An interior designer in Houston transforms a dumpy architectural office into a masculine-chic family home.
In designer Hunter Martin’s living room, handmade leather Chesterfields from England are topped with custom Kelly Wearstler pillows, the coffee table was scooped up at a consignment shop in Palm Springs, Calif., and the well-appointed gallery wall shows off Martin’s art collection.
If a run-of-the-mill house hunter, let’s say a doctor or a lawyer, would have come across a quirky 1920s-era architectural office in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood, with a fusty red-brick facade and two tiny rooms, you can probably bet they wouldn’t have immediately envisioned it becoming their family home. But it wasn’t a layman who discovered the prewar charmer, it was interior designer Hunter Martin. “There was not even a kitchen!” he recalls of the initial walkthrough. But he and his partner, Todd Hamilton, were able to look past the absent appliances, choppy floor plan, unpermitted second story and dated fixtures and finishes, and, with the help of architectural designer James Glassman, create a modern urban home that embraces the inherent character of its humble beginnings.
Because the study was an addition to the home, Martin brought the ceiling to roof height so the space felt consistent with the existing structure. In the space lives a Medici lounge chair and ottoman, a rug from Creative Flooring, a Richard Schultz desk, Cassina leather chair and bookshelves by Thomas O’Brien.
As a seasoned design pro, Martin’s objectives were clear. “I wanted to create a space in which all areas were utilized and enjoyed by us,” he says. “To finish with a picture-perfect home that is as beautiful as it is comfortable, while maintaining all of its original charm.” So they got started. The nine-month renovation took the structure down to the studs, leaving the home’s footprint and one structural wall, moving a staircase and adding 1,000 square feet—some breathing room. “I asked that the architect give me ‘luxurious dimensions,’ and he had no idea what I meant,” Martin says. “I wanted a 7- to 9-foot-wide entry hallway in a 2,300-square-foot home.” Once the grand framework was in place, Martin was able to work his magic on the interiors.
The black-and-white kitchen includes Arteriors pendants, Ikea bar stools and custom black cabinetry.
As there are two men of the house, masculinity was at the forefront of his design decisions, which is why you’ll find taxidermy inside the master closet, sleek black cabinetry in the kitchen and oversized, handsome furniture pieces. But it’s the mix where Martin’s discerning eye is most evident. “When mixing vintage and new, I tend to favor classic things, and just like men’s clothing the styles tend to stand the test of time,” he says of his chic edit. Two authentic English Chesterfields frame a vintage coffee table in the living room; in the home office lives a sculptural Medici lounge chair and ottoman, alongside a Richard Schultz desk and Cassina leather desk chair. Also notable, his blend of high and low: Ikea bar stools with custom powder-coated hairpin legs pull up to the Carrara marble waterfall kitchen island; a custom upholstered bed is flanked by Crate & Barrel nightstands. The art, too, runs true to Martin’s eclectic aesthetic. “I mixed in art that I have acquired over the last few years: pieces from Europe, other finds I thought were interesting…” he notes.
Louie and Georgie sit alongside an Armani/Casa throw atop a custom master bed.
Being his own client was the ultimate freedom for the young designer. “It was way more fun and allowed me to experiment more and take more risks,” he notes. “Like the 55-foot abstract mural wall inspired by Franz Kline.” Another perk is that Martin was able to get creative. One of his favorite moments is in the master bath, where his-and-his vanities were crafted from an old English dining table with a damaged top, which was cut and topped with custom marble basins. Because of the narrow floor plan, he had no choice but to place the closet inside the master bath, a space he now calls “spacious and rich.”
The custom his-and-his vanities stand near a neon art piece. “It doubles as light!” says Martin.
When designing your own pad, Martin advises, “Hire someone!” He adds, “Other than that, I would say that the architecture of a home is the cover and preface to the story the home should tell.” And in the case of his urban cottage, it tells itself well.
A ram’s head found on eBay overlooks the master closet, which features Sherwin-Williams Iron Ore.
Photography by: Molly Culver