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2017 Good Brick Award Winner

| May 1, 2017

In the living room, the floors are new, reclaimed oak. The original floors in the building were unsalvageable.

A 1920s Building Receives A Facelift, A New Life And A New Family

Since 1979, Preservation Houston has presented the Good Brick Awards recognizing outstanding contributions to the preservation, restoration and enhancement of Houston’s architectural and cultural heritage. Nomination categories include the renovation, restoration, or adaptive reuse of a building; new buildings or sympathetic additions that enhance the existing historic fabric of Houston; recognition for the craftspeople who continually maintain, build, and restore our important buildings and cultural fabric; preservation-related programs or activities; project planning; publications; and outstanding service or leadership in preservation.

On April 29-30, Preservation Houston will host the Good Brick Tour where visitors will enjoy guided tours of five award-winning homes and buildings that are not usually open to the public. One of the highlights of this year’s tour is The Dentler Building, 1809 Summer Street, a four-plex repurposed as a single-family home in the High First Ward Historic District.

David Bush, acting executive director of Preservation Houston, explained that some of the things the Good Brick Awards jury considers in making its decision include whether the historic character of the building has been preserved, the impact the project has had on the neighborhood and the prior condition of the building. He said, “It’s really about the overall project and not any one specific factor. The jury does not look at interior design, which can be changed fairly easily; the awards are about preserving the historic character of the building.”

The Dentler Building is a two-story masonry structure built in 1923 by George H. Dentler, whose food and condiments business is particularly remembered in Houston for Dentler Maid Potato Chips. Reports indicate that the potato chips were manufactured in outbuildings (no longer extant) at the rear of the property. The original permit for the building indicates that 1809 Summer Street may have been used as a combined store and apartment house. After the Dentler’s sold the building, it went through a few owners, but most was most recently configured and in use as a four-plex apartment building.

Fast-forward to 2013 when Laura and Evan Michaelides bought, restored and (not surprisingly) won their first Good Brick Award for the renovation of a First Ward bungalow across the street from the Dentler Building. This renovation became Four Square Design Studio, the new home for Laura’s building and interior design business. From the new space, the Michaelides caught sight of a building across the street. Though the building was in severe disrepair, the couple was intrigued by its strong lines, its history, its proximity to Laura’s business, and the challenge it presented.

“Preservation is very personal, especially when you’re looking at a historic building that you want to make your home,” Bush said. “Most people would have looked at the Dentler Building and seen a tear-down, but Laura and Evan have the vision and the commitment necessary to make a project like this a success.”

While others would have seen it as a hopeless case, the couple embraced the project. It took a year of cleaning and planning before they could even start the year-and-a-half restoration process.

Though the foundation was good, the building came with a lengthy to-do list. Significant deterioration in the structural brick of the front façade necessitated large-scale repairs involving the disassembly and repointing of approximately one-third of the brick. The original bricks were salvaged and re-used to rebuild the façade.

During interior demolition, most of the joists holding up the first floor were found to have sustained heavy termite damage and were replaced. Likewise, the wood floors on both the first and second stories were found to have such extensive termite damage that they could not be salvaged, and were replaced with reclaimed white oak of the same width and thickness as the original.

The original window frames were severely deteriorated. The frames of all the windows visible from the street were painstakingly restored by hand, while the original wooden sashes were salvaged, repaired and re-used.

“There were times it was a little scary because we didn’t know what else we would find,” Laura recalled.

Once they started on the interior work – which took another year and a half – they could see their dream taking shape.

Though the building’s architecture is standard 1920s masonry and plaster, its bones were strong. Actually, this kind of construction isn’t standard in Houston. It usually has a brick veneer over wood framing. This structure is unusual in this town. The couple was reminded, in every step of the work, of the quality of materials and craftsmanship of another era. History was left evident in salvaged bricks stamped with company names such as Ferris, Coffeyville and Groesbeck.

