December 9, 2022

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We Do Fine Home

Century-old, Italian-style Museum District house undergoes a decor, color update

The story of Tom and Eyvette Hetherington’s nearly 100-year-old home is a fairly happy one, with a roster of owners who’ve been drawn to its graceful Italian Renaissance-style lines and thoughtful craftsmanship.

Everyone who has owned the house, it seems, added on a room or a feature completely in harmony with the architecture, and so have the Hetheringtons, turning its basement — a space not often found in Houston — into a gorgeous wine room.

Tom caught the wine collecting bug on his first trip to Napa nearly 25 years ago, and the local attorney has always wanted a large cellar.

Now he has one, with refrigerated, walk-in spaces that can hold hundreds of bottles on each end of the basement and a beautiful center hang-out area with contemporary furniture. It’s all set against a backdrop of cool gray concrete blocks and a rough ridge of concrete — part of the home’s original foundation — that stretches around the room and forms an unusual mantel for the fireplace.


The concrete foundation works as a mantel in the wine room.


Julie Soefer

The Houston home of Tom and Eyvette Hetherington.
The Houston home of Tom and Eyvette Hetherington.
Julie Soefer


The concrete foundation works as a mantel in the wine room. / Julie Soefer

“The house we moved from had a wine cellar, and it was nice, but it wasn’t a destination. It was a closet,” said Tom, 49 and a Houston native who’s a founding partner at the McDowell Hetherington law firm. “This was something that I wanted. The basement is a very unique space in the house.”

Millwork and racks for bottles of wine are made of mahogany, wood that you’ll find elsewhere in the 6,500-square-foot home.

A little history

Houston’s population grew dramatically in the early 20th century, doubling between 1900 and 1910 and nearly doubling again by 1920. Upscale neighborhoods popped up in a variety of places, including what was then called the “South End” with Courtlandt Place, Montrose, Boulevard Oaks and other neighborhoods near what was then Hermann Hospital and the Rice Institute.

That’s where Ned and Linda Eppes built this house, one of the city’s first that was made of concrete. Ned Eppes was a “concrete pioneer” selling concrete pipe for sanitary sewers, drain pipes and other infrastructure to cities all over Texas and the region, so it was natural that he wanted a home made of this material, too.

The Houston home of Tom and Eyvette Hetherington.

The Houston home of Tom and Eyvette Hetherington.

Julie Soefer

Designed by architects John McLelland and Brickey, Wiggins and Brickey, the home was built in 1926 and now is on the National Register of Historic Places and has Texas Historic Landmark status.

Changing needs

When the coronavirus pandemic shut down work, school and everything else in March 2020, the Hetheringtons — Tom and  Eyvette , their three kids and two dogs — found themselves struggling for places where everyone could have a little privacy. Daughter Blake is from Tom’s first marriage and is a sophomore in college now. Their daughter Ellie is a sophomore at the High School for Performing and Visual Arts and son Tommy is in eighth grade at Annunciation Orthodox School.

Before the pandemic, they’d have told you their house was fine. Suddenly together all of the time, they were competing for space — indoors and out.

When Tom and  Eyvette saw this home in July 2020, they immediately fell in love with it, made an offer and moved in. It had been well cared for and didn’t need any remodeling or changes to get rid of unwanted colors or finishes.

But they did want to start over with furniture and called on Laurie Pearson of L. Pearson Design, who they knew because their kids attended school together at Annunciation Orthodox School. Pearson decorated every room in the home and helped with finishes in the new wine room, too.

Travel had come to a halt, and the Hetheringtons wanted a backyard that felt like a getaway. A prior owner added a loggia, and with the pool and palm trees, it felt a little like a trip to South Florida.

“We both really like Miami, and the house had a great Mediterranean feel. We weren’t traveling as much and it felt like a vacation spot, a resort,” said  Eyvette , a retired attorney who recently turned 51. “We don’t like the cookie-cutter look in a house, and it was so different from things that we’ve seen.”

Even as travel restrictions have eased, the Hetheringtons remain home based. Yvette is a cancer patient — she calls herself a “cancer fighter” — initially diagnosed in late 2015. Treatment left her in remission until she was diagnosed again with stage 4 colon cancer in August 2019, which she’s still fighting.

She’s praying for a miracle or a cure — or both — and wants to make the home as comfortable as she can for her family.

Everyone gets something

The formal living room may not get used every day, but it’s a beautiful room where anyone can curl up with a book. The grand piano that came with the house gets plenty of use — Blake and Ellie both play.

Pearson’s goal was to embrace the home’s historical look, its hardwood floors, mahogany millwork and arched doorways without being too stodgy with the furnishings.

“I didn’t want it to be super traditional, because I wanted it to look updated, not older and old school. You have to be careful when you’re trying to mix the two looks,” Pearson said.

