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Houston Designer’s Stunning Museum Tower Hideaway Offers a Real Escape From Sensory Overload

Christopher Alexander and His Partner Build a True Retreat in the Sky

BY // 05.18.20
photography Pär Bengtsson

By the end of a long workday, interior designer Christopher Alexander is on sensory overload. “After looking at so many colors and fabrics and juggling different clients’ personalities for eight hours, I need a way to calm the noise in my head,” he says. “I literally could go home and sit in an apartment with nothing but white canvas and white walls, and be happy with nothing but a candle.”

Things haven’t yet come to that, he says, but his Museum Tower apartment is both minimalist and awash in soothing tones — in other words, the perfect antidote to a stressful day.

“I shut the door behind me, and I’m instantly refreshed,” says Alexander, 37, a design partner at J. Randall Powers Interior Decoration.

Located on the 17th floor, the apartment offers the kind of peace of mind that many Houstonians can relate to.

“My partner, Brian Garrie, and I used to live in a townhouse near Memorial Park, and it flooded several times,” he says. “We wanted to get off the ground to feel safe.”

They toured apartments every Friday for three months before finding the perfect one, with tranquil views overlooking Hermann Park.

“I feel like I’m on vacation every time I come home,” he says.

Christopher_Alexander_v2 (Photo by Pär Bengtsson)
Christopher Alexander at home in his Museum Tower aerie on the 17th floor. (Photo by Pär Bengtsson)

Alexander didn’t want the interiors to compete with the greenery and sky outside — another reason to keep the palette neutral and the lines unobtrusive. Coming from a townhouse that was double the size of their new apartment, they did some serious editing.

Rose Tarlow once said to surround yourself with the things you love,” Alexander says. “We finally did it here.”

They kept a family antique piano that belonged to Garrie’s grandmother, along with Alexander’s collection of native American pottery and tribal masks, acquired during their travels.

“Our favorite place in the world is anywhere in the desert,” Alexander says. “We’ve picked up a lot of things in Santa Fe, Paradise Valley, and little towns along the way. I’m selective about what I buy, and each piece I have speaks to me — it was made by someone, and there’s a history there.”

When spaces are minimal, everything counts. Alexander managed to inject plenty of personality into his rooms without cluttering things up. To do that, he looked to some of his favorite design influences, including ’70s designer John Dickinson. One of Dickinson’s most iconic pieces, a three-footed plaster side table, sits next to a white goatskin coffee table by another icon of design, Karl Springer.

“Dickinson was a master at pulling together different styles of furniture and objects to give rooms just the right quirkiness, and that’s what I’ve tried to do here,” Alexander says. “But I also wanted it to feel like me.” And it does. “I’m structured and I love anything with a straight line. I’m not a curve person — even the patterns in my sofa pillows are just alternating lines, and there’s a zigzag pattern made from the nail-head trim on my headboard. Everything has geometry.”

Faces of Art

Alexander has worked with J. Randall Powers for six years, so naturally a lot of the sophisticated, art-filled style their firm is known for has rubbed off.

“I have a lot of Randy’s lighting for Visual Comfort, and he’s taught me so much about art in general,” Alexander says. “One of my favorite art works is the Donald Baechler lithograph above the piano — it was a Christmas gift from Randy.”

Below it on the piano are an old African mask and an intriguing drawing of a face using drips of red India ink, by South Africa-born artist BJ Broekhuizen.

“Brian and I laugh and say there is a certain dark undercurrent to most of our art,” Alexander says. “We like the juxtaposition of both beauty and darkness — it speaks to what humans experience.”

Al Souza’s Moon Dancers, located above the bar in the living room, sets Alexander’s thoughts racing. “I stare at it every morning. I often wonder if the dancers symbolize demons — we all have our demons, and they are forever dancing. At least mine are,” he says.

In that same grouping is a collection of medical and circumcision masks, including one that’s been charred in a fire. The role of art is to make us consider ourselves in its reflection, he muses, even if that artwork is not always understood by others.

“One day Brian mentioned to me that almost all of our art has a face. I often wonder if they are looking back at us for the same answers we are asking,” Alexander muses.

The mood for contemplating art and other matters is set with flickering Jo Malone grapefruit candles and something beautiful streaming from the Sonos wireless speakers, such as a classical Abel Korzeniowski film score.

“We refer to our apartment as a cocoon,” Alexander says. “Our lives are filled with chaos, but this is the one place where all is calm. It’s the one spot in the world that’s purely ours.”

When others see a home,
We see a Work of Art
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