Text: Blake Miller
Photos: Michael Hunter
In 2015, Kara and Dax Sanders had been looking for a home closer to their daughters’ school for several months, never quite finding one that worked for them. After much searching, a friend mentioned a home that was about to go on the market in Houston’s River Oaks. “We had a mutual friend who was selling her home, and she thought it would be a perfect fit for us,” says Kara Sanders.
Designed by architectural firm Lloyd & Morgan, the home was built in 1946 and situated on a spacious lot with towering live oaks standing guard in the front yard. “We loved the classic design, the large two-story porch columns, and those massive oak trees, all of which felt very inviting,” says Sanders. “And we loved the scale of all of the rooms. We felt like they were intimate yet not too small, like so many historical homes tend to have.” Beyond its innate character and charm, the traditional white home with black-green shutters was rich with history to boot: It received one of the first building permits in the neighborhood after World War II ended.
The previous homeowners, well-known art consultant Melissa Grobmyer and her husband Albert, purchased the home in 2001 and saved it from demolition. With an eye for design, Grobmyer headed up an interior renovation by updating the home’s electrical system, modernizing the original kitchen with stainless-steel appliances and countertops, restoring the millwork throughout to the home’s original standard, and adding a sunroom and primary bath. In 2012, the home was designated a landmark by the City of Houston.
After one tour of the home, the Sanderses were smitten and purchased it. And despite loving the modern updates made by the former owners, the couple knew they wanted to put their own stamp on it. “I give so much credit to Melissa for the changes she made to the home,” says Sanders, who has a natural eye and penchant for interior design. “But we really wanted to freshen up the home both inside and outside.” The couple enlisted landscape architect Ted Gregory of Gregory/Henry Landscapes to revive the home’s exterior by painting the facade, replacing the front door, adding copper gutters and downspouts, and completely refreshing the hardscape and landscape for a more minimal and streamlined look.
For the interiors, however, Sanders enlisted the help of good friend and designer, Ashley Goforth, who assisted the couple with the interior design of their two previous Houston homes. “Ashley has been a huge part of the fabric of my life, helping me with each home as our lives evolved and changed with each move,” says Sanders. “Kara and I met years ago, when she and Dax bought their first bungalow,” says Goforth. “We quickly became close friends. So, when she called me to help her with this home, of course I was on board.”
To start, the blonde oak floors were refinished and stained a rich espresso hue, while Segreto Finishes replastered the walls in the foyer, stairwell, and living room white. The ceilings were waxed to create a luminous effect. The millwork was also painted Benjamin Moore Snowbound throughout the home and to add high contrast; the handrail and interior doors were painted Sherwin-Williams Tricorn Black. The downstairs powder room was completely transformed into a modern jewel box of a space with Walker Zanger blue-and-white marble concentric square flooring and custom paneling lacquered in Benjamin Moore’s Newburyport Blue.
As in the powder room, the couples’ art collection inspired much of the home’s interior design. “Our artwork has been a deliberate exercise,” says Sanders. “We use our art to anchor each room.” Goforth and Sanders meticulously deliberated each piece’s location to ensure that each one complemented the home’s traditional architectural details while simultaneously creating a high-contrast, modern juxtaposition via artwork and color.
Sanders’ approach regarding holiday décor is similar. “I like to put subtle touches of Christmas throughout the home,” she says. “I’ll bring in fresh greenery and arrangements on the doors and mantles and maybe embellish it with a little ribbon here and there.”
The Sanderses are not done, though. The couple is about to enter phase two of their master plan for the home. “Our girls were toddlers when we moved in, and now they’re 11 and 13,” says Sanders. “So, the home has evolved as we have as a family.”