Property Details

Mid-Century Modern in Galleria / Highland Village (Houston, TX)

Bored with doing the same "Turn-of-the-Century" restoration projects for the previous five years, in 2002 I decided to mix things up bit with a little Mid-Century Modern.

This classic 1950s 8-plex is one of only a few remaining, original, small complexes built in Afton Oaks in the 1950s (before the Galleria was even a twinkle in Gerald Hines' visionary eye. (

Because of its excellent in-town location, unusually large lots, and strictly enforced deed restrictions, the prevailing model in Afton Oaks is to tear down the existing 1950s ranch style houses (@ $600-$700k a pop) and replace them with faux French McMansions and falso Italianate Villas (@ $2 million + a pop). Most of the original, smaller, vintage 4plex, 6plex, and 8plexes like this one have been laid low by that same paradigm shift in recent years.

As tempting as that might be to me financially, I kinda liked Afton Oaks the way it was--quaint and unpretentious--so I decided to recycle this classic building instead of sacrificing it to the gods of consumption.

This project was fun mainly because we got to work and re-work the same basic floor-plan eight times. This allowed me to tweak the scope & look of each unit, improving the functionality and aesthetics of each as we moved through the building. (My own mini Case Study project.) My goal was to end up with eight unique units--and I think I achieved that goal. No two units in the building are exactly alike. Some lean more toward the Vintage and some more toward the Modern--but they are all Vintage Modern.

Aside from the common floor plan of two bedrooms and one bath--and some shared color schemes--every unit has its own personality. Sometimes the differences are subtle. Sometimes they are drastic. But each has its own individual character.

The tenants are generally an eclectic mix of young professionals (25-45). Probably owing to the central courtyard, this property has more of a community feel to it than any other property that I have owned--which I like--and which is why certain types of people prefer a small complex like this over 200, 300, 400 unit complex.

If you work or play inside the loop, this location is hard to beat. "Galleria" is an oft over-used reference point in Houston real estate--especially in apartment listings. This property is literally three blocks due east of the Galleria shopping centers--tucked just inside the 610 loop. You could walk out your front door & be trying on shoes at Neimans in about five minutes. There is also a Central Market, Best Buy, Target, Spec's, and three Starbucks within easy walking distance.

There is also great freeway access to 59, 610, and I-10. And the shopping is the best in the state. (Where else in Houston can you live close enough to walk to Crate & Barrel, Central Market, Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, Nordstrom, and Anthropologie?)

For what they are (700 to 800 s.f., Mid-Century, two bed / one bath flats) these are about the nicest units in this price range that you are going to find anywhere near this location--possibly anywhere inside the loop. They are what they are. If you are looking for shiny new pennies, you'll have to live in a 400 unit property and park in a parking garage. This is eight units. Killer location. Two bedrooms. (Most of the tenants there use them as 1+ study / guest bed set ups.)

See unit details below for pics & info on each individual unit. Click any thumbnail to enlarge.

(Project Resources)
Thorntree (quartz & slate), DalTile, ICI Paints, K&N (appliance), the Detering Company (trim & moulding), Custom Precision Stainless (custom kitchen sinks & other stainless details), Ferguson (misc. plumbing fixtures), Trinity Hardwoods, Klassic Hardwoods (recycled flooring), Custom Cabinets Houston (, M&M Lighting, Bobbitt Glass, Emmanuel del Angel (sheetrock, paint, tile), Morales HVAC, St Charles Electric.

For more info about renting one of these units (policies, procedures, showing dates & times, etc.) send and email to

Oakshire Drive

 Unit 1
 vacant:  No  rent:  $1395
 bedrooms:  2  bathrooms:  1
 sqare feet:  750
Sequentially, apartment #1 was the first unit that we restored in this project. The oak hardwood floors, which were sanded and refinished, are the only remaining feature of the original 1950's build out.

