KAPPA KAPPA GAMMA Gives A Gift to Houston
Holiday Pilgrimage 2014: Kappa Has Heart
The 2014 Kappa Kappa Gamma Holiday Pilgrimage, a gift to Houston that is held every other year since 1941, gives us a much-anticipated glimpse into the gracious homes and fabulous Christmas decorations of some of the city’s most insulated neighborhoods. Yet hidden behind the fragrant swags and beautiful wreaths lies something much more important: the Pilgrimage provides resources for the Kappa Kappa Gamma Charitable Foundation of Houston. This philanthropic arm of the fraternity has donated more than $3 million over the years, providing many charitable organizations in Houston with funds for programs, facilities, equipment and scholarships. The mission of the Foundation and its support of the city is the heartbeat of the Pilgrimage.
The biennial home tour provides a fun way to dress everything up in the finest holiday décor. With the infusion of culture, industry and finance that make Houston such a rich and diverse city, we’ve seen just about everything in the way of holiday ornamentation. Aluminum trees, flocked trees, beer bottle trees, pink and blue trees — you name it, it’s been done here. But a Christmas tree covered in fresh orchids? That’s just one of several decorative spins on the holidays that were on view to fuel the festivities. Four exceptional homes were decked to the hilt indoors and out, and open for touring. Located in River Oaks and Memorial, the houses were individually decorated by the floral designer of the homeowner’s choice.
Shasta Drive Home
Floral design by Walter Gutierrez
Christmas enthusiasts loved the Lloyd home in Memorial, built in 2000 by Jeff Griffis, that featured close to a dozen trees indoors and out, decorations courtesy of Walter Gutierrez. The home, filled at Christmas time with a plethora of holiday fun, features notable repetitive design elements that the homeowners absolutely love, starting with the mahogany and glass front doors. The “X’s” and “O’s” are subtly carried throughout the home on doors, railing and furniture.
Smooth marble floors and a tall nutcracker, the first of a collection standing sentinel throughout the home, beckons guests inside. There, one of 12 trees in the home is bejeweled in Christmas red, and lavish decoration extends up the custom stair rail.
In the living room, the main tree stands more than 20 feet tall. Decked out in gold ribbon and the homeowners’ extensive collection of jewel-toned ornaments, this particular tree is reflective of the room’s exquisite furnishings.
In the dining room, the table is set for Christmas Day’s feast with the couple’s angel collection as the centerpiece. Throughout the home, the floral designs and ornate Christmas trees provide an abundance of holiday spirit.
Inwood Drive Home
Floral design by Rebekah Johnson of Bergner & Johnson Design
The sleek, contemporary Mithoff home was built from 2011 to 2013, under the direction of architect Martha Bute of Bute King Architects. The smooth limestone exterior reflects the modern dramatic and functional interior. Rebekah Johnson of Bergner & Johnson dressed up the monochromatic taupe interior color with lots of live, fragrant greenery and blooms.
The front hall showcases the Mithoff’s flocked tree adorned with white lights, raffia and gold-leaf burlap ribbons, ornamental birds and other ornaments, including a mix of moss, twig and glass. The colors — pink, gold, light red, green and amber — coordinate with the artwork next to the tree. Greenery and matching ribbons are woven throughout the staircase.
Topiaries and spheres made of magnolia, oregonia and other seasonal herbs decorate the dining room table. Mercury trees and finials add a glamourous garnish to the space, and red ornaments transform the wine room to an artistic ornamental space. The festive vibe continues in the adjoining bar, which is flanked with metal topiaries twined with gold and silver metallic. A collection of feather topiaries, along with gold and amethyst flowers and accessories, create a subdued holiday mood.
Country Lane Home
Floral design by Ben Shamooelian of River Oaks Plant House
The Johnson home in Memorial, built in 2004 by Goodchild Builders and interiors by JJDesign Group, was filled with fresh flowers to make what was already a fabulous home even more amazing. Ben Shamooelian of River Oaks Plant House provided not only the floral designs, but also all the Christmas trees. Upon entry, a tall perfectly shaped, fresh and fragrant Fraser fir was a sight to see with glittery-golden ornaments and 10,000 lights that created a breathtaking look.
“We made the home an even more elegant, classy and fun-filled Christmas home by using traditional holiday materials, like lots of Christmas trees all over the house, life-size deer and Santas and lots of garland and greenery,” Shamooelian said. “We also infused the home with fresh cut white flowers to give the decorations a classic and traditional Christmas aesthetic. It is always our belief and inspiration to use more of the fresh and real decorations and a minimal use of faux decors.”
In the family room, the family’s nutcracker collection took center stage during the holidays, while in the living room, a mechanical Ferris wheel and elves were a delight to everyone who saw them. Moving through the home’s other spacious rooms and outdoor spaces, the lush Christmas floral designs merged seamlessly with the family’s traditional holiday décor.
Chevy Chase Drive Home
Floral design by Donna Senter of The Senterpiece
Extraordinary is the norm at the Wade home in River Oaks, a classic Tudor designed by the Russell Brown Company and built in 1934. Though it was remodeled by the previous owners and recently updated by the current owners, its existing structure honors the history of the home while accommodating the Wade’s art collection. Following an Asian motif, the house required something unique for its holiday decor, which is where and why the orchid tree made its debut.
Floral designer Donna Senter, of The Senterpiece, said, “We went room by room and made complementary florals allowing the existing art and design to determine the holiday floral design.”
Rather than utilizing traditional floral arrangements, this home’s existing décor beckons more linear and sculptural floral designs, such as landscape elements.
“Most traditional floral arrangements are very dense with bunches of flowers and greenery,” said Senter. “The aesthetic in this Asian-themed home suggested more light-filled, loosely arranged designs. Rather than fill the containers with lots of flowers and greenery, we used really dramatic and bold florals sparsely and filled in with rocks and other abstract shapes.”
Throughout the home, the holiday floral design combines Asian themes with fresh organic decorations, including sugar pine cones and touches of fresh flowers. The focus of the large tree was the beautiful live phalaenopsis orchids woven throughout the branches.
Last year’s biennnial Holiday Pilgrimage Home Tour also honored one of its members, Dr. Stephanie Coulter, director of the Texas Heart Institute’s Center for Women’s Heart and Vascular Health. The biennial Holiday Pilgrimage Home Tour has raised more than $3 million to benefit local charities since its inception in 1941, and 2014 marked the first time in the event’s history that a Pilgrimage Honoree was named.
“We are very excited to have this added new dimension and put the spotlight on Dr. Coulter, who is such a champion for women’s heart health,” said Pilgrimage co-chairs Kim Hillin, an alumna from the University of Texas, and Kim Martin, an alumna from Baylor University.
Dr. Coulter was a Kappa Kappa Gamma member at Texas A&M University. As the director of the Texas Heart Institute’s Center for Women’s Heart & Vascular Health, she is pioneering research in an under-studied field — cardiovascular disease in women. Dr. Coulter earned her medical degree at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston. She then interned in internal medicine at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, and completed a fellowship in general cardiology at Massachusetts General Hospital, the teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School. She began practicing in 1991.
“Our goal at the Texas Heart Institute is to make a significant impact on human suffering and the escalating costs associated with heart disease in women, and we’re well on the road with research and programs underway,” Dr. Coulter said.
The theme of last year’s tour, Kappa Has Heart, was a nod to Dr. Coulter, the organization’s heart for philanthropy and a reminder of the reason for the season: supporting causes closest to the needs in the communities right here in Houston. From 2014 to 2016, the foundation offered support to Amazing Place, Baylor College of Medicine/Master of Science in Orthotics and Prosthetics, BEAR (Be A Resource for CPS Kids), The Brookwood Community, Camp for All, Children 4 Tomorrow, Clayton Dabney for Kids with Cancer, Houston Aphasia Recovery Center (HARC), Nehemiah Center, Inc., The Rose, Wellsprings Village, The Women’s Home and Yellowstone Academy.
The 2016 Holiday Pilgrimage chairs are Bridget Wade and Andria Frankfort; the next home tour is scheduled for December 2016. Charitable organization that wish to benefit from the tour should apply for the grant in spring 2016. Visit the Kappa Kappa Gamma Houston Alumnae Association homepage — houstonkappas.org — and click on “Houston Foundation,” then “Apply for a Grant.”
TOP IMAGE: Large entry features vintage wood floors and beams, elaborate iron railings that complement the dramatic stairway, Santa Claus and a16-foot Fraser fir decorated in a reindeer theme. Live trees, fresh flowers and fragrant greenery reflect the warm character of the home.
Text By Cheryl Alexander | Photography By Daniel Ortiz