Monday, 30 November 2015

The Siller/Hokanson house

Article by: Joni Webb

The two houses designed by architect John Ike.  The one on the right, the Neoclassical styled house, is Siller & Hokanson’s first collaboration with Ike.  The house on the left was built a few years later – and Siller did the interiors for that house too.    As you can see, their former has a much dressier fa├žade than the one they live in today.   Read about the Georgian house in Architectural Digest

The Siller/Hokanson house is based on the 1794 Summer Derby House, built by Samuel McIntire, in Massachusetts.   The Summer Derby house was moved in 1901 to Glen Magna Farms, which is today a popular wedding venue.   Considered one of the finer examples of Federal style in the United States, the Summer Derby house is a National Historic Landmark.   The resemblance to the Houston house is remarkable.  If you look at the two houses, you can see that the corner urns are included in the Houston house, but the two large wooden figures of the shepherdess and the reaper were excluded.  Other similar details are both houses are white with black accents and the arched  window placements are the same as are the shutters and door.  The main differences are the center window is much larger in the Houston house and the wing that juts out  to the right side is unique to the Houston house.  The fabulous picket fence and gate that surrounds the Houston property also sets it apart from the Summer Derby House. 
 While the exterior of the house is a rare look for Houston, the interiors are too.   Houston is known for its slipcovers, light linens, and painted antiques, but Michael Siller definitely marches to his own fabulous beat.  His personal aesthetic is far from what is called the “Houston Look.”  He has a love of fine antiques – the finest there are.  He loves color and pattern and delicate silks.  And most importantly, he and Hokanson have a particular affinity for anything Russian – Royal Russian, that is.   This love of Imperial Russia all started when Hokanson read the best selling biography Nicholas and Alexandra.  I can totally relate.  I read the same book and became consumed with the mystery of the Princess Anastasia who was purported to have escaped the execution that killed her entire family, including her parents the Czar Nicholas and Czarina Alexandra.   For years – almost her entire adult lifetime – the Polish Anna Anderson proclaimed she was the missing Anastasia.   Some relatives of the European Royalty families, believed her story and visited their “cousin”  sporadically during her long life.  Unfortunately for Anna, DNA testing became available  - and after her death, she was proven to be a fraud.  The real Anastasia’s bones along with her brother, were eventually found – separate from the rest of their family – and DNA also proved this.  One of the great mysteries of the Russian Revolution was cleared up, thanks to modern technology.  The story of the of the Romanovs, the Russian royal family, with their untold riches, glorious palaces and opulent lifestyle, along with the misery of the hemophilia which struck the crown Prince, is a great romantic tale of epic proportions.  Since I too fell under the spell of the Romanov’s tale, I can understand how Hokanson, and then Siller, got hooked on everything Russian.    Most exciting though, the two were fortunate enough to take their obsession a little further than most of us. 
When designing their previous house – the Neoclassical one, Siller and Hokanson went to St. Petersburg’s State Hermitage Museum where they were interviewed for two days by curators in hopes of purchasing some reproductions of the royal furniture.  The designing duo had a list of antiques from the Hermitage they wanted copied – but first they had to pass inspection to see if they and their house were worthy.  The number of people who are in possession of these Russian reproductions is  quite small, actually tiny, and includes European royalty.  Siller and Hokanson, along with the plans for their house, passed the inspection and today are owners of exquisite furniture hand made and hand carved in the same exact manner and out of the same material as they were originally crafted.  Besides these pricey reproductions, they have a large collection of Russian art work and antiques.  They happily lived in their Russian inspired Neoclassical house for several years, before the bug to create a new house bit them.  They spent several years with John Ike, fine tuning the plans for their new house – laboring over each and every tiny detail – and that house became the Federal style house seen in Luxe magazine.
For this new house, Siller changed up his color scheme. Instead of the more vibrant reds, bright yellows and forest greens of their former house, there is now a sea of gray, platinum and silver which Siller feels updates the look of the period antiques.  But, have no fear, despite being primarily gray, there is nothing Shabby Chic or Rough Luxe about this house.   Instead it is a house that is the height of elegance and rarefied taste. 
Despite the changes in the color scheme, one design element didn’t change.  Both houses that Ike designed for Siller and Hokanson are Piano Nobiles, with the main floor being on the second story.   Additionally, both houses have intricate and extensive molding and classic detailing.  One interesting note – when a prominent Houston couple toured Siller’s former house, they tried to buy it from him and Hokanson.  At the time they wanted to stay put, so instead, Ike designed a Piano Nobile in the Georgian style, right next door – and Siller decorated it.

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