News Release...Contact: Stephanie Chambers, Chambers Architects, Dallas, Texas

01 oklahoma ranch architect durantOklahoma architect Steve Chambers, has begun the design for a new ranch project near Durant, Oklahoma. Follow this project in the "Ranches" section of this website to see conceptual drawings and eventual project construction.02 oklahoma ranch chambers architects


15 chambersarchitects louisiana style homesFirst generation Acadian houses were comprised of two rooms, often built right onto the ground with dirt floors. Experts at building the long-span roof frames, the Acadians used tall peaked or gabled roofs, which allowed water from frequent rain to run off quickly. The color palette of early Cajun homes included bright ochres, mossy greens, brilliant oranges and reds, and slate blues and grays. Note the Acadian-style extended cedar roof on this red barn, which is called a "projecting comb ridge." 

Dallas residential architect, Stephen Chambers, recently traveled to Lafayette in Southwest Louisiana to study the Acadian and Creole architecture of this picturesque region. Vermilionville was the first name given to Lafayette, Louisiana. The French arrived in the Lower Mississippi Valley towards the end of the 17th century and found the watery landscape more hot, humid, and prone to flooding than their European country.

12 chambersarchitects louisiana homes"Bousillage" walls are filled with loaves of clay mud caked by hand over a mat of moss and sticks between timber studs. The mud infill is coated inside and out with limewash that hardens into a protective coating.Early Cajun style homes were designed to suit these new conditions. The raised cottages were built of cypress timbers pegged together into rigid frames, placed on aboveground piers. The open web of timbers was filled with bousillage, a thick mixture of clay and moss coated with lime plaster (boussillage entre poteaux: infill between the studs). Under pavilion roofs—tent like forms developed in the Caribbean—deep porches surrounded the houses on all four sides, offering a respite from the sun and capturing the cool breezes.

Louisiana architect A. Hays Town (1903-2005) reinterpreted the Acadian home taking the climate of southern Louisiana into account using large roof overhangs, an abundance of breezeways, and cross ventilation to provide air circulation. 

Details in photos below that define the style:

Garçonnière: a loft above main house for male children

Homesites at bayou's edge for firewood, lumber, shade

Combination of Creole and Greek Revival styles

Louisiana law forbade speaking French 1916-1968 (see schoolhouse photos and video)

No glass windows in houses, only shutters

La Galerie: a porch for extra room in good weather

Spanish government gave Acadians woodworking tools (see photos featuring handcrafting tools)

Steeply-pitched hipped roofs and pavilions

Stranger's Room: a room opening to porch, but not rest of house, for travelers to stay (before commercial lodging)

Note: Vermilionville videos below gallery

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Videos of Vermilionville musician and weaver:





The House at 7 East 95th Street

The SMU Writer’s Path New York Seminar 2015

02 chambersarchitects fabbri house nycThe Italian Renaissance Revival townhouse of Edith Fabbri on the Upper East Side of New York CityOn November 18th, I traveled to New York City to participate in the #WritersPathNYC15 writing program at the invitation of the SMU Creative Writing Program and its Director, J. Suzanne Frank. The New York Seminar was the culmination of two years of writing and revision of the manuscripts of fourteen writers. We had the privilege to meet and discuss our writing samples and synopses with agents and editors from the world of New York publishing. It was an added value to spend the four days in residence at the Edith Fabbri home, now called The House of the Redeemer. Also in attendance were writers Daniel J. Hale and Amanda Arista, given the dubious honor of assuaging the concerns generated by their herd of writing cats.

Edith Fabbri and Her Townhouse

The L-shaped house at 7 East 95th Street is an Italian Renaissance revival-styled townhouse in New York built between 1914 and 1916 to serve as the town residence of Edith Shepard Fabbri, a great granddaughter of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, and her husband, Ernesto Fabbri, an associate of J. Pierpont Morgan. Grosvenor Atterbury, an American architect and town planner trained at L’Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, who was noted for his 1908 restoration of New York’s City Hall, designed the house. Egisto Fabbri, Ernesto Fabbri’s brother, who was well versed in Italian architecture, incorporated Edith Fabbri’s collection of Italian Renaissance and Baroque furnishings and architectural fragments into his design.03 chambersarchitects edith fabbri nycPainting of Edith Fabbri, a great granddaughter of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt

The Interior

Whole sections of original wood ceilings and the wood paneling of the historic library found in the Palazzo Ducale, Urbino, in Italy, were transported in two ships from Italy through U-boat infested waters during World War I, and the house was designed and constructed to contain them. The library features a 1398 Aeolian Opus organ.The design and position of the grand stone stairway, earth tone tile floors, and the patina on the wood tables and benches, offer a breathtaking sense of space, security, and simplicity. To the right is a handsome reception room with coffered ceiling, where a portrait of Mrs. Fabbri hangs. The vaulted ceiling dining room is opposite and features a stone fireplace with comfortable space to seat eighty diners or conference participants. The chapel, originally functioning as a second floor parlor, has another coffered ceiling and unusually modern leaded windows, given in 1985 as a memorial.

04 chambersarchitects fabbri home upstairsSecond Floor of the Fabbri Mansion, in the foyer to the chapel and libraryThe top floor with oval windows is the servants' floor, now used as bedrooms for those on retreat, and appears as though the housekeepers are ensconced in their posts, serving the