I haven’t been to many hotels that transport me to a whole other world, but to stay at La Colombe d’Or is to step out of the charming Montrose neighborhood of Houston and into a stunning art gallery in France. It’s even named after an iconic century-old French art hotel. Originally built in 1923 as a mansion for a Texas oil baron, this Houston 32-suite boutique property maintains an opulent but homey feel: Walk into the lobby and find a baby grand piano, textured hard-wood flooring, and a spiral staircase laid with a richly patterned runner and golden stair rods. The 400-some works of international fine art that adorn the property come from the private collections of the father-son team at La Colombe d’Or’s helm, Steve and Dan Zimmerman.
On the front porch of the hotel, Steve, lounging in a rocking chair, tells me that his genesis as an art collector traces back to the 1960s when he began dating a woman who worked in the art world. “We were being invited to parties with Andy Warhol and Max Ernst and I didn’t want to be a dumb-dumb, so I started sitting in on university classes,” he says. “The first piece I purchased, I paid $600 and thought I was going to have a conniption. But it just hooked me.” Since then, Steve, a now-retired trial lawyer, has traveled all over the world, acquiring art.
“You travel to look for it?” I ask.
“I’m pretty sure it looks for me,” he says, sipping his white wine.
Throughout the hotel, you can often tell which pieces are his and which are his son’s because Steve loves the classics, including Impressionist paintings and 19th-century marble sculptures, while Dan gravitates to contemporary works, including a piece by Richard Hambleton (of Shadowman fame) and the large-scale stencil mural on the side of the building, Last Tango, a black and white rendering of two tango dancers by French street artist Blek Le Rat. But the Zimmermans appreciate each other’s taste and approve of most of what the other acquire. “If he likes something and I don’t, he can buy it,” Dan tells me. “If I like something and he doesn’t, I can buy it.”
The rest of us are just glad they’re buying because there’s nothing quite like staying at a hotel and art gallery in one. You could spend your whole trip checking out the Zimmermans’ collections and you probably wouldn’t get to all of it. Not to mention all the other art you’ll see because the hotel sits smack in the middle of the most art-friendly district of Houston: Montrose is home to choose galleries, the Rothko Chapel, and the Menil Collection. To wander through this hip neighborhood, popping in and out of galleries and museums, is to come face to face with Magritte’s, Rothkos, and Dalís, alongside contemporary Japanese pop artists or the most important artists working today in Latin America.
Aside from the art, La Colombe d’Or offers one of the city’s best fine-dining restaurants, Tonight & Tomorrow—its coastal European menu highlights locally sourced seasonal ingredients, and the crab ravigote is not to be missed—as well as a truly cool cocktail bar, Bar No. 3, where moody, elegant ambiance meets delicious craft cocktails and upscale bar snacks; and a rooftop pool backdropped by a magnificent view of Downtown.
It’s not the best time to go to Europe; the pandemic is still raging, after all. But it is the best time to go to Houston and immerse in art and eat good food and drink great drinks and enjoy the truly unique experience that is La Colombe d’Or Hotel.