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Riveting in River Oaks


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A market-driven couple find their dream home

W
hen Dr. David Shin and his wife Morgan met in l993, he was an intern at Methodist Hospital in Houston and she was a nurse. Morgan recalled, “He brought chocolate-covered macadamia nuts for the nurses, and I remember thinking ‘Aww! He’s such a nice guy!’ ” The two socialized with a group of singles from the hospital until David finally asked Morgan to dinner. “He showed up with two dozen boxed roses,” she shared. “I had never received boxed roses before, so it made quite an impression on me.” David said, “After that, we started hanging out, we fell in love and the rest is history.”

The couple married in 1995 and moved from their individual apartments in the Medical Center to an apartment they shared until Dr. Shin completed his residency. Then, in 2000 they bought their first home together from their friends — a 2,000-square-foot, 60-year-old two-bedroom cottage in West University. “We signed the contract for the sale sitting around the kitchen table of the home,” David revealed.

After 18 months in that home, the Shins learned they were pregnant with twins, so they knew immediately that their quaint little cottage was going to be too small for their growing family. They found their second home as well in West U, again from a friend who this time was the builder. Morgan disclosed, “This home — 5,000 square feet and five bedrooms, was a huge upgrade for us. We actually couldn’t believe that this was our home.”

She continued, “We loved that home and honestly thought we would live there forever. The whole block was like family.” So there the family stayed and flourished for 10 years. “Our kids (twins Brandon and Isabella are now 12; Sophia is 7) enjoyed their young childhood there” said David.

Then this market-driven couple began chatting about real estate investments, and the idea which interested them both was a larger piece of property. A business- savvy friend told Morgan about HAR.com, so she visited. “I simply plugged in our criteria (budget, location and size preferences) and two homes popped up.” Morgan says this home was all they were looking for: brand new, Mediterranean-style, large lot, the right neighborhood AND in the budget. “We didn’t even look at the second home,” declared Morgan.

The couple met with the builder, Steve Streller, and they were convinced. “Steve had such a passion for this home —  the materials, the craftsmanship, the finishes — that everything just really blew us away,” said David. “His integrity, too, was a huge factor — his family has been in the construction business for years, he lives in the neighborhood, and the product he sells is extremely important to him.”

So again, an easy-peasy transaction took place. The Shins have now bought three homes together, and amazingly enough, they have never been to an open-house, never used a realtor to buy a home and never lived anywhere that, according to Morgan, “wasn’t meant for them.”

All of that is pretty cool, but perhaps the most interesting part of this story is that the coming together of these two represents the crossing of continents and cultures — his family members are immigrants from South Korea; hers from Iran. Morgan shared, “We always say the merging of our paths is an incredible, marvelous miracle.”

No less marvelous is the couple’s current home in River Oaks, an airy Spanish Colonial built in 2010 by Charter Custom Homes, which is a true reflection of their union. This 7,500-square-foot dream domicile is infused with furnishings, art and accessories that represent their combined heritages, backgrounds and interests while the décor is fresh and modern and the spaces functional.

But it didn’t happen overnight. “We lived in our new home for about six months just getting a feel for the space,” shared Morgan. She said they brought some furniture with them from their previous homes, but it was minimal. “In fact, some of the rooms were empty.” The couple, who entertain frequently, even hosted parties before they began the decorating process, just to see how people would move through the home’s common areas.

When decorating commenced, the Shins worked with Dennis Brakeen at Kirby & Co. to do the drapery for the piano room and to organize the library shelves. He also helped them select the 18th century trumeau for the fireplace in the living room. Then one day, Morgan was shopping at Lam Bespoke, and when she mentioned her home and her goals for decorating, the staff there spoke highly of Marie Flanigan of Marie Flanigan Interiors (MFI).

“The first time I met with Marie,” Morgan recounted, “I felt she understood our ideas and was willing to work with what we had while updating our aesthetic to match our new surroundings.”