Because the building was transformed from a fourplex to a single-family residence, the floor plan had to be completely redefined. The first floor was redesigned to maximize openness for the kitchen, dining and living areas, while the more private spaces, such as bedrooms, bathrooms and storage, were repositioned on the second level.

The design of the spaces reflects Laura’s background in modern design, as well American historic design — simple and clean. In contrast, the stair hall gives a nod to the building’s history. It was completely restored to its original state, including re-plastering the walls and restoring the railings, stairs, moldings, front door, transom and sidelights. “I was going to paint it, but it’s just so beautiful. There’s nothing on it at all; it’s just raw plaster,” Laura said.

The exterior brick had been painted by previous owners. In order to maintain the integrity of the mortar, no attempt was made to remove this paint. On the interior, select areas of the brick walls were left exposed for both visual effect and historical interest.

Inside the home, there is a distinctive mixture of old and new. The abundance and placement of windows makes things open and interesting, and the spaces have a lovely, airy feel. The couple has filled the home with their own eclectic mix of furniture, decor and artwork, collected in various places over the course of their decades-long marriage.

Downstairs is a huge open space where one side is the dining and kitchen area, and the other is a large living space. When the project commenced, these spaces were each individual apartments, with internal walls dividing the space into rooms. Those walls were demolished, and now the space offers a completely open view from front to back.

The living space offers a lovely antique Regency-style sofa that Laura acquired at Reeves Antiques and had reupholstered in a silvery fabric. Family mementos are on display on nearby shelves. The dining table in the center is a Laura Michaelides design paired with English Arts and Crafts chairs. The highly functional kitchen stays light, bright and on-trend with gray cabinets, black honed granite counters and a stainless-steel island.

All of the bedrooms are upstairs and have been restored and updated to reflect the couple’s own personal tastes and those of their grown children, whose rooms double as guest rooms.

The building previously included a first-floor patio and second-floor balcony that were connected by a staircase that ate up much of the space. Since the rickety external structure had to be torn down and replaced, the couple opted for two separate patios. The downstairs deck patio is screened in, and the upstairs terrace is open and accessible from the bedrooms.

The backyard in the pre-renovated building was unusable due to neglect and broken concrete, but the couple has also made over the landscape. The backyard is now lush and alluring with grass, trees and low-maintenance plants.

During the renovation, Laura relied on the professional friends she’s known for years. Because her experience taught her that older homes require special care, she called on masons, window experts, tile setters and others who know where to find things that would work in the 93-year-old building, including Steve Ista of Ista Construction; cabinetry by Giles Construction; tile work by Juan Landaverde; and plasterwork in the stair hall, also by Ista Construction.

“I think this was an unusual project, and therefore I think it was attractive to Preservation Houston and the others who worked with us,” said Laura. “We took a really derelict building, and gave it new life. This doesn’t happen too frequently in Houston, so this was notable. It was an enormous undertaking.”

Evan, too, has come to appreciate the lasting effect of beautiful architecture and history. “Old buildings were built with superb craftsmanship, great care and good materials,” he said. “We’re just the custodians of these older homes.”

Bush praised the couple for their insight and vision. “The Michaelides’ renovation is a good example of what you can do with a historic building if you look at it differently,” he said.

For their efforts, the owners have a lovely home and a second Good Brick Award from Preservation Houston.

Text by Cheryl Alexander | Photography by Miro Dvorscak | Architectural Design by Four SquareDesign Studio/Laura Michaelides

Construction by Steve Ista/Ista Construction | Interiors by Four Square Design Studio/Laura Michaelides |Cabinetry by Giles Construction

Tilesetting by Juan Landaverde |Brick design by Julian Alvarado |Landscape design by Alice Laguarta/Plantasia |Plasterwork in stair hall by Ista Construction

Top Image: Top Image: In the living room, the floors are new, reclaimed oak. The original floors in the building were unsalvageable.

The Dentler Building, a Pres­ervation Houston 2017 Good Brick Award Winner.

