A widower father blasts off, channeling space-age style in a posh and art-filled Montrose party pad.
As you arrive at the home of Flo Alakija, 33, there’s little clue from the stark, snow-colored, street-facing façade of the two-story Montrose house as to what’s inside. Perhaps another chilly white-on-white affair with Barcelona chairs and gallery-selected splatter paintings?
No, what you find instead is a party-savvy pad with a well executed mix of mod style—a wild spin on midcentury that might be called Space Age—and clean amd simple natural elements of stone, wood and water.
Entering through a gate at the side of the house, then strolling a long arrival way, under a trellised vestibule with a 40-foot pool to your right and series of 12-foot windows and a sliding glass door to your left, you notice that parts of the exterior are cloaked richly in warm ipe wood from Brazil. But the real warmth comes from the homeowner himself, as he opens the secluded “front” door of glass at the back of the structure.
Today Alakija—a widower father, known to all as simply “Flo,” who is raising 4-year-old Sage after losing his wife to cancer—offers both a welcoming smile and an embrace worthy of an old friend. “I’m a hugger,” he says in a charming British accent, which the native of Nigeria acquired while attending boarding school in London. Flo still spends time in London, where he keeps an apartment, as he does in New York. He also goes home to Nigeria often, and travels the world helping run the family’s oil business and vacationing in high style.
While Flo sought the advice of interior designer Andre Noel of New York and local developer Carol Isaak Barden, the look of the Houston home is his vision, informed by his worldly ways. “When we were building the house, it wasn’t unusual for me to get 20 emails a day from Flo, with pictures and information about exactly what he wanted,” says Barden, “down to the Zucchetti bath fittings from Italy. One time he called me from a nightclub in Paris because he had a sudden inspiration!”
The foyer, as well as the rest of his still-new home, reflects his sophisticated, fun-loving tastes. On the wall facing his main-entry door hangs a light installation resembling a sparkling galaxy that was designed by Italian artists and purchased from Artemide in Milan. On an adjacent wall hangs a piece by Houston’s Christian Eckart from McClain Gallery recalling the outlines of two huge amoebas, one light green and one brilliant blue, created from acrylic and mounted on aluminum.
The entry walls, as throughout the house, are painted a medium charcoal gray. “I saw a photograph of Tom Ford’s home in London with gray walls and decided that’s what I wanted,” says Flo, “because it’s masculine, and it’s a neutral backdrop for art and gave me versatility with using color throughout my house.”
The hardwood floors of his entry give way to polished concrete in the open living, dining and kitchen areas. He chose concrete so the floors would visually flow to the outdoor living space and pool. “I wanted a feeling of the exterior and interior, a perfect blend of man and nature.”
The duality is reflected throughout the 3,850 square feet, with every room facing the garden and pool. The influence of water is dominant in the living room, where a painting by Houston artist Aaron Parazette hangs, with letters tumbling out of sequence as if jumbled by ocean waves to spell the name of the acrylic-on-canvas piece, “Surfbum,” whose bold tones of aquamarine are echoed in a 1940s Moroccan rug from Carol Piper Rugs. The large, gray sectional sofa from M2L in New York can be rearranged to promote intimate conversation, or for more communal gatherings, depending on the occasion.
“I enjoy hosting people,” says Flo, understating that his parties are hot tickets for lucky invitees. At one recent bash, he had large dance floors installed that spanned parts of the living room and the patio around the pool. As a DJ spun, chefs from the impossibly hip Uchi prepared fresh Japanese cuisine all night long. “Of course, I invited my neighbors and warned them beforehand,” Flo says with a sheepish grin. “The party went late. It was loud, and I was afraid I’d get a few complaints, but I didn’t!”
For smaller-scale dinner parties, Flo makes use of his dining room, where a heavy table he designed himself and had built by craftsman Sandy Kay of Stonewood Studios—thick, squared-off slabs of mahogany form both base and top—are surrounded by egg-type swivel chairs of white plastic. He calls the chairs, sourced from New York’s Fritz Hanson, “futuristic... Star Trek.”
At one end of the dining room, there’s another mahogany-gone-mod touch—a built-in, LED-lit bar, “based on bars I’d seen in some of my favorite hotels,” he says. The rich wood feeling continues in the nearby kitchen, the heart of the home, where a mahogany island is topped with gray stone Flo personally selected, not only for its warm sleekness, a nice reflection of his unique style, but also for its durability. And with more parties to throw, and a toddler to take care of, durability is well in order.
“My daughter’s fourth birthday party was here,” he says, glancing at the kitchen. “The Basalt granite is the hardest surface on earth. I’m ready for anything!”