Modernist Houston Home with Brazilian Curves

Angelica and Gustavo Nechar moved several times to Brazil, where they were born and raised, and to France, where their careers flourished and where they owned a Haussmann-style apartment in the 17th arrondissement of Paris. But it wasn’t until Mr. Nechar’s job as a human resources manager brought the couple to Houston in 2013 that they realized there was one attractive thing missing from all their previous homes: a design that was just right. for them.

The sprawling suburban house they bought when they arrived in Houston, they decided, wasn’t quite right. For one thing, it was too big for a couple with two adult sons. And it was too far from the action of the city, which had pleasantly surprised them with its cosmopolitan atmosphere and cultural offer, even after 13 years in Paris.

What they wanted, they realized, was to build a home in the city that would support an urban, walkable lifestyle.

“After 30 years of marriage, we decided to build our own house for the first time,” Ms Nechar, 48, who quit her job as a lawyer to open a showroom for Brazilian furniture company Etel, told AFP. around the same time.

Mr. Nechar, 55, added: “We have always moved and bought other people’s houses, and lived in places that didn’t have our soul.

They wanted to be able to entertain friends in style. “We like to welcome people into our house and cook, which we learned in France,” he said. “When we talked about our house, we wanted a place where people would feel good to be with us, to share a meal or a good glass of wine.”

In 2018, they found a tired bungalow on a sought-after central lot in the Montrose neighborhood, within walking distance of the Menil Collection museum, Rothko Chapel and many restaurants. They bought it for around $550,000, intending to tear it down and start from scratch.

Their search for an architect to design the house led them to StudioMET Architects, after admiring the square, modernist homes with long flat roofs and lots of glass the firm had built in Houston.

“A contemporary home – that’s what we wanted,” Ms. Nechar said. “We didn’t want to play like some people here who build houses like castles.”

By the end of that year, StudioMET had designed a 3,800 square foot, four-bedroom home with an L-shaped footprint and applied for planning permission.

“They wanted it to be somewhat subtle – they didn’t want a big statement from the outside,” said firm partner Stephen Andrews. The two-story design, which has an upper level suspended above a poolside patio and an outdoor kitchen to the rear, aimed to maximize natural light and connections to the outdoors, he declared, while preserving the privacy of the street and neighbors.

But as soon as the plans were finalized, the Nechars began to have doubts. They were worried that the house would look too much like the architects’ other projects, so they wanted something unique. The couple therefore called on Meedi Hidalgo, a local interior designer, for a second opinion.

“I saw it was a really wonderful opportunity to showcase their cultural backgrounds and personalities,” Ms. Hidalgo said. “I really wanted to capture their culture and give a bit of emotion and poetry to the space.”

She not only provided advice on furniture and finishes, but also suggested some architectural changes. Studying mid-century modern designs from Brazil, she concluded that the house should have sensual forms.

“Brazilian mid-century design was dominated by Oscar Niemeyer, who really liked the curve, and women,” she said. “So I decided that we should try to introduce curved lines as much as possible.”

Inside the front door, Ms. Hidalgo transformed a straight staircase into a sculptural, curved staircase with open steps. She added another big sweeping curve where the ceiling drops between the living room and the kitchen. Upstairs, she replaced a rectangular pivot door in the master suite with a pocket door inside an asymmetrical arch. And in a nod to the couple’s time in France, she added a floor-to-ceiling wood and brass screen from Paris-based Red Edition between the kitchen and dining room.

She also sought to add attractive textures and colors. Where it was planned to use a standard brick on the exterior walls, she pushed for a thin glazed Italian brick that extends from the exterior to the interior of the house. For the living room, she commissioned custom concrete panels adorned with abstract shapes, including one that folds down to reveal a TV.

In the master bedroom, she installed dip-dyed wool curtains in a watery blue from Holly Hunt. In the master bathroom, she used large-scale porcelain wall tiles, for the look of worn plaster walls.

By the time the house was completed in April 2021, the Nechars had spent around $1.3 million, confident they had created an inimitable home. “It’s a project that really embodies who we are, and it’s just phenomenal,” Nechar said. “We are very happy to have accomplished this.”

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