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Preservation Magazine, Spring 2017

Life in a Former Potato Chip Company Headquarters

Former Dentler Maid Potato Chip Building, built in 1923
Houston
Interviewee: Laura Michaelides, co-owner

PERSONAL HISTORY: I love old buildings. I studied architectural history in undergrad and thought about doing a preservation career. At my company, Four Square Design Studio, most of our work revolves around the restoration of old buildings, where we do the exteriors and the interiors.

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Owners Laura and Evan Michaelides had the original windows on the front (shown) and side elevations restored.

CHIP SHOT: My husband, Evan, and I and our two children were living in The Heights, one of the few older neighborhoods here. We started looking for a workspace in the adjacent First Ward. We found an old folk Queen Anne cottage and restored it to use as Four Square Design Studio’s office.

The building across the street from the cottage was built in 1923. The first floor was most likely used as a store to sell chips, pickles, mayonnaise, and other comestibles. Upstairs was where the family lived. In the back there had been outbuildings where they made the potato chips.

The people who owned the building only wanted to sell to people who weren’t going to tear it down. We had been admiring it for years and years. [Eventually] we bought it.

WORK AND LIFE: We were trying to think of what we should do with it, and our daughter said, “We should live there!” We thought how great it would be to live across the street from the office. What started as this fantasy ended up being a huge project. It took about a year of planning and a year and a half of construction; we finished in 2016.

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A friend of the couple found an old Dentler Maid Potato Chips can on eBay; it's now a treasured part of the home's decor.

FAVORITE DETAIL: Many of our contractor’s crewmembers were raised in Mexico, and they knew old plasterwork, which is kind of a dying art, at least in Houston. So we did the stairwell as an homage to what was there originally. The restored plaster was so beautiful that we didn’t paint it. It’s my favorite space in the house. I love how it feels old and new at the same time.

Meghan Drueding is the managing editor of Preservation magazine. She has a weakness for Midcentury Modernism, walkable cities, and coffee table books about architecture and design.

@mdrueding

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