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By Tate Gunnerson | Photo: by Mariella and Luis Ayala | January 26, 2018
After outgrowing their town house, a professional couple with three young children commission studioMET Architects to design and build their new, far more modern abode.
Some houses announce themselves boldly, the architecture designed to impress passers-by. Others are more subtle, reserving their most noteworthy features for insiders. Architect Shawn Gottschalk and project designer Florence Tang of Houston-based studioMET took the latter approach when they designed a five-bedroom abode for a couple, both physicians, with three young children. “They wanted the house to be a bit more private and introverted, so the front facade is discreet,” Gottschalk explains. “In the back, it all opens up.”
A custom slotted steel entry gate offers visitors a peek at the serene entry sequence, which features modern quartzite-clad pavers that appear to float over a softly trickling water feature done in jet black. A long limestone wall completes the picture. “We used a sleek, beautiful material for the reflection pond,” Tang says, noting that they chose the deepest, darkest black they could find. “There’s a play on contrast throughout.”
The entry corridor’s dropped wood ceiling adds warmth and also compresses the space—an architectural technique that makes the lofted 22-foot ceiling in the main living areas just inside look that much more dramatic by comparison. “When you enter, there’s a grand sense of space that stops people in their tracks,” the husband says. “It takes your breath away.”
Indeed, the massive great room has been outfitted with wood ceilings that breach the building envelope to become exterior soffits. “There’s a very strong connection between the interior and exterior,” Gottschalk says, noting that the foyer’s limestone wall also continues into the entry corridor, where it contains an illuminated wooden display niche; the fireplace wall likewise flows from inside to out.
Situated at one end of the cavernous space, the monolithic stone fireplace defines a beautiful sitting area furnished with a sofa and two chairs covered in neutral fabrics around a sleek cocktail table. A pair of tufted ottomans provide additional seating that can easily be moved around during the family’s many soirees. “The space is formal,” Gottschalk says, “but it’s also comfortable for everyday living, so it doesn’t feel like a museum.”
The same is true in the kitchen, where two large islands—one in white marble, the other in black weathered granite—offer plenty of preparation space and seating. A bank of cabinetry along one wall conceals storage and a second working kitchen. “The main kitchen is designed to be the showpiece and a beautiful place to receive guests,” Tang says. “When they have functions, they have a second area for all the prep and cooking.”
Illuminated by a whimsical chandelier, and surrounded by a curved banquette and a set of midcentury-modern chairs, a breakfast table is ideal for quick meals and also takes advantage of the lovely backyard views. When the sliding glass doors are open, the sound of the fountain helps drown out the traffic noise while olive trees play the same role visually, shielding the sight of a play area while creating a beautiful focal point.
From the kitchen, the parents can easily keep an eye on their children while they splash around in the pool or simply relax on the wooden tanning deck, which is completely detached from the patio area. “The property is half an acre, so there’s plenty of space for them to stretch their arms and breathe a little bit,” Gottschalk explains, pointing out an attached mother-in-law suite and a marble-clad meditation room with a floating altar.
The owners are so thrilled with the result that they have become committed homebodies, often hosting family and friends for lively dinner parties that last well into the evening. “We’re together, but at the same time, we have all this space to spread out,” the wife says. “In our former town house, it was very claustrophobic, so we would find ways to escape, but now being at home is so relaxing.”
Shawn Gottschalk, AIA,
Florence Tang, Associate AIA, project designer
High Fashion Home
All furniture, rugs and artwork in living room and master bedroom
Cooktop, vent hood, double oven, speed oven and coffee maker in kitchen
Heracleum II pendant light by Bertjan Pot in breakfast area
Refrigerator and freezer in kitchen
Backsplash in kitchen, porcelain floor tiles, Portuguese marble slabs