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Real Estate / High-Rises

Mystery No More

An Exclusive First Look at River Oaks’ Most-Anticipated New Luxury Apartments — Step Inside Grey House

BY // 02.02.16

Walk into the new Grey House at River Oaks District, and everything seems to slow down a little.

The sweeping staircase to the left of the doors, arching gracefully over the desk of the concierge (who will do everything but pick out your swimsuit at the practically next-door Tom Ford store), the sparkling lights and the art on the walls all conspire to lower one’s blood pressure. Houston’s most-anticipated new luxury building, an already coveted address, is a retreat in the heart of the River Oaks District.

PaperCity received an exclusive first look at the under-construction luxury apartment mid-rise — from the plush theater room with a flatscreen TV bigger than some movie theater screens, to the model apartments, and to the corner units that are already quickly disappearing from the market.

This place is anything but over-the-top. It is refined elegance, and location, location, location.

That is what stood out from experiencing a third-floor corner unit that looked out on the River Oaks District. The lights in the trees of the upscale shopping mecca brought a real sense of place. There’s also something oddly comforting about seeing the names Tom Ford and Hermes outside your floor-to-ceiling windows.

“You really feel like you’re part of the action here,” Grey House community manager Tommy Ku says.

Ku came from the hotel industry, and, like many of the new luxury high-rises and mid-rises springing up around Houston, Grey House aims for that high-end hotel-service level. With that in mind, there are tentative plans to put in something of a “butler delivery service” that will enable residents to call down and get something picked up for them at Cartier or any of the other luxe retailers in the district.

There also will be a VIP program, which will discreetly announce to River Oaks District’s stores and restaurants that Grey House residents are to receive VIP treatment.

Yes, this mid-rise is something of a game changer.

Of course, this level of service and prime location come at a price. Grey House rents run $3 per square foot, with its apartments ranging from 900 to 1,700 square feet. There are 173 one-bedroom apartments, 103 two-bedroom apartments, and three three-bedroom apartments, spread out over two buildings across the street from each other. Each building has its own lap pool.

The leasing office officially opened for the first time on Monday, and several apartments are already gone (the first residents will receive their keys in mid March). On this visit, a successful oilman and his young female companion wrestled with the decision of which apartment they wanted. They already knew they wanted at least one.

Well-known Houston art collector and social figure Patti Bruni also stopped by to look at shedding her home for the luxury apartment life.

“To me, it feels like it’s very LA or New York,” Bruni says of Grey House. “I’m not saying Houston didn’t have nice places before, but this is different. This is just awesome.”

You can bet that’s what Dene Oliver, the CEO and founder of development giant OliverMcMillan, is going for in this showcase property. OliverMcMillan painstakingly kept the details of Grey House largely under wraps, letting the mystery help build the anticipation. Grey House’s website did not include anything but a photo of pretty people and a “Coming Soon” banner for months.

Now that PaperCity‘s seen Grey House, we can report that the apartments are full of cozy spaces and larger escapes. Take the balconies — on some of the apartments, they are large enough to comfortably host a dinner party for six. These aren’t the typical put-two-deck-chairs-out-there-and-call-it-a-day apartment balconies. There are no mind-numbingly long hallways that typify even some ambitious mixed-use apartment buildings. Instead, things are kept intimate.

Residents will have a choice of wooden finishes — with darker and lighter hardwood floor options — and all the windows (and each apartment is filled with windows) are insulated and double-paned, the better to keep out the noise. Thankfully, the windows are also fully openable, to let in the air. And, perhaps, the bustling feel of being directly inside Houston’s hot new shopping mecca.

Grey House itself will be something of its own art gallery, as well. More than 500 works of art will be displayed around the complex when it’s fully completed. Oliver is an art lover who set out to make sure the building has strong ties to Houston’s art world. Even the unusual name of the complex is an art nod: It pays homage to the Menil’s grey-and-white art bungalows that house artists around the museum.

Whether they grasp the art connection or not, the people are coming.

Ku notes that he’s already seen a wide range of interested buyers reach out — empty-nesters eager to leave that Memorial or Woodlands manse behind for a more walkable lifestyle, oil heads, fashion figures, and corporate apartment seekers.

Everyone says there’s no place like home. If you happen to live in Grey House, you may actually be right.

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