Not Yet Ruined by Updates, This MacKie and Kamrath Mod in River Oaks Is Yours for $2.5 Million



The craggy terrain backing Buffalo Bayou in River Oaks near the neighborhood’s decorative gates at Shepherd Dr. sprouted several Usonian-design inspired homes by the architecture firm of MacKie & Kamrath back in the fifties. One of the modernist properties that still remains on the Tiel Way loop landed on the market Monday — and it’s in near original shape, right down to the redwood siding and built-in furnishings. A 1957 structure noted in architectural circles for its angles, wedges, cantilevered terraces, and detail-layered ceilings, the bayou-view home on a ravine lot now bears a $2.5 million price tag.



The street dips and twists past the home’s driveway, which curves slightly into a 2-car garage tucked into one end of the horizon-hugging design (and pictured at the top of this story). Meanwhile, a walkway channeled between low-rise garden walls (above) directs pedestrian flow to the walkway beneath a low-slung roof.



Kamrath’s designs appear to have been influenced by his time visiting Taliesin and his friendship with Frank Lloyd Wright.





Kitchen appliances are a decidedly non-original stainless steel — but what about the sink and countertops?



The far end of the kitchen (above) is fitted as an office:


Two bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and 2 half baths are part of the 3,988-sq.-ft. floor plan. Here’s the master suite, which features a cork floor:




Sections of an expansive deck step down toward the treeline.


Benches (and decorative pots) secure some portions of the deck perimeter:


The lot, 36,680 sq. ft., slopes steeply toward the bayou:


Among the commercial projects around town attributed to Kamrath (in various design partnerships) are Temple Emanu-El, the church of St. John the Divine, Memorial Dr. Presbyterian Church, the University of Texas School of Public Health Building, and the Humble Oil (later ExxonMobil) building on Buffalo Speedway.

River Oaks Wrightists

26 Comment

  • I think I just fell in love. Oh, how I wish I were a millionaire…

    *off to buy a Lotto ticket*

  • Gorgeous house. Mackie and Kamrath were perhaps the only architects in Houston who could almost make a house look like Frank Lloyd Wright himself had designed it. They were that good. Products of Taliesin they where.

  • Wow! It’s really nice.

  • Absolutely beautiful! I hope some builder doesn’t get ahold of it or its toast.There is little respect for architecture in Houston.

  • the only updating that house ever needs better require a bulldozer. it’s already perfect.

  • Not a Tuscan-style mcmansion. Cue the wrecking ball in 5…4…3….

  • This looks like about lot value to me. There’s a smaller lot for sale just down the street for $2.6 mil. I sure hope this isn’t torn down.

  • The house obviously has no value but it’s a very nice lot.

  • Wow, it really is a time-capsule
    Plywood and pebble-crete and direct-set plate windows
    Fabric dividers and tubs of terrazzo
    Angles, flourescents and wide overhangs
    These are a few of my newfangled thangs…
    I love it; just so liveable and human-scaled!

  • All those natural wood tones! Bleck! Needs more blacks, greys, grays, and whites. Now THAT”s mod baby.

  • 59 Tiel Way (across the street kind of) was just as spectacular and was price slashed repeatedly just 3 years go, even listed on ebay for 900k (and was 4500 sq feet). I tried to buy it but the timing didn’t work out (my work would not relocate me back to Houston for another year), and the owner offered it to me for (I think, if I recall) under 700k if I agreed not to tear it down. Then some rich douchebag bought it (in foreclosure, I think) and the house next door, tore it down to build a mcmodern, and then lost interest but sold the lot for a $1M profit 2 years later. I cringe just thinking about it.

  • While these appliances are new (and the counter tops new), the owners stayed original to Kamrath’s specifications. He very often would use stainless appliances and stainless counters for their utilitarian purposes, not specifically for fashion.

    In the George Mitchell house, most of the appliances were stainless and the counter tops were laminate.

  • I am in love.

  • Please don’t let some philistine fuck this house up!

  • Sadly, Semper Fudge has a point here. I get worried whenever a nice mod comes on the market at over $1 million. There’s just not demand for mods in the upper range of the market. The rich artsy types would often rather hire an architect to build a house for them; even if the older house is as nice as this one, and even if hey can afford it. The people who would buy an existing house (rich people who aren’t artsy) would rather just follow the fads and have a faux Tuscan mansion they can easily sell in a few years.
    And Commonsense: don’t delude yourself into thinking the faux Tuscan mansions and cramalot Townhomes you and your friends are throwing up, will be any better than the older houses. Sure, they won’t repeat he same mistakes (asbestos, lead paint) – but you will make new mistakes. All of those ridiculous gables and turrets that you guys slap on your houses are a bitch for your roofers to flash, and often your contractors aren’t that great to begin with. So I’d expect a lot of your houses to develop leaks, and mold, in ten years. At that point it’s all over for the poor folks who bought them. Sell at a huge loss (if you can at all) or drop a boatload of money into mold remediation.

