Having driven past them many times, it was a delight to finally see the inside of the Isabella Court apartments located on Main and, oddly enough, Isabella Street. They were recently featured on Preservation Houston's Good Brick Tour which highlights outstanding examples of architectural restoration and preservation.
The building was designed by Miami architect W.D. Bordeaux and built in 1929. It is a 3-story Spanish style white stucco building with a red clay tile roof, ornamental iron balconies, and steel windows in varying sizes. The ground floor is retail, currently art galleries, and apartments are on the second and third floors. Entry to the apartments is made from a set of stairs located on Isabella and at the second floor the central space opens to a stunning central courtyard with all of the apartments placed around it.
The courtyard is very inviting featuring an assortment of nooks and balconies, plants, a wishing well, and an arbor, and encourages interaction among neighbors. What it also encouraged was me and my fellow enthusiastic tourists to scurry about in blue booties with our cameras to lap up, in a photographic sense, every detail making certain that nothing was overlooked. Those who frequent the home tours are quite familiar with the blue bootie shoe covers.
The roof and skylights over the courtyard are not original but were probably a necessary addition and likely help to keep the temperature down during the warmer months. On the day of the tour the weather was perfect and occasional breezes passed through strategically placed openings around the building's perimeter.
It seemed to me that the feel of the interior courtyard was actually quite different from the building's exterior. The interior contained heavy timber details, exposed decorative rafter tails, and cream, red, green, and blue paint colors in a more rustic, even peeling finish, while the exterior had no timbers or rafter tails and the paint was a fairly crisp white. I liked everything about this building, both inside and out, but the difference was just something I noticed. (I wouldn't tear it down over this.)
There were three apartments open for the tour and they were each just as charming as I had hoped. The varying ceiling heights of the spaces on the ground floor result in dynamic floor plans on the second floor with floor heights varying within each apartment. One detail I liked was that the bedroom was higher than the living room and visual connection was made between the two spaces through a small wall opening with operable shutters that could be opened or closed. Other details included fireplaces, cove ceilings, and iron railings.
The kitchens were compact with not a lot of counter space but did feature windows and screen doors that opened onto the central courtyard. Another fun feature was the little milkman's door permitting delivered milk to be placed directly into the kitchen cabinet from the courtyard, although having lived previously in another 1920's apartment building that also featured a similar door I can say that these do not work. Not once in four years did I wake to find fresh milk placed in my kitchen cabinet.
I really enjoyed touring the Isabella Court apartments and am grateful to the owner and residents for opening their home to architecturally curious types like me. It is a treat to peek inside these unique structures and there is always something fun or inspiring to see. I am glad to be able to move this from the Buildings I'd Like to See column to the Buildings I've Seen column, though I'm finding that this undertaking is similar to reading in that, the more I read the more I discover additional books I would like to read. By the time I complete a book, rather than get shorter, the list of books yet to read seems to get longer. So too with architecture in that the more I look around the more I notice additional enticing structures I need to explore. It's a fun pursuit, really, and one that I hope never ends.