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Real Estate / Houses

This Memorial Home Hosts World Affairs Council Meetings, With Picasso and Munch in Attendance

BY // 07.20.16
photography Jack Thompson

Welcome to the Memorial mansion of Lauren and Steve Kramer. She’s a travel-obsessed attorney turned avid art collector with a trove of majolica and a secret stash of Bakelite jewelry; he’s a physician and pharmaceutical entrepreneur who’s equally eager to hop a plane and serves as straight man to his wife.

Within these serene interiors, important 20th-century drawings and lithographs by Edvard Munch and Milton Avery encounter an antique Ethiopian lunchbox. A gold-leaf filled Yves Klein coffee table makes an understated statement in the living room, while a Joe Havel sculpture at the entrance exerts a ghostly presence. Flash back more than 45 years, to one evening at a glamorous cocktail party in Manhattan. Chicago-born banker Lauren Gecht, who was taking grad courses at Columbia, met Stephen Kramer, a Boston-born doctor who was just starting on his path to being a psychiatrist. Lauren was there with another date but ended up plopping down on a chair close to her future husband because she was still recovering from a broken leg incurred in a skiing accident. A phone number was exchanged, which led to a date. Two months later, they were engaged.

One end of the living room features two Armani Casa sofas from Kuhl-Linscomb, covered in beige linen. Between them, Yves Klein’s Table d’Or. In the foreground, one of a pair of Biedermeier-style tables from Eastern Europe; atop the table, an antique Burmese lacquer box.
One end of the living room features two Armani Casa sofas from Kuhl-Linscomb, covered in beige linen. Between them, Yves Klein’s Table d’Or. In the foreground, one of a pair of Biedermeier-style tables from Eastern Europe; atop the table, an antique Burmese lacquer box.

After four and a half decades of marriage, cross-country moves, two children, and two grandchildren, the rest is history. Following a stint living in Alabama for Stephen’s Air Force medical service, the couple landed in Houston, where Lauren became an attorney while raising their sons. (She has now moved on from law to image consulting.) Stephen co-founded a pharmaceutical company to develop game-changing psychotropic drugs. And the successful Kramers, who have collected art since their days as a young married couple, needed a new abode.

A handsome, tree-filled lot in Memorial was acquired, and they tapped Houston firm Murphy Mears Architects to create a dream house — a contemporary, light-filled take on a Mediterranean villa.

The new house would serve as a receptacle for a sublime collection of 20th-century works on paper, artifacts gleaned from their travels, well-placed antiques, and contemporary sculpture and painting. The 16,250-square-foot house, despite its grand size, has a minimalist bent.

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Holiday Gifting

  • Oscar De La Renta - Earrings
  • Museum of Fine Arts Houston
  • Bond No 9 - Candle
  • Loeffler Randall - Shoes
  • Mariquite Masterson
  • Cotton Club
  • Cotton Club
  • Elaine Turner - GiGi Flats
  • Wayne Smith
  • Cle Du Peau - Nail Polish
  • Oscar De La Renta - Clutch
  • Loeffler Randall - Clutch
  • Bond No 9 - Perfume
  • Mariquite Masterson
  • Elaine Turner - Felicia Stole in Magenta
  • Asher Gallery
  • Wayne Smith
  • Cle Du Peau - Lip Gloss

Nine and a half years ago, the Kramers moved in, and designer Cherry Curlet was enlisted to create orderly room vignettes that honored the expansive volumes, perfect symmetry and ample light invoked by Murphy Mears’ architectural design. While art and finds have been added to the original design within the past decade, the bones of the home and its remarkable restraint have remained consistent (except in Lauren’s closet, where her love for pattern and textiles, handbags of all size and form beyond designer names, and an exuberance of vintage Bakelite is very much in evidence).

“I collected photos for years after building our first very traditional house in Piney Point village,” says Lauren, “in case I ever got a chance to build again. Steve selected the home’s windows and doors and the grain of the wood on our floors. He also selected his bathtub and everything having to do with his garage and shoeshine shop (yes, we have one, and Steve does the shining).”

Best of all, the Italian-informed house has been opened up on many occasions to the causes that the Kramers support. Among the most active members of Houston’s chapter of the World Affairs Council, the couple has made their villa the scene of many cocktails for World Affairs’ board members, supporters, and speakers including a reception for Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz.

The house also hosts more vernacular occasions — family entertainments where grandsons mindfully race around the house, navigating a drapery sculpture by Glassell School director Joe Havel by the spiral staircase in the circular entrance hall.

Home, chic home.

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