At first glance, Monk White and Pamela Scheffey White’s Preston Hollow home feels like a time and place apart from the modernist mansions surrounding it. Part Mexican hacienda, part Italian villa, the space draws in the visitor from the moment they open the pineapple-adorned front door and stroll into its intensely personal environs.
Inside is a layered collection of art and travel mementos—a cavalcade of discoveries gathered around the globe during the duo’s 43 years of marriage. A matador’s suit of lights hangs on the kitchen wall, while Majolican pottery adorns a cabinet in the dining room next to a cage filled with colorful parakeets. Mexican silver ashtrays line the bar across from a collection of J. Frank Dobie first editions purchased from author Larry McMurtry. Every corner is stuffed with wonderous finds, including an enviable gallery of work by friends of the Whites, including Ed Ruscha, Julie Speed, and Boyd Elder.
When Monk first spotted the remains of a burned-out mansion, he couldn’t have imagined it would someday become such a reflection of the couple who resided in it. Initially purchased for under $300,000, he could only save one bathroom, a back bedroom, and the living room fireplace from the initial construction.
“When I bought the place, I was just buying the land and the footprint, and I was able to buy it because it was in a flood plain,” recalls the 80-year-old Monk. “I had to build on this slab, and Cici Campbell was the builder, and Nick Glazbrook was the architect. I said I wanted thick walls and tile floors, and I wanted it to be completely open. I don’t know why 40-something years ago I loved openness, but of course, today it’s everywhere.”
Monk relied on friends like Cosmic Cowboy Bob “Daddy-O” Wade to help add accents like the ornate arches that divide the rooms. Hard Rock Cafe founder Isaac Tigrett designed the “Indian guru” in gilded tile that adorns the pool floor.
But Pam’s deft touch is what made the 5,200-square-foot house a home. Her quizzical mind and quick wit gave her a collector’s eye as the Whites traversed the globe. The pair explored from Cuba and Mexico to Italy, France, and Spain, gathering rare treasures of mixed provenance along the way. Each piece was sourced not for its value but for the enjoyment it gave the Whites to look upon it.
“Pam did all the collecting,” says Monk. “She was a curator mentally in her head; she just saw things and said, ‘This goes here.’ We went all over the world and grabbed things we loved. And, if she loved something, I would never turn her down.”
An investment broker at Morgan Stanley, Monk was a self-described “bad boy” when he met his future second wife at a concert he was underwriting in Paris, Texas. Although the event wasn’t a financial success, he spotted “the most beautiful girl you’ve ever seen” in the crowd, persuading his friend to give him her number. Divorced at the time, Pam agreed to join him for a burger, and the rest was history.
“We started dating, and we dated for five years. That’s when this house was being built, and that’s when we realized it was time to get married in the backyard. It was the simple thing to do, and—needless to say—Pam wanted to show the house off,” Monk recalls. “We ended up with a tremendous number of friends, and we rocked and rolled a lot.”
Designed with plenty of bedrooms to hold the couple’s four children (Alex and Tina on Pam’s side and Liza and Quen on Monk’s), the completed house was finished with custom details and accents the Whites found at estate sales. A tile roof and bathroom fixtures were sourced from the Urshel mansion in San Antonio, while a spa-like couple’s bathroom was designed so the duo could step down into the tiled tub and “just bubble away.”
Although Pam passed away in June 2021, her presence and taste still abound. Monk has constructed an altar of photographs in the dining room honoring her, and the tree where they were married in the backyard is where he eventually plans to spread some of her ashes. These mementos don’t make him feel sad but instead fill him with pride for the beautiful life they built together.
“Every day you wake up, and it’s like paradise,” he says. “It’s reassuring, it’s good. I know what we created together, and it gives me comfort. When I see something like that”—he says, gesturing to a painting on the wall—“it doesn’t make me sad. It’s like a story, a living scrapbook. You look back on it, and you smile.”