A vestibule off the master bath and bedroom formally transitions the space on either side. The small room was painted deep gray. Copperplate engravings by Scottish architect Colen Campbell (1676-1729) from Vitruvius Britannicus.
David Hicks carpet on the stairs adds unexpected dimension without detracting from the art. Laura Letinsky’s Rome, 2009, enlivens this 17-foot-tall space, which is both stairwell and kitchen.
The home’s shared living and dining room acts as its formal entrance. Two tufted black-leather Mies van der Rohe Barcelona chaises and matching stools pair with a lacquered coffee table atop one of many Moroccan rugs Gordon acquired while visiting that country for a friend’s wedding. Pair of white Boomerang lounge chairs by Peter Hvidt and Orla Mølgaard- Nielsen. Artwork, including pieces by Aaron Parazette and Anton Ginzburg, gives the buoyant environment an intriguing air. Alcoves on either side of the fireplace frame Deco consoles and sterling Edwardian candelabra.
A passionate backgammon player, Gordon prefers tournament cases from New York-based T. Anthony — which he says have just enough space for a change of clothes.
This Art Deco tea set, discovered online, was too good to pass up. Its colors and interesting silhouette feel like “pure sculpture,” Gordon says.
The stark master bath incorporates mirror and veined Carrara marble.
The master bedroom’s right wall opens up into the living room.
The clocks on the 19th-century Louis XVI-style cylinder bureau were collected by Gordon’s grandparents. Jackie Gendel’s Victoria Nile.
A sly stuffed red fox surveys the combined living and dining room.
A place for study
A view from outside
A courtyard for entertaining
Gordon inherited the ornately carved fauteuil, covered in espresso velvet, from his grandparents. A sailboat model on the side table behind the living-room sofa recalls summers on the East Coast.
In the media room, a rattan chaise longue is a clever counterpoint to William Wegman’s wry Peak Performance, 2010.
Gordon and his brothers inherited the 1930 Ford Model A Deluxe Roadster from his maternal grandfather. He is the only one who can comfortably drive the car — which, he explains, “was not built for tall people.”
A table and chairs purchased from the Transco Tower are repurposed in the dining room.
Eschewing contemporary modes of music listening, a turntable and LPs top a table in the master bedroom. A piece by Louisiana artist Mary Ellen Leger is a study of compulsive perfection, composed by positioning words cut from dictionary pages in a circle on top of glazed Braille text.
THE HOME OF ARCHITECT RYAN GORDON IS A REALIZATION OF THE PURE AND TIMELESS PLEASURES OF LIFE: BOOKS, ART AND ENTERTAINING. HERE, HUNTER S. THOMPSON SHARES SHELF SPACE WITH VOLUMES ON CHRISTO AND JEANNE-CLAUDE. INHERITED FAMILY FURNITURE PAIRS WITH VISIONARY MODERN DESIGN FROM LE CORBUSIER AND MIES VAN DER ROHE. AND ART IS BORN FROM AN EYE CULTIVATED IN THE BASTIONS OF THE BLAFFER ART MUSEUM AND CONTEMPORARY ARTS MUSEUM HOUSTON — ALL OF WHICH MAKES FOR A STUDY IN EXPRESSIONISM.
The weeping willow at the border of Ryan Gordon’s home perfectly encapsulates the relaxed, poetic nature of the domestic environment he has quietly crafted for the past 11 years. His 1981 town home is part of a collective of seven, most of which were designed by Houston architect Tom Wilson. Gordon’s property has the largest street frontage (136 feet), and the generous front and side lawns suggest a house more than a town home. This green space creates an organic barrier for the residence while framing the contemporary angles of the structure. Some of the most important elements in the home, however, pre-date its construction.
Gordon is a fourth-generation Houstonian; his great-grandfather, M.M. Gordon, arrived in Galveston from Russia in 1890 when he was 12. After the storm of 1900, he moved to Houston and started the family business, Gordon’s Jewelers, in 1905, at 808 Preston. Gordon counts his great-grandparents’ rolltop desk and an ivory warrior they purchased in Hong Kong in the ‘80s among his favorite possessions. He also recalls an awe-inspiring trip with his grandmother, JoAnn Rich, to Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas — a property he describes as being “like a dream”: The church, designed by E. Fay Jones, is made entirely of glass and stands in the middle of the woods.
Gordon’s home demonstrates his insatiable curiosity about all things art and design, with a heavy emphasis on art — a passion born from his involvement in the founding of the CAMH’s young professional group, The Studio, and his time as board chair for the University of Houston’s Blaffer Art Museum. With ample opportunity to cultivate his eye, he currently collects pieces by contemporary artists, many local, including Trenton Doyle Hancock, The Art Guys, Patrick Turk, Aaron Parazette, Joseph Havel, Daniel Fabian, Emily Sloan and Libbie Masterson. Over the course of three separate renovations, Gordon has carved out a space that reflects his appreciation of architecture as a design element, relating to his own domestic experience. By laying dark hardwoods and painting much of the home’s lower level a serene shade of gray, he has achieved a weightlessness that underscores the inherent strengths of the architecture: floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors along the ground-story façade; voluminous spaces including the 17-foot-tall kitchen and stairwell space; and flourishes such as the living-room opening into a double-height clerestory-like ceiling shared with the master bedroom above. These unique and unexpected architectural elements have allowed Gordon to take liberties with the interiors, which reflect two dichotomous themes: design-related furniture acquired through online auctions, paired with meaningful family pieces.
Surprisingly, the styles harmoniously coexist — and prevent either from becoming overarching. The one necessary addition to the property, he says, was a laundry room. He sacrificed a portion of the garage to create the galley-like service area — an impressive concession, considering his growing car collection, which includes a 1930 Ford Model A Deluxe Roadster. Ultimately, Gordon decorates the house with history and individuality. The result is a home anchored in another era, one in which hospitality and sincerity were favored over perfectly fluffed pillows. His desire to create a backdrop for a life focused on people instead of things is refreshing — and perhaps the greatest testament to his architectural prowess.
Dream architectural collaboration: Designing a sailboat with a naval architect. Currently reading: Michael Allin’s Zarafa: A Giraffe’s True Story, From Deep in Africa to the Heart of Paris, as well as Mosette Broderick’s Triumvirate: McKim, Mead & White. Listening to: Tedeschi Trucks Band, Kings of Leon and Bonnie Raitt on vinyl. Favorite architect working today: Shigeru Ban and Santiago Calatrava. Your house in one word: Multifaceted.
[This article first appeared in the October 2014 Houston edition of PaperCity Magazine.]