The kitchen, though small-ish, is quite nice. Originally we painted the cabinets and trim white, but in 2016, during a light update of the unit, we repainted them a a nice warm blue-gray color that complements the gunmetal quartz counters. Both go really well with the stainless steel appliance package and stainless window blind. We also paired a deep, under-mount, commercial stainless steel prep sink with a classic wall-mount faucet to maximize usable counter space. And we added a simple flat panel wainscoting to the walls on both ends of the kitchen to add some visual interest. The fridge is a bottom freezer (SubZero) type and the range is natural gas--which is virtually impossible to find in apartments any more. As part of the most recent update (2016) we also changed out the cabinet doors from the plainer, original mid-century style to a flat panel / Shaker style... and changed out of the simple oval stainless pulls we originally used to longer stainless bar pulls... for a more contemporary look.

The bathroom in this space is still my favorite out of all eight units--mainly because of the built-in, floor-to-ceiling glass-doored vitrine with seeded glass doors--and the slate and quartz basketweave floor that was a beotch to cut and install, but just feels good under foot. We used a classic white subway tile on the walls... with a simple black inlay that runs around the room. The bathroom has a high, south-facing window, which provides a lot of natural light. There's also a BIG tiled in mirror + a low one-piece toilet + a pedestal sink with a nice deep bowl.

I like this unit because of its location on the site: It is downstairs on the east side of the building so it stays cool and shaded most of the day, while still getting plenty of ambient sunlight.

A few years after the original restoration we went back in and gave this unit a deep "refresh" that took about a two weeks. We added a simple, flat-paneled wainscoting and a stacked, three-step handrail to the living, dining, and kitchen areas. We changed wall color from "Basic Beige" to "White Mantle", which is more of a pale, earthy yellow/green color. We also stripped the cabinets down and had Raoul from C&G Furniture come in and shoot them in a satin off-white lacquer ("Mendocino") and changed out the hinges to nickel Youngdale #4s. We also changed the bathroom color from "North Star" (pale yellow) the color we've been using in all of our baths lately--"Glass Menagerie (more of a cool, grayed down blue), plus new deadbolt and keyed entry locks on the front door and switched all the recessed bulb to halogens to help all the colors reproduce cleaner and more accurately.

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 Unit 2
 vacant:  No  rent:  $1395
 bedrooms:  2  bathrooms:  1
 sqare feet:  750
Having learned some valuable lessons from the work on Unit 1, this unit turned out even better in many respects--some obvious and some unseen.

By using a mottled gray granite on the counters and white subway tile for the backsplash, I was able to "lighten up" the kitchen but keep the look classic. We also started experimenting with inlaid hardwood floors using recycled oak and maple to create a checkerboard inlay. The cabinets are all job-built with panel doors, microwave cabinet, wine rack, pantry, etc.

Bathrooms are my raison d'etre (ok, you can punch me in the gut for using that term when you see me--but it is true, so what can I say?). The original 1950s bath, which was in good overall condition when we started, was given a fairly deep face lift--receiving improvements like a built-in perfume case, wall to wall framed mirror with built-in medicine cabinet, new lighting and exhaust fan, frosted 10-light French door, and painted a calm but pretty light blue color.

In the bedrooms we enlarged the closet doors and did built-ins and nice satin nickel ceiling fans with blades stained to match the hardwood floors.

This unit includes a new full-size, front-loading washer & gas dryer in the unit.

Click on any thumbnail below to enlarge.

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 Unit 3
 vacant:  Yes  rent:  $1295
 bedrooms:  2  bathrooms:  1
 sqare feet:  750
Unit 3 & 7 are proof that the more you do something, the better you get. I restored six of the eight total units before these two so I worked the kinks out on those units and created what I think is the perfect urban apartment (under 800 s.f.)

I went for more of a 20s/30s Art Deco-meets-Mid-Century Modern-fusion in this unit... very clean lines, recessed lighting to keep the ceilings clean, very square & geometric trim details and mosaic tile patterns...

#3 & #7 also have full-size, front loading, super-energy-efficient washers and gas dryers, new central a/c, plus many other cool, space saving built-ins.

Like all of the other units in the building, these have the original hardwood floors throughout and nice wall colors. (No beige or tan to be found!) Plus eat-in kitchen with stainless & ocean green quartz counter tops. And as always in my renovations, a killer bathroom with vintage modern detailing.

