Nikou & Travis’ Modern, Minimal Marfa-Inspired Apartment

published Mar 3, 2016
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(Image credit: Katy Cartland)

Name: Nikou and Travis McCarra, their sons, Kian and Zayn, and WIFI the Dog
Location: Houston, Texas
Size: 1,550 square feet
Years lived in: 3 years; Owned

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Nikou and Travis met in architecture school at the University of Houston many years ago—first came love of design, then came marriage. Now they co-own McCarra Creative, a “multi-disciplinary design studio focused on branding, web, print, and 3D.” The couple married in 2012 in Marfa, Texas, and quickly put their lofty knowledge to use by investing in property in Midtown Houston and building a four-unit (two duplexes) apartment complex designed to house anyone from the new nuclear family to the perfect roommate situation.

(Image credit: Katy Cartland)

The apartments in the intimate complex are practically identical and perfectly designed because they were made with the McCarras’ own needs and tastes in mind: minimalism, openness, ample amounts of natural light, and supreme functionality. In addition to all of those key elements, a shrewd budget also played a major role in getting the most out of their property.

When Nikou and Travis were building their complex, they knew they would soon be starting a family. Since building Ruthven Place, as they so lovingly dubbed it, they have had two sons: Kian, almost two, and Zayn, just three months old. Their apartment has held true to their design goals: a home big and open enough to house a whole family but also just compartmentalized enough to give that oh-so-needed space at the end of the day.

The entire living, dining and kitchen area is open, so most of the goings-on in their household are done in this open space. The bedrooms are cleverly spaced apart, with the master bedroom on the opposite end of the apartment from the second and third bedrooms. In between each room is an ample amount of wall space, a laundry closet, and a backyard balcony that leads down into a common outdoor area that all the units share—the perfect combination of community and privacy.

(Image credit: Katy Cartland)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Minimalist

Inspiration: The inspiration for the building came from the surrounding neighborhood. We purchased two lots in the historic Fourth Ward. The project consists of two duplexes located in Houston’s historic Fourth Ward on Ruthven Street, therefore nicknamed Ruthven Place.

The Fourth Ward emerged as Houston’s most prominent African-American neighborhood when thousands of freed slaves built homes there after emancipation. The core of the community remains dominated by historic Victorian, bungalow, and shotgun style homes. Ruthven Place honors these historic forms of architecture.

Alternatively, Ruthven Place offers a rental option set apart from the traditional large-unit rental model that so many Houstonians are used to seeing. You get the best of both worlds: downtown chic and a palpable sense of history at the same time.

Favorite Element: The ceilings

Biggest Challenge: The construction

What Friends Say: Dang.

Proudest DIY: The entire construction process.

Biggest Indulgence: Garza Marfa Chair

Dream Sources: Marfa Minimalism



  • All walls: Sherwin-Williams Rhinestone
(Image credit: Katy Cartland)


  • Credenza: found at jewelry store closing for $100
  • Steer skull: Fredericksburg, Texas
(Image credit: Katy Cartland)


(Image credit: Katy Cartland)


  • Table: Macy’s
  • Chairs: Herman Miller
  • Bench: Macy’s
(Image credit: Katy Cartland)


  • Kitchen: IKEA
(Image credit: Katy Cartland)


  • Mirror: IKEA
  • Yellow rocker: Herman Miller
  • Bed: Crate & Barrel
  • Nightstands: West Elm
  • Lamps: West Elm
  • Wall hanging: from trip to India
(Image credit: Katy Cartland)


  • Baby furniture: IKEA
  • Mobile: a gift from Paris
  • Wall pegs: Amanda Medsger
  • Floor pouf: Crate & Barrel
(Image credit: Katy Cartland)


  • Tiles: IKEA
  • Installments: IKEA
(Image credit: Katy Cartland)


  • Furniture: mostly vintage

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Thanks, Nikou & Travis!