1980s home in River Oaks gets a full makeover

It didn’t take Amy Rozell long to know that the home for sale in River Oaks had good bones. She was walking through it with a Realtor and needed to get to an appointment, so she rushed through, noting the room-to-room flow.

That she would need to gut the nearly 6,000-square-foot house to the studs and start over inside didn’t faze her. It seemed perfect for hosting large parties.

She bought it and lived there for a while, then launched a massive remodeling project — in phases — once she knew exactly what she wanted to do. She began by updating a garage apartment, then moved in there while work on the main house got underway. It finished in 2019, so she got to enjoy it for about a year before the coronavirus pandemic changed her social life dramatically.

“It took time for it to evolve into what it is now. I entertain a lot and love having the house filled with love and laughter. Hosting things for people makes me light up. That’s what makes me happy,” said Rozell, 44 and self employed as an investor.

Traffic flows from a dining room to the living room, family room and then the kitchen and breakfast area, with access to the backyard patio throughout.

In the past, Rozell’s decorating style has been more traditional, but interior designers Audrey Tejauno and Jana Erwin of Nest Design Group helped her home evolve into an eclectic mix, with emphasis on her growing art collection. Rozell also worked with Garrett Custom Homes as the contractor and Montgomery Roth as the architect.

In the dining room, Houston artist Allan Rodewald created an abstract mural on canvas that was applied as a sepia-toned wallcovering above gray wainscoting.

“Being a native Houstonian, having a native Houstonian do the artwork was important to me. We have so many talented artists in Houston, so having Allan go outside the box was a whole lot of fun,” Rozell said.

Six upholstered chairs cluster a round pedestal table, all topped off with an unusual, custom-made crystal chandelier and a large-format abstract painting by Katsumi Hayakawa from the McClain Gallery in Houston.

Creating a house built for entertaining was the goal, and that begins inside the front door in the sophisticated living room. A corner closet was turned into a sweet little bar, and a collection of furniture in pale neutral — a chaise, a more feminine highback chair upholstered in pale pink and a club chair covered in soft, gray cowhide — share space with round stools in Tibetan sheepskin and a pair of French bergère-style chairs, with seats covered in more sheepskin, at a small contemporary table.

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It’s a room meant for guests, but Rozell often finds herself in it relaxing on the chaise while she writes in her gratitude and prayer journals.

“The goal for the house in general was for it to be an entertaining house. She’s close to family and has friends over. She hosts charity events and some of her parties are quite large,” Erwin said. “She wanted the room to greet you and be a reflection of her.”

The family room has the same palette but is more casual and cozy. She watches TV on a large sectional; there’s also an antique-style chair and an ottoman, acrylic legs holding up a blue velvet tufted disc. At the back of the room, a tall metal-and-wood shelving unit holds books, art and other mementos.

The next doorway leads to the kitchen and breakfast area, where Rozell created a space for friends to cook and eat together.

“I love my kitchen. Prior to COVID, I had Sunday suppers and everyone brought one thing, and we’d stand around the island and cook. One of our most famous was when we made 18 pizzas of all shapes and sizes,” Rozell said, smiling ear to ear as she told the story.

Friends thought she was overdoing it to have so many appliances — six-burner gas cooktop, steam oven, warming oven, large trash pullouts, two dishwashers and a built-in coffee maker — but Rozell said they all get a workout.

The breakfast area — a table from RH with chairs of woven leather on a bleached oak frame — is a hub of activity, with a side door to the driveway.

“Between the island and the breakfast table, there’s a lot of love in there,” Rozell said.

Her dog and a friend’s dog who visits often — Olive, a miniature pinscher and Nelli, a Labrador retriever — have their own room with beds and a doggy door that accesses their own outdoor play area.

The primary bedroom suite’s neutral tones have a Zen-like quality, and Rozell’s closet, which Tejauno likens to a jewelry box, got extra attention.

Cabinets have mirror-front doors that close and tuck everything away, including shelves full of shoes. A shaggy Tibetan sheepskin bench sits on a beautiful rug in the center of the room.

“I like things hidden — I like things to always look clean and pretty,” Rozell said.

Her bathroom has plenty of counter space, a makeup vanity and a clawfoot bathtub with a crystal chandelier hanging overhead.

Another bathroom — a guest bath that also serves as the powder bathroom — has another special touch by Rodewald in a big floral mural painted throughout.

“The house brings me a lot of joy, and I bought the house to have people — friends and family — together. It’s been a labor of love,” Rozell said.

diane.cowen@chron.com