What’s turning heads in Bluffview? A native Texan looker called Leuters limestone.
“We love all the light, love the stone. The pervading stone wall is almost a work of art in itself—every piece of stone is different, and the light hits it differently. It’s my favorite feature. And the glass, and the trees.”
– Susan Hawkins
A modern take on not-so-empty-nesting spawned a grand collaboration that paired architect with like-minded architect—sans any shred of warring egos. Emerging instead were some ultra-sleek sustainability concepts, leading-edge use of natural and native materials, and a home that’s far from the typical scaled-back version of an outgrown family dwelling. It’s a showplace that exudes Texas modern style architectural design, nestled deep in the heart of Bluffview. And a massive stone wall runs through it.
Homeowners Ralph and Susan Hawkins’ goals were clearly defined. They wanted a house accommodating of their individual and shared lifestyles suitable for entertaining groups large and small, including one-on-one dates with grandson Logan and any more to come. They were also determined that the lot’s natural features play favorably into the home’s design and energy demands. As CEO of architectural firm HKS, Inc., Ralph drew on his own expertise and assembled a team that included Residential architect Steve Chambers, a former HKS colleague who had developed a residential design practice of his own.
The two architects had remained in touch, Hawkins duly aware of Chambers’ work on other noteworthy Custom Texas-style homes. So Chambers was tapped for his regional sensibilities and the easy rapport he’d bring to the table.
“I wanted to allow my feelings about design to come through without second-guessing what he, as an architect, would do,” says Chambers. “The house is so much more than good design. It tells the story of the owners and my and Ralph’s philosophies of design and concern for the environment.”
Though the lot’s existing house was deemed unsalvageable, a wealth of valuable specimen trees factored into plans for natural lighting, solar shading and overall aesthetics. “Ralph did a great job at positioning the house in a manner that preserved the major trees on the property,” says landscape architect Chuck McDaniel, whose firm, SWA Group, has a 25-year working relationship with HKS.
“This is just on a gorgeous lot,” says Tom Kindred, a general contractor chosen for his 51-year association with some of Dallas’ finest homes. “I think all of contemporary construction is challenging, in that there’s no room to cheat. Everything has to fit exactly. That’s the challenge, and that’s what makes it fun for us to do this kind of exacting work.”
The Light Show
Residential Architect Steve Chambers says the house is deliberately transparent, leaving little differentiation between inside and outside. This was attained by the open window-wall design and by focusing each view from the house on a specific, outside element. Homeowner Susan Hawkins describes the interior stone wall, which separates the public from private spaces, as a work of art. “Every piece of stone is different, and the light hits it differently.” In the formal living area: a Keilhauer sofa, Mies van der Rohe Barcelona chairs, a glass-topped Mies table and a piano from the past.
Rough-back Lueders limestone blocks, applied in combination with a smooth exterior stucco finish, contribute to the 6,800-square-foot home’s striking demeanor. “What makes it unique is the scale and size of the cutting of those stones,” says Kindred. “They graduate as they go up to different sizes. That was very studied.” The stone material is mirrored on the interior, most notably in a massive wall inside the front door. “It’s symbolic of an old wall that could have been there for years,” says Chambers, “as though a modern structure was built around a piece of Texas history.”
To create the mood for multiple, scattered outdoor living spaces, McDaniel drew on his experience in U.S. and international resort design. Formal living areas and the dining room are located toward the front of the house, and informal living areas on the first floor include a bedroom, great room, kitchen/informal dining area, and Susan’s office, all focused on the spacious yard. “We kind of live in the main areas, which is really one big open area,” says Susan. According to Kindred, “It’s very organized, and flows beautifully for them and their lifestyles.” Lighting designer Dennis Jones worked to augment the interior’s ample daytime illumination with low-voltage lighting, and bamboo flooring in lieu of oak further boosts the home’s green appeal.
Save for some collected oriental rugs and a piano the Hawkins’ daughter played in competitions, most of the furnishings are new. “You can’t go wrong with classics,” says Ralph, alluding to several Mies van der Rohe pieces. Complementing these nods to the pioneer of modern architecture are displays of works by favorite artists, including architect-turned-watercolorist Harwood Smith, the late founder of HKS.
A Rumford fireplace in the family room is a favorite feature of the homeowners. It’s a classic architectural element, symbolic of the energy-efficient elegance exemplified in the home. “It’s designed to throw more heat out in to the family room,” says Ralph. “It’s great on cold nights.”
“We love all the light, love the stone,” says Susan. The pervading stone wall, she says, “is almost a work of art in itself—every piece of stone is different, and the light hits it differently. It’s my favorite feature. And the glass, and the trees.”
Ralph finds the free-flowing methodical arrangement of his and Susan’s living spaces equally idyllic. “From the bedroom to kitchen to the office, it’s all right in line, all with views to the outside. We really have enjoyed it. I’ve always wanted a castle, and I have one now.”
BY NANCY MYERS – PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVE SHAFER