Houston Lifestyles & Homes November 2009
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Art is appreciated and created in this modern gem
Text by Cathy Gordon Photography: Joe aker architect: chung ngu
Artist Cara Barer is known for taking a common object and giving it new shape and purpose through her unique brand of art. So it ’s fitting that her home evolved from that same sense of adventure and originality.
On the face of it, it’s a home. But this dwelling is much more. It’s a museum-quality space for Cara and her physician husband, Jorge, avid art collectors; and it ’s part home studio, an incubator for Cara’s evolving artistic journey.
With elevated views of Memorial Park, this modern space—two interlocking boxes, one of stucco and the other of metal—combines museum-quality strategies to accommodate the couple’s art collection. Cara’s studio is separated from the main house by an outdoor courtyard but connected by the guest quarters that lie along the north side of the site, creating a U-shaped house.
“I think Chung is a genius. He really is,” she says of their architect, Chung Nguyen of MC2 Architects. The way he puts it all together … it’s like a puzzle, but he makes it all work. He has the mind for the actual architecture but has the creativity, too. It ’s evident throughout the house.”
Expansive walls that accommodate large pieces of art combine with wide-open spaces for an airy, uncluttered feel. Clerestory windows over walls infuse the space with daylight.
“We designed the house keeping in mind the quality of light so the art is always highlighted, ” Nguyen says. “We wanted it to be the perfect backdrop for their art collection.”
Paintings and sculptures pop against an architecturally neutral background, with the second floor making up the main living space —
Two intersecting volumes—one stucco, the other metal—make up this home with elevated views of Memorial Park. ˚ An iconic Eames lounge chair shares space with a sleek sofa from Roche Bobois in the main living room on the second floor. At right, a stunning bronze sculpture by world-renowned artist Francisco Zuniga. ˚ Steps of granite lead to the third floor. The dining room is a vision with built-in vitrines holding Cara ’s collection of Steuben glass. ˚ An expansive wall and
wide-open spaces provide a gallery feel for the couple’s art collection. The colorful oil is by Dick Wray. A piece by Cara hangs near the Saarinen table and chairs. The large bronze sculpture is by artist Francisco Zuniga.
kitchen, dining room, living room and a large display wall void of electrical outlets, less they detract from the art. “Chung’s idea,” says Cara. “All the electrical outlets are on the floor. It makes a difference, but most people probably wouldn ’t think about that. Chung thinks of everything.”
A floor of granite sweeps through this space, cut in large squares in keeping with the scale of the room.
Front-facing walls of glass offer unobstructed views of Memorial Park for a tree house feel. The third floor with master bedroom and Jorge ’s study, located on an interior balcony open to the second floor below, also takes advantage of this incredible vista.
“We wanted the living room to be open but still have privacy,” explains Nguyen. “It allowed us to bring the park into the living room without seeing the street.”
The ground floor of the main house contains a media room, exercise room and another bedroom
along a hallway that connects to Cara’s studio. But the clever positioning of her studio—in another building separated from the main house by a pool and hot tub—makes it possible to welcome clients without having them wind their way through the house.
“Occasionally I have people who want to come see the work here, and I don’t need to invite them in through the front door. It just makes sense that they have this separate entrance, ” says Cara, whose work is represented at several galleries across the U.S. This day, she is busy preparing for a show that opens Nov. 7 at De Santos Gallery on Richmond, her local gallery representation.
“I spend a lot of time in here, believe me,” she says of her studio.                                          next page
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