The 2022 Interiors Awards-winning project for Adaptive Reuse/Historic Renovation: La Colombe d'Or by Rottet Studio
In the Montrose neighborhood of Houston, Texas, a historic mansion, a high-rise luxury hotel, and a commemorative greenspace are married into a single development by international architecture and interior design firm Rottet Studio. The culmination of this unique pairing, La Colombe d’Or, is a landmark hotel that combines the charm and character of old-world Houston with the grace and elegance of modern-day architecture.
One of the last remaining mansions on Montrose Avenue—now classified as a historic landmark—the Fondren Mansion was built in 1923 as a private family residence for the founder of Humble Oil & Refining Company, later to become Exxon. In 1979, the owners at the time transformed the Prairie School-style building into a bespoke hospitality experience. For the following few decades, La Colombe d’Or would welcome politicians, celebrities, globetrotting guests, and local Houstonians. This update in 2021 marks its reimagining as an art-filled ode to the fusion of history and modernity on Montrose.
Rottet Studio set about refreshing the 1920s property to offer a more luxurious experience to guests while preserving and highlighting its history and original architectural features.
Plans were in place to connect a new, contemporary luxury tower behind the historic mansion, with the goal of reintroducing La Colombe d’Or as a space that celebrates both properties individually while also creating a seamless relationship between them, gracefully connecting the old world with the new.
Turning their attention first to the mansion, the design team set about rededicating the public spaces to create a better flow for the guests to interact with the property. Four unique dining spaces were designed along the entire south side of the mansion while the north side plays host to a bar and lounge, all encircling a central lobby pinned by a solid wood grand piano. All the original millwork was meticulously restored, from the parquet floors to the coffered ceilings, while brand new lighting, bathrooms, and HVAC were installed for modern comfort.
To unify the new, modern tower with the historic mansion, special attention was paid to the material selection. Limestone and wood, both natural materials that have been around for centuries, lend themselves equally well to the sleek planes of a new build, adding warmth and texture that reflect the neighboring structure.
Lighting, too, is utilized to provide a common language between the two. “We were careful to design the lighting so that a warm glow always emanates from within both the new tower and historic mansion, drawing people in to the relaxed and fun lifestyle of La Colombe de’ Or,” the studio shares. Custom fixtures mix with a blend of new and antique furnishings to create a dynamic, collected feel, nodding at the past while offering the comforts of today.
The hotel was inspired by the original La Colombe d’Or, the famed inn perched above the French Riviera whose name translates to The Golden Dove. Established as an eatery with a handful of rooms upstairs, the rustic and unassuming French hotel features some of the works of the greatest artists of modern art. The unexpected clientele drawn to La Colombe d’Or included the likes of Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, and more, and their art dots the walls that once surrounded them. To translate that to Texas, Rottet embraced the concept of an artful escape in their design.
Though the mansion’s old Southern charm is juxtaposed by the tower’s modern aesthetic, the buildings are unified through the utilization of an impressive collection of art. Some 350-plus pieces are scattered throughout the property, threading through both the modern and historic spaces. To further this connection to great artistry, each of the mansion’s guest suites are named for prominent artists: Cézanne, Degas, Monet, Renoir, and Van Gogh.
The key to it all? “It is the carefully curated artwork spanning centuries that adorn the walls of the historic mansion and new tower that truly blur the lines of time and help create a more inviting and intimate experience,” the studio explains.