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Design Brings the Magic of Indonesia to a Mid-Century Modern
By Natalie de la Garza

Beautifully thatched roofs and vaulted ceilings, exotic antiques and textured surfaces: That’s what Laura Michaelides, Four Square Design Studio’s principal designer, found in the heads of her globe-trotting clients when she signed on to develop the master bedroom and bath of their 1950s Memorial-area home.

It may sound incongruous, but Michaelides says experience has taught her that ethnic antiques, whether they be Southeast Asian, African or pieces of Americana, tend to look good against a modern, clean backdrop. Luckily her clients — as Michaelides says many people today are — were interested in a transitional style, a soft modernism defined by eclecticism and its attempt to blend together different traditional and contemporary elements.

“I would say these clients had very eclectic tastes. They like the clean backdrop, but they definitely love antiques and they love ethnic pieces,” says Michaelides. “Often the most interesting interiors for me are those that incorporate some of each.”

The merging of styles can best be seen in the bedroom where Michaelides first decided to vault the existing eight-foot ceiling. Though standard for homes built in the 1950s, when coupled with the size of the room – an enormous 26 feet by almost 19 feet – the relatively low ceiling created proportions that Michaelides says “seemed off.” So, they removed the existing ceiling to expose the full height of the shed roof above. Now starting at nine feet at its lowest point and rising up to 11 feet at its highest, the newly vaulted ceiling gives the room an airy, lofted feel in addition to hinting at the Indonesian interiors favored by her clients.

Four Square Designer Sarah Hannah took the lead on a complete redesign of the room’s conventional stone fireplace. It now boasts a plaster surround with an almost adobe feel, its new chunky wooden mantel from M&M Lumber further tying it to the character of the space. Above the fireplace
are sconces from Brown that have been repurposed from a chandelier and co-designed with Merge Studios. For the closet Michaelides installed a panel on a barn door-like track. The architectural antique was made from a Latin American door sourced from Chateau Domingue.

Michaelides says that when you originally entered the bedroom you walked directly into the space so, to add a bit of coziness, they created a little foyer with walnut bookshelves. At the center of the bookcase, which is filled with books and knick-knacks from her clients’ travels, is a “suggestion” — a window opening that allows you to peek into the room without seeing it completely. But it’s when you come around the bookcase that you see the star of the room: an Indonesian antique bed. The wooden four-poster with canopy, which Michaelides describes as “big and dramatic,” is the new focal point of the room. Behind the bed they decided to hang grasscloth to further the textural feeling of the Indonesian antique.

“We thought that we could bring in some touches to try to give the client the feeling that they liked from those [Indonesian] spaces and from their travels, and a lot of that did have to do with the relationship of the indoors to the outdoors too,” says Michaelides.

Because many of the master suites her clients showed her were retreats, Michaelides made “bringing the outdoors in” a guiding principle for the project. She says that when clients ask to blur the line between indoors and outdoors, they are asking “to feel the presence of nature as much as possible when they’re inside.”

To accomplish this Michaelides installed a wall of sliding glass doors on the north wall of the bedroom. Though it’s the side of the house that faces the street, her clients enjoy a deep yard surrounded by a plant-lined privacy fence, ensuring they can appreciate the view without fear of anyone looking back. In front of the glass doors is a wall of very simple, lightweight drapery from Duralee that at night can be closed to add an even cozier feel to the room.

But perhaps the best example of the thin line between the interior and exterior can be found in the bathroom.

At first sight, Michaelides says the master bath was “dated and dysfunctional.” Its transformation began when Michaelides completely opened up the same north wall as in the bedroom, so when “you’re showering, when you’re bathing, you’re looking at nature.”

Inside the bathroom now sits a double vanity, wall-mounted shower and modern, white tub from Victoria + Albert set against a wall of deeply colored Moroccan encaustic tiles. But it’s outside, where Michaelides has installed a stainless steel outdoor shower with handmade showerhead from Calazzo, that the line between indoor and outdoor, already reduced to a pane of clear glass, can disappear completely on a beautiful day.

Michaelides admits the outdoor shower is not something you see every day in the big city, but the complete privacy of the space allows it. “It really does feel very open to nature, but that’s what it’s all about. It’s all about trying to open the interior space to nature.”

Though the process took about two years — a year of planning and a year of construction with a lot of starts and stops — Michaelides says it was worth it.

“The different parts of the room together are what make it special. It’s that combination of the airiness of the space, the unusual furnishings. All these elements add to make the place feel special,” says Michaelides. “I think it really does feel special.”


Four Square Design
Studio LLC
Sarah Hannah and Laura Michaelides
1810 Summer


Bayou City Builders Inc.
16122 Crawford
713-392-7161, 832-467-0488

Insight Structures
5331 Inker, Suite B

Western Window Systems

Chateau Domingue
3560 West 12th



Newport Brass

Houston Web Design Company