“We wanted to have a touch of glamour while definitely bringing in the two cultures and mixing them in a new and fun way,” said Flanigan. She and her team set out to help the Shins make over their downstairs common rooms, including the entryway, living room, and bright piano room by using art, antiques and the couple’s own collected mementos from their travels to create a stylishly eclectic space.

“The piano room is my favorite room in the house,” admitted Morgan, “because it is a true marriage of style, culture and elegance.” A pair of paintings by Houston resident and Persian artist Saman Laila Driver are hung near an 18th century blanket chest from Korea (found at Mecox) and a ’70s Asian- inspired lacquered century chair by James Mont in a nod to the Far East. Flanigan added a pair of mid-century modern leather and brass chairs, a custom gray couch from Lam Bespoke and a sheaf Wheat coffee table similar to ones owned by Coco Chanel and Yves St. Laurent.

The piano room provides a graceful contrast to the more masculine library nearby, where wood paneling conveys a more serious tone and shelves are full of art (including framed art their children have created), family photos, pottery collected by the Shins over the years and antique books. The MFI team developed the entire design around a modern chesterfield-inspired sofa the couple adores. Two antique brass pharmacy floor lamps outline the sofa and diffuse the perfect amount of light for an intimate seating area. Pops of fresh moss, mixed with accents of indigo blue and olive help give a fresh feeling to what’s traditionally considered a more mature space. A leather Barcelona chair and shagreen coffee table provide a luxurious space for cocktail hour, and a bright green velvet bench placed strategically in front of the fireplace rounds out the room’s ample seating.

Above the library fireplace, a piece of abstract art has special significance. “One of David’s patients painted it for him as a gift,” explained Morgan. “She’s an artist in Mexico, and her husband and children all had the same disease and were treated by David, so that’s really meaningful for us. It has a lot of sentimentality.”

This duo loves hosting soirees for family and friends on a regular basis, so they requested a living room with ample space and great flow. A large oushak rug sets a dramatic tone for the design, while two multi-purpose tables both increase seating and counter space. The glass and gold table adds formality to the space and is the perfect place to rest a delicious drink, while the large square, upholstered ottoman is a casual place where guests can easily lounge throughout a gathering. Accessories carefully curated from the couple’s travels make the warm, inviting space more personal and interesting.

Morgan says her favorite color is gold. “It’s got both European and Persian aspects to it,” she said — so it’s no surprise to see gilded details in the living room, where two-story iron arched windows infuse the space with light and provide stunning views of the outdoor pool and backyard living space. Gold sparkles from the mirrored coffee table and the ornate trumeau over the fireplace, adding glamour to the more neutral sofas and pillows.

“The tray with Korean tea set pieces was a wedding gift from David’s childhood friend, but it just sat in a closet for a long time,” said Morgan. “We wanted a way to display them, and the way Marie and the girls did it was so simple; what was once lost in storage, they transformed into a beautiful conversation piece.”

In every room, there are special, extraordinary details which successfully unite the furniture and fine art that personify the Shins’ multicultural backgrounds with a fresh, modern mood. These living spaces truly reflect the diversity that surrounds their life and love, and the vibrant couple seems thrilled to be living in a home that is a true reflection of their life story.

David summed it up. “What we love about our home is that everyone, even our kids, is very comfortable. Even though it is grand, it still feels like a home.”

TEXT BY: Cheryl Alexander  |  PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Jill Hunter Photography  J. Pamela Photography    CONSTRUCTION BY: Charter Custom Homes-Steve Streller  |  ARCHITECTURE BY: Preston Wood & Associates, LLCLANDSCAPE & POOL DESIGN:AJ’s Landscape & Design

Caption top photo:  The study’s walnut paneling lends the room a very cozy feel. The MFI team developed the entire design around a modern chesterfield-inspired sofa the couple adore. Two antique brass pharmacy floor lamps outline the sofa and diffuse the perfect amount of light for an intimate seating area. Pops of fresh moss, mixed with accents of indigo blue and olive help give a fresh feeling to what’s traditionally considered a more mature space. A leather Barcelona chair and shagreen coffee table provide a luxurious space for cocktail hour, and a bright green velvet bench placed strategically in front of the fireplace rounds out the room’s ample seating. Photo by Jill Hunter Photography.

