My Neighborhood: Garden Spot—River Oaks, Houston

Illa Gaunt

Houston is a city with world-class museums and a vibrant art scene,” says art adviser Illa Gaunt. And she would know. In addition to advising clients in cities from New York to LA, the Texas native earned a postgraduate diploma in Modern and Contemporary Art from Christie’s Education in London. “My home and office are both in River Oaks,” says Gaunt, who founded her advisory IG ART in 2015. (, 210.573.4001, Instagram_ig_art) “What I love most about the neighborhood is that it’s dynamic, with award-winning restaurants and great boutiques, but also full of charm, with historical homes, towering oak trees, and beautiful gardens filled with fragrant gardenias and jasmine.” —by Kathy Passero


Dining out? Gaunt and her family enjoy State of Grace (3258 Westheimer Rd., 832.942.5080), “a local favorite with a glamorous little oyster bar and menu that includes delicious dishes like Texas peaches served with basil pesto, burrata, and grilled bread.” For light fare, “Bebidas (2606 Edloe St., 713.554.0023) is the neighborhood coffee and smoothie shop, with healthy salads and breakfast tacos. They also have a fun seasonal to-go window that serves hot cocoa in the winter and snow cones in the summer.“ Tiny Boxwoods (3614 W. Alabama St., 713.622.4224) is a lovely bistro which shares its property with a Thompson + Hanson nursery, creating a secret garden ambience. Beyond being an urban oasis, it serves the most heavenly chocolate chip cookies.”


“It’s dynamic, with award-winning restaurants and great boutiques, but also full of charm.”

–Illa Gaunt, art adviser

Sid Mashburn

Topping the area’s roster of chic boutiques are Kick Pleat (2565 Kirby Dr., 713.528.1112), which “curates a wonderful selection of women’s clothing and accessories,” and Sid Mashburn (2515 River Oaks Blvd., 713.936.9502), “one of my favorite men’s retailers in the country.”


McClain Gallery

Gaunt’s favorite date-night spot is the historic River Oaks Theatre (2009 W. Gray St., 713.524.2175), an Art Deco gem built in 1939. “It’s a neighborhood treasure,” she says. For art enthusiasts, she recommends McClain Gallery (2242 Richmond Ave., 713.520.9988), specializing in museum-quality modern, contemporary American, and European art. “It’s a fabulous space which hosts thoughtful exhibitions.” River Oaks also boasts two historic homes that have been converted into branches of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH). Housed in a mansion dating from the 1920s, Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens (6003 Memorial Dr., 713.639.7750) showcases American furnishings, silver, ceramics, and paintings, as well as 14 acres of gardens. Rienzi (1406 Kirby Dr., 713.639.7800), a 1950s-era estate, holds a trove of European decorative arts on four acres of wooded gardens. “Both have noteworthy collections and host events throughout the year,” Gaunt says.


Color Factory

Parents hoping to inspire a passion for art in their children can check out Color Factory (3303 Kirby Dr.), a 20,000-sq.-ft. immersive art exhibit celebrating the joy of color. Other favorites include Pumpkin Park (3600 Locke Ln.), which Gaunt describes as “our neighborhood playground and the venue for many birthday parties,” and Levy Park (3801 Eastside St.), “an incredible playground, with food trucks, a dog park, and family-friendly events.” The Urban Harvest Saturday Farmers Market (2572 Buffalo Spdwy.) supports more than 70 local vendors. “We love to pick up flowers and fresh produce there on Saturday mornings.”

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