The City Federation Of Women's Club
This is the newspaper item written about the house that I was privileged to help remodel in 1985. It is here that we experienced this unusual story that unveils its mystery as time goes on. So, I keep writing while the spirits guide me forward as their personal ghost writer.
The City Federation of Women's Club
411 Lovett Blvd.
HOUSTON CHRONICLE ARCHIVES
Paper: HOUSTON CHRONICLE
Date: THU 08/15/1985
Edition: NO STAR
Face-lift transforms an aging mansion into a showhouse
By MADELEINE McDERMOTT HAMM
FASHIONABLE FANCY white wicker probably filled the sunlighted solarium in 1906 when the Bullock mansion was new.
Today not a hint of nostalgia decorates the trellised and tiled oval room.
Beneath a pale blue-green ceiling, adorned with classical motifs, a modern black Italian Tizio lamp shines upon a Louis XVI gueridon table of steel and marble. The black leather sofa is one of LeCorbusier's designs from the late 1920s, while the large pouf is skirted in a fresh floral chintz with English country charm. White canvas upholstery and fringed pillows dress down gilded Louis XVI-style chairs.
This is how interior designer Jerry Happner of au Naturale envisions the solarium in the stately Bullock house for 1985. The appealing blending of styles as new in the 18th century as the Tizio is today typifies the stylish face-lift Houston designers have given the red buck mansion for the 1985 Zeta Tau Alpha designer Showhouse.
Every style from Chippendale to New Wave makes an appearance in the house with more than 20 newly decorated rooms. Surprises abound, from the bold hand-painted water silk wall upholstery in the dining room to the patterned wallpaper adding detail interest to the risers on the staircase.
Taking a tour of the fourth showhouse sponsored by the Houston Zeta alumnae is like stepping into the pages of a slick interior design magazine. The visual feast of decorating ideas, from country to high-tech, easily warrants bringing along a note pad for jotting down details.
No design restrictions were placed on the designers who were chosen to renovate and decorated the three-story house. For instance, the three turn-of-the-century Venetian chandeliers that hung in the front rooms were not completely intact, but they were reassembled to create two elegant companion fixtures for the front foyer and adjoining area.
Lloyd Barun and Erroll Sweeton of Barun and Sweeton, who did the formal entry spaces, replaced the short candles in the chandeliers with long electrified tapers and added handmade lemon silk shades to match the color they painted the walls. Two faux marble columns visually divide the long entrance hall, and French Directoire chairs from 1795 surround a contemporary acrylic table to create a card-game area by the fireplace opposite the front doors.
Oil entrepreneur Frank Bullock built the house at 411 Lovett Blvd. in 1906, and in 1926 he had air conditioning installed. The decorative ceiling medallions from which the chandeliers hung were actually iron ceiling grates for the central air conditioning, said to be the first in a Houston residence.
The Bullock mansion was also once the last stop for the trolley line between downtown and the Montrose area. The trolley "turn around" was at one corner of the mansion's grounds.
In 1948 The City Federation of Women's Clubs bought the Bullock house for $60,000 to use for monthly club meetings and for wedding receptions and other social events.
Since the women's groups are non-profit organizations that raise money for various charities and have little to budget for upkeep of the aging mansion, they were happy to turn the house over to the Zetas for the showhouse during the summer when the clubs do not meet. Not only will the City Federation now have a refurbished house, the Zetas plan to donate part of the showhouse proceeds to the federation. Another recipient will be the DePelchin Children's Center.
Rooms in the mansion that had needed attention for years now will vie for the role of favorite gathering place.
Harriet Coulson, ASID, and Rod Hamlin of Coulson-Hamlin Interior Design revived the living room with dark green walls and crisp white woodwork and mantel. They took their color palette from a Portuguese needlepoint rug with the green background and deep rose and French vanilla-colored flowers. A vanilla chamoislike fabric covers a French armchair and seating modules that form a love seat in the main grouping and a banquette in one corner, while another armchair is treated to a vanilla and rose plaid taffeta.
On the adjoining sun porch, traditional overtones continue, but dark background reverses to light. Virginia Gildart of Bering's selected a fresh white background floral fabric to cover the Chippendale style camelback sofa as well as the wicker, hand-carved twig and wing chairs. Then she guaranteed the pattern's impact by using a matching paper not only on the walls but on the ceiling, too.
A successful designer once said since a formal dining room is not used all the time, it should be memorable. Jane Page Crump, ASID Associate, of Jane Page Creative Designs, has taken that advice a step further - to dramatic. Topping the painted silk walls is a faux marble treatment of alternating blocks of rose and dove gray inspired by architectural detailing at the J. Paul Getty Museum in California. An intricate lighting system spotlights special art work by Comoni - the Houston team of artists Joyce Combs and Merry Calderoni - and other objects and also gives an overall soft rose glow to the dining room.
Upstairs, devotees of both art nouveau and art deco will be delighted.
Eric M. Jones, Rhonda Jones and Mary Ann Davis of TCT Design have created a bedroom around an outstanding art nouveau treasure, a signed Louis Majorelle fireplace mantel, circa 1900. It is carved of mahogany and richly accented with gilded bronze, and is on loan from the collection of John Mecom Jr.
Also borrowed from Mecom are a Majorelle chair, a bentwood table, a deco fire screen and a Bauer-Coble lamp made in the Tiffany manner. The walls are hung from the ceiling with a gray and silver cotton chintz, and the floor has been given the look of white and black marble with vinyl tiles.
Down the hall, Albert Carr of Albert Carr Interior Design has transformed a small bedroom with intricate architectural scrolls and paneling into a serene space he calls the lady's boudoir. Aqua walls reflect a cool look that sets off the rich tones of the exotic burl in the period art deco bed, side chests and wardrobe made in Bath, England. Aqua Austrian sheers at the window and the soft technique of a woman's portrait by Janet Hassinger contrast with the severe lines of the furniture. A custom Edward Field's rug brings other colors and pattern to the deceptively simple room.
In all, 33 Houston designers worked on the more than 20 spaces, including exterior landscaping.
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