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Gerald Hines’ Iconic River Oaks Mansion Gets a Reimagined Kitchen From the Original Architect — Improving Upon a $34.5 Million Masterpiece

Robert A.M. Stern's Lead Architect Reflects On a Project That Means Plenty to Him — Then and Now

BY // 06.29.21

It’s a delicate, nuanced affair when you attempt to improve upon a touted masterpiece. It takes a certain subtle touch of finesse, vision and craftsmanship.

Yes, it’s no easy feat to improve upon Houston’s 30-year-old architectural gem affectionately known as “Adagio,” the home of the late legendary developer Gerald D. Hines. But the world renowned Robert A.M. Stern Architects — the architecture firm which first envisioned this showcase house — was most recently tapped to do the job, specifically to reimagine the Hines’ villa kitchen. The opulent Mediterranean home tucked away on 2920 Lazy Lane is currently listed for $34.5 million, having hit the market in March after the 2020 death of Hines, the man who changed skylines. 

“It was a very interesting project, particularly for me because I obviously worked on the original house,” Robert A.M. Stern lead architect Roger Seifter tells PaperCity. “It was a challenge in a way to do it. It was of the rooms that we lavished a lot of attention on way back then.

“We wanted to reimagine it through 2021 eyes. And at the same kind to come up with an idea that’s sympathetic with the original design.”

The Hines’ Villa kitchen was reimagined with a modern look and feel through a rendering illustrating how the renovation could be brought to life.

The goal for Seifter was to conceptualize an aesthetic which would appeal to today’s buyers, and the kitchen was given a modern look and feel through a rendering illustrating how the renovation could be brought back to life.

“We reconsidered the way that people used kitchens now as opposed to back then,” Seifter explains “The original kitchen was designed as a working kitchen to be used by the staff and rarely considered by the family.

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“It had the architecture that was consistent with the rest of the house, but was essentially closed off from all the other spaces. Very few people live like that now. Kitchens now tend to be more open.”

Peering inside the dining room space at Hines’ Villa.

Perhaps the most significant challenge was to add the modern touches without compromising the graceful lines of the original kitchen.

“We wanted to retain the kitchen’s own integrity,” Seifter says. “We made the conscious decision to make it not so much like a kitchen — as a room with nice fitted cabinetry in it that happened to conceal the kitchen. So all of those beautiful wood doors have every appliance you need behind them.

“It’s a beautiful space that you could walk by, but it’s perfectly functional at the same time.”

The kitchen redesign would be realized through non-intrusive modifications of the interior windows and doors, leaving intact the facade composition of the original project.

I would call it a modern Mediterranean kitchen, which is a kitchen basically designed to be perfectly functional yet concealed behind the work — and streamlined, detailing rich natural materials,” Seifter notes.

“It’s grand without being grandiose.” Robert A.M. Stern lead architect Roger Seifter highlights the timeless beauty of Adagio.

The vision of the new Hines villa kitchen is deeply influenced by Gerald and Barbara Hines’ travels to Tuscany. Materials like Bardiglio marble are proposed for the kitchen island, Pietra Piesentina in large format for the floor and Terzani “Argent” pendant right above the counter, accentuating the classic style of the Cesar “Intarsio” kitchen.

“What I most liked working on was figuring out how to camouflage the everyday use of the kitchen behind built-ins, and also to give the room a contemporary feel,” Seifter says. “Basically because the materials are so rich, it’s sympathetic with the architecture in the house.”

A River Oaks Stunner 

Freshly-minted in the 1990s, the Hines’ River Oaks mansion was the project of a lifetime for Seifter. Nestled on 4.5 acres on Houston’s Lazy Lane, this 17,000 square foot Italian villa boasts five bedrooms with an engaging view of Buffalo bayou. Some of the most desirable features include a full-size tennis court, two-story garden atrium, a pool, fountains, 10 bathrooms and an adjacent guest apartment.

I think it’s a house that transcends time. I think the architecture has this sort of simplicity about it,” Seifter says. “The lines of the house have a pared-down classicism about it that can adapt to any kind of decorating whether it’s traditional or contemporary. It’s grand without being grandiose.”

When the idea of the grand house was first conceived, Gerald and Barbara Hines gave Robert A.M. Stern Architects the rare creative freedom to work on all features of the home.

“It was unusual even then for a client to hire us to work on all features at once.” Seifter says. “Mr and Mrs. Hines didn’t really give us carte blanche, but utilized us as landscape architects and as interior designers. So we were able to provide them with the whole nine yards in terms of design.

“It’s rare that an architect is able to provide their clients with total design.”

Gerald Hines 2920 Lazy Lane – 22 (Photo by Sonya Bertolino)
Gerald Hines’ 17,000 square foot River Oaks home hits the Houston real estate market for a record $34.5 million. (Photo by Sonya Bertolino)

Beyond the exacting precision that went into the drawings and design, the project of building Adagio was intrinsically fulfilling.

“It was a lot of fun. It was a fun project,” Seifter says. “I hope that the fact that we enjoyed it so much shows in the architecture. It’s very exuberant.”

One of Seifter’s most cherished parts of the home is the main entry to the palatial home.

“If I have any favorite spaces in the house, I think the entry sequence through the front hall up the stair into the gallery that links the living room end of the house with the family room end of the house might be one of those,” he says. “Because it has a grandeur at the same time and at the same time a human scale about it.”

So who would be the quintessential buyer ideal for this prestigious property in Seifter’s view?

“It’s a house that can adapt to different peoples’ needs and tastes. You can do that without compromising the restraint of existing architecture,” he says. “I think that the idea of the house is very strong. It’s very visual. It’s sort of iconic.

“It’s what Gerry wanted us to do. It’s It’s what he did with all his buildings. He’s the great patron saint of modern American architecture. He wanted it to be a reflection of his patronage.”

Rest assured, this would be the most expensive home sale in Houston, if the Hines Villa sells for the asking price of $34.5 million. The one of a kind house is represented by Patricia Reed of Douglas Elliman Real Estate.

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