● By Kirby Tello
By: Kirby Tello Photos by: Jason Page
Just off bustling Ocean Drive, tucked into secluded Tanglewood Drive, is the stellar estate of Mary Margaret Ara, M.D., Reagan Sahadi, Esq., and their two young boys. The home exudes a stately presence, notable even upon pulling into the driveway. From such a dramatic entry, one might be inclined to think this is the type of home in which your mother tells you to remove your shoes and to refrain from touching anything in case it breaks. Except, in this household, that could not be further from reality.
While preparing to interview and photograph Dr. Ara’s home for this feature, our team was warned that getting to her home might be a little “tricky,” and that Google Maps may not serve us correctly when trying to find the location. Since a good majority of our team are digital natives, we obviously did not heed this advice, and on the afternoon of our scheduled meeting, one by one, each of us dialed Dr. Ara’s mobile phone asking for directions. After a ring or two, she answered the phone with the warmest hello and an endearing giggle as she guided us to her home. Each of us was unaware that she had just answered two phone calls before ours, shepherding our media herd down Ocean Drive and along the tucked-away side trail leading to her home.
The house was built in 1971, prior to Hurricane Celia. The stunning angular design of the exterior is a remnant from the mid-century design aesthetic that began in the 1960s and is still heavily coveted in home styling today. With great care and attention to detail, the modernism introduced to American suburbs post-war is preserved throughout, and the home is curated to look like it comes straight from a magazine (which it now does.) All kidding aside, this beautiful structure embodies something that transcends these pages – this home has a soul.
From all the main pieces such as tables, couches, and chairs to every little accent item, not only was the design well thought out, but every design choice comes from a place of love. As we walk through her home chatting about this lamp and that rug, Dr. Ara reveals a story behind nearly every piece we point to in awe. She looks at the pieces in her home with a proud look and begins to tell each individual origin story.
We begin in the massive foyer, where a muted abstract canvas specially commissioned for Ara adorns the main wall. Its black and gray base is accented with strokes of gold, in a precursor to the overall design inspiration for the home. On the black curio beneath the painting sits a special statue of a Native American chief, who is laid back and has just cracked open a cold one. “I saw this piece in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on a trip my husband and I took back in early 2018. I thought it was hilarious. Here is this dignified man, looking very serious, but he’s just there, sitting back, enjoying life.” Fast forward a few months and Sahadi had orchestrated a special delivery of the piece that delighted Ara, who found the package underneath the family Christmas tree. “I don’t know how he did it,” Ara exclaims. “This thing is so big and heavy, and when I saw the unmarked box a few weeks before Christmas I thought, ‘It can’t be jewelry.’”
We make our way into the formal living room, where Ara explains that its inspiration was birthed when she first saw the Kerman rug accented with hints of purple at Kaskas Oriental Rugs in Austin. A common theme seen throughout the house, various rooms began with just one item – a rug, a pillow, an art piece – and the rest of the décor followed after and in line with the original piece’s elements.
She fell in love with the broad color palette in the textile of the rug and its asymmetrical knot-on cotton foundation. The strength of the fibers makes the rug durable and abrasion-resistant, which is a welcome added benefit when there are two young boys around. Nearly every room in Ara’s home is graced with a Kerman-style rug.
Her use of the lattice-patterned rugs adds soft contrast to the distinctive sharp lines that are characteristic of the home’s original architecture. Custom pillows, piping and all, have been commissioned to coordinate perfectly with the rugs and artwork that make up the décor in each room.
In areas where the eye isn’t immediately drawn to a Kerman, the focal point is the custom hardwood floors. In fierce commitment to dress her home with local designs, all the woodwork has been done by Cory Hooper, owner of All Custom Wood Floors, Inc. here in the Coastal Bend.
The open floor plan allows us to move seamlessly from the living room to the study where the wall-to-wall built-in bookshelf houses volumes honoring Texas history, collectibles from travels, and a myriad of family photos. Even the layout of accent pieces in the bookshelf has a geometric quality that continues the sleek, very smart quality to the space.
Many of the larger furniture pieces – i.e., sitting areas, the main dining table, accent tables, and chairs – are from or inspired by Restoration Hardware. And while many pieces have been custom-made to complement the major furniture selections, Dr. Ara can find design inspiration from just about anywhere.
“I start by looking online to get an idea of how I want a room to look,” says Ara. “From there, I get the big pieces and then start to piece together everything else around it.” She has gone as far as La Grange and even Round Top, Texas, to hunt down antiques at the Original Round Top Antiques Fair.
Now, I promised I wouldn’t give away all her design procurement secrets, but I will say this: Dr. Ara knows the art of design that “goes together,” which doesn’t necessarily mean everything has to “match.” I’m sure if you bump into her and are eager to know how she does it, this incredibly approachable and hospitable woman may drop a few of her tips.
The most stunning and iconic piece in the home resides in the family living room, perched along the custom gold-flecked rice paper wallpaper. It is a painting of Abraham Lincoln made exclusively for the Sahadi family by Louisiana-based artist Ashley Longshore. Fitting with the common thread of purple and gold throughout the home, the custom Longshore uses the colors and flair that are a nod to one of the family’s most beloved getaways – New Orleans.
Walking through the Sahadi home, it is hard to find only a handful of unique showstoppers to profile here. I can barely let Dr. Ara finish answering my previous question without cutting her off by saying, “Okay, but what about this?” and pointing to the next interesting find. For example, there is a rack for pots and pans hanging in the oversized galley kitchen (which she has plans to soon renovate into an expansive open floor concept) scored from 2nd Street in New York City. One can’t help but stroll through the home in complete awe. With every turn comes a different stunning accent piece or article of furniture that begs your attention – luring you in to find out more.
The artwork in the formal dining room is from a Lebanese artist and was gifted to the family by Sahadi’s mother; it’s particularly special since it is a piece of their family heritage. Not to mention the floor-to-ceiling windows lining the entire exterior of the home facing the backyard area and pool. There are numerous areas like this, ones worth pointing out and dissecting. Every element in the home comes together to create this modern masterpiece, one that is certainly a breath of fresh air.
In the days of frantic Marie Kondo tidying up by ridding ourselves of items that don’t add value to our lives, I can’t find a single item within these walls that does not “spark joy.” The home itself has this sense of joy exuding from within its walls – making this home not only remarkable to look at but brings in a level of warmth and hospitality to all who enter.