Design is famously said to be 99 percent invisible. That’s because you mostly notice it when it doesn’t work, like a door with the wrong handle, or a room that just doesn’t feel right. But the interior designers of Houston — where entertaining is an important business, literally and socially — are showing just how noticeable the artform can be. From a “man cave” with an artful arrangement of TV sets and an elegant, kid-proof home to functional work spaces and high-luxury beach getaways, these Houston firms are creating spaces that reenvision what’s possible, and they have the education, certifications, and awards to prove it.
Houston is a city of business and industry, which its skyline reflects. And while the Philip Johnson Pennzoil-Place style may have dominated in the 1970s and ‘80s, new generations of architects are finding fresh ways to approach the buildings where Houstonians work. The city still has plenty of skyscrapers and sprawling office campuses — and probably always will — but they’re now being supplemented by repurposed churches, creative coworking spaces for the modern freelancer, and gorgeously designed interiors themed to the work that happens inside them. Here are 10 office architects shaping the future, and present, of work in Houston, recognized for the scale of their projects, the awards their projects have received, and, of course, their innovation.
Japanese restaurants modeled on a classic style theater. Houston institutions that serve thick, juicy steaks. An elegant French bistro, a New Orleans-inspired cafe perfectly suited for sipping boutique coffee, and a burger outpost with an actual school bus inside the restaurant. The restaurants on this list showcase the quirky, the upscale, and the just-plain good from Houston’s famed food diversity. And the architects, as any restaurateur will admit, are as much a part of the process as the chefs and waiters. From established and award-winning to promising upstarts, these are the firms serving up Houston’s hottest, most high-quality, restaurant buildings.
Houston might be the best place to build your own home. Residents who don’t want to settle for a cookie-cutter version of their dream home or have to hire designers and builders separately have plenty of options, and they come with a lot less piggy-bank bashing than other cultural hotspots. Fewer regulations and wide-open spaces have helped Houston maintain its affordability amid a national housing price increase — the city was No. 1 on Forbes’ 2015 list of metro areas where your salary stretches farthest. From luxury architects and NBA stars in The Woodlands to designers with environmentally friendly home kits, there’s a structure to design-build for just about everyone in Houston. This list includes design-build firms who create unique spaces, win awards for their work, and are in demand from top clients.
These words spring to mind to express Houston’s commercial architecture: expansive, experimental, resilient, energetic, and athletic. Whether it’s through a connection to the environment from a life on the Gulf Coast or the freedom that comes with building in a city that eschews zoning regulations, the firms and architects on this list create work that mirrors the culture of southeast Texas. The famous Texas commitment to sports is here. There’s also a clear move toward protecting the environment. From innovative indoor airflow systems, to football stadiums designed to help guide fans through them, and glass-bottom pools suspended above the city, the creatives behind these firms find uniquely Houstonian ways to conceptualize, innovate, and execute.
Skyscrapers hog the headlines when it comes to Houston’s architectural scene. Most everyone has heard of Pennzoil Place or is at least vaguely familiar with the look of Johnson Burgee-era buildings. But Houston’s architects and builders have never limited themselves to a single style. They live here too, after all, and they want to create interesting structures. And Houston has many of those: from shipping-container homes on the cutting edge of hip, urban living to planned high-rise villages on the Woodlands waterfront. Here are 10 architects who help make Houston home, and who are receiving impressive accolades from regional and national associations.