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Carla Jordan | Photo: Julie Soefer | October 3, 2013
Chandos Dodson puts a stylish spin on George H. W. Bush’s former home.
When designer Chandos Dodson and oil-and-gas businessman Ike Epley said “I do,” they moved into a home with a past, not all of which was immediately apparent. They knew their 2,800-square-foot townhome was part of 5000 Longmont, Houston’s first urban townhome enclave. Created by renowned architect Preston Bolton—also a longtime civic leader and local arts pioneer who co-founded the Houston Ballet—5000 Longmont was built in the early 1960s, and was a departure for Houston because of its center-city location and unique design elements (like interior garden courtyards rather than peripheral open spaces).
However, what the couple was unaware of was that 5000 Longmont has also had its share of famous residents—one of whom eventually took up residence in the White House. “One day when Ike was perusing our deed, he saw that President George H. W. Bush had owned our home when he was a U.S. Representative,” says Dodson.
Next, the story of a Hollywood legend popped up. “We learned from a neighbor that actress Gene Tierney had lived next door while married to Houston oilman Howard Lee.” The home’s storied pedigree was showing. So was its need for a serious style makeover.
“When Ike purchased the home, it hadn’t been touched for quite some time. It was very modern and stark, and everything had been done in white, including the rugs,” says Dodson. “That was much too cold and spare for my tastes. My previous home was much more traditional and filled with antiques.”
Before Dodson arrived on the scene, Epley had done some updating. He installed wood floors, and replaced cabinetry and counters in the kitchen and bathrooms. As Dodson assessed the home’s state, she realized the biggest challenge was figuring out how to work with its shape. “You can see the whole house from one end to another,” says Dodson. “So all of the rooms needed to work together, while still being somewhat different in style and color.” She sensed that this could be achieved without a major renovation, so a makeover soon began.
Both Dodson and Epley love art, so a Terrell James painting served as the jumping-off point for the color palette. “The painting brought in the lavenders and grays I wanted, plus, it worked with the pieces Ike brought to our marriage,” says Dodson with a smile. She rounded out the palette with white, cognac and chocolate hues to create the foundation for the home’s point of view—modern but warm. This neutral color scheme also worked well as a backdrop for the couple’s growing art collection and to highlight Dodson’s art deco pieces.
Dodson grew up around antiques; her dad was a dealer. She loves to mix old with new and traditional with modern, to give rooms a sense of history and to create an eclectic look. Gazing around her home, it’s obvious she selects furnishings with the eye of a curator, layering in pieces that are high quality, unique and that work as either stand-alones or as part of a grouping.
Texture is used in subtle, yet effective, ways. Silk, velvet, leather, lacquer and sea grass add interest without overpowering. “Velvet, linen and grass cloth always make for a good mix,” says Dodson. Shiny surfaces coexist with flat and rough finishes. Dodson’s textural selection also complements the brick walls. Although some homeowners might have tagged the walls as passé, Dodson and Epley were drawn to them, so they’re played up as textural elements, and some have been left totally unadorned. This fits the home’s clean-lined, uncluttered look and, surprisingly, the brick walls look as stylistically relevant now as when the home was built.
Banks of windows fill the home with light and connect the home to nature via two enclosed, very private atriums. “We love how the atriums deliver so much natural light without exposure to the street or neighbors,” says Dodson. “The effect is really lovely.” Carefully-tended plantings dot the compact outdoor spaces (both are 300 square feet or less) that also house two sculptural fountains. One fountain is a simple cement sphere, poised on a pedestal with a water trickle that’s very faint. Although subtle in sound, the fountain delivers a Zenlike calm and is among the couple’s favorite things, according to Dodson.
Dodson and Epley have spent three years creating this home—an understated beauty filled with design integrity. Worth it? You bet. “Guests are always surprised when they step into our home,” says Dodson. “From the street it looks very small and unassuming. But on the inside...”