n a ranch northwest of Houston, set amid rolling countryside and endless sky, a residence with graciously remodeled architecture and interiors honors its owners’ connection to the land. The original structure was built in the early 1980s by an oil-and-gas entrepreneur and his wife who passed it down to their two sons. More than 30 years after its construction, the brothers enlisted architect Natalye L. Appel and interior designer Sarah Eilers to update and expand the beloved home as a getaway for their families. Eilers, who joined the project after the renovation was underway, dived right into the task of reimagining the interiors while retaining a sense of family heritage. “They wanted a comfortable, modern interpretation of a ranch house,” she says.
The architect, a family friend of the clients, conceived a plan that not only added a second master suite and transformed the original garage into a bunkroom for the owners’ children but also amplified prominent features such as the cedar siding and majestic prow windows. “We opened the house up to the grand landscape and elevated the existing aesthetic,” Appel says, “moving toward a stronger ‘ranch-like’ presence more appropriate to the scale of the land.” The strategy of Appel, her project architect Donna Kacmar and project team members Stephanie Millet, Greg Ryden, Claire O’Connor and Megan Sheffy, included simplifying the roofline with Galvalume metal and replacing brick at the home’s base with stone.
To capture more natural light and open up the living spaces, the team also collaborated with builder Dale Christian of Jefferson Christian Custom Homes, Inc. to rework the kitchen, which had low-slung ceilings and lacked modern-day flow and functionality. “My brother and I realized we weren’t going to do this again,” says the owner, so they forged ahead with their desired changes to the design by blowing out walls and extending the original vaulted ceiling in the great room to the other side of the house, creating one soaring living and kitchen space. The expanded area’s scaled-up windows now frame majestic views of the 2,000-acre property, while live-edge wood kitchen shelving–fabricated by the builder from a nearby tree felled for constructionstrengthens the project’s relationship to the land.
Building upon these rustic elements, Eilers–with project designer Kiley Jackson and design assistant AileenÂ Warren–incorporated an earthy palette of reds and mossy green with accents of blue through luxurious and durable mohair and linen textiles. Inspired by the home’s bold architecture, she also brought in a mix of traditional and contemporary furnishings imparting visual weight, texture and warmth. For example, a local craftsman transformed antique industrial scales into a striking, off-balance chandelier for the dining area; custom oversize sofas match the new great room’s proportions; and a console made from tree roots in the entry “looks as if it could’ve been found in the pasture,” Eilers says.
Art further underscores the home’s sense of place, including a bull painting by Joseph Adolphe above custom game tables in the great room. Eilers collaborated with art adviser Harwood Taylor of Gremillion & Co. Fine Art to build much of the art collection, which includes a series of commissioned works depicting the property by acclaimed landscape painter Bruce Brainard, such as a large-scale piece in the entryway. “The artist came to the ranch to take photographs of the landscape and then completed six studies,” Eilers recalls. “The brothers bought them all.”
The home’s connection to the outdoors is perhaps most apparent in the new barroom-lounge area. Here, a whole corner of sliding glass walls–shaded by wide wraparound porches and generous eaves–hews an airy void in the abode, which Appel describes as having “plentiful glazing for views in all directions, with careful scaling to avoid a too-modern look.” A backlit onyx slab added to the wall “illuminates the lounge area at night,” Eilers says, “functioning as both art and a lighting element.”
The clients also relied on Eilers to create distinct looks in the two master suites. “When both brothers fell in love with the same lounge chairs, we made them different by usingÂ blue mohair on one and a smart houndstooth wool on the other,” she notes. A similar approach informed the luxurious master bathrooms, which feature mirrors with the same shape. “We used similar products” Eilers notes, “but the rooms still have very different character.”
Outside, hardscaping by Richard Dawson and Lawrence Estes of Dawson Estes, Inc., Landscape Architecture surrounds a redesigned pool and winds down to a courtyard set on the lower part of the property, where the adults can sunbathe away from splashing children and gather around a custom fire pit at night. The exterior design elements combine to create strong, simple spaces reflecting the home’s basic DNA. “When my mother visited the new place for the first time, she began crying and said, ‘You kept the house the same,’ ” the owner recalls. “It’s not the same at all, but it still feels familiar, and that’s what we were trying to do.”
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