The Dentler Building, a Pres­ervation Houston 2017 Good Brick Award Winner.

 

A view towards the living room from the front hall. The brick showing on the west wall is the original structural brick of the building, which has been left exposed. The exterior of the building is entirely brick. There is no wood framing on the exterior walls.

A view towards the living room from the front hall. The brick showing on the west wall is the original structural brick of the building, which has been left exposed. The exterior of the building is entirely brick. There is no wood framing on the exterior walls.

 

This view of the upper stair hall shows the light fixture Laura devised by plugging in standard exterior string lights into outlets in the ceiling and tacking them randomly on the walls. The bulbs are unbreakable LED bulbs.

This view of the upper stair hall shows the light fixture Laura devised by plugging in standard exterior string lights into outlets in the ceiling and tacking them randomly on the walls. The bulbs are unbreakable LED bulbs.

 

In the front stair hall, the plaster on the walls is notable. Originally, the entire building had plaster walls over the existing masonry and on the interior walls, which were completely crumbling. The Michaelides wanted to restore the space as closely as possible to the original, so the stair railing and newel posts are original and restored. The underside of the stair is new, but replicates exactly what was there, and the floors are new, reclaimed oak. Since the owners love the look of the raw plaster, they decided to leave it unpainted.

In the front stair hall, the plaster on the walls is notable. Originally, the entire building had plaster walls over the existing masonry and on the interior walls, which were completely crumbling. The Michaelides wanted to restore the space as closely as possible to the original, so the stair railing and newel posts are original and restored. The underside of the stair is new, but replicates exactly what was there, and the floors are new, reclaimed oak. Since the owners love the look of the raw plaster, they decided to leave it unpainted.

 

The powder room/guest bath has a unique, mesh-mounted, mosaic floor from La Nova tile in Houston.

The powder room/guest bath has a unique, mesh-mounted, mosaic floor from La Nova tile in Houston.

 

The kitchen is spacious, light and roomy enough for collaborating cooks and entertaining friends.

The kitchen is spacious, light and roomy enough for collaborating cooks and entertaining friends.

 

The master bedroom, with shuttered windows and a door to the deck, make it a perfect retreat for this creative couple. | Evan’s home office has a desk that Laura designed for him with walnut and white colorcore laminate for the drawers.

The master bedroom, with shuttered windows and a door to the deck, make it a perfect retreat for this creative couple. | Evan’s home office has a desk that Laura designed for him with walnut and white colorcore laminate for the drawers.

 

The dining room looking towards the sitting area allows a view of portraits from 1923, the same date as the building, of Evan’s great grandparents.

The dining room looking towards the sitting area allows a view of portraits from 1923, the same date as the building, of Evan’s great grandparents.

 

Evan’s home office has a desk that Laura designed for him with walnut and white colorcore laminate for the drawers. |

Evan’s home office has a desk that Laura designed for him with walnut and white colorcore laminate for the drawers. |

 

The sitting area off of the dining room features artwork and memorabilia on glass shelves, which include ceramics, glass and sculpture by family and friends, as well as other items that the couple has collected over time. The sofa is an antique regency sofa. The chair is an old Bank of England chair, and the coffee table was made by Laura and her father.

The sitting area off of the dining room features artwork and memorabilia on glass shelves, which include ceramics, glass and sculpture by family and friends, as well as other items that the couple has collected over time. The sofa is an antique regency sofa. The chair is an old Bank of England chair, and the coffee table was made by Laura and her father.

 

The first floor screened in porch is a thoughtful addition to the existing structure that preserves the historic value of the home.

The first floor screened in porch is a thoughtful addition to the existing structure that preserves the historic value of the home.

 

In this detail of the first floor porch, visitors can catch a glimpse of a train going by in the background – the couple’s built-in entertainment.

In this detail of the first floor porch, visitors can catch a glimpse of a train going by in the background – the couple’s built-in entertainment.


Category: Featured Homes

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