Project DescriptionThe clients had visited nearly every great rustic lodge in America’s National Parks, and they wanted their new house to have a similar feel. In addition, the home had to play well with the neighbors—a mix of Georgian, Mediterranean, and cottage-style houses built during the ’20s and ’30s in Houston’s Rice University district. Likewise, the house couldn’t look like a typical suburban with a big yard.
Architect Leslie Barry Davidson used several smart tactics to create a new house with a traditional feel that she calls Shaker Lodge.
By keeping the house set close to the sidewalks and back alley, Davidson maintained an urban feel. The home is clad in stucco, like others on the street, and its roof system—a combination of witch’s hat gables and a shallow hip roof at the perimeter—has wide overhangs that pull the exterior details together and help manage solar gain.
Keeping to a grand lodge style while avoiding a cavernous feeling took some doing. The cove molding throughout is a simple curve without a lot of detailing. Much of the home’s woodwork takes its cues from traditional Shaker style. Doorways lack casings, but each one has a jamb made from plantation-farmed Douglas fir, says Davidson. She acknowledges that such a soft wood isn’t practical for families with young kids, but for the empty-nester couple, it’s fine. Sheetrock surrounding door jambs and built-ins is bull-nosed, rather than a crisp, hard corner. This creates a friendly softness.
The homeowners are active empty nesters—art collectors, book lovers, and travelers—who wanted a house for friends, adult kids, and grandkids to visit. But the house needed to live like the couple wants to live. They spend most of their time in the double-height great room with clerestory windows that let light pour in.
Smart circulation spaces include hallways house bookshelves and art. The upstairs hall looks onto the great room, and it’s a cozy place to sit and read, with shutters that can be closed for privacy.
The home's custom stonework took time, money, and the right subs. But wood and stone are a great combination. (Note to production builders: increasingly, off-the-shelf products can do the job well.) For this house, builder Steve Friedman of Houston-based Pyramid Constructors hired just the right team. He adds that Davidson (“I usually find fault with architects, but she’s one in a million”) was on site every few days supervising so that costly errors were avoided.