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The High Life
By Helen Thompson | Photo: Michael Hunter for Cantoni and Eggersmann USA | February 2, 2015
A family from Victoria discovers how to really go to town when they visit their 27th-floor condo in The Warwick Towers.
It’s a symbol of urban life: city dwellers desperate to flee town on the weekend. But there is the occasional example of reverse trending by a few trailblazers not afraid to go their own way. While lines of cars creep down freeways, discharging thousands of Houstonians from the center of town, one family of seven is heading in the opposite direction, eagerly motoring from Victoria two hours away to their new condo in The Warwick Towers.
The 3,000-square-foot, three-bedroom, three-bath spread on the 27th floor is an otherworldly destination for this family. Its recently completed minimalist decor is the result of the homeowners’ well-researched awareness of what they wanted and the support of their design team, headed by Gena Sylvester, design consultant for Cantoni, and Evan Soltoff, manager of Houston’s Eggersmann showroom.
It was by chance that Houston became a destination for this doctor and attorney and their five children, ages 16 to 22. The parents often ferried one child, then two, then three (soon it will be four) children to Hobby Airport. There they catch the two-hour Southwest Airlines flight to Lambert International in St. Louis, where the siblings attend Washington University and Washington University School of Medicine. “I was going to Houston so much,” says the wife. “All of a sudden it’s midnight and too late to drive home. I just needed a place to stay overnight.” But expedience blossomed into a multilayered experience that embraced the couple’s notion of high-rise living as well as their curiosity about all the opportunities the country’s fourth-largest city has to offer.
“We looked at a lot of condos,” says the wife, who knew that a turnkey lifestyle would be a welcome change from their well-grounded existence in a big house with matching yard in Victoria. “We were intrigued by the idea of living in the sky,” says the husband. He researched every option, a theme that is the signature of the entire project. “We kept coming back to The Warwick Towers,” he says. The reasons for choosing a renovated building completed in 1981 hinged on a single feature: The structural support systems of the double 30-story skyscrapers are embedded in the exterior walls of the buildings. That means there are no load-bearing columns cluttering up the interior spaces, the bane of most skyscrapers. “That was really important to us,” says the husband. “We didn’t want anything to get in the way of our view.” In 2012, when a condo went on the market with a 180-degree panorama of downtown, the University of Houston, the ship channel, Hermann Park, the Medical Center and the Galleria, they snapped it up.
Maintaining the view was the determining factor for interior decor too. The couple turned to Cantoni, the furniture showroom synonymous with cutting-edge Italian brands and known for its Design Studio. “I looked at furniture at other stores,” says the husband, “but they all had big signature pieces that brought too much attention to themselves.” With Sylvester, the couple opted for selections from the Cattelan Italia line: low-slung, understated leather and Ultrasuede chairs; sofas; headboards; and wood and glass-chromed case goods with unobtrusive profiles. “When you walk in the door,” says the wife, “there’s nothing that gets in the way of what you see out the windows.” Sylvester also brought in sculptural art and wall hangings. “It was very important to them that we didn’t overload the walls with art,” she notes. “The view is their art.”
As for what else the homeowners think of as art, one piece is unlikely: a 15.5-foot-long kitchen island that is the centerpiece for the condo’s open living area. It’s part of the Eggersmann kitchen system, a masterpiece of precision cabinetry built out of micro-thin slabs of black- and gray-veined white Carnico Griggio marble. “It’s the nucleus of this home,” says Soltoff, who orchestrated the installation of the island, cabinetry and storage. So fine-tuned was the couple’s instinct for visual distraction that Soltoff took great pains to keep surfaces uncluttered. He specified cabinetry without hardware, Miele appliances that fit flush into the walls and a Silgranite sink (a quartz granite composite) integrated into the countertop. “It disappears,” he says.
What doesn’t disappear is everything going on in the world above and below the condo. Hermann Park is adjacent: “We love to listen to concerts there and watch the fireworks,” the couple says. Also entertaining: the people flying kites and the animals in the zoo, close enough that the family can see what the elephants, zebras and giraffes are doing. Within walking and biking distance are Minute Maid Stadium, Rice University and Rice Village, the rail line and the museums. “For being in a big city,” says the husband, “we commune more with nature than we do at home.” And when it’s time to go back to Victoria? “We just punch a few buttons and shut everything off. Then we get in the car and go home. It’s so easy.”
CABINETRY AND KITCHEN SYSTEMS
Sofas in the two bedrooms
Sunshine rug in music area
Dining room chairs, lounge chairs, sofa in living room
SW 7006 Extra White