Collaborations: A Houston Penthouse book signing in NYC. Photo by Matthew Carasella.

Collaborations: A Houston Penthouse

The cover of “Collaborations: A Houston Penthouse,” released in late 2023. Image credit Nick Rochowski.
The cover of “Collaborations: A Houston Penthouse,” released in late 2023. Image credit Nick Rochowski.

I’ve been sharing quite a few beautiful design/architecture books written by other authors here on the blog recently. Today, I’m happy to be able to share one of my own. Several years ago, I was approached by Eric Clough and Eun Sun Chun, principles of the New York architecture firm 212box, to collaborate with them on realizing a book about one of their projects. The effort has given me one of my most satisfying projects to date and the result is a book so graceful, I’m remarkably proud of it. Titled Collaborations: a Houston Penthouse, the gorgeous large-format book was released by Images Publishing, whose team made the process of creating such a complex book much easier than I would have imagined. Working with the visuals provided by Nick Rochowski, which are featured here where noted, was such a delight! Featured photo above was taken by Matthew Carasella at the New York book signing at BDDW.

A page in the book featuring the living room, the lovely image by Nick Rochowski.
A page in the book featuring the living room, the lovely image by Nick Rochowski.

My part in the collaboration was to interview Eric and Eun about their vision as they transformed the empty shell of the penthouse into the thing of beauty it is today. After I had a handle on their take on the lovely Houston home, I spoke with the visionaries behind eighteen of the artisanal firms and fourteen artists/artisans whose work is showcased in the penthouse. Each and every one of them brought me inspiration as I crafted their stories and presented their profiles that I hoped would personify them and their artistry. The long profiles of the artisanal brands in the book include HIICompany Corp., Kyle Bunting, Foresso, E.R. Butler, Nathan Allan Glass Studios, Alexander Lamont, Aria Stone Gallery, Maison Jean Rousseau, RW Guild, Brokis Lighting, SHORE, Area Environments, La Manufacture Cogolin, Helen Amy Murray, J.M. Szymanski, O’Hara Studio, Maison Veronese, Gabriel Scott, and BDDW. The artists/artisans featured include Laurence Le Constant, Cybèle Young, Helena Starcevic, Christopher Kurtz, Yoshiaki Ito, Anasthasia Millot, Stéphane Parmentier, John Hovig, Elisa Strozyk, Thierry Martenon, Markus Haas, and Maria Moyer.

The primary bedroom suite in the book “Collaborations: A Houston Penthouse.” Image credit Nick Rochowski.
The primary bedroom suite in the book “Collaborations: A Houston Penthouse.” Image credit Nick Rochowski.

One of the artisanal brands I was especially excited to introduce is Helen Amy Murray, who has led the team in her atelier to such heights they have been chosen to create the one-of-a-kind works featured in the Gallery of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars’ Phantom. Her wallcoverings in the premier bedroom suite inspired me to open her profile with, “Stars cascade along faux leather panels to create a smattering of shapes as fluid as the Milky Way. The motifs are balanced in the same random way that nature is a master at achieving—the dripping blossom of the wisteria; a flock of sparrows migrating; a shower of stars in an inky sky. But these winsome ornamentations superimposed on the supple material were created by human beings—first, envisioned by Helen Amy Murray; then, brought to life by the talented craftspeople she employs in her atelier.”

One of Christopher Kurtz’s Meridian sculptures in the dining room of the residence. Image credit Nick Rochowski.
One of Christopher Kurtz’s Meridian sculptures in the dining room of the residence. Image credit Nick Rochowski.

I was enthralled by Christopher Kurtz’s sculpture in the main living space, which took me on a sonorous journey as I began his profile with, “Mystery. Contradiction. Enigma. Its needle-like extensions put the air on notice. Barbed is a strong word. It expresses the idea of sharp by its clipped ending, the mouth opening wide only to close quickly as it is pronounced. Thin is far from fulsome: the lips barely parting as the word is uttered. Airy, so soft and subtle to say. These are just a few of the paradoxical traits Christopher Kurtz created when he carved his Meridian sculptures.” The ethereal curtains created by a Berlin-based artist helped me see that when wood dreams of being free, of being given the gift of fluidity, Elisa Strozyk is at the center of its fantasies. 

Wood sculptures by Thierry Martenon and artful curtains by Elisa Strozyk in the primary bedroom suite in “Collaborations: A Houston Penthouse.” Image credit Nick Rochowski.
Wood sculptures by Thierry Martenon and artful curtains by Elisa Strozyk in the primary bedroom suite in “Collaborations: A Houston Penthouse.” Image credit Nick Rochowski.

And watching sculptor Thierry Martenon being lost in his art buoyed me along as I wrote this opening reverie for his profile: “The blade he holds creates a rhythmic song, the cadence matching the movement of his hands. As the tool chews away the wood to expose the negative space, the surface grows smoother and smoother. Each pass is resolute, yet poetic. ‘Sometimes the repetition of the same gesture for hours leads me to almost euphoric states that feel like little trances,’ the French sculptor says of the process. ‘The tool then becomes the extension of my hand, and I become the gesture.’” I organized the book to represent how it would feel to walk through the penthouse in real time, presenting the personality of each space in the penthouse. 

The living room of the residence captured on a sunny day by U.K.-based photographer Nick Rochowski.
The living room of the residence captured on a sunny day by U.K.-based photographer Nick Rochowski.

About the living room, I wrote, “Hazy afternoons bring a softness to the hard edges of the buildings that rise in a clot beyond the living room windows. The ethereal transparency of the hand-stitched ombré curtains in this space (and the dining room) are misty creations themselves. Graduating from a pale chocolate brown to beige and then cream as the eye rises toward the ceiling, the panels feel like beautiful lace gowns unearthed in a vault where history’s finest haute couture is preserved.” And the tone for the guest suite profile was set by one of its most dynamic elements: “The far shore is beckoning—smudged blots of filigree from a distance grow more concrete with every stroke of the oar. Soon, jagged scallops become shallows below and a canopy of trees above the horizon line. The moody tone in the guest bedroom suite was set by painter Nanci Yermakoff, whose dusky mural produced from an original painting depicts a sunset over Lake Kabekona. The elaborate straightforwardness of the scene is mysterious and compelling.” 

The guest bedroom with a mural by Nanci Yermakoff published in “Collaborations: A Houston Penthouse.” Image credit Nick Rochowski.
The guest bedroom with a mural by Nanci Yermakoff published in “Collaborations: A Houston Penthouse.” Image credit Nick Rochowski.

I can’t stress enough what a dream project this was, not only because of the aesthetic beauty that was maintained throughout by 212box, a firm whose principles call themselves “proud materialists” with “a passion for relentless experimentation,” but because the photography by Nick Rochowski was remarkably inspiring. The story of each of the artists or companies I was able to tell was the proverbial icing on the cake! And I must say, working with the team at Images Publishing enhanced this remarkable experience.

A page in the book featuring the primary bedroom suite, the incredible image by Nick Rochowski.
A page in the book featuring the primary bedroom suite, the incredible image by Nick Rochowski.

This post, Collaborations: A Houston Penthouse, © Saxon Henry, all rights reserved. Saxon is an author, journalist, poet, and strategist whose books include The Modern Salonnière, Anywhere But Here, Stranded on the Road to Promise, Four Florida Modernsand Collaborations: A Houston Penthouse. Soon to be published in April 2024 is the second book in The Modern Salonnière series titled Lives Illuminated.

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