Ann Christensen and Reagan Miller always knew there were things they’d change in their modest North Edgemont bungalow. As their three boys got older, the spaces felt more cramped, the shady front yard never quite allowed grass to grow, and their kitchen was dark and far from functional.

Miller, a partner at the Reagan & Andre architecture firm, spent his time designing grand homes for clients, and Christensen was busy, too, in her job as an English professor — and eventually the department chair — at the University of Houston. Another factor was that the frugal native Midwesterners just didn’t want to spend the money for a massive makeover.

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Today, though, Christensen walks through her home, noting how good it feels to have created a new foyer, realigned what were “jiggedy-jaggedy” doorways, reworked the kitchen and replaced a rear addition that badly needed attention. All of it marks a new beginning of sorts for the home and for Christensen, whose husband died in a plane crash four years ago.

In April 2019, Miller and landscape architects Mark Scioneaux and Marc Tellepsen flew with clients to a Hill Country ranch for an aerial look at possible work there. The pilot of the twin-engine Beechcraft airplane miscalculated the amount of fuel needed for the trip from West Houston Airport in Katy to Kerrville, about a two-hour flight. The pilot and all passengers died in the crash.

In the weeks and months after Miller’s death, Christensen, her three sons — Wilson, now 24, Sam, 22 and Elliott, who will soon turn 20 — and Miller’s work partner, Andre DeJean, operated in a grief-filled fog. Christensen leaned on messages of support and love from the Covenant Church and neighbors who organized a food train that brought meals and baked goods to the home throughout that first summer.

Christensen’s sons all played soccer, so their teammates often came through and ate the casseroles and other food that landed in their home.

“I would walk around at night crying — it was nuts. But I had a house full of kids and a huge job. Then we had COVID,” Christensen said.

She and Miller had moved to Houston separately from the Midwest; they met here as neighbors and married in 1996. They bought their bungalow, built in 1927, in 2003.

In his career — which included an early job working for architect Jay Baker — Miller designed beautiful homes in a variety of styles throughout Houston, including in Memorial, River Oaks, West University Place, Boulevard Oaks, Southampton and Montrose.

DeJean had gone to work for Miller when he was still an architecture student at the University of Houston, making physical models for the homes that Miller and his staff designed. DeJean graduated and stayed with the firm and eventually became a partner, always looking up to the mentor and father figure he placed on a pedestal. The loss hit him hard.

“I couldn’t design; my brain wasn’t working. For me, it was about finding my place without Reagan. I was going to quit and move on and do anything other than what I was doing,” DeJean said. “I fell into a hole that I couldn’t come out of and I was going to walk away from everything. Then one day I thought, I’ve got to snap out of it. It was the hardest thing.”

Taking on the renovation proved therapeutic for Christensen and for DeJean, as well as builder Jeff Sonderfan of Sonderfan Custom Homes, who’d been a friend of Miller’s for many years.

Together, they launched a plan that enclosed the bungalow’s front porch to create a better entry and demolished and rebuilt the addition on the back of the home. For many years, the addition included the bedroom suite the boys shared growing up, plus a second-story playroom that later became a painting studio for their eldest son. Now, though, that ground-floor area is Christensen’s primary bedroom suite and the upstairs playroom became a bedroom that any of her sons can use. (The two older sons have graduated and the youngest is a junior in college.)

Fairly far into the process, Christensen realized she needed help selecting paint colors, tiles and organizing the furnishings, and she turned to Ashley Beshara, a Houston Community College interior design student whom she met when they were both in the music video of a mutual friend . (Beshara is currently an intern with Laura Manchee Designs.)

Christensen’s style was definitely unfussy, but she wanted a pretty bedroom suite, and they used two shades of lavender paint, Sherwin-Williams’ “Ash Violet” in the bathroom and a lighter “Queen Lilac” in the bedroom. For the bathroom, which they enlarged, they chose a pale pink and green floor tile and white shower tile with a glaze that almost looks iridescent.

Beshara’s help really came in handy for the kitchen and bathrooms, where there are more decisions to be made than many homeowners realize.

The kitchen is now bright and roomy, with a big island for work space. Before it was choppy, with the refrigerator, sink and stove too spread out. The cabinets on the exterior wall and island are white, but Beshara and Christensen chose a cheerful yellow — Sherwin-Williams’ “Confident Yellow” — for the cabinets on the interior wall.

While the counters are topped with Caesarstone, the island is covered in more rustic reclaimed wood.

“One of the first things I said to Ashley was, ‘I’m done with brown.'” Christensen said of color choices before versus now.

During the demolition, they’d found some old wallpaper with gray and yellow, and thought yellow was the perfect color to set a new tone and hang onto a little bit of the home’s history.

The home’s sunroom, a back entry room between the kitchen and primary suite, got a makeover with William Morris’ “Acanthus Floral” wallpaper. A round table — a glass top on a wood base — sits on a big floral rug. Even though the room seems out of the way from the front of the house, Christensen said it gets used all of the time.

A nearby guest bedroom got a makeover, with a wall of built-in cabinets for the closet, and its bathroom got a beautiful makeover with black and white penny round floor tiles, emerald green shower tile and more William Morris wallpaper, the “Blackthorn” patterns in deep teal and green.

DeJean embraces the part of the home that represented Miller at his best.

“Reagan was very humble,” DeJean said. “I wanted to make sure not only that the work was done in a way that Reagan would appreciate, but it also had to be for Ann. It was an emotional experience because it’s a new home now, for a different lifestyle.”

By Gundah

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