A touch of Europe in Houston, Texas
I haven’t been to many hotels that transport me to a whole other world, but staying at La Colombe d’Or is like stepping out of Houston’s charming Montrose neighborhood and into a stunning art gallery in France. It even bears the name of an iconic century-old French art hotel. Originally built in 1923 as a mansion for a Texas oil baron, this 32-suite Houston boutique property retains an opulent yet welcoming atmosphere: Enter the lobby and find a grand piano, textured hardwood floors and a spiral staircase with an ornately patterned runner and gilded stair rods. The approximately 400 works of international art that adorn the property come from the private collections of the father-son team at the head of La Colombe d’Or, Steve and Dan Zimmerman.
On the hotel porch, Steve, reclining in a rocking chair, tells me that his genesis as an art collector dates back to the 1960s, when he began dating a woman who worked in the art world. ‘art. “We were invited to parties with Andy Warhol and Max Ernst and I didn’t want to be a jerk, so I started attending college classes,” he says. “The first piece I bought, I paid $600 and thought I was going to have a conniption. But it just hooked me. Since then, Steve, a now retired trial attorney, traveled all over the world, acquiring art.
“Are you traveling to look for him? I ask.
“I’m pretty sure he looks like me,” he said, sipping his white wine.
Throughout the hotel, you can often tell which rooms are his and which are his son’s because Steve loves the classics, including impressionist paintings and 19th century marble carvings, while Dan gravitates towards contemporary works, including a piece by Richard Hambleton (of Shadow Man fame) and the large-scale stenciled mural on the side of the building, Last Tango, a black and white rendering of two tango dancers by French street artist Blek Le Rat. But the Zimmermans appreciate each other’s tastes and approve of most of what the other acquires. “If he likes something and I don’t, he can buy it,” Dan tells me. “If I like something and he doesn’t like it, I can buy it.”
The rest of us are just glad they’re buying because there’s nothing quite like staying in a hotel and an art gallery in one. You could spend your entire trip browsing the Zimmermans’ collections and you probably wouldn’t get everything. Not to mention all the other art you’ll see, as the hotel is right in the middle of Houston’s most art-friendly neighborhood: Montrose is home to numerous galleries, the Rothko Chapel, and the Menil Collection. Strolling through this trendy district, passing through the galleries and museums, is to come face to face with Magritte, Rothkos and Dalís, rub shoulders with contemporary Japanese pop artists or the most important artists working today in Latin America.
Besides the art, La Colombe d’Or offers one of the city’s best fine dining restaurants, Tonight & Tomorrow – its European coastal menu highlights locally sourced seasonal ingredients, and the crab ravigote is a must. not to be missed – as well as a truly cool cocktail bar, Bar No. 3, where casual and elegant vibe meets delicious craft cocktails and upscale bar snacks; and a rooftop pool with great downtown views.
This is not the best time to go to Europe; the pandemic is still raging, after all. But now is the best time to go to Houston and immerse yourself in art and eat great food and drink great drinks and enjoy the truly unique experience that is Hotel La Colombe d’Or.