Creative collaborations are born in many ways. The one that produced Kay O’Toole’s home in Houston began one Saturday morning over a cup of coffee. Architect Kirby Mears stopped into Kay O’Toole, a shop renowned for its fine European furnishings from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. “I loved everything I saw there,” recalls Mears. “Kay told me to make myself at home while she brewed some coffee.”
Their first conversation and the many that followed established the foundation of a friendship. “I stopped in regularly to see Kay after that,” says Mears, “and one day she told me she was thinking of building a house.”
O’Toole lived in a Houston high-rise apartment building at the time. “It was lovely,” she says, “but I had four bedrooms and too many bathrooms and my realtor friends said, ‘You’ve got to get out of this; why pay maintenance fees on all these spaces you don’t use?’” The property on which O’Toole’s shop sat included a narrow parking strip in the rear where she dreamt of building her new home—a single story structure just one room deep. She imagined walking the short distance to work and the ability to slip back home between customers throughout the day—a variation on the European style of living above the store.
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INTERIOR DESIGN BY KAY O'TOOLE
ARCHITECTURE BY KIRBY MEARS
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MIGUEL FLORES-VIANNA
WRITTEN BY EDWARD MCCANN
This story appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of MILIEU.