Dear Polia...

A place to share my many interests in Architecture, Art, Design, Travel, and Culture.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Heights Living: Shady Business

Street in the Woodland Heights, Houston. 

It's summer in Houston and as the temperature reaches a toasty 84 degrees by 9:00am, walking my dog with a three month old baby in tow has become a race against the sun. Fortunately my neighborhood in The Heights gives me many opportunities for a shady stroll. 

The Esplanade. Woodland Heights, Houston. 
Woodland Heights, Houston. 

At the moment, my favorite pocket of the Heights is the "Woodland Heights". Older and with bigger houses than my own Norhill Heights, the Woodland Heights offers the shade of centenary Oaks and architectural variety. 

Prairie style bungalow

Craftsman Bungalow

Shingle style cottage

The branches of the oaks form an almost continuous canopy above our heads, and as we walk under its shade we encounter not only the Craftsman Bungalows that our neighborhood is famous for, but also Victorian grand ladies and gingerbread houses. 

Arts and Crafts Bungalow

Arts and Crafts Bungalow 

Queen Anne Victorian

Gingerbread Victorian

Alex, Lilly, and I now pause under a rambling oak and in the merciful shade I start to feel "street envy". There's a bungalow for sale on Woodland Ave, tempting...

Craftsman Bungalow 

All images by Nadia Palacios Lauterbach

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Monday, May 5, 2014

Of Light and Water

My first lesson in watercolor painting as an architecture student in Rome, Italy, consisted of a curious presentation involving our professor Richard Piccolo's special "green outfit" (with which he explained that colors come in many shades) and some marvelous slides of John Singer Sargent's watercolor views of Venice for inspiration.  
John Singer Sargent "Santa Maria della Salute". 1904,

Watercolor is a difficult and unforgiving medium, mistakes are evident through its transparent washes, a little breeze on the paper and the water dries too quickly creating divisions in the paint, too many layers and the painting turns out muddy.  By the end of my stay in Rome we had all become quite adept at this medium, though John Singer Sargent we were not...

John Singer Sargent "Bedouins".
A few weeks ago I took my mother the Museum of Fine Arts Houston to finally admire in person those very watercolors that as a student I tried to emulate.  My mom asked how many hours I thought it took Sargent to work on of his sketches, and I said "not hours, minutes!" I then told her the most important lesson I had learned in Piccolo's class was to "never let the water dry, never loose the light", and to achieve that one must race against time, a difficult yet beautiful medium watercolor is!  Sargent's sketches are indeed quick,wet, luminous, and marvelous!  The special exhibit stays in Houston through May 26th.

John Singer Sargent "I Gesuati".

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Monday, April 21, 2014

We've been a little busy...

I have neglected the blog as of late but I've had a very good reason: I was pregnant and now I have a gorgeous baby boy!  John Alexander was born earlier this month after a long but rewarding natural labor.  We had an amazing birthing team: my husband John, my mom, our great home birth midwife Kellie Moeller, and my dear friend turned doula Jamie Johnstad.  Little Alex has brought such joy to our lives and I can't wait to see what adventures and new places we will explore with him!

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Houston Living: "Urban Flight", 7 reasons to leave the Suburbs and move to Houston

The gardens at Bayou Bend.
Houston is a constantly evolving town and it really wasn’t that long ago when “Suburban Flight” was in full swing.  Moving companies in Sugarland, TX and surrounding suburbs were busy getting people out of the city and into new subdivisions scattered on the once pristine country side. Times have certainly changed, now it's more common to meet people who are heading back into the city. In my experience, and after countless conversations with newcomers, I've compiled a quick list of why cities, like Houston's Inner Loop, beat the suburbs when it comes to high-quality living.

1. Cut the commute. Proximity between residence, work, and entertainment is hard to come by in the sprawling landscape of Suburbia.  With gas prices continually on the rise and valuable time lost in long, traffic-heavy commutes, many adults find their quality of life - and finances - are improved by city living.

2. New Urbanism. If you read my blog you know I'm passionate about smart urban planning. As Houston continues to revitalize blighted downtown areas, create new infrastructure, invest in public transportation, and improve the local landscape, it quickly becomes a magnet for suburbanites looking to make the world a better place.

White Linen Nights in The Heights.
3.  Food, shopping: Houston is a very diverse port city, and its "Inner Loop" urban area offers the foodie a wide range of ethnic, fusion, locavore and many, many fabulous restaurants! Unlike suburban strip malls, which are loaded with big box stores, Houston neighborhoods still boast plenty of community-oriented mom-and-pop boutiques; from locally made fashions in Rice Village to Antique stores in The Heights, Houston has a something for everyone.