Kitchen -
* recycled oak hardwood floors with custom maple inlay
* stainless gas range
* stainless Bosch dishwasher
* stainless top fridge / bottom-mount freezer
* disposal
* natural stone countertops (Ocean Green quartz from Thorntree)
* stainless bar top

Bathroom -
* mosaic tile floors
* subway tile walls with black and white mosaic inlay
* pedestal sink
* large tiled in mirror with custom stainless shelf
* floor to ceiling built-ins with mirrored doors.
* vintage style lighting & taps

This apartment works best as a 1+ study but I definitely have couples & roommates who rent this floor plan. The bedrooms & closets are typical for the mid-century vintage and I've improved the spaces by adding built-ins, doubling the hanging space, adding built-in laundry, and keeping the ceiling height clean with recessed lighting and stainless fans with no light kits on them.

Since the unit is my only empty unit (Feb 2011), I decided to go back in and do a few more updates / improvements to the unit... so, currently we are adding a built-in wall niche for a flat screen in the living room (will accommodate up to a 60" TV), modifying the existing built-ins in the living room so that it will accommodate a flat screen also (up to 37" depending on particulars of the model), adding a cabinet above the island to house a new exhaust vent for the stove & more recessed lighting, extending the paneled wainscoting around the entire living room, replacing the entire entry door unit with new, solid core, 1.75" thick, custom 5-lite Mid-Century style door with kick-guard jam and full weatherstripping (in layman's terms--a much more secure, quiet, energy efficient door--that also looks pretty cool)... and a few other odds and ends.

With only eight units on the property--all with young professionals living in them--you can actually get to know your neighbors. (Currently we have a geologist, (2) teachers, an architect, a doctor, an I.T. guy, and a fitness trainer.


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 Unit 4
 vacant:  No  rent:  $1395
 bedrooms:  2  bathrooms:  1
 sqare feet:  750
Because I have lived in this unit twice over the past few years (in between houses), Unit 4 turned out to be one of my favorite units. I tweaked it several times to get the most out of every square inch. Just finished a pretty major face lift and tummy tuck on the kitchen in this unit.

All of the door hardware replaced with brushed chrome knobs just like the other units. We also doubled the hanging space in the closets, re-skinned and added cabinets in the kitchen, added crown moulding, installed block-panel wainscoting and a floor to ceiling built-in bookcase in the living room... a 10-lite French door in the bathroom, etc.

The original oak hardwood floors were refinished and salvaged oak of the same vintage (with a maple checkerboard inlay) was added to the kitchen--which also has natural stone counters (Black Ash slate), subway tile on the backsplash (inlaid with slate), under-cabinet halogen lighting, and a huge, deep, custom made, commercial, stainless steel sink (that can hold every dish you own--at the same time!)

This unit also comes with a newer, full-size front-loading, high efficiency washer & gas dryer.

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 Unit 5
 vacant:  No  rent:  $1395
 bedrooms:  2  bathrooms:  1
 sqare feet:  775
Unit 5 was one of the first units that I worked on after buying this property back in '03. I did a fairly extensive "update" at that time that included a kitchen face lift (added some cabinets, updated appliance to stainless, new quartz countertop, new backsplash tile, new floor tile, new lighting, new plumbing fixtures, etc)--and adding central air & heat. I also replaced all of the interior doors, all of the door hardware and cabinet hardware, installed crown moulding in the kitchen and living room, repainted everything, and refinished the hardwood floors. No small task. However, at that early stage, I didn't think I was going to be adding washers and dryers to all of the units--there really wasn't room for those without tearing the central closet apart and cutting lots of holes to run plumbing, gas, electrical, ductwork, etc--and I never seemed to have any push back about shared laundry @ my W Gray property in Montrose.

But I discovered pretty quickly that in this particular location and / or rental demographic, laundry in the unit was very important. So, I knew eventually I'd have to circle back to this unit and add a washer and dryer. (This unit is the only unit at the property that has its own big, private, outdoor patio off the back bedroom... and I think that has helped offset the lack of a washer & dryer up until now... because this unit has had similar if not lower vacancy over the past 13 yrs... and the same rent as the other units.)