The charming couple often host events in their home and love that the space celebrates their multicultural backgrounds in a fresh, modern way. Photo by Jill Hunter Photography.

The charming couple often host events in their home and love that the space celebrates their multicultural backgrounds in a fresh, modern way. Photo by Jill Hunter Photography.

The charming couple often host events in their home and love that the space celebrates their multicultural backgrounds in a fresh, modern way. Photo by Jill Hunter Photography.  |

The charming couple often host events in their home and love that the space celebrates their multicultural backgrounds in a fresh, modern way. Photo by Jill Hunter Photography. |

This stunning Mediterranean-style home covers over 7,400 square feet in the exclusive River Oaks neighborhood. Photo by J Pamela Photography.

This stunning Mediterranean-style home covers over 7,400 square feet in the exclusive River Oaks neighborhood. Photo by J Pamela Photography.

The crystal chandelier and grand dining table are flanked by glamorous linen-metallic drapery, while an attractive buffet and abstract art piece serve as unique anchors for this distinctly formal space. Photo by J Pamela Photography.

The crystal chandelier and grand dining table are flanked by glamorous linen-metallic drapery, while an attractive buffet and abstract art piece serve as unique anchors for this distinctly formal space. Photo by J Pamela Photography.

MFI introduced the couple to Gremillion & Co. Fine Art where they discovered this exceptional art piece. They purchased it together as a wedding anniversary gift for Dr. Shin. Photo by J Pamela Photography.

MFI introduced the couple to Gremillion & Co. Fine Art where they discovered this exceptional art piece. They purchased it together as a wedding anniversary gift for Dr. Shin. Photo by J Pamela Photography.

The home’s architect and builder designed the spacious kitchen, handsomely mixing Mediterranean finishes and Old World elements. Photo by J Pamela Photography.

The home’s architect and builder designed the spacious kitchen, handsomely mixing Mediterranean finishes and Old World elements. Photo by J Pamela Photography.

 Photo by J Pamela Photography.  | The curved window in the breakfast niche mimics the curved walls found throughout other areas of the home, standing out as a unique feature that stylishly frames the dining space.

Photo by J Pamela Photography. | The curved window in the breakfast niche mimics the curved walls found throughout other areas of the home, standing out as a unique feature that stylishly frames the dining space.

The piano room is the first space encountered when entering this stately River Oaks home. The homeowners share an exceptional love for music and requested a formal, jazzy room where they can entertain guests through the delights of sound. The design marries vintage to modern glam through the mixture of antique furnishings and more contemporary pieces, creating an alluring space that makes a “grand” statement. Photo by Jill Hunter Photography.

The piano room is the first space encountered when entering this stately River Oaks home. The homeowners share an exceptional love for music and requested a formal, jazzy room where they can entertain guests through the delights of sound. The design marries vintage to modern glam through the mixture of antique furnishings and more contemporary pieces, creating an alluring space that makes a “grand” statement. Photo by Jill Hunter Photography.

An inviting backyard retreat serves as the perfect place for guests to put up their feet and relax. Fully furnished with luxurious seating areas, a fireplace and lounge chairs that look out over a pristine pool, the patio provides the entire home with a grand view and a supreme sense of tranquility.  Photos by

An inviting backyard retreat serves as the perfect place for guests to put up their feet and relax. Fully furnished with luxurious seating areas, a fireplace and lounge chairs that look out over a pristine pool, the patio provides the entire home with a grand view and a supreme sense of tranquility. Photos by

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