High-Rise With History
Stylish Remodel Reflects Unique Past
Built in 1963 as luxury apartments and converted to condominiums in 1980, Regency House is one of the first condominium buildings in Houston. The 13-story residential icon is an architectural marvel ahead of its time. Highlighted by its sharp and imposing structure contrasted by softer accents, Regency House easily stands out among the other buildings in River Oaks. Glass and concrete exteriors exude the style of architecture prevalent during the era of its construction.
Recently renovated, the north-facing penthouse home in this building also has an interesting story to tell. Like the Regency, its history is unique. Formerly, the penthouse was the Napoleon Club, a restaurant and bar servicing the residents of the building for almost 30 years. In 1993, the Napoleon Club was destroyed in a fire and closed. Eventually, a well-known Houston developer purchased the space to office his business.
For 23 years, until 2014, real estate deals defining Houston’s commercial and residential landscape would open and close behind the doors of this penthouse office space overlooking the homes of the city’s wheelers and dealers. If walls could talk…
Thanks to the vision, inspiration and talent of the couple who bought the space and their builder, not only do the walls talk, but the space is now an uber-cool 2,188-square-foot River Oaks luxury penthouse condominium that respects the past, while reflecting the present and future of the couple who now own the remarkable slice of Houston sky.
Together 36 years, Bill, an oil and gas executive, and Audrey, an interior designer, have lived in nine and owned six homes. Audrey has renovated four of these homes and oversaw the new construction of another. When they began their home search, the Maloneys were living in a single-family home in River Oaks, but because their boys are grown and out of the house, because Bill is semi-retired and because they also own a family home in New England where they split their time, the couple was ready to downsize. They were drawn to a high-rise as it offered less maintenance and more security, which would enable them to enjoy a simplified lifestyle and ease of travel.
After considering different properties for over a year, realtor Cyndy Fremaux brought Audrey to the Regency initially to look at a smaller space. However, when Audrey saw the north-facing unit, her immediate reaction was, “This is it!” Still configured as an office space with a reception room, large conference room, powder room and staff kitchen, Audrey was able to see past the design challenges, focus on the view (River Oaks to the north, the Galleria to the west and downtown Houston to the east) and visualize another renovation project she could sink her teeth into. Plus, the condo’s location is only a mile away from their old home and walking distance to great shops and restaurants.
Once purchased, the first order of business was transforming the office into a home while maintaining the apartment’s character and history. As they collaborated on the renovation, “stunning” was Bill’s requested mandate. Audrey’s was to merge the building’s 1960’s vibe with a timeless, mid-century modern, functional design. Their common “must haves” were an office for Audrey, a music room for Bill, ample storage and an open kitchen.
Selecting Steve Hood Company was an easy choice for the Maloneys. Audrey said, “Steve has vast experience, is very personable and professional. I knew we could work well together.” She came to their first meeting with a design and two drawings. The design included a couple of unique existing elements: the wood doors that originally defined the central conference room of the former space and the exposed concrete ceiling. The two drawings were basically identical, but with the layout flipped. They relied on Steve to determine which configuration was preferable for plumbing and electrical considerations.
The kitchen, Audrey’s favorite room, proved to be one of the renovation challenges. The objective was to create an open, functional and aesthetically pleasing space, with clean lines. The Maloneys selected Wood Mode cabinets with a high gloss, white finish which served as the foundation of the design. That was the easy part. Configuring the gas and electric lines into the design was the hard part.
Given the concrete structure of the building, the gas and electric lines that were needed for the island had to be incorporated into an architectural element that joined with the ceiling — the open vertical column feature. Concrete columns and a utility chase also needed to be concealed within the kitchen layout. The placement of the laundry appliances was also fixed. The washer and dryer could not easily be moved and needed to be incorporated into the adjacent space, so they took a European approach and left these appliances exposed, but tucked them flush into a wall of cabinetry to maintain continuity from the kitchen.
The result is impressive. The kitchen opens to the adjoining sitting and dining area and fully benefits from the northern exposure. The sleek, uncluttered appearance, the open column feature as an interesting and functional architectural element enhances the overall design. Additionally, incorporating lighting to showcase the open column, and the unique tile backsplash adds to the sophisticated look of this space.
Bill’s office/music room was another challenge. Because the space is a condo and Bill plays both drums and several guitars, including electric ones, building a sound-controlled room was imperative. They hired an acoustic engineer who helped to incorporate several important elements of design, including thicker walls constructed of specialized sheetrock and additional insulation, acoustic panels, unique caulking, seals and gaskets, additional sub-flooring materials and a drum platform constructed with 40 standoffs (separators used to raise one assembly above another) below it, all to control sound migration.
The Maloneys report that there is much to love about their new home. Beyond the function and style, they appreciate the walkability and convenience of its location, their access to their favorite and familiar shops and restaurants, and they love the size, too.
“Bigger is not always better,” said Audrey. “Smart design can make smaller spaces very functional. A lot of thought went into the initial space planning stages, and it paid off. It is a home we have dreamed of owning.”
Text by Cheryl Alexander | Photography by Rob Muir Photography | Construction by Steve Hood Company | Interiors by Audrey Malone, AM Designs
TOP IMAGE: The living and dining areas in this high- rise flow seamlessly from one area to the other with a stunning 180 degree view. In the dining area: Kuga dining chairs from Contempo Design; custom dining table with Poliform base and Okite Quartz top. In the living areas: Goodland sofa and chair from Design Within Reach; Arteriors Pearson floor lamp and Pussycat chairs by Caracole from Ladco; San Vincente Chandelier by Avenue Lighting from The LIGHT Company.