by Linda Barth
Photography By Miro Dvorscak (Houston) and Reba Graham (Corpus)
Houston House and Home Magazine : March 2005
reprinted with permission
Charles Baldridge travels so much in his work as chief of staff of one of Houston’s fastest growing financial strategies firms, he prefers to live in low-maintenance condominium apartments. During the week, he lives in an apartment overlooking an oak and pine forest in Houston’s Memorial area; on weekends, they escape to their apartment overlooking Corpus Christi Bay.
Both places have floor to ceiling windows to take advantage of the gorgeous views. While Baldridge’s views may change from forest to sea-his choice of interior designer does not-Kelly Gale Amen of the KGA Compound in Houston. Amen designed the interiors for both places, and may get the chance to design the interior of a possible third condominium – Baldridge wants a mountain retreat to complete their collection of views: southern forest, saltwater bay and craggy mountain peaks.
Baldridge met Amen through a colleague whose home Amen had redesigned. Baldridge liked it so much, he placed total trust in Amen to finish out the interiors of both his Houston and Corpus condos, using much of the art, Asian artifacts and antiques Baldridge had collected while living in Japan and traveling throughout Asia.
“I have a philosophy of decorating,” Baldridge declares. “Stay out of the way. Kelly doesn’t tell me how to run my business, so why should I tell him how to decorate? Besides,” he adds with a shrug, “when you do it Kelly’s way it looks better.”
Both Houston and Corpus Christi places sport signature Amen touches:
- the use of mirrors on walls across from the views to double the impact of the view
- bold KGA Art Furniture that Amen designs and has forged in Alabama
- highly individual and idiosyncratic dining chairs
- curved track lighting on the ceiling to highlight art and other treasures
- highly finished walls with several layers of colors
- a KGA signature Poof ottoman for whimsy
- luxurious area rugs hand-knotted in Nepal
- and intricately engineered pillows in rich fabrics, tucked and pleated and shaped just so.
Given these similarities, Amen still sees each place as dramatically different. “The Houston place is much darker and woodsy with lots of green,” Amen says. “Corpus is done in light colors-it’s all about catching the light and views of the water.”
In Houston, the door of the apartment opens to a view of magnificent treetops. Once the eye adjusts to the furnishings and art in the large living/dining area, attention must be paid to the riotously colored dining chairs. Amen enlisted the aid of Houston artist John Cain to pour brilliant resins on plain, upholstered office chairs. When the resin dries, the color gleams, and the chairs on rollers make comfortable seating. The dining table and serving bowl are KGA Art Furniture designed by Amen. Nearby, the living room seating is upholstered in colorful fabrics chosen by Amen because “it’s so playful.”
In Corpus, the apartment was originally a plain white box, Amen says. The floors were white tile and the walls were white. “With Chuck’s furniture and art, we needed the warmth of wood on the floors,” Amen says. So he had herringbone oak parquet installed on the floor and ebonized.
In the dining area Amen painted the ceiling a metallic silver and added mirror to one wall to bounce light from the bay around the room. The leather dining chairs were stenciled with layers of leaves.
“When I’m in Corpus I don’t want to come back here,” says Baldridge, in Houston. “And when I’m here, I don’t want to go back there. I enjoy both places so much.”
Why Corpus? “I lived there for two years,” Baldridge says, “and there are some lovely people there. I think Corpus is caught in a time warp-it’s softer and easier there.” But, he says, he likes the excitement and energy of Houston, too. “I think you need to be near the city, the theater and the arts,” he says.
For now, he has the best of both worlds-the surf of Corpus, the turf of Houston and the interior design of Kelly Amen to frame the views in the best possible light.