West U Realtor's bathroom redesign grows into second floor … – Houston Chronicle

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A “before” photo of the Houston home of Heidi Dugan.
A “before” photo of the upstairs TV room.
Heidi Dugan is on her phone early in the morning, responding to emails and texts and tending to last-minute details of her real estate work. She could sit and sip coffee in a beautiful courtyard outdoors or any one of the cozy rooms in her home, but it’s not unusual to find her in her newly renovated primary bathroom, where she can hold court with friends, co-workers and clients — electronically — for hours.
Dugan, a Realtor for Greenwood King who has lived and worked in West University Place for 40 years, sees what she feels is the best of what’s available in Houston area homes, whether it’s renovations in bathrooms, kitchens or even outdoor spaces. Though she bought her home some 20 years ago and loved it then, she’s done a number of renovations as new things in home design grabbed her attention.
For the past handful of years, she’s renovated one room or another with the help of interior designer Elizabeth Donnelly of Elizabeth Donnelly Interiors, updating furnishings and bringing in antiques and art and even sprucing up outdoor spaces. A big part of the most recent round of updates was gutting and remodeling her primary bathroom upstairs and refreshing the rest of the upstairs of her home. The project began as a redo of the primary bathroom and closet, but grew from there.
Before, her primary bathroom was octagonal in shape — a not-so-efficient floor plan with awkward corners and doors installed on the angles, a built-in spa tub and an angled shower.  Dugan knew that she wanted antique tile, exquisite marble and a beautiful chandelier. 
“I sit at my vanity for a really long time every day. It’s not because I’m vain; it’s because I’m there with my phone and responding to texts and emails. My work never stops,” said Dugan, a native of Miami Beach who came to Houston in her early 20s. “It’s very peaceful here. I don’t have a 9 to 5 job; I work 24/7. I start answering messages when I get up and I can go to 11 p.m.”
Donnelly brought in interiors architect Nadia Palacios Lauterbach of Nadia Palacios Residential Design to to design a custom vanity and work on the fine details of the room. Erin Stetzer of Stetzer Builders was the contractor.
“The idea was to take a typical builder home with his-and-hers vanities on opposite walls and reconfigure the space. It’s not more space, but it is laid out differently, and what we accomplished was an open, streamlined space with materials that are light and airy,” Donnelly said. “We took away awkward angles and combined two closets, which gave Heidi her beautiful, very large closet.”
The reimagining of that bathroom placed a free-standing tub about where the built-in version was. Then, the shower was moved next to it with one side “bumped out” with a pony wall and sheets of glass to make it feel even bigger. Inside that shower, a pair of shampoo niches and a bench that feels like a small piece of furniture are covered in the same Calacatta you’ll find on the vanity counters. 
Dugan fell in love with the Old World feel of antique tile and other architectural antiques stocked at Ruth Gay’s Chateau Domingue shop in the Heights area. She found some beautiful tile there, purchased on Gay’s last buying trip to France before the COVID shutdown. The marble had been used as flooring in an 18th-century chapel at a monastery on the grounds of the Basilique Saint-Aphrodise in Beziers in southern France.
The chapel was about to be torn down, so Gay bought the tile and several columns before it was demolished, she said.
When the tile arrived at Dugan’s house, she, Donnelly and Lauterbach got it out, hand-washed it and carefully decided the placement of each tile.
Other European decorations include the new Murano glass chandelier, made in Italy, and an antique framed Murano mirror that hangs over Dugan’s custom-made makeup vanity. That piece of furniture was designed by Lauterbach, a classic style with Art Deco touches made with walnut wood.
“We wanted the vanity to feel glamorous, though its first priority was to be functional, since it serves as a second desk for Heidi,” Donnelly said. “She gets ready there in the morning, but she can plug in her laptop, too. It has hidden plugs and chargers everywhere, and the drawers are designed to house her products she uses to get ready every day.”
She also keeps her great-grandmother’s vanity set there, a pretty tray and antique perfume bottles.
Not only did they turn two smaller closets into one larger space, but they finished it out in exquisite detail with fumed French oak. Lighted, glass-front cabinets show off her collection of handbags and high-heeled shoes, and locking drawers are lined with suede to display her jewelry. 
Donnelly said that many of her clients want boutique-style closets that operate as a dressing room, with clothes, shoes and accessories well organized and displayed. Valet rods, plus pullout rods for scarves, belts or neckties are hand and can be space savers, too. Lighting is key, so homeowners can see what they have, and glass shelving helps the light filter through, making it all feel more open, Donnelly said.
 In the rest of the primary bedroom suite, they added beautiful Gracie wallpaper to a vestibule and a Venetian plaster finish on the walls and ceiling of the bedroom. A small guest room with a full bath became her new home gym, and the bathroom got a refresh of its own.
The upstairs game room is Dugan’s TV room, and it got a makeover with a built-in console cabinet made of fumed French oak replacing floor-to ceiling cabinets that had louvered doors. The room is filled with more contemporary furnishings, including a cushy sectional sofa with an acrylic coffee table, plus a curvy chair with ottoman and a small Saarinen Tulip table paired with modern chairs. A new brass chandelier lights up the room, and a large Michael von Helms abstract painting fills a side wall.
Dugan raised her two sons, Alex Dugan, now 31, and Harrison Willett, now 40, in this house, and while Alex lives and works in Los Angeles — he’s a songwriter and lead singer of the band Culture Wars —  he insists that his bedroom and bathroom stay exactly as they were when he was in high school. Harrison, 40, lives in Houston and is the father of four young children.
Her sons used to bring their friends here when they were younger, and some still visit. She was known for having a big Christmas party with 200 or more people, though COVID forced a pause on such large gatherings. Now, she’s more likely to have a dinner party for 12 in her pretty dining room.
“This is my sanctuary, definitely. It’s very personal and very much a reflection of who I am,” Dugan said. “I have an art history degree, so for me, when I sit here and look at everything, I see both the beauty and the function.”
Diane Cowen has worked at the Houston Chronicle since 2000 and currently its architecture and home design writer. Prior to working for the Chronicle, she worked at the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune and at the Shelbyville (Ind.) News. She is a graduate of Purdue University and is the author of a cookbook, “Sunday Dinners: Food, Family and Faith from our Favorite Pastors.”
By Diane Cowen


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