The patio was a wreck when I bought the building--little more than a muddy hole in the ground--so I dug the whole thing up, fixed the grade so it drains properly, packed down a solid granite gravel base, then installed a nice recycled brick on top of that. Then I tore down the old, fence and put up a new 6 ft cedar privacy fence with a lockable gate, planted some banana trees, Mexican heather (which I subsequently had to pull out because it was taking over the patio). Gets lots of sun so container gardens do great. All in all a nice place to chill & grill when the weather is nice. Or a good place to store bikes, a kayak, hang a hammock, etc.

In early 2017 we did a phase 2 update to this unit, ADDING a new washer and dryer and a new 14 SEER HVAC system. The kitchen and bath were also gutted and REBUILT from the ground up. And, since I had it stripped down that far, I decided to go ahead and UPGRADE all of the original steel single pane casement windows to double pane low e vinyl sliders.

Those--combined with the new high efficiency a/c--should result in even lower electric bills... and a much quieter interior.


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 Unit 6
 vacant:  No  rent:  $1395
 bedrooms:  2  bathrooms:  1
 sqare feet:  775
Being the upstairs, inside corner unit, #6 is a bit larger than the other units in the building (we're only talking 25-50 s.f. but you can feel it in the living area).

In Unit 6 I leaned a bit more toward the Modern and less toward the Vintage than I did in some of the other units, choosing a smooth, honed green slate on the kitchen countertops (with stainless steel, double-bowl, under-mount sink)--inlaid with a fossilized, unfilled travertine in the backsplash. And since the kitchen had been updated before I bought the building, I kept the clean, simple, white cabinets--but allowed myself a few luxuries--like the $1800 Siemens professional gas range and the $1000 Jenn-Air professional stainless steel dishwasher. I also added vintage oak floors inlaid with maple (the former salvaged from a turn of the century house being demolished in Midtown and the latter reclaimed from a 1920s high school gym floor in Baytown). (In July 2011 I did a phase 2 update to the kitchen, adding more and larger cabinets above the fridge and stove, a recessed light right above the stove (so you can see what you are cooking without standing in shadow), and a nice, stainless, "OTR", built-in microwave / vent hood above the stove.)

The bathroom was solid overall when we started so I just replaced the fixtures with a sleek Kohler one-piece toilet and smooth, radiused pedestal sink and a vintage looking Kohler single-hole faucet. The bathroom floor got black slate cut down to 6x6 and installed in a diamond pattern (if you look closely you can see that it is actually two different black slates--one honed and one "flared"--to add a subtle texture to the floor).

I also re-skinned the cabinets in the bathroom and added some open display shelves where the original 1950s gas space heater used to be (no longer needed now that we installed central air & heat). And, instead of the institutional white or ubiquitous beige or tan you find in most apartment complexes, I painted the bathroom a nice satin Eucalyptus green color. (In July 2011 I revisited the bathroom updates a 2nd time and made new doors for the cabinets--including tall mirrored doors on the upper section--and replaced the original 1950s hamper with a mid-century style drawer.)

Also, due to popular demand, this unit got a full-size, eco-friendly, front-loading (multi-hyphenated) washing machine and an energy-efficient gas dryer.

Overall, this is a great unit. Not too big. Not too small. Upstairs corner with south and west facing windows (west windows now shaded by $600,000 townhouses recently built next door). Hardwoods. Central air. Stainless kitchen. Washer & dryer. Gas range. Two bedrooms. Great neighbors (all young professionals). Great location (Afton Oaks). Overall... a pretty sweet place to call home. :)

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 Unit 7
 vacant:  No  rent:  $1395
 bedrooms:  2  bathrooms:  1
 sqare feet:  750
I guess some people are unaware of the difference between a really well-built, thoughtfully designed apartment and a generic box. Or perhaps they just don't care. Personally I have become very spoiled as of late... spoiled by the details.

