PaperCity Magazine

June 2017 - Dallas

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Exterior rear view of the 1931 French- manor-style house, designed by the partner of legendary architect John Staub, J.T. Rather Jr. In the cottage living room is the couple's book collection. Painting by Hamptons-based artist Terry Elkins. Custom sectional and sofa in Belgian linen, early Christopher Spitzmiller lamp, rug, and coffee table, all from Mecox. Mecox Gardens opened, and Hoak left Wall Street. Situated on three acres of lush gardens, the store sold unusual pots, plants, and outdoor furniture and was an instant hit with locals and prominent New York designers. But that was only the beginning. "Customers started asking for indoor furniture and antiques," Hoak says, "so we added those. Plants became the decoration." A half-dozen more Mecox stores opened across the country in the ensuing decades, and the couple set down roots in the Hamptons. To this day, Mecox (the name was shortened years ago) is one of the chicest things happening in Southampton. Its mix of furniture in natural materials (stone, zinc, teak, concrete), French country antiques, and vintage pieces with timeworn finishes draws admirers and top designers in spades. Decorator Mark Hampton was an early client, and his designer daughter, Alexa Hampton, remains a devotee. The store's first month in business, a young Christopher Spitzmiller set up his potter's wheel in a barn behind the store. Mecox was the first to sell the then-unknown artist's exquisite hand-thrown lamps, which now command thousands of dollars. Manhattan came next. In 1998, Hoak opened a temporary Mecox on the Upper East Side, with a 60-day lease in case things didn't work out. It was a pop- up shop before anyone knew the term, and it proved a smart move. Eventually Mecox settled in permanently, and the store still thrives. Hoak has since rolled out stores in Palm Beach, Los Angeles, East Hampton, Dallas, and Houston. But it wasn't until 2014 that the couple decamped to Houston full-time. "It took almost 20 years, but I finally honored my obligation to move to Texas," says Hoak. T he best-laid plans are always subject to detour. When Perkins and Hoak arrived to town, they rented a home and began hunting for a modern house in the nearby Museum area. "We'd already bought and fixed up four old houses in the Hamptons," Hoak says. "We wanted to do something contemporary and modern in Houston, since that's what it's known for. Instead, we ended up with an old French house." The enclosed front yard was perfect for their dogs, and because the house was hidden from the street behind sculpted bushes and trees, it felt secluded. "We are in an urban setting, yet it feels like we're in the country," he says. The creative, unconventional vibe of the area was another draw. Once they settled in, a neighbor dropped off a detailed typed history of the house, and an interesting story unfurled. It was built in 1931 by J.T. Rather Jr., who worked with the legendary architect John Staub. Rather and Staub built many of the grand estates in River Oaks and, after the war, a number of buildings at Rice University. Staub's firm was known for its country-house designs, and this French manor house, with its mansard roof and stalwart brick facade, bore all the hallmarks. Originally set on an oversized corner lot, the house was commissioned by a lawyer and his art-professor wife who, it was said, had honeymooned in Cannes while it was being built. While in Cannes, they stayed in a 17th-century cottage, which the wife sketched for her scrapbook. In 1950, Rather built a two- story sculpture studio for her in the back garden, based on the drawing she had done 20 years earlier. The charming shingled cottage still stands, and Hoak and Perkins use the 2,000-square-foot space as a home base for office work. The commute is delightful. "The main house and cottage are separated by a garden and lawn, so we go back and forth constantly," Hoak says. "We are dog people, and the dogs have free access to come and go between the houses. All the doors have dog doors built in." The house had undergone various well-done renovations over the decades, so Perkins and Hoak didn't have to do much to make it their own. "We opened (continued) 63

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