Ima Hogg, a collector of American antiques, and architect John Staub collaborated on the mansion's design, combining elements from southern plantations, the Spanish creole architecture of Louisiana, and 18th century Georgian architecture. Construction on the mansion, intended to showcase Hogg's collection and serve as a residence for Hogg and her brothers, William and Michael, began in 1927. The decoration, layout, and color scheme of the Bayou Bend's 27 rooms challenged Hogg's and Staub's combined creative efforts, with no detail too small for consideration. Hogg's private rooms include woodwork and a mantel from 18th century houses in Ipswich and Salem, Massachusetts. The floors are wide, hand-hewn planks re-purposed from old houses along the eastern seaboard. The house was completed in 1928, but by 1930, Hogg was the sole resident due to William's untimely death and Michael's marriage.
The 14 acres surrounding Bayou Bend also fell under its mistress's critical eye. Hogg planted several formal gardens around the house, each with a different theme. The cultivated landscapes contain grass terraces, flowering plants, hedges, trees, statues, and fountains, creating a picturesque country ambiance despite the proximity to downtown Houston. Hogg took great pleasure in planning and caring for her gardens; however, in 1961 the River Oaks Garden Club assumed responsibility for their maintenance.
Hogg donated the house and surrounding property to the Houston Museum of Fine Arts in 1957, despite lawsuits from several residents of the River Oaks neighborhood who objected to opening the property to the public. A footbridge was built over Buffalo Bayou to address neighbors' concerns about increased traffic. Hogg moved out of the house in 1965 and the collection opened in 1966. When asked about Bayou Bend, Hogg said, "While I shall always love Bayou Bend and everything there, in one sense I have always considered I was only holding my collection in trust." Hogg continued adding to the Bayou Bend collection until her death in 1975.
The home and gardens are open year-round except on Mondays and holidays. Inside the home, visitors will find over 4,700 pieces dating from 1620 through 1870. The grounds are also home to the Lora Jean Kilroy Visitor and Education Center, which houses an orientation center, an exhibit about the Hogg family, meeting rooms, and the Kitty King Powell Library and Study Center. Comprised of over 9,000 volumes, the non-circulating Powell library collection is open to the public and includes the Hogg Family Collection of books along with works about American art, periodical volumes, and auction catalogs.
The Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens welcomes thousands of guests annually and provides several guided and unguided tours of the property and grounds. In 1973, the Texas Historical Commission placed a marker on the site and, in 1979, Bayou Bend was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In 1999, the City of Houston designated the property an official Houston landmark.