Rice Design Alliance Tour

The true love shack: How a suave home design consultant saved one couple's marriage

The true love shack: How a suave home design consultant saved one couple's marriage

When John Mixon's wife Judith gets an idea in her head, he knows exactly what his place in the relationship is and what the appropriate response to her whimsical impulses should be.

Yes, dear.

The connection between John, a law alumni professor at the University of Houston and a lecturer at Rice School of Architecture, and Judith, a retired educator, has somewhat been mused by architect designed homes.

Their current contemporary Tuscan farmhouse style residence at 6136 Kirby Dr., designed by Wittenberg Partnership, will be open to the public as part of Rice Design Alliance's Architecture Tour on Saturday and Sunday. Titled "Centennial Tour," RDA's theme salutes the organization's 40th birthday and Rice University's 100-year anniversary.

The story goes that Judith was reluctant to accept John's marriage proposal despite his romantic advances. That's until Judith's daughter, Millicent, nudged her along after strolling through what would become the couple's first home, one located in Southampton Extension and designed by Scott Ziegler and Michael Cooper, two students of John at Rice University.

"My daughter said that if I didn't marry John, she would move into that home with him," Judith quips.

He signed on the dotted line. She walked down the aisle. They wed in that home — on the balcony.

 "My daughter said that if I didn't marry John, she would move into that home with him."

But two decades later, Judith had something else in mind.

"After returning from visiting my daughter in Manhattan, I wanted to live just like her," Judith says. "With the shops and restaurants right downstairs."

Yes, dear.

Within a week, they closed on the only lot available for sale on Kirby Drive. Within another week, Gordon Wittenberg, today a professor and director of the technology, environment and practice program in the Rice School of Architecture, agreed to take on the Mixons as clients. Seven months later, they settled in. That was back in 1996.

Judith wanted an open concept floor plan. John wanted security, something that resembled a fortress but without many interior doors. She wanted Tuscan charm with panoramic views of the city. He wanted outdoor living that could be enjoyed even during the most unbearable Houston summer days. She had to have a library — with a ladder.

They each got what their heart desired in this three-story urban dwelling — and more. 

There are no parallel walls anywhere in the home. The custom ducts blend harmoniously with the millwork and built in units. The kitchen hood was designed specially for their kitchen, whose upper cabinets hold no doors or backing.

But the process wasn't without surprises or challenges.

Watch the CultureMap video (above) to hear about their curious neighbors and about the mysterious consultant who may have saved John's life, his wealth, his marriage and his occupation.

___

The Rice Design Alliance 2013 Architecture Home Tour, "Centennial Tour" is on Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 6 p.m. The event is open to members and their guests only. Memberships start at $45 and may be purchased online and during the tour.

Rice Design Alliance Home Tour, Kirby Drive, April 2013
The Mixons' Tuscan farmhouse style residence at 6136 Kirby Dr., designed by Wittenberg Partnership, will be open to the public as part of Rice Design Alliance's Architecture Tour. Photo by Joel Luks
Rice Design Alliance Home Tour, Kirby Drive, April 2013
Titled "Centennial Tour," RDA's theme salutes the organization's 40th birthday and Rice University's 100-year anniversary. Photo by Joel Luks
Rice Design Alliance Home Tour, Kirby Drive, April 2013
There are no parallel walls anywhere in the home. Photo by Joel Luks
Rice Design Alliance Home Tour, Kirby Drive, April 2013
John is a law alumni professor at the University of Houston and a lecturer at Rice School of Architecture and Judith is a retired educator. Photo by Joel Luks
Rice Design Alliance Home Tour, Kirby Drive, April 2013
Rice Design Alliance Home Tour, Kirby Drive, April 2013
Rice Design Alliance Home Tour, Kirby Drive, April 2013
Rice Design Alliance Home Tour, Kirby Drive, April 2013