Celebrated Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen, the father of Eero Saarinen once said, “Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context—a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan.” He certainly would have approved of the renovation of a French château in Houston—including the use of Aubusson rugs in the 1930s limestone manse—created by another distinguished architect, John F. Staub.
Featured in the August, 2013 issue of Architectural Design, the story unfolds: the Louis XV-styled limestone château was designed by Staub in 1933 for J. Robert Neal, who had a hand in Maxwell House coffee and loved everything about French architecture and design. Fast-forward to the late 1990s, and the vacant property became the impetus for the current owner John Havens to convince his wife, Terri, to move to the Lone Star State; Mrs. Havens is also a lover of all things French!
The couple hired Houston-based Newberry Campa Architects and interior designer Kara Childress for a full-blown renovation to bring the property back to full French glory, and to update the space. The renovations took 14 years and included antique hunting trips for items like Aubusson rugs and Staub-inspired additions using stone from the rock quarry originally used by Staub which was reopened especially for the Havens’ project.
Aubusson rugs are featured prominently throughout the home, which is designed to the hilt with authentic French furnishings such as 19th century Aubusson rugs. The results are nothing short of glorious. The rooms are blessed with classic beauty and in-line with Saarinen’s vision.
Aubusson Rugs in the Living Room
A pale green Aubusson rug with an acanthus scroll border graces a seating ares in the living room of the Havens’ French style château in Houston.
The pale grey-green Aubusson rug reflects the Old World French look of the room. The green of the paneled walls is derived from the Aubusson rug. Gold and silver accents add warmth, light and texture which gives the room a layered effect.
Another pale grey-green Aubusson rug anchors another seating area on the other side of the room from the above picture. Image courtesy Architectural Digest.
Multiple sitting areas make room for more French furniture, on the far side of the living room; having multiple sitting rooms—or salons—allows the Havens to host larger groups and still provide seating for intimate conversation. The delicate greens, gold and dusty rose of the Aubusson rug are repeated throughout the living room, such as in the faded green walls and the greyish-pink window treatments; the floral motif is of the rug is also echoed all over. The leopard velvet chair adds energy.
Aubusson Rugs in the Music Room
A classically faded Aubusson rug resonates with a glorious crystal chandelier and molded ceiling in the music room. Image courtesy Architectural Digest.
In the music room, the Aubusson rug enriches the faded color scheme; the effect is light and airy with all of the gold ornamentation and the sunlight streaming through the many impressive windows in every room.
A French Empire Recamier chaise longue—its leg just on the corner of the Aubusson rug—invites one for repose in the corner of the music room. Image courtesy Architectural Digest.
The intricate and ornate twining vine border design of the music room’s Aubusson rug can be seen next to a neo-classical chaise longue in the corner of the room. The intricacy of the rug’s design is repeated throughout the furnishings, décor and accent pieces in authentic French style.
The finished rooms—and Aubusson rugs—of this classic French chateau are certainly what would please either architect; Staub for the renovation of his work, and Saarinen for the attention to detail and context!