HELEN THOMPSON: Are we really in Houston? I feel as if I've stepped into another time, another place. It's so soulful and romantic, like some centuries-old farmhouse in Tuscany.

A Texas Home Straight out of Italy - Houston - Ideas

ELEANOR CUMMINGS: That's the aesthetic — rustic Italian. But it's a brand-new house.

That almost defies belief.

That's because just about everything in here — the wood, the stone, the furniture — is old, old, old.

Pretty unusual in a city that's all about the bold and the new.

Very. A couple in their 30s live here with their three children, and what's even more unusual is that he was the one who drove the design.

Was this his dream house?

A Texas Home Straight out of Italy - Houston - Ideas

It was his obsession. His parents took him to Italy when he was a boy, and it made a big impression on him. He always knew he was going to build an Italian house and he had the wherewithal to do it in a realistic way, as it would have been done in Italy. Otherwise, it could have veered off into the oh-so-bad.

I guess that powder room mirror is a tip-off that a man might have driven the design.

He saw that window grille and had to have it, and he got the idea of retrofitting it into a mirror. I told him no woman wants to put on her lipstick looking through a grille, but I didn't win the argument. I do love the way it looks, but you'd better have a compact with you.

Did you have to import all this wood and stone from Italy?

No. We have a great resource here, Chateau Domingue, a huge warehouse and gardens full of reclaimed architectural materials. We couldn't have done it otherwise.