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Garden Oaks – A search for a driveway turned into a find of a home

The Garden Oaks neighborhood of Houston is appropriately named for its garden-like surroundings of wooded forest preserves, lushly landscaped homes, curvy streets, towering pines and fragrant magnolia trees. The lack of curbs, gutters and sidewalks adds to the country feel of this close-in community just outside the 610 Loop and to the north of the Houston Heights. Folks who live here love the size of their lots—nearly double those in the Heights (average lot size in Garden Oaks is 11,800 square feet as compared to 6,600 square feet in The Heights).

Many residents move within the subdivision, renovating instead of building new homes when they need more space. Renovation of vintage homes is the mode of operation in Garden Oaks, and the neighborhood civic club hosts a home tour each year showcasing these properties.

The Garden Oaks community has great appeal to those who like the peaceful feel of an established, historic neighborhood, but who also want to be close to Houston’s vibrant Inner Loop action. The real estate in this neighborhood is valued for the architecturally diverse charm of its quaint cottages and bungalows, as well as the many fine mid-century and modern homes, classic ranch-style homes, custom homes and townhomes found in this area. Renovation of vintage homes is the mode of operation in Garden Oaks, and the neighborhood civic club hosts a home tour each year showcasing these lovely, sought-after properties. ➝

When Dr. James Flowers and Michael Beard discovered their home in Garden Oaks, none of the charm of the neighborhood was on their mind at all. They were very happy where they were in the Heights. Moving was the last thing on their minds. In fact, their agenda was entirely different: they were driving around town looking for—of all things—a driveway.

Dr. Flowers shares, “We had no thoughts of buying a new home; we were settled happily in our Heights home. However, I wanted to tear out the driveway (which was significantly cracked by the large trees in the yard) and replace it with a crushed granite drive.” Beard adamantly disagreed. Flowers says, “He thought I was crazy and that it would not look good.” In order to convince his partner that the choice of a granite drive was the right one, Flowers decided that a driving tour through some of Houston’s beautifully, classic neighborhoods would do the trick.

He continues, “I drove Michael around Memorial to look at the many homes with crushed granite drives. On the way home, I decided to take a detour through Garden Oaks and turned down 31st Street.” As they were ambling down the street, Beard noticed a circular drive made of crushed granite. The owner was sitting on the front porch so they stopped and asked if they could look at her drive. She kindly indulged them, so they walked on the drive and began asking questions about its functionality. As they stood talking, Beard looked up and expressed how beautiful he found her home, to which she replied, “Well, it’s going on the market tomorrow morning!”

At that point, both Flowers and Beard immediately wanted to see the interior. The homeowner was happy to show them her home that had been built just a year earlier. Flowers and Beard were so enamored with this unexpected treasure that they made an offer on the home that same night, put their Heights home on the market right away and sold it in one day.

Flowers says, “We closed and moved in this home seven days before Michael’s 40th birthday. George and Eugene of Randall Edward Design, Inc. put the house together in time for 125 of our friends to help celebrate and for Rainbow Lodge (one of our favorite restaurants) to break in the new catering kitchen of our new home.”

The home’s design is from the Southern Living design plan “South Carolina River Cottage.” And even though the house is only 6 years old, the most popular comment they get is, “Wow! What a beautiful historic home you have. How old is this place?” The vintage feel is reinforced via several design elements, the first of which is the deep double front porches which sit one on top of the other. Both the down- and upstairs enjoy a nice outdoor space out front, each equipped with big worn-in rocking chairs which seem to beckon passersby to stop and visit. The upstairs veranda invites a cool breeze and is a great place for relaxation and reading on hot summer nights.

Outdoor entertaining is very important to the homeowners, and the al fresco spaces lend themselves to get-togethers for friends and family. Flowers grew up barbequing on his family’s South Texas ranch, so gathering friends for frequent cookouts in the fully equipped outdoor kitchen or simply to enjoy the serene courtyard and English rose garden are the norm. Additionally, surround-sound music throughout the exterior of the home makes open-air ambiance as easy as a Sunday morning.

Beard and Flowers are both athletes; Beard grew up playing golf and softball in Alabama, and he still plays competitive softball. Plus, Beard is a huge Alabama fan, so when he’s not on the softball field, he’s outside on the veranda watching Alabama sports. Flowers is an ultra-marathon athlete who adheres to a rigid training and racing schedule when he’s not working.

