On their favorite tree-lined street in the Heights, a young couple updates a classic with cool, colorful style. By Meredith Xavier, Photos by Julie Soefer
Twenty-something first-time parents Claire and Tyler Day, who met at Stratford High School, were already knee-deep in one renovation project — they were about to start pouring the foundation on an addition to their home in Monarch Oaks — when Claire caught wind of a quaint old Victorian on a double lot hitting the market on her favorite street in the Heights. “I always said if a double lot opened up on Bayland Avenue, I would consider it,” Claire says, noting how unexpectedly bucolic the area is. “We love the massive oak trees lining the street. We went and saw the house that day and put in an offer. It was accepted the next.”
This all came as a surprise to the Days’ interior designer, Courtnay Elias, who was shepherding the work in Monarch Oaks. “I was meeting with the contractor when they walked through the door and told me they were moving,” Elias recalls. “It was completely unexpected. We had already moved the pool equipment! We immediately aborted mission on the addition and just wrapped up the remodel so we could put the house on the market.”
The couple’s new four-bedroom, 2,800-square-foot home was built in 1912 and still maintains all of the historical charm of its original era, including the Queen Anne windows and pocket doors with solid brass hardware between the dining and living rooms. “This was a head-to-toe interior design project,” Elias says. “It was a blank slate, an amazing old house in the Heights.” The previous owners had already updated the bathrooms and made some additions, so Elias’ task was to focus on the furnishings and art, to make the home a true reflection of Claire and Tyler.
“I wanted our home to be young, but still sophisticated,” says Claire. “We wanted things we would like five and 10 years from now. Courtnay really came in and did her magic. She did a great job maintaining the historical value of the house while making it modern.
“And we wanted color — not a typical all-gray house,” adds the homeowner. “I don’t think anyone expects how much color and details we have, based on the outside.” The fascination with color reveals itself in the verdant, spa-like green of the guest room, and the soft-lavender drapery and lacquered furniture in Claire’s office. Not to mention the bright-pink-layered rug and saturated cerulean footstools in the living room that immediately catch your eyes in an otherwise neutral space.
Luckily for Elias, all of the custom furniture she had designed for the Days’ first house fit perfectly in the new interior. “We used crazy fun patterns and mixed vintage with new,” Elias says. “I always keep an inventory of things I find at antique shops around town and in Galveston and pull from there.” Mecox, Found for the Home, and Area are some of the designer’s favorite spots to find unique pieces, and also Round Top, where she makes regular buying trips.
But Claire’s favorite furniture in the house is the dining set that belonged to her parents. “They purchased the set in 1978 right after they were married,” she says. “We recovered the chairs and painted them to match our style.” The broad blue-green striped upholstery complements the turquoise cushion on the dining room’s window seat, which was also original to the house and makes a perfect gathering spot for entertaining.
A large part of the design process was art selection, since the Days are just starting to collect together. “We came up with a fun, young art collection to start in the new house,” Elias says. “Some is decorative, but it is all vintage or by unique young artists that we picked up locally. “I always encourage my clients to buy one nice piece of art a year,” adds Elias. “Imagine, after being married 20 years, what kind of collection you will have!”
Elias’ design project, now spanning two homes and many months, was almost done — the Days had been moved-in for a month — when came yet another twist. The homeowner broke the news to her that it was time to get to work on the two upstairs bedrooms, because Claire was having a baby boy! Elias immediately began sketching concepts for the baby’s room. “We tried to do something classic for the boys room, so we did a playful monkey toile wallpaper,” says Elias. Both the designer and client say seven-month-old Waylon’s nursery was their favorite space to work on.
The Days have other favorite things, like sitting on their front porch on Saturday mornings with a cup of coffee, watching the people go by. “Being Houstonians, you get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the city,” says Claire. “It’s so nice that our home gives us the opportunity to sometimes feel like we aren’t in the city. We are extremely fortunate to have found such a special piece of property within a very unique and historic neighborhood. We are proud to call Bayland home.”
AT VERY TOP: Claire Day’s lifelong wish to live on Bayland in the Heights came true. Working with designer Courtnay Elias, she updated a classic Victorian with vibrant touches like the living room’s cerulean footstools and bright-pink-layered rug.