After a decade in Amsterdam, Houston couple brings European style to their Southgate home

A decade spent living in the Netherlands fine-tuned the architectural and design style of Leslie Hanna and her husband, Ryan Lawrence.

Hanna grew up in Sugar Land and worked as a fashion buyer for retail stores before starting a family with Lawrence, whose job in the energy industry took them to Amsterdam. When they returned to Houston, they moved into an apartment and started a lengthy search for a house.

They initially focused on the Heights, but when their Realtor brought them to Southgate, near the Texas Medical Center, they liked the feel of the neighborhood, with shady streets and children playing outdoors.

When Hanna first saw her home, she liked its midcentury vibe and knew it had potential. They bought it in October 2017 and started work right away, moving in July of the following year with their two sons, now 11 and 8, and their whippet, Cosby, now 13.

“This house was older and dated but was well loved because the owners had lived in it for a long time,” Hanna said of the home built in 1981. “I thought it could be something. It just had a good feeling about it, and my husband said, ‘OK, if you see something in it.’”

They hired a team of Greg Swedberg of 2Scale Architects, contractor Stephen Heiman of Steven Allen Designs, interior designer Pamela O’Brien of Pamela Hope Designs and Sheila Elwell of Zone Nine Landscape & Design to help with the work.

Though the original lower level’s footprint changed only slightly, they made plenty of changes in a project that gutted the whole main floor. Some of the large garage was used to create a mud room, and the home’s entry was moved from the side of the house to the front. Some of the motor court was used to create a larger front yard. The work added about 1,000 square feet to the now-3,400-square-foot house.

Hanna said that she gravitates toward a Scandinavian aesthetic, with lighter wood and pared-down style, and confessed that the chic ’60s style of the “Mad Men” TV show may have shaped her taste, too.

The new main living area includes a living, dining and kitchen, with a breakfast nook — a banquette, small table and two chairs — tucked into one corner of the kitchen. Brightening it all up is Sherwin-Williams’ “Snowbound” paint. Art, pillows and a rug bring in muted blue and orange. Swedberg and Heiman added warmth to the open space with a wood screen made of angled slats of wood that hide a staircase — and a small office/study carrel that hides underneath it.

Hanna, 45, and Lawrence, 47, brought some furniture with them, including a set of German midcentury modern dining chairs and a vintage sideboard purchased during their years in Europe.

In need of art, the couple connected with art consultant Elise Arnoult Miller of Arnoult Fine Art Consulting. They now own a watercolor by longtime Glassell art professor Arthur Turner (“Basalt Flyer,” watercolor, ink and graphite on paper), a pair of geometric abstracts by Luisa Duarte (“For Josh II” and “For Josh III,” archival inkjet prints on cotton rag paper) and a larger piece by Duarte (“Territorial Rites,” monotype on paper with cotton thread and metal pins).

Another painting, by Steven Alexander (“Arena II,” acrylic and gold leaf on paper), a West Texas native now working in Pennsylvania, brings vibrant color to the living room.

Just off of the living room is a covered patio where Hanna likes to hang out, looking toward a lawn covered with fluffy zoysia grass and a row of slender holly trees lining up like soldiers around the side fence.

“I sit outside a lot more than I used to. It has to be really bad weather for me not to be sitting outside,” Hanna said. “I just love being out there, especially during the day, when no one is here. I want to get a fountain now, so I can hear some water babbling.”

The couple chose durable Maestro Quartz Coquino for kitchen counters paired with porcelain from Arizona Tile with a sculptural finish for backsplash.

The downstairs guest bath has a burst of color, with emerald green (Gioia Avocado) tile in the shower and small octagonal shower floor tile (Reflection Ming Green) that includes pieces that look like the same dark green, except that they’re actually pieces of mirror reflecting the tile on the walls. Cole & Sons Curio Quartz wallpaper splashes a tessellated geometric design on the walls, and the vanity cabinet is painted deep green to match.

The primary bedroom suite is a modest size but still has space for a king-size bed, nightstands, a footboard bench and a dresser. An accent wall with grasscloth wallpaper dresses up the entire space.

“I’m a fan of this size (primary) bedroom,” said O’Brien. “Some bedrooms are the size of a living room and have furniture and a TV, but most people are not going to sit in their bedroom and watch TV.”

The primary bathroom is simple but elegant, with pale green glass tile lining the steam shower and part of a wall behind the freestanding bathtub.

Upstairs, there’s a den with a sofa and TV meant for the boys to hang out, but sometimes, when they’re downstairs, Hanna sneaks up to catch a quiet moment.

The boys’ shared bathroom has wallpaper in a more masculine pattern, with small dots forming a geometric pattern and turquoise tile.

Their bedrooms show a bit of their own personalities, with their older son’s room painted dark blue with a pop of color in a dresser painted canary yellow. Major Lego projects in the room show how he spends his free time.

Their younger son’s room is a muted green, and his twin beds have shiplap-style headboards and striped bedding. His hobby? Matchbox cars.

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