Houston's cherished boutique hotel reopens with rich restoration and high-rise residences
Surveying the grand renovation of La Colombe d’Or, Houston’s most cherished boutique hotel, Dan Zimmerman succinctly sums up the $10-million, years-long project:
“We touched everything — but we also touched nothing.”
Indeed, the young developer and his father, Steve Zimmerman, faced a daunting task. Steve, who hails from New Orleans, bought the 1923 Beaux-Arts Montrose mansion decades ago with the goal of bringing French and NOLA charm to the local hospitality scene.
In 2019, when he and Dan were presented with the opportunity to add a luxury high-rise behind their storied structure with global giant partner Hines, the Zimmermans’ goal was to delicately preserve the style, history, and integrity of their nearly 100-year-old manse — while boldly ushering it into the 21st century with its partnering tower on the 2-acre lot.
No doubt, oilman and philanthropist Walter Fondren, Sr., for whom the home was built, would be impressed with the result. La Colombe d’Or is the recipient of a full mechanical, electrical, and plumbing restoration, or what Dan calls a “down-to-the-studs” renovation.
All that is removed is the 18th-century French ballroom/Grand Salon venue for weddings and events (notably a Hines party in 2019). However, the paneling, mirrors, chandeliers and other elements were sold to the Houston Oaks Country Club.
Architecturally, source materials were left intact: original oak, wainscot, plaster walls, even the lattice ceiling were all preserved as updates went in. “When you go in, the house looks very much like the day it was built,” says Dan.
Aesthetically, Rottet Studio breathed new life into the hotel, creating an eclectic, refined elegance that seems brand new and also strikingly familiar. A Roaring Twenties design element, which harks back the era of the building’s construction, meets a modern, hip approach.
Paris, by way of Montrose
Stepping up the stairs and passing the charming front-door swing (a future Instagram staple and potential site of myriad marriage proposals), visitors will find a decidedly Parisian je ne sais quoi inside. Green is a prevailing color, playing off the magnolia trees and the green-tiled roof; the elegant bar is topped with green marble and its front jeweled with green glass.
“We were all skeptical of green at first,” Dan admits, “but of course now, we all love it.” Textured walls and black and white geometric print create a new dimension, while backlighting (a Rottet design staple) warms the lounge — which itself blends old-world refinement with a wink of new-school cheekiness: a rug subtly declares “sex, rugs and rock ‘n’ roll.”
Extra care and focus was spent on the bar. “Houston, unlike most great cities, has never really had that great hotel bar,” Dan bemoans. He and his father aimed to change that with their intimate, 12-table reimagining, which features glass-topped tables, European design (even the wallpaper is 1920s Russian Art Deco), and attached patio — perfect for letting the party spill outside. The result is a spot that will no doubt charm out-of-town visitors and entice locals to hang and nurture a cocktail, or a few.
Dining detours to a more casual flair with the new restaurant Tonight and Tomorrow (the name speaks to the getaway experience), while a side room promises a perfect spot for private parties, bridal shower bashes, Sunday Funday sessions, and more. A central chandelier is not to be missed.
Upstairs, the five bedrooms remain intact but painstakingly updated (workers used tiny paint brushes for intricate detailing); the suites keep iconic artist names — such as Cézanne — and start at $500.
Rich furnishings and appointments are everywhere, bathrooms receive a Carrara marble treatment and Aesop amenities, fine linens line the beds, and zippy fabrics leap from seating area sitting-area furnishings in the suites, which range from 470 to 721 square feet. A common area features treats, snacks, and staples, while a meeting room can be used for business gatherings, laptop work, or larger hangouts.
A bronze statue sits atop the roof of the hotel, greeting visitors. Art is a recurring theme here, as the Zimmermans are well-known and avid art enthusiasts and collectors. Thus, some 400 pieces — local and international — grace the property. Texas names such as Dorothy Hood and Lucas Johnson can be found alongside Arik Levy, Christian Rosa, Raoul Dufy, Pasquale Romanelli, Benjamin Robert Haydon, Georges Braque, and even Barbara Hines, wife of the late real estate titan Gerald Hines, the Zimmermans’ friend and partner in the project.
A towering new achievement
A lush courtyard calls to mind Europe and New York, with ample seating, a sculpture garden, zen fountain, and neighborhood views. A 45-foot mural, dubbed Last Tango by French street artist Blek Le Rat, looms from the tower wall.
This new tower, built by Hines and designed Munoz + Albin (architecture) and Rottet Studio (interiors), boats 265 multifamily apartments, with two levels of penthouse units, modern amenities, dazzling views in the residences and outdoor lounge, a pool deck replete with outdoor seating and grill (views of downtown are snapworthy all day), a state-of-the-art fitness center, office amenities and meeting rooms, and balconies.
Across the street from the new tower, the Garden Bungalows offer hip, Bohemian chic via nine suites. Cool, sculptured furnishings, velvety materials, and mod design pop out in the flats that range from 840 to 1540 square feet. The bungalows were designed by Gin Braverman of Gin Design Group, and are inspired by midcentury, Bohemian-chic apartments in Paris.
A courtyard shakes up a bar for mingling and lounging. Perfect for weekend getaways, parties, or extended stays, the bungalows offer a decidedly different experience — though all guests enjoy the amenities and features of the hotel and residences, including fitness center, pool, and more.
“It was important for us to offer a variety of accommodation types to suit the many needs of our guests at La Colombe d’Or Hotel,” says Dan. To wit, the hotel, new towers, and bungalows create what he calls a “campus,” one that is a study in modern-meets-historic in a perfectly planned, Montrose masterpiece.