  • VERY kewl house- I spoke with the owner about the history of his house and the flooding issue. Tiel Way due to its proximity to Buffalo Bayou floods during HEAVY rain storms. Beautiful street- but the Memorial Dr. / S.Shepherd / Kirby traffic noise sucks.. @ ZAW : the reason some of the Mackie and Kamrath houses / churches /commercial structures looked like Frank Lloyd Wright designs is Karl Kamrath was friends with FLW.. Some sources say KK studied with FLW.. Tiel Way and Troon (south of Kirby) are 2 of the most unHouston streets in Houston. There are similar heavily wooded streets in the Memorial Villages of : Hunters Creek / Piney Point / Hedwig Village /Bunker Hill / Hilshire Village / Spring Valley .. Tanglewood (north of Woodway) has some heavily wooded streets. .And the neighborhoods just between Memorial Park and Westcott St. are quite lovely- lots of trees. Enjoy…

  • @ZAW, and why exactly an unfounded opinion of someone that’s not in the industry and has no concept of construction processes matter? Especially of someone who’s first hand real estate knowledge derives from a slum called Sharpstown with an average house price well below the city median price?

    In River Oaks and most other premier neighborhoods, when someone buys or builds a house, the price of the house never drops down to the price of the lands, it’s the price of the land that catches up with the price of the houses. It make take a couple of decades but by that point the house becomes functionally obsolete anyway and one sells the house for Lot Value.

  • Karl Kamrath was a friend of Frank Lloyd Wright (they corresponded and visited each other), but he did not study at Taliesin.

  • I’m an architect, Commonsense. I advise people like you on construction processes. And I know to keep a close eye on your type – a lot of contractors will cover up shoddy work before the architect can get out there to see it…. No harm no foul until years down the line, when the roof leaks and the owner, and his lawyers, come to get us both.
    Incidentally, you know Frank Lloyd Wright was the only one who could get away with leaky roofs on his buildings. Every other architect gets sued for that, even though it’s often the Contractor’s fault for not following our details.

  • @ZAW, I won’t pretend that builders and contractors don’t cock up, if you won’t pretend that “architects” actually know how things fit together in the field. “Architects” routinely design things that defy laws of science and gravity, and putting Details drawings copied straight out of a school book does not make them true.

    The reason I put quotation marks around “Architects” is because very few people are actual Architects. 99% of people out there are mere Home Designers or simply work as Draftsmen for an architectural firm but call themselves Architects. AIA has been ruthless in recent years sending cease and desist letters and going after people holding themselves out publicly as Architects.

  • Tiel Way is one of my favorite streets in Houston. I’m glad to finally see the interior of this house that I’ve been lusting after all these years. Exquisite.

  • Henrietta is right. Kamrath admired Wright deeply but never studied at Taliesin. In fact, they met in person for the first time in 1947, after Kamrath already had an established career. In his thesis (there’s a link in the Wiki link that Henrietta posted) Reagan Miller points out that Alden Dow, who had been a Taliesin fellow in 1933 and whose non-Texas work was very Wright-influenced, oversaw the finishing of MacKie and Kamrath projects during WWII when both MacKie and Kamrath were in the Corps of Engineers. Dow was briefly based in Houston while designing wartime facilities and housing for Dow Chemical in Freeport and what would become Lake Jackson. The friendship between Dow and Kamrath that grew from this led to Dow introducing Kamrath to Wright, who invited Kamrath to visit his home in Wisconsin.

  • I took my nine exams and I pay my $1000 a year, Commonsense. I am a registered architect. And I won’t pretend to be perfect. Hey I was wrong about Karl Kamrath – I thought he was a student of Wright’s at Taliesin. That’s why good architects have internal QA/QC measures, and can be hard-nosed when it comes to proper RFI channels and communications.

  • I just sadly had to list (for a promotion to SF) my MacKie and Kamrath home designed as Leon Lee’s personal residence (architect at Kamrath). It was considered a tear down and we have painstakingly spent the last 2.5 years restoring and carefully updating the home. No expense has been been spared and I would love for it to go to a preservationist. This home is truly a one of a kind and a love letter to Frank Lloyd Wright and Leon Lee. Feel free to reach out to me for any questions or additional photography. It will be featured in next months Luxe Magazine and listed by Sotheby’s. Thank You!

  • I love Tiel Way except when it floods. Then you need a boat to get out of there…I’d buy on the interior side of Tiel Way,not the exterior(backing up to the bayou). And it’s somewhat quieter-as the exterior homes on the east and north sides of Tiel Way hear the Kirby Dr. and Memorial Dr. traffic noise.