Using 30+ restored vintage apartment as a proving ground, Ive dialed out the details about as far as they can go given my budgets on these units.

Having lived all over the United States--and abroad--I have stayed in a wide variety of hotels & apartments over the years. And I guess I take small pieces--tiny little memories an--of each place back home with me. (Not to mention 1000's of photos.) And some of those pieces become ideas, which ended up in my work. It might be an idea for a tile design, or a built-in of some kind. Sometimes its more of a "look" or a feeling that Im going for, that encompasses several different details.

Here, the kitchen is super clean and modern. Between the kitchen and dining area there is an island with a stainless steel bar top & gas range, plus hardwood floors in the kitchen (thanks to Klassic Hardwoods for the matching recycled 1950s oak), Ocean Green quartz counters (from Thorntree) & sweet stainless steel appliances (K&N Builder Sales). (Gas cooktop for the true gourmets + Sub-Zero style fridge (top fridge w/bottom freezer w/ pull out freezer drawer) + a whisper-quiet Bosch dishwasher to clean up after the dinner party.)

I couldn't find a vent hood that I liked so I bought a nice 48" Thermador with a variable speed 600 cfm motor, built a custom cabinet above the island, and transferred the motor and the lighting from the Thermador to the custom box.

The bathroom is a fusion of 1920s & 30s style mosaic tile & fixtures + a modern spa look. Stainless details & floor-to-ceiling built-ins with mirrored doors for all your bath goodies maximize the space.

The bedrooms are clean & simple with recessed lighting in the ceilings & stainless "shop" fans w/out light kits to keep the ceilings clean & high. (I hate fans with lights on them!) Plus custom closets in both bedrooms with double hanging space & built-ins for shoes & accessories.

With the dining room wall gone, the living room & kitchen are open to one another. There is a 3-piece, hand cut, 1930s geometric crown moulding that wraps both rooms to tie it all together--and built-in bookcases and shelves + a tall framed mirror in the kitchen to further open up the space.

All the rooms have good light and big windows. The spaces are functional and no nonsense.

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 Unit 8
 vacant:  No  rent:  $1395
 bedrooms:  2  bathrooms:  1
 sqare feet:  750
Unit 8 was designed with my own tastes in mind. At the time, I was thinking that at some point Id probably end up moving into one of these apartments full time. This was to be that apartment. So I turned things up a notch from what youd expect in a typical "apartment". ("It goes to eleven!")

First, the kitchen. I opened up the wall between the kitchen and dining area and installed a granite bar top that cantilevers into the kitchen & has a subtle elliptical arch on the dining room side. No need for dining table & chairs now, but still plenty of room for them if youve got em.

Next, I centered the stainless steel gas range on the bar top and built prep areas on both sides--topped with ocean green quartz. The existing pantry was cannibalized to house the stainless SubZero-style fridge (top fridge / bottom freezer). And a new pantry space was carved out of the wall.

The dishwasher is a top-of-the line stainless Bosch. There are glass-front cabinets, a built-in wine rack, and other custom touches as well. Oh, and instead of the ubiquitous "antique white", I chose a warm, earthy red paint for the cabinets and trim (Coachlamp Copper). Lastly, I installed salvaged antique oak flooring to match the existing 1950s oak in the rest of the apartment--and an ocean green/gunmetal granite backsplash in a checkerboard pattern. A lot of punch for an apartment kitchen...

In the living room and the bedrooms I just turned up the trim a notch & added built-ins & more crown moulding than I did in the other units (in the bathroom & both bedrooms).

The bathroom is my homage to Art Deco--with white subway tile w/black inlays and shiny chrome period fixtures + a floor-to-ceiling glass doored vitrine (fancy French word for cabinet), large tiled-in mirror and Deco light fixture. (I am a sucker for the 20s & 30s.) I also splurged on a low, one-piece Kohler toilet & period style pedestal sink & faucet.

Of course the original 60 year old hardwood floors have been restored and the apartment has been painted several shades of warm, earthy paint. Large casement windows facing east and west give the apartment great light and fresh air.

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