11 10:17am

What says Bay Area luxury living better than a front entry at the end of a thin pedestrian bridge over your pool? This arresting multi-towered confection with the “don’t shoot me” stance quivers about a block from Galveston Bay in Seabrook. At ease, dude! We’re just here for the party.