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Past Kappa Holiday Home Tour Featured A Modern Georgian-Style Abode

Since 1941, the Kappa Kappa Gamma Charitable Foundation Holiday Pilgrimage has showcased Hou­ston’s absolute best in interior, floral and holiday designs. Since 1976, the Kappas have provided financial support to Houston’s charities, donating more than $3.5 million to a significant number of large and small charities — much of which is derived from the holiday home tour. When the Pilgrimage began, volunteers opened their own homes and did all the decorating themselves; however, today, local florists have taken over to transform the tour homes into holiday wonderlands with the most cutting edge designs and décor.

One of the homes that was on the 2016 Pilgrimage is a modern Georgian-style home in River Oaks owned by Brian and Elisabeth McCabe. For the Pilgrimage, the McCabes hired David Brown to install the home’s holiday floral arrangements.

“David is first and foremost an artist. He emanates a creative spirit and brings that to his work,” said Elisabeth. “He appreciated the minimal aesthetic of our house and immediately had a vision of what he was going to do.”

“Elisabeth’s design for her home is kind of ‘out of the box’ when compared with what is considered more traditional for River Oaks,” said Brown, “and that really resonates with me, so I was inspired by her vision. As well, I wanted to give the Pilgrimage visitors a bit of something unexpected. This home gave me that opportunity and Elisabeth allowed me the freedom to bring full creativity to this project.”

The couple, who have lived in River Oaks since they moved to Houston from New York City in 2000, began looking for a larger home in 2011 to accommodate their need for more space. “We tell people there were six reasons we needed to find a new home: three teenagers, two dogs and a cat,” said Elisabeth.

Though the family had outgrown their previous home, they had not outgrown the River Oaks neighborhood. “We love everything about our community,” Elisabeth continued. “The trees, the proximity to the city and all it has to offer, and our circle of friends. We knew we didn’t want to sacrifice any of that.”

So the search began. Both Elisabeth, an interior designer and co-owner of Ecco Design, and Brian typically lean toward a more contemporary style. When they first looked at the more traditional Georgian-style home they eventually bought, it was with a bit of hesitation. But there was definitely something about this home that captured their attention.

“The first time we toured the home,” Elisabeth said, “we knew the kitchen wouldn’t work — it was much too small. Plus the interiors felt dark and a little dated, but no matter what other homes we looked at, I couldn’t stop thinking about this one.”

She revisited the home about a dozen times, and with each visit gained a clearer vision of how she could make it work by opening some of the space. Because Elisabeth was so strongly drawn to the home, the couple purchased it with a plan already in place to make their desired renovations.

“Much of the home offered exactly what we were looking for,” she said, “but incorporating a more progressive aesthetic to both the interior and exterior was our priority.”

The couple saw another house in the neighborhood that had the clean lines and a contemporary feel they desired, yet it still fit in well with the traditional River Oaks style, so Elisabeth contacted the owners who shared the name of their architect, Reagan Miller.

Together, Elisabeth and Reagan went to work reinventing the home to update and modernize it. They agreed that though the home was dated, overall it was well done. One of the projects was to brighten up the exterior by painting the red brick white. They also made the entrance more current by hanging a modern steel canopy over the double steel front doors.

Inside, the formerly compartmentalized home needed to be opened up. To accomplish this, one of the home’s three staircases was removed. The result is a larger kitchen that opens into the family room on the main level and also accommodated a small office and bedroom upstairs.

The home had several elements that the couple didn’t want to change, such as the high-profile moldings throughout.

“The first time I saw the home, I loved its trim work,” Elisabeth said. “One Vision I had for renovating was to paint the moldings and the walls white so everything from floor to ceiling would be monochromatic.”

So that’s what she did. Now the dramatic, textured molding literally bursts from the white-on-white palette. The floors, too, equally shine. By layering high-gloss polish on top of an ebony stain, Elisabeth added interest and texture to the wood surfaces. Similarly, the walls and the ceiling of the study are painted black and glisten with a lacquer finish.

