Hidden Gem

Nestled inside a manicured greenbelt in Northwood Hills, architect Fred Roberts designed an elegant and expansive home suited for his growing family.

A back view of the house showcases its long, linear configuration, ideal for creating a large outdoor terrace on the backside. An outdoor room is accessed by grassy steps that create an architectural focal point by dramatically spanning the width of the house.

Busy days are par for the course for Fred and Jacque Roberts. As an architect for large commercial projects coast to coast, Fred is always on the go. So is Jacque, who multitasks as a homemaker, temple volunteer, mom and on-call nanny relief to two lively grandkids under the age of four. So when the couple decided to leave their Hockaday Square home for one better-suited to their expanding family (son, daughter and two dogs, plus two grandkids, with two more on the way!), they built a calm, contemporary home in Northwood Hills.

With large lots filled with mature trees and easy access to all Dallas has to offer, Northwood Hills is “one of the city’s best kept secrets and quite special,” says Fred. The lot the couple selected was too, with a creek running along the back of the property and so many trees that surrounding homes were hidden from view. On it was a 6,000-square-foot Leave It to Beaver home, expanded over the years in a rambling fashion, while its once all-encompassing vista shrank as surrounding land was developed. By then, the house also needed lots of updates to meet today’s standards, so the decision was made to bulldoze, then build.

Fred chose to design the home. Although this was his first foray into residential, his experience as a commercial designer, plus years of studying houses, eased the transition. He and Jacque opted for a late 20th century modern look that contrasts with, and thus emphasizes, its nature-filled surroundings. The crisp white stucco exterior of their 5,500-square-foot abode pops brilliantly against verdant landscaping, while its sculptural silhouette keeps the overall feel quite organic.

Abundant natural light was high on their must-have list. The lot size was perfect for that, as it allowed for a long linear home where sunlight reaches back walls and bathes most rooms in light. This creates architectural interest from shade and shadows, as light moves across the house and serves as an artful conduit between the interior and exterior. “Broad expanses of glass are broken up with numerous individual windows,” adds Fred. “Each window is like its own picture frame into, and out of, the house.”

Joanie Wyll & Associates designed the frosted glass and stainless steel light, which recently won the Dallas Chapter’s ASID Design Ovation award. The mahogany dining table from William & Wesley has a high-gloss red finish that pops against the neutral palette of the space. The Mies Van der Rohe chairs are from Gordon International.

Unexpected touches add wow, illustrating Fred’s flair for giving commercial design trends a residential spin. There’s a 27-foot-high staircase with LED-lit glass treads. It’s showy-chic and very Texas, because its central spine was crafted from an oil field drilling rig. Dramatic side-by-side ceiling height shifts (up to 27 feet, down to 11 feet) trick the eye, creating a visual rush between grandness and intimacy. A splashy tiled shower tower transforms the master bath into a stunning home spa.

To create the relaxing interiors (“I wanted to feel like I was on vacation every day,” Jacque says), the homeowners turned to Joanie Wyll, a Dallas designer and childhood friend of Fred’s. “Joanie and I were in a junior high carpool but lost track of each other over the years,” says Fred. “While designing the house, we saw an article about Joanie’s work, and we were attracted by her design vocabulary and wonderful sense of color, based on the idea that subtle colors can span time and still bring a house to life.”

Wyll suggested a neutral color palette because it’s soothing, yet easy to create drama by mixing tones, shades and texture. Walls were painted white to keep the architecture front and center. “Just the right dose of texture and pattern [was] layered in with fabrics and rugs, to warm rooms and add contrast to slick surfaces like the polished concrete floor and cabinetry without detracting from the home’s sleekness,” says Wyll. “Glossy piano finishes were used on cabinetry and furniture to add contrast, depth and durability.”

When furnishing the interiors, Wyll basically started with a clean slate except for four pieces: a Thonet bentwood rocker; Eames chair and ottoman; and Jacque’s grandmother’s desk.

The homeowners also requested that a classic modern piece be included in each room and that window treatments be confined to bedrooms only. To reconcile the more grand architectural elements with intimate family living, furniture and rugs were grouped.

Throughout, there is a sense of harmony and peace that the homeowners feel, as their family and friends do too. “Mouths sort of drop because people can’t believe this beautiful location exists,” says Jacque. “Many have remarked that they feel as if they’ve left the city and are on vacation or a cruise.” And Fred? “Driving up to the house after a hectic day at work, I raise my imaginary drawbridge and enter a whole different world.”

DESIGN DETAILS

Residence
Single-family

Location
Dallas

Architect
Fred Roberts, AIA
HKS, Inc.

Designer
Joanie Wyll

Vendors
Holland Marble
Granite for fireplace hearth and kitchen countertops

Oceanside Glasstile
Master bath shower tower tile

Walker Zanger
Master bathroom floor tile

William & Wesley
Custom furnishings throughout