4.  You can walk! Suburban life involves a hefty amount of driving, and the long distances and lack of sidewalks in Houston's suburbs discourage walking or biking, forcing residents into a sedentary life.  Moving to the city means residents can often walk or bike to their destinations and enjoy the many wonderful neighborhood parks and jogging trails.

Lilly meets the neighbors.
5.  Get to know your neighbors. It's ironic, people move to the suburbs to be "safe" and then they isolate themselves in their houses without a clue about their neighbors. In our more densely populated city neighborhoods we get to meet our fellow Houstonians through afternoon walks with the dog, quick chats on the porch, or waiting in line at the local "farm-to-table" establishment. By knowing our neighbors and forming bonds we look out for one another.

6.  Entertainment. The list of things to do in Houston is endless: Museums, restaurants, live music, theaters, tours of historic homes and gardens, pottery classes, athletic activities, volunteering, you name it! Houston is rich in culture and entertainment and all this can make evenings and weekends or nights much more lively than suburban life.

7.  It's affordable...for now. Watch out! With all the focus Houston is getting from famous publications and blogs, the affordable housing opportunities may not last for long, but if you're ready to make the move, I recommend hiring a professional moving company like Sugarland movers, who know the area and will make your transition as seamless as possible. My dog Lilly and I will keep an eye out for you!


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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Pages from my journal

This morning my friend Michael Baumgarten (wonderful artist and co-owner of Seriously Mabel Greetings) invited me to attend a live figure drawing session at Archway Gallery in Montrose. It had been a long time since my last session with a model and I have to admit that I was a bit rusty. 

The session started with a very challenging motion sequence in which our model kept a continuous, slow flow of movement instead of holding poses. I felt like I was playing catch up with my pencil, struggling to at least capture his line of motion in quick gestural strokes.  After this whirlwind warm up the 1 minute sequence was such a luxury! Our model then transition to holding the poses for 5 minutes and 10 minutes, allowing us to capture details, shades, and shadows.

Archway Gallery holds live figure drawing sessions regularly, visit their site for more information:

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

From Russia with love

It's cold in Houston, really cold (38 degrees kind of cold!), and what a better way to spend a cold Sunday afternoon than to wander the halls of the Museum of Natural Science.  The Museum has been recently renovated and new exhibits have been added; there is an expanded dinosaur hall and a wonderful Egyptian room (dark, cavernous, and full of treasures).  There are also several traveling exhibits: the Cave Paintings at Lascaux (which earlier this year I saw at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago and I greatly recommend), Gemstone Carvings, and Faberge: A Brilliant Vision. 
I found the Faberge exhibit terribly appropriate for this time of year, a whole portion of it is dedicated to work that Faberge created for the Nobel brothers (as in Nobel prize Nobel) and which contains gorgeous diamond pieces in the shape of snow flakes.

There were also several cigarette cases and "presentation" boxes depicting beautiful scenes of Father Christmas and Old Man Winter (again, very appropriate!)

And of course, also included in the exhibit, the famous eggs and many, many sparkling beauties! 

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Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Spanish Revival, San Antonio edition


I love visiting San Antonio, a charming city full of history and tradition, part Spanish, part Victorian, part German, and wholly Texan.  Most people who visit San Antonio head straight for a stroll along the River Walk and a photo op at the nearby Alamo, but San Antonio de Bexar has a lot to offer; having been there and done that, John and I now prefer to spend our time in San Antonio doing "architectural tourism" and eating at quaint neighborhood cafes  in the King William neighborhood - we recommend Mad Hatters for breakfast and Azuca for a Latin fusion dinner and live salsa music and dancing.
In this trip we joined other visiting Houstonian friends, Landscape Architects Frank Brown and Mark Scioneaux, and had the opportunity to explore the city from a garden point of view, stopping along the way for Frank to take pictures of exotic plants and intricately wrought gates.  Frank and Mark also introduced us to Alamo Heights, a beautiful neighborhood set under the shadow of centenary oaks and gently rolling hills. 


Perhaps it is nostalgia for San Antonio's colonial past or simply a compliance with 1920's architectural fashion, but Alamo Heights is heavily populated with Spanish Revival houses, the kind of lovely buildings with idealized geometries that exist not in Andalucía but in the imagination of architect Addison Mizner and Maurice Fatio. Here are some of favorite, including the McNay Art Museum, former residence of oil heiress Marion Koogler McNay:
House in Alamo Heights, San Antonio, Texas
House in Alamo Heights, San Antonio, Texas.
The McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas.
Link to McNay Art Museum full photo album:
McNay Art Museum
McNay Art Museum Slideshow:
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