The Houston home of Tom and Eyvette Hetherington.

The Houston home of Tom and Eyvette Hetherington.


Julie Soefer

The Houston home of Tom and Eyvette Hetherington.

The Houston home of Tom and Eyvette Hetherington.


Julie Soefer


The Houston home of Tom and Eyvette Hetherington. / Julie Soefer

Embracing color, they opted for Tom’s favorite color in the living room in a pair of blue velvet sofas, blue print pillows, a clear acrylic table, blue Murano glass lamps and a blue and white rug. Then they found the perfect piece of art at Dimmitt Contemporary Art, a piece of geometric art in shades of blue by painter Sarah Ferguson.

Off of this room is a sun room, where they can watch TV or go for a Zoom call or private conversation. Their goldendoodles, Bella and Beau, love this room because they can see everyone walking by outside.

The sun room is a cozy place to sit for a phone call or find peace and quiet.

The sun room is a cozy place to sit for a phone call or find peace and quiet.


Julie Soefer

The Houston home of Tom and Eyvette Hetherington.

The Houston home of Tom and Eyvette Hetherington.


Julie Soefer


The home office has a view of the front, side and backyards. / Julie Soefer

The formal dining room already had nice window treatments and a Swarovski crystal chandelier. The Hetheringtons brought their dining room furniture from their prior house, reupholstering the chairs in a lively pattern with swirling Chinese dragons on a blue and white background.

The couple’s traditional dining chairs were recovered in a lively print with Chinese dragons.

The couple’s traditional dining chairs were recovered in a lively print with Chinese dragons.


Julie Soefer

The Houston home of Tom and Eyvette Hetherington.

The Houston home of Tom and Eyvette Hetherington.


Julie Soefer


The couple’s traditional dining chairs were recovered in a lively print with Chinese dragons.

“We’ve been sick a long time, so we haven’t used the dining room a lot. We like to entertain, and we’d like to use the room,” Tom said. “One of these days … I’m sure we’ll use it again for big holiday dinners.”

The deep turquoise in the kitchen repeats elsewhere in the home for lively bursts of color.

The deep turquoise in the kitchen repeats elsewhere in the home for lively bursts of color.

Julie Soefer

The more casual spaces where the family gathers are the den, a few steps down from the kitchen, and breakfast area, a slim space that’s full of charm.

Peacock blue wallpaper adds charm in the breakfast room.

Peacock blue wallpaper adds charm in the breakfast room.


Julie Soefer

The Houston home of Tom and Eyvette Hetherington.

The Houston home of Tom and Eyvette Hetherington.


Julie Soefer


Peacock blue wallpaper adds charm in the breakfast room. / Julie Soefer

The breakfast area was a small room with plain white walls, so Pearson installed bold teal grasscloth wallpaper and a small, space-saving banquette with a modern table and chairs. They opted to keep a pair of original built-in corner cabinets, embracing the home’s history.

A blue sectional sofa fills the small den, where they watch TV and the dogs have full access to the furniture.

The Houston home of Tom and Eyvette Hetherington.

The Houston home of Tom and Eyvette Hetherington.

Julie Soefer

From here, a back staircase leads to the kids’ game room, where Ellie and Tommy hang out when cousins visit, and where Tommy plays video games. It has white Lovesac sofa that the kids chose, fuchsia drapes and built-in cabinets painted turquoise. Decorative pillows are a lively mix of the two colors, and whimsical giraffe art is sure to draw a smile.

The Houston home of Tom and Eyvette Hetherington.

The Houston home of Tom and Eyvette Hetherington.

Julie Soefer

The primary bedroom suite — bedroom, bathroom, closets and an office — got the blue-and-white treatment, too, with a dark blue and white polka dot tête-à-tête at the end of the bed and a comfortable chair and ottoman in dark blue.

The Houston home of Tom and Eyvette Hetherington.

The Houston home of Tom and Eyvette Hetherington.


Julie Soefer

The Houston home of Tom and Eyvette Hetherington.

The Houston home of Tom and Eyvette Hetherington.


Julie Soefer


The Houston home of Tom and Eyvette Hetherington. / Julie Soefer

Since Tom works long hours and often stays up late, he did not use this office when  Eyvette needed to sleep or recover from cancer treatment. So she seized it as her own, a place to get things done and peer out the windows at the lovely view in three directions.

This new home meets the overlapping needs of everyone in the family, and the loggia, pool and beautiful backyard proved to be more valuable than any of them imagined.

“The outdoor space was a benefit we have hugely enjoyed that we didn’t anticipate,”  Eyvette said. “We have two big tables out there, and our family can come over and we can eat outside. We have blankets for when it’s cool, and we can enjoy wine outside. It’s a slice of heaven in the Museum District.”