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Carla Jordan | Photo: Stephen Karlisch | April 9, 2013
Architects Jason and Signe Smith make two worlds meet beneath one stylish roof.
Chris loves European Modern, Kelly’s into Texas Hill Country. At first glance, these homeowners are not a match made in style heaven... unless you’re Jason and Signe Smith, an architect team with a knack for finding common ground where little appears to exist, then using it as a catalyst for design.
“How to make two very different design points of view work in the context of real family life for a couple with two young boys and a lively dog was our challenge,” says Jason. “However, once we started brainstorming with Chris and Kelly, it became clear they were on the same page about the overall concept, and that’s what counts. We knew that everything else would work itself out as the design plan took shape.”
The homeowners agreed that their existing 1940s ranch-style house needed to go. It had plenty of character and charm but was short on space and amenities, and didn’t showcase the wonderful array of mature trees on the lot. “Our goal was to create a modern, yet warm structure—not one of those all-white spaceship houses,” says Kelly. “We wanted natural and local materials; plus, colors that exploited the views of the trees. The house needed to feel as easy to live outside as indoors and be family-friendly, so using materials that would stand up to everyday wear and tear was important,” she says.
“Because the clients really wanted to save the trees,” says Jason, “we designed a low-slung, two-story 4,700-square-foot structure that weaves in and around them. For example, the roof near the dining room was notched to accommodate a particularly bended branch of a red oak.” By adapting the architecture to nature, 11 of the 14 trees were saved and because the house is sited at a 30-degree angle on the rectangular lot, the view seems never-ending and is more about the trees surrounding it than neighboring houses.
The facade combines rough and smooth-finish Texas Lueders limestone, Douglas fir, stucco and glass. This wraps the home in textural contrast and gives hint to the unexpected mix of modern and Texas Hill Country elements used elsewhere—a look that makes this home a standout amidst others of its kind.
To highlight decor and draw the eye outward to the trees, a neutral color palette was paired with a limited number of materials. “We looked for timeless, long-lasting, humble materials that we could elevate through design,” says Jason. Making the cut? White oak flooring—its natural cream color pairs well with limestone and the greenery outside. Walnut cabinets in the master suite, kitchen and wine cellar deliver a warm contrast to flooring, both in color and grain, but do so subtly. Painted cabinets in secondary areas are durable and easy to maintain. Exposed pine wood beams and Lueders limestone bridge the gap between contemporary and country.
This streamlined approach was also a clever way to layer individual design preferences and create more common ground between the couple. Chris loves the precision of the glass and the subtlety of the coursing in the horizontally proportioned stone. Kelly’s drawn to the natural materials, their soft hues and variety of texture, and how they provide interest without busyness. Both love the sprawling yet efficient floor plan that allows family and guests to spend time together or off by themselves without feeling crowded.
Once the interior plan was set, attention turned to the backyard, which was a particular focus for the homeowners. “Chris and Kelly wanted a great outdoor living space that accommodated their young boys’ inexhaustible energy and delivered the effortless outdoor lifestyle they’d experienced during stays at Mexican beach resorts,” says Jason. “So we designed a patio that’s a modern take on the traditional Texas porch and a nod to Kelly’s love for Texas Hill Country.” The patio has living, dining and cooking areas to host everything from kids’ ball team parties to elegant dinner gatherings.
“The outdoor area is a favorite of ours. We use the outdoor kitchen several times a week. Chris and the boys love turning on both TVs and watching football while throwing the ball around in the backyard,” adds Kelly. What began as a clash in style led to the creation of a home that’s warm, sophisticated and family-friendly. “We’ve had several people say that our house makes them feel like they’re on vacation, staying at a fabulous resort,” says Kelly. Isn’t that how every home should feel?