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Living the High Life
Luxury Living In The Sky


Smooth, shiny leather and marble are paired with a zebra-covered bench, some plush velvet and fuzzy pillows and a big comfy pouf to make this living room the perfect visiting (or viewing) space. Outdoors, the Galleria beckons on the horizon. Contemporary lighting sets the mood.

L
aura Rathe, one of the most successful art dealers in Texas, is most definitely a city dweller. Owner of Laura Rathe Fine Art Houston and Dallas, she spends time in the Lone Star State’s most exciting and vibrant metropolitan areas. This art lover has a super space in Houston, where she considers herself at “home” in one of the city’s most luxurious high rises; in Dallas, she rents a suite at the Ritz Carlton, so she can “enjoy the luxuries without having to deal with all of the home stuff”; and she also has another place in a high-rise in Austin, where she loves to spend her down time.

Though Rathe now settles into the high life with her dwellings in the sky, she hasn’t always sought out the bird’s-eye view. “When I first moved to Houston,” she shared, “I was drawn to what I perceived as the authenticity of the older homes in Rice Village.” She bought a 1,700-square-foot English Tudor style cottage that was built in 1925, which she described as “quaint” and “romantic.”

However, Rathe soon found the low ceilings and small, compartmentalized rooms burdensome and claustrophobic. “My quaint little English cottage quickly lost its quaintness,” she confessed, so after four years, she decided to list her home and within one week, it was sold. “It was a huge time of change for me,” Rathe continued, “as I closed on my home one week after I opened my gallery in Dallas.”

Rathe had a checklist, though, which made the process of finding a new place to live a bit easier. She knew she wanted to rent; she knew she wanted a high rise; she knew she wanted high ceilings; and she knew she wanted a more contemporary, open aesthetic. She found exactly what she was looking for in her first choice: The Museum Tower, a 19-story high rise that offers five-star services and luxury amenities to Houston’s elite Museum District and cultural Montrose area. With this location and these services, Rathe knew she was getting everything that is important to her.

Rathe also found that the floor plan and design have made a big difference in her overall aesthetic, too. “My new place is so open and contemporary. I love it. And what I discovered is that even though it is not all that much more space than my last home, because of the high ceilings and open floor plan, when guests visit, they think I got all new stuff, when actually now each individual piece is simply more noticeable.”

Karen  Moore, Rathe’s interior designer, simply reorganized and re-energized most of her things from her previous home to update her new place with a more contemporary feel. Moore explained, “We added a few new things from Roche Bobois — some really contemporary stuff, and with the other pieces of furniture, we simply re-upholstered and re-accessorized.”

“I’ve never been one to keep everything,” says Rathe. “Rather, I keep the best of what I love and bring in new pieces from time to time. I explain to my collectors all the time, ‘You don’t have to keep everything just because you own it. It’s okay to give things away, pass things along, even sell things, then you can update with pieces that match your life right now.’ ”

In the bedroom, for example, Rathe points out, “This is all the same furniture and same art as my other house. We got new linens, new lamps and new accessory pillows. I would never get rid of my bed — it’s my favorite piece of furniture!” Rathe actually saw a similar bed in a magazine and showed it to Moore, who had it designed custom for her client. The art, too, is extremely personal in this room. One piece was created especially for Laura by artist Tony Magar. Another is a framed photograph of Laura and the special man in her life.

In the open living area the design aesthetic is most richly defined. “We wanted to blend the old against the new,” Rathe expounded, “so you’ll see clearly an antique piece of furniture with a contemporary piece of sculpture or adjacent to a piece of mid-century modern furniture. I adore the juxtaposition.” In one corner a huge, modern Andy Warhol portrait by Alexi Torres hangs above a baroque, crystal sculpture of an 18th century French aristocrat. In another, an antique French clock sits atop an antique buffet and between two contemporary chairs from Pillie.

Another distinct blend of styles throughout the space is the mixture of artistic medium and architectural style. An avid collector as well as a gallery owner, Rathe has successfully blended photography with wall sculpture, sculpture with painting, oils with watercolors. Even the industrial ceiling is a marked contrast with the high-end finishes inherent to the entire apartment.

