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The Architect Next Door

Natalye Appel, FAIA, (second from left) in her Houston office with the firm’s core team of Donna Kacmar, FAIA; Stephanie Millet, AIA; and Megan Sheffy. Danny Samuels, FAIA, of Taft Architects, is a frequent collaborator.


by Canan Yetmen

Wedged between a barbecue joint and a warehouse in Houston’s University Place neighborhood is a trim little white house that is a remnant of the area’s past but also, in its way, a beacon of its future. When Natalye Appel, FAIA, bought the bungalow for her office some 15 years ago, it was a perfect fit for a career that is fueled by the city’s energy and the abundant creativity of its people. Appel founded Natalye Appel + Associates Architects in 1987 — the same year she earned her license — by taking what she calls a “leap over the edge,” with a general goal of contributing to and drawing from the Bayou City’s physical and emotional diversity. She was also teaching, first at Texas A&M University; then commuting to The University of Texas at Austin, sometimes via three-times-a-week Southwest Airlines trips. Her firm began with a single project — a beach house for her parents — that went

on to earn design accolades and receive national coverage. Next thing she knew, Appel had a firm supported by a handful of small projects. Appel’s first office was an un-air-conditioned space in a warehouse, surrounded by artists and creators. She thrived in the studio environment and sought to bring that energy to her firm, hiring students part time to fill in the gaps on projects. When she upgraded to a climatecontrolled office in the River Oaks Shopping Center, architects Walter Murphy, AIA, and Kirby Mears, AIA, had already moved their new firm there, as did Rogers Labarthe and other architects, landscape architect James Burnett, and graphic designer Craig Minor. “We all sat in our new offices getting our acts together at the same time,” Appel said. “It was a fun environment.” This lucky stroke of co-location sparked collaborations, including townhouses for James

11/12 2015

Texas Architect 87

(Preview) Texas Architect November/December 2015: Edges  

This issue focuses on Edges in architecture and landscape architecture: the definitions, separations, juxtapositions, gateways, and connecti...

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