A Midcentury Duplex in Montrose With an Artsy Past

This unique live/work space mixes Mies van der Rohe cool with unpretentious, livable updates.

By Melissa Dalton April 13, 2023

In 1955, Arts & Architecture included a short profile of this modernist duplex on Richmond Avenue, designed by two notable Houston architects of the time: Burdette Keeland and Harwood Taylor. The magazine profile called the project an “Income Studio” and included a few photos, a floor plan, and the architects’ brief: to design a photographer’s studio with additional income-generating spaces on a typical flat Houston city lot and “future major street.”

The architects’ solution was to create two buildings separated by a central courtyard. Facing the street, there was a two-story, steel-framed, stucco-covered boxy number propped on columns to supply a protected four-car carport beneath it. At the rear, an exterior spiral staircase connects the building’s upper-level living spaces to the patio below. Across the courtyard, there’s a one-story brick and steel photography studio, later referred to as the “first true example of Miesian commercial architecture in Houston,” meaning its form references the work of influential historical "starchitect" Mies van der Rohe. (Check out the University of Houston’s Digital Collections for more of this project’s documentation.)

Image: Avian

The project was commissioned by photographer Fred Winchell—so named the Fred Winchell Photography Studio and Apartments after him—who is said to have lived in the studio building with his wife, while renting out the units in the stucco buildings, and using the courtyard for photo shoots. At some point, Taylor, the architect, listed his architectural office as being at the address, while in the 1960s, influential interior designer Sally Walsh lived in the studio building.

Image: Avian

In August of 2020, Houston-based real estate developers Scarlet bought the building and fixed it up, preserving its midcentury lines while outfitting it for more contemporary living, starting with the exterior. At the front, they enclosed the carport with industrial steel roll-up doors, while the courtyard was refreshed with a pool and outdoor lounge spaces, designed by urban design firm Asakura Robinson.

Image: Avian

In the upstairs unit, the large windows overlook the porch and rear courtyard, bringing lots of light into the living spaces, now crisped up with pale wood floors and white walls. Built-in features, like the oversized living room sectional, are also fashioned from pale wood to keep the aesthetic consistent throughout. In a twist, the bathroom embraces contrast, thanks to its vanity, bathtub, walk-in shower, walls, floor and ceiling all covered in grey concrete.

Image: Avian

Like the rest of the site, the second building also retains its midcentury cool, with original interior terrazzo floors still intact, as well as the exposed brick and steel framing, and floor-to-ceiling windows. It’s been updated with a kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom. Even the latter seems to nod to the building’s roots as a photography studio: the stone-covered walk-in shower has a huge frosted glass window filtering in some really lovely natural light.

Image: Avian

Listing Stats: 

Address: 1953 Richmond Ave #1, Houston, TX 77098

Size: 2,327 square feet/2 bedroom/2 bath

List Date: 3/24/2023

List Price: $1,500,000

Listing Agent: Loren Miner, Eastwood Realty

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