PaperCity Magazine

January 2019- Houston

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53 M ichael Viviano's first major project out of architecture school was for his parents, Chris and Catherine Viv- iano, who commissioned a striking gabled modern house for themselves in Upper Kirby. That in itself wasn't so unusual — architects design houses for family all the time — but what made it remarkable was that Catherine acted as builder and contractor, and the two worked together on the interior furnishings. Things went so swimmingly that son and mother launched a company together, Viviano Viviano. Currently, they are collaborating on projects for 10 clients, including decorative work, interior architecture, and a full-scale residential construction. Most recently, they renovated and decorated an apartment for client Alice Harcrow in the Willowick high rise, overlooking River Oaks. It turned out beautifully, a quiet retreat in the sky abounding with poetic moments. The end result was produced from a sublime mix of mid-20th century furniture antiques, and contemporary pieces including a noteworthy Christopher Kreiling table. It's all carefully orchestrated with a restrained hand. Talk to mother and son separately, however, and it's clear they have different approaches to arriving at perfection. At times, they even seem to be operating on different planets in the same orbit, which as we'll discover, is a good thing. For Harcrow's apartment, Michael collaborated with the client on the decoration and furnishings. Catherine managed the construction — no small feat under normal circumstances, but made even more challenging when Hurricane Harvey hit in the midst of renovations. Once they recouped from the natural disaster, the building began a seven-month overhaul of the elevators, delaying deliveries and creating a logistical nightmare for Catherine, whose job it was to manage subcon- tractors and finish the project on budget and on time. "It was a sequencing challenge that took a lot of coordinating and made getting the job done really difficult," Catherine recalls. "The furnishings were a breeze compared to that." For Michael, part of the joy was in flipping through books with the client and discussing design ideas. "It felt like the work was never work, and it was magically just forming itself into existence," Michael says. "We never had to work very hard to make it chic, because Alice is so chic, how could it have been anything but?" Catherine, 59, has a degree in interior design from The University of Texas at Austin, and got into project man- agement after helping family and friends for years with their own homes. Michael, 34, has a master's degree in ar- chitecture from UT and a passion for Italian and French 20th-century design. "Mom's the construction guru and I'm the 20th-century guy," Michael says. "But our expertise and experience really complement each other. I love having mom peek over my shoulder at my computer screen and give me a fresh take totally outside the Instagram world." Their relationship is close-knit, both on and off the job. Catherine and Michael share an office, and this past Christmas, the family rented a house together in West Hollywood. "We come from a large Italian family, and there are not a lot of filters. We don't hold anything in, says Michael." Consummate professionals, they still naturally fall into familiar roles. He calls her Mom on the job, and once when he rolled his eyes at her in front of a client, she waited until they got into the car before she reprimanded him half-jokingly with, "Just wait until your father gets home!" She describes Michael as determined, confident, and helpful. He says his mother is practical, demanding, and forgiving. Together they form a prodigious team. "My mom views family as her biggest achievement, and that's not unrelated to our ability to work together," Michael says. "She made sure she was putting together a family dynamic that was beneficial to everybody, but also very serious and durable." THERAPY SESSIONS Michael Viviano and Catherine Viviano riff on design, archi- tecture and working together as mother and son. HE SAID: Lesson learned I had been talking about putting a big piece of art or book- matched stone on the wall in Alice's bedroom, but my mom really challenged me to step back and consider the value of letting it just be quiet. Instead, we brought in an artisan and experimented with plaster onsite, which we augmented day by day for a week. It turned out way better than some fancy treatment — it's quiet, chalky and powdery, with a little bit In the living room, a pair of chinoiserie stenciled-hide chairs. Bronze and leather side table by Christopher Kreiling from Tienda X. Antique basalt-ware bowl from W. Gardner Ltd. Silk and copper-thread rug from Carol Piper Rugs.

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