The alley was key to squeezing three, three-story attached homes onto a 0.14-acre postage-stamp-sized Houston infill lot, says architect James M. Evans of Collaborative Designworks. That allowed the units’ car needs to be in the back, leaving the front as a shared courtyard space and creating a buffer between near neighbors. Evans found other more private spaces for residents to enjoy the outdoors via outdoor terraces on the second floors, reminiscent of those found in Pueblo dwellings, except these are shaded by an oak tree.
The form of the building, with its succession of rectangular elevations, is also reminiscent of pueblos, only these are made from concrete, some painted white and the rest left in its natural gray state. Redwood, used both horizontally and vertically as a rainscreen on some parts of the building, warms the look and softens the hard edges.
The units—built within a 10-minute drive of downtown Houston, the Medical Center, and the Galleria mall—sold within a few months for $700,000 to $725,000. They range from 2,375 to 2,562 square feet.
“This was actually designed almost five years ago,” says Evans. “But it was put on hold for three [years]. It was nice to be able to finish this.”
Mount Vernon TH is a study in how to warm and soften contemporary architecture for the masses. Bright white-painted rectilinear forms have gray counterpoints, muting the starkness of all white. And redwood rainscreens offer a touch of warm organic brown, echoing the tree canopy spared during construction. The window shapes, different for every rectangle, provide a touch of whimsy, giving the structure a friendlier face.