BACHELOR PAD. The term, even now, conjures hoary images of white leather couches, waterbeds, and Casanovas streamlining their homes for seduction. Nothing could be further from the minds of Houston’s gents at the moment. Today’s bachelor is into seducing himself first, with art and furnishings that reflect his own distinct aesthetic, an aesthetic often helped along by design-world trends toward sleek, subtly masculine styles inspired by both industry and the midcentury modern period. Credit the male-dominated energy field, which has brought no small number of moneyed bachelors to town.
One of these is petroleum landman Mark Salvie, who, thanks to a good job, a favorable housing market, and an early inheritance, snagged a townhouse in the Heights before his 30th birthday. Salvie credits his late mother with showing him how to create an interesting and eclectic space, one that includes pieces he inherited from her. But all the objects in the house reflect Salvie and his interests, from the unusual taxidermy, to the succulents, to the colorful, oversized throw pillows.
He’s also drawn to the work of local artisans. His kitchen table was made by Cory Wagner of Dumptruck Design from wood that previously served as the Pearland High School gym floor, while his coffee table is an industrial, glass-and-metal construction from Montrose shop Native Citizen. “I figured if I have to buy stuff anyway, I might as well make it look good,” says Salvie, who started amassing his collection of art, furnishings, and interesting objects during his college years. “I know a lot of people in oil and gas who feel a lot of pressure to just get it done. It’s like, ‘I just got a new job, I just got a new apartment, so I need to furnish it all at once.’ So they’ll go on a website and buy all their couches, all their chairs, all their rugs online, all in one afternoon. When you’re buying stuff all at once, it looks like a catalog. It doesn’t look lived-in.”
But remember, Salvie says, even if you’re a young man with a sophisticated design sense, you’re still a young man. “I bought a really nice Adrian Pearsall couch—it was beautiful, with built-in marble and white leather, but midcentury is somewhat fragile and it wasn’t really ideal for people coming over and partying,” he says. After one of the legs cracked during a party, he was able to repair it but opted to sell it anyway. “It’s kind of stupid to own a piece of furniture that you’re afraid to use.”
Sam Cole, a second-generation partner in Cole International Tubular Services, found his own unique path to midcentury furnishings. “In high school I was really into music,” he says. “And what was big at the time, in the ’90s, was this garage surf revival rooted in ’60s garage rock,” he says. “Through that I got started along the path to the design of that period and the furniture.”
For years, Cole shared a rented bungalow in the Heights with his twin brother George, but after a long search he fell in love with a converted loft in EaDo whose rooftop deck boasts a panoramic view of the downtown skyline. (As it happens, George ended up buying the apartment next door.) Despite an interest in design, however, Cole didn’t possess much more than a mattress and a television when he first moved in four years ago.
“When I was living with my brother, renting a place, that wasn’t my space, so I didn’t want to get stuff yet,” he says. “I wanted to move into a place that I could make my own. When I moved in here, I knew exactly what I was looking for, which is partly why it took so long to find it. I wanted the Peter Hvidt chairs; I wanted the Selig Sofa. I wanted something that went along with the space itself.”
The Danish midcentury furnishings pair well with the loft’s open layout and high ceilings, its clean lines counter-balanced by eclectic gallery walls filled with art, much of it sourced from Cole’s world travels or made by his friends in the Houston art community. Every piece has a story to tell: there’s a wood carving from Palau, where cultural mores required Cole to bargain face-to-face with the prisoner who sculpted it in his cell as a means of supporting his family; a video screen playing an endless loop from a ’60s Bruce Conner film of Toni Basil dancing that is widely considered to be among the first conceptual music videos; and a painting by Rocky, a cougar at the Houston Zoo, where Cole is on the board of Flock, the young professionals group.
“It took six months to get that. I would call to check on it and they said, ‘Well, we don’t make Rocky paint, he has to be in the mood to paint,’” laughs Cole. “I’ve always been involved in the arts and it’s always been an outlet for me, so when I went to put together my place, it [needed] to be a place that I wanted to be in and felt relaxed in.”
Having the right space to display his art collection was also important for Bill Peel, the chief development officer at industrial construction firm Tellepsen. The curved wall that emerges from the entryway of his apartment in Highland Tower serves to show off his collection of celebrity art by names such as Jane Seymour, the Rolling Stones’ Ronnie Wood, and Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane. “I get teased a lot about Marilyn Monroe looking over the bathtub,” he says.
Intent on transforming the 1,500-square-foot apartment from a cookie-cutter condo into a space that matched his style and catered to his interests, Peel turned to his longtime friend and decorator Courtnay Elias. The pair worked in partnership, with Peel, a trained architect with two design degrees, focusing on how to make the most of the small space, and Elias pushing his stylistic boundaries with unexpected details, from leather drawer pulls in the library to a bed of turf on the patio.
A small desk space off the kitchen was replaced with a bar that holds his sizeable wine collection, and the second bedroom was converted into a library that doubles as a cozy dining space when Peel cooks for his dates. “What I’ve always wanted my whole life is a library—not a home office, but a library,” he says. “I’m an eclectic reader, so I wanted multiple spaces in the house where I could read. This is my version of a man cave.”
The apartment is replete with open shelving holding everything from toys and Boy Scout mementos from his childhood to Air Force memorabilia belonging to Peel’s father. “When I was younger I was a more-is-more type of person, which is unusual for an architect, but I’ve gotten more minimalist over time. I’m also less afraid to put out the stuff that means something to me,” says Peel. “You can’t come here and leave without knowing a lot about me.”