Floors in the home are made from reclaimed wide plank pine, taken from the previous owner’s century-old family barn in New England and lovingly re-crafted and placed throughout the home. Interesting art is evident in every room of this expansive home. The art displayed in the stairwell, the sculpture in the front living room and the triplicate behind the sofa are all from Tucson artist Steven Derks. In the dining room and master bedroom are original paintings by acclaimed Houston artist John Palmer. The bottom of the stairs and the master bedroom feature original Impressionist oils by James Michalopoulos.

Other notable pieces collected include the early 19th century Holland chest under the television in the family room, which houses the home theater electronic equipment, as well as a very rare antique English china cabinet in the living room, which features carvings of live animals. Flowers explains, “Typically, these carvings will always show the animals upside down, after they have been slaughtered for dinner.” In the guestroom, the bed is formed from cast iron gates from a New Orleans estate and weighs over 1,250 lbs.

The homeowners also have a keen eye for art that has been discarded by others. Two examples are displayed prominently in the formal living room. Flowers bought the first of the two framed prints at a garage sale for $25, and later when he found a similarly styled piece deemed a Kipp’s View (the first artist to draw aerial views of English Country estates before flight was invented), he learned that it was valued at over $6,000. He also owns the J.J. Audubon “American Flamingo” which was purchased in San Antonio for a mere $250 and later found to be a rare print from 1838.

The kitchen, too, holds some unique finds. The art in the bar niche is from Arizona folk artist Rand Carlson, who uses only tin cans and automobile letters for his distinct pieces. Additionally, Flowers and Beard have accumulated an extensive collection of copper cookware that is frequently utilized in their large commercial kitchen when they entertain..

Beard and Flowers own a healthcare company which focuses on functional restoration for those with chronic pain. They sometimes work from home and use their home office for writing and research. In the office are family heirlooms, each of which tells a special story. Flowers is particularly fond of an early antique ECT device, which was a gift from Beard. The microscope in the office, too, was a gift — from Flowers’ grandfather, also a physician, who used the piece while in medical school at Vanderbilt in the 1920s. An elephant skin medical bag in the office was a gift to Flowers’ grandfather from Flowers’ great-grandparents in 1932. Flowers proudly displays this medical bag alongside his grandfather’s prescription pad (circa 1950), both relics he cherishes.

While much of this home is traditional in its layout, many find the 1,000-square-foot garage apartment a unique element of the domicile’s design. The space has its own entrance, kitchen and parking, yet when the couple moved into the home, this area was unfinished. When Flowers’ mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a few years ago, Flowers and Beard completed the apartment with her needs in mind. She lived there comfortably until recently when she moved to Seven Acres Jewish Community home.

The quality and character of this remarkable residence are evident from its curb appeal, and once inside, the magic multiplies. Though Flowers and Beard weren’t in the market to buy a new home, from the detour through the Garden Oaks neighborhood to the walk up the crushed granite drive, it seems as though this alluring abode was meant to belong to them, and they have treasured it like the gem it is.


The formal living room of this Southern style home is flooded with natural light, inviting guests to sit and enjoy the beautiful furnishings by Randall Edwards. The Robin’s Egg Sherwin Williams paint on the walls is a perfect complement to the horse painting from Horse of a Different Color in San Antonio.

This Garden Oaks gem reflects the Southern Living South Carolina River Cottage design, and the homeowners’ addition of white rockers on both porches provides a picture perfect place to sit and enjoy the wonderfully wooded neighborhood.

The Jacuzzi, pool and full kitchen in this expanse of the backyard were designed by the homeowners. The lovely landscape including the English rose garden in the foreground is the design of Portia Leyendecker of Leyendecker Landscape.

In the dining room, the Ralph Lauren “Mocha” painted walls provide the perfect backdrop for the colorful abstract art of John Palmer. The chandelier by Brown and furnishings from Randall Edwards lend a rustic feel to the space.

Black Granite countertops, stainless appliances and stark white cabinets create a perfect place for a chef to set up shop. The pot rack displays a Williams Sonoma copper collection and the island’s built-ins reveal an extensive collection of cookbooks.

The Master Bedroom offers an enclave for the homeowners with neutral colors, 18th century chairs, handpainted French nightstands and art by New Orleans artist James Michalopoulos.

A beautiful early 19th century Holland chest under the television in the family room, which houses the home theater electronic equipment, serves as the centerpiece in the den. A comfortable French toile sofa, an English bookcase, a big leather ottoman impart and a pop of fresh white flowers afford warmth to the space.

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