PaperCity Magazine

December 2019- Houston

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99 W hen interior d e s i g n e r B r a n d o n F o n t e n o t was in New Y o r k C i t y a few years ago, he spotted a striking bentwood- and-leather chair on display at The Row, the minimalist clothing store designed by Jacques Grange for fashion designers Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. The chair wasn't available for purchase, and he had no idea who the designer was. "I couldn't get that chair out of my mind," Fontenot says. "I searched for one like it on the Internet for years without any luck." A similar chair came up for auction in early 2019, and he finally had a designer's name to put with it: George Mulhauser, who had produced seating in the 1950s for the Massachusetts company Plycraft. Fontenot snapped it up. "The chair has a sculptural quality that stands on its own," he says. "I knew exactly where I wanted to use it." Fontenot had just started work on the redo of a Galleria-area high-rise residence for a Houston couple who travel frequently, often to Africa on safari. "The chair feels animalistic — those curved arms are like tusks, or ram's horns," Fontenot says. He had been given carte blanche on the project, and the rare Mulhauser chair helped kicked off his vision. "The clients wanted to incorporate things from their travels, but they didn't want Africa to be a dominating theme," he says. "At the end of the day, they wanted a clean, minimalist space to come home to after staying for weeks in hotels and on safari." The wife had first connected with Fontenot after seeing his interiors for another client. "She was looking for a young designer to interpret their home in a new way, which was refreshing to hear," the 28-year-old designer says. "Sometimes my age can scare clients off." Fontenot is no newcomer to the design business, however. Before opening his own firm in 2015, he worked for Kevin Spearman Design Group, assisting on major projects, including a Houston house designed by the architecture firm McAlpine and a new construction in Tel Aviv, photographed by François Halard for Veranda. Fontenot also has his share of historical restorations and mid- century redos under his belt, many designed for Houston's international community, who favor his minimalist approach and European aesthetic. T he George Mulhauser chair, with its hornlike a r m s a n d b e a u t i f u l woodgrain, is one of the first things you see when you step into this high-rise apartment from the private elevator. As Fontenot says, "it's more form than function" in its foyer setting — a richly patinated object set against a muted ON THE CUSP OF THE WORLD BY REBECCA SHERMAN. PHOTOGRAPHY PÄR BENGTSSON. ART DIRECTION MICHELLE AVIÑA. DESIGNER BRANDON FONTENOT CREATES A SOPHISTICATED REFUGE FOR A PAIR OF SAFARI-LOVING TRAVELERS, WITH A NOD TO BOTH AFRICA AND FRENCH SURREALISM. In the living area, a pair of wood and boucle 1950s Guillerme et Chambron chairs. Jacques Adnet floor lamp, circa 1940. Dmitriy & Co sofas from Una Malan, L.A. Jute soumak rug from Carol Piper Rugs.

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