Renovations Elevate a Nichols Hills Home - 405 Magazine

Renovations Elevate a Nichols Hills Home

Sue and Gary Hanna’s five years of house hunting ended in Nichols Hills in 2018, when they purchased a property with potential in a treasured location.

“Our daughter and grandkids live on the same street; so does my sister,” Sue Hanna explained.

There was some work to do: While Hanna said the property warranted “a complete makeover,” her husband jokingly called it “a prison” thanks to its brick-walled perimeter. However, the Hannas appreciated the home’s mid-century modern bones. They also liked how the majority of the living space was downstairs and a smaller lot meant less maintenance. To make the most of it, they enlisted contractor Mike Gilles of Savannah Builders; interior designers at Sees Design; and architect Bruce Bockus of Bockus Payne. 

“The house had gone through multiple renovations over the years, and it just didn’t have a clear design theme about it anymore,” said Bruce Bockus. 

Cohesive design was their focus, but as renovations began, the pathway there became blurry.

“Every time we opened up a wall, we found something really bad,” Bockus said. “You’ve heard, ‘Taking three steps forward and one step back.’ We took one step forward and three steps back, several times … We discovered the structure for the second floor had been compromised so much by previous renovations, there were floor joists that had been cut through for new plumbing, et cetera. It was just a colossal mess.”

“We had to take like a third of the house down, which wasn’t the plan,” added Hanna.  

“It could have turned into a nasty project, but Gary and Sue maintained really good attitudes and kept positive,” said Bockus, “and ultimately they have an incredibly beautiful home.” 

Bockus refocused the unexpected rebuild as an opportunity to improve initial designs, raising the second floor’s ceiling for a more spacious and airy feel. With added skylights, natural light illuminates the sweeping staircase, original to the home. 

Architectural changes embrace an indoor-outdoor flow. Living areas blend seamlessly with floor-to-ceiling windows and repeating details, like the rich sapele wood and steel pillar groupings applied throughout the residence. 

“To blur the distinction between inside and out, we like to carry the exterior materials inside,” Bockus said. “We did that with floor material, with the wood wall material and with some brick in places to complete that idea.”

The clean and crisp modern aesthetic reflects the homeowners’ preference for low-key living.

“The house is not overdone, in my opinion. It’s just very subtle and understated.” Hanna said. “I don’t think Gary or I, either one, like a whole lot of attention. And we don’t like clutter. We like things to be pretty simple.” 

And even though renovating and rebuilding this home was anything but simple, all are pleased with the outcome.

“I sold real estate in Houston for 20 years, so I’ve seen everything — and I’ve also seen a lot of possibilities,” said Hanna. “I’ve seen a lot of beautiful homes, and this is at the top.”

Today, the treasured design matches the treasured location, with family nearby and friendships intact.

“Relationally, I am just exceedingly proud that I call Mike Gillis a friend and I call Gary and Sue friends — that we were able to do something beautiful together, even though it was exceedingly difficult,” Bockus said. “We kept the best of what was there and then made the other [areas] better. At the end of the day, it turned out really, really fantastically cool.”

Get a head start on planning your holiday home decor. Check out this “Modern Glam” home.