Houston’s New Theatrical High-Rise Channels Hollywood: Developer Teams Up With Hot Designer to Create a Scene
The Art Deco modern lobby of the Astoria, designed by Eric Clough, with metal chandelier from a 1930s San Francisco theater
The lobby with blue leather paneled-walls with embroidery stitched by the same artisans that stitch Louboutin shoes.
Eric Clough and Randall Davis
Randall Davis was shopping in the Christian Louboutin men’s store in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District when more than the patent-leather brogues drew his attention. “I loved the design, even though it was small,” he says. He walked away with a new pair of shoes and contact info for architect/designer Eric Clough, founder of the multidisciplinary firm 212Box — the man responsible for 180 Christian Louboutin boutiques worldwide.
When Davis called, they hit it off instantly. Without even a face-to-face meeting, they signed a contract for Clough to design the lobby and games floor for Davis’ latest Houston luxury residential high-rise, the Astoria.
Davis had just begun to pour the concrete and had his design concept in mind — Art Deco modern, reminiscent of the Hollywood Pantages Theatre — but needed a master of the trade to execute it. First up was a trip to L.A. for Davis and Clough to visit the theater.
Built in 1930, it’s a grand example of Art Deco architecture — the final movie palace built in Hollywood and the final theater built by vaudeville kingpin Alexander Pantages. Nothing bonds people faster than a little guerrilla design research and harmless mischief — Davis and Clough were denied entrance to the theater unless they bought show tickets. They complied and arrived early, snapping photos of the interiors on their phones while ushers admonished, “No photos please.” Davis even burst into the ladies’ restroom.
“Out of the corner of my eye, I saw this unbelievable mirrored piece,” he says. “So I went into the ladies’ room and photographed it.”
An iteration of that mirrored piece ended up in the lobby of the Astoria, as did other design elements from the theater, including the trayed ceiling centered with a metal chandelier from a 1930s San Francisco theater — Davis found it while shopping in L.A. two weeks before the project was slated to open.
“It resembles a hubcap,” Clough says. “The metal was a perfect tie-in to the rest of the lobby. I think that’s always fun — when a client comes with a lot of ideas, inspirational images, and the experience of seeing things while traveling. Being able to pull it together for them results in a nice curation.”
More inspiration came from two 8-inch statuettes Davis spotted in an Art Deco book. They tapped local artisan Navid Ghedami to execute turning the statuettes into 6-foot sculptures.
“I think it almost broke him,” Clough says. “We had to 3-D model it, unfold it, cut it, fold it back up, weld the puzzle pieces together, and chrome it. Navid did a magnificent job.”
The sculptures now reside in the lobby over a seating area, where walls are paneled in blue leather stitched with exquisite embroidery. Who did the embroidery? You guessed it — the same artisans who stitch Louboutin shoes. Thanks to executing Louboutin’s shops, Clough has access to a noteworthy list of artisans and vendors.
He was spending time in Milan and Venice when he went to Villa Necchi Campiglio, the architectural star of the cult Italian film I Am Love, and replicated the gilded pocket doors from the dining room for the restroom downstairs at the Astoria. “We spent a lot of money on bathroom doors,” Randall Davis laughs.
Highly concepted details appear in the motor court, as well. Sculpture and relief in the style of Art Deco artist Tamara de Lempicka populate the walls, painted by artist Eric Kaposta, to honor the 15 years Lempicka lived in Houston.
212Box is known for cleverly integrating clues into their projects; one townhouse they designed is filled with riddles and prompted a 2008 New York Times piece “Mystery on Fifth Avenue,” which producer J.J. Abrams quickly optioned for film rights.
When asked if clues are woven into the Astoria, Clough smiles, looks at Davis, and asks, “Maybe in Arabella?
Yes, Clough and Davis have teamed up for another luxury high-rise, adjacent to River Oaks District, which is under construction, quickly rising to great heights.