After the renovation, what was formerly dark and dated is now a bright and richly textured setting that offers the couple a perfect space to display their well-loved furniture and art, and during this time of year, an equally impressive floral display.

For several years, Elisabeth has held a seat on the board of the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, and over the years she and Brian have accumulated a collection of significant contemporary artworks cultivated with the help of their art consultant Melissa Kepke Grobmyer of MKG Art Management. Their extensive collection includes works by Leo Villareal, Kenneth Noland, Robert Longo, Pat Steir, Andy Coolquitt, Jackie Saccoccio and others.

In the living room, ethereal Joseph Havel sculptures of old book pages buried in Lucite loom large. In the study above the fireplace, an abstract work by Dana Frankfort has the word “think” cryptically buried within its paint. The McCabes recently acquired a Jocelyn Hobbie piece that is prominently displayed in the living room. Elisabeth discovered the artist while she and Melissa were attending the Armory Show in New York where Hobbie was the featured artist.

“Hobbie’s work completely sold out the first day, so I got on her wait list,” Elisabeth said. “It was almost two years before she presented new work as her painting process is meticulous, and each piece takes a long time to create. It was definitely worth the wait.”

The couple agrees that picking favorites artworks is difficult because they really love each piece they own. “Every work,” said Elisabeth, “takes us to the place and time in life when we came upon the artist or the work and were inspired to buy.”

Beyond the art, the furniture in the home is remarkable, and the floors and walls additionally serve up the perfect background for the McCabe’s furnishings.

“I design and choose art similarly,” Elisabeth said. “I buy things I love, and they all seem to work together. It definitely makes things more interesting with a bit of a surprise in every room.”

Each of the rooms in the home is a combination of antiques and modern pieces. In the living room, a pair of white barrel chairs is in perfect contrast to vintage crystal sconces and a glam Hal Bienenfeld Art Deco mirror. The entry sports an iconic vintage black plastic hand chair alongside a midcentury Italian Lucite pendant. In the dining room, an Eero Saarinen-designed table is encircled by antique French chairs and juxtaposed against a massive and glittering Art Deco-style crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling.

This home truly fuses a wealth of architectural interest with minimalist design, impressive modern art with an interesting mix of furniture, and monochromatic backdrops with colorful jeweled tones and textures. It celebrates both traditional and contemporary styles that showcase the couple’s dynamic collections.

“We wanted to give our favorite things great presence by making everything else aesthetically peaceful,” said Elisabeth, “and also provide our family a place where we come home to happiness and joy.”

Text by Cheryl Alexander | Photography by Miro Dvorscak | Interior Design by Elisabeth McCabe, Ecco Design | Architecture by Reagan Miller | Construction by David Stone, Texas Fine Home Builders, LLC

TOP IMAGE:The bold entry of this home is made even more dramatic with the red rose display on the staircase.

In the back entry hall, a holiday arrangement is creatively displayed in a vintage hand chair found in New Orleans. The vintage lucite and chrome table is a find from a trip to Palm Springs. Art by Robert Longo.

A vintage concrete garden vase is adorned with roses. Art by Jackie Saccoccio.

The monochromatic walls and furnishings provide a perfect backdrop for the McCabes’ art collection. The bonsai tree arrangement in the background is a contemporary take on a holiday tree.The living room art is by Jeffrey Dell and Jocelyn Hobbie.

David Brown’s bonsai arrangement reveals perfectly placed succulents perched on branches and moss strung as garland. Art by Jocelyn Hobbie.

A closer view of the succulents.

The kitchen tree arrangement is adorned with lilies. Kitchen by Poggenpohl.

The library is in direct contrast with the rest of the home’s monochromatic white palette. This room is equally stunning with black lacquer floors and walls. The Art Deco furnishings and accents are punctuated with a stunning orchid arrangement on the mantle. Art by Dana Frankfort and Donald Baechler.

In the dining room, charming carnation balls sit on a Saarinen dining table under a vintage chandelier found at Brown. Art by Barbara Takenaga.

In the family area, a whimsical Scandinavian nativity set and greenery on a Bludot console hold to the minimalist design.

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