Then there is the real star of the show: the view. Both the open living area/kitchen/dining room and the spacious master bedroom boast stellar views of Southampton, West University in the foreground and the Galleria on the horizon. All of the incredible, expensive fine art in the home may actually take a back seat to this spectacular feature. “My view is so amazing,” says Rathe, “that whether I’m sitting on my balcony outdoors or at any of my indoor areas, when I take a moment to let it soak in, I am immediately awash with a sense of gratitude for my life and circumstances. It is beautiful, uplifting and calming.”

Rathe believes that the best thing about her choice to live in an urban high rise (aside from the view, of course) is that it is super-convenient and safe. “I can walk to Hermann Park, Rice University — where I’ve discovered a great espresso — the Museum of Fine Arts, or just to the little neighborhood park across the street. My work is five minutes away. I have a doorman and a concierge who will bring up my groceries, deliver my packages and keep intruders away. I have a beautiful place to live with no maintenance worries and great relationships with everyone who lives and works here. And best of all, right now, I’m not rooted in real estate. I can live my life as a free spirit and take my time to figure out what I want to do next.”

Story by-Cheryl Alexander • Pictures by-Fredrick Warren • Interiors by-Karen Moore

top image caption:  Smooth, shiny leather and marble are paired with a zebra-covered bench, some plush velvet and fuzzy pillows and a big comfy pouf to make this living room the perfect visiting (or viewing) space. Outdoors, the Galleria beckons on the horizon. Contemporary lighting sets the mood.

The owner’s art collection is a defining element of this home’s design. Ashley Collins “Carnival,” mixed media on panel; Gil Bruvel “Dichotomy,” stainless steel.

The owner’s art collection is a defining element of this home’s design. Ashley Collins “Carnival,” mixed media on panel; Gil Bruvel “Dichotomy,” stainless steel.

The industrial ceiling, contemporary lighting and modern art are balanced by the antique furniture pieces. The art is by Oleg Dou (portrait of boy) and Tony Magar “Cosmos,” oil on panel.

The industrial ceiling, contemporary lighting and modern art are balanced by the antique furniture pieces. The art is by Oleg Dou (portrait of boy) and Tony Magar “Cosmos,” oil on panel.

This open floor plan is the perfect design complement to the view in this high rise. Design elements, furniture, textural and art selections provide interesting contrast and create a unique interior in this modern home.

This open floor plan is the perfect design complement to the view in this high rise. Design elements, furniture, textural and art selections provide interesting contrast and create a unique interior in this modern home.

A contemporary kitchen with hardwoods, stainless steel appliances and exposed industrial ceilings is softened with the owner’s personal touches. Wall sculpture “Happiness is Expensive” is by Alejandro Diaz; the famous work “Afghan Girl” photograph by Steve McCurry.

A contemporary kitchen with hardwoods, stainless steel appliances and exposed industrial ceilings is softened with the owner’s personal touches. Wall sculpture “Happiness is Expensive” is by Alejandro Diaz; the famous work “Afghan Girl” photograph by Steve McCurry.

The master bedroom reflects Laura Rathe’s personal taste. The concrete walls and ceilings are softened by the furniture and textures. Art is by Ray Phillips, “Faces,” mixed media on panel; Richard MacDonald, etching, (left of bed); and bed is custom-designed by Karen Moore.

The master bedroom reflects Laura Rathe’s personal taste. The concrete walls and ceilings are softened by the furniture and textures. Art is by Ray Phillips, “Faces,” mixed media on panel; Richard MacDonald, etching, (left of bed); and bed is custom-designed by Karen Moore.

The sitting area of the master bedroom makes use of monochromatic appeal, matching the furniture with the floor and walls. Bold pops of color in the accessories and art provide interest. Abstract art by Tony Magar “Laura,” oil on panel.

The sitting area of the master bedroom makes use of monochromatic appeal, matching the furniture with the floor and walls. Bold pops of color in the accessories and art provide interest. Abstract art by Tony Magar “Laura,” oil on panel.

The workspace in this home is minimalist and inspiring. The simple desk and art display (both transparent) enlarge the feel of the room, while the oversized credenza keeps things out of sight and uncluttered.

The workspace in this home is minimalist and inspiring. The simple desk and art display (both transparent) enlarge the feel of the room, while the oversized credenza keeps things out of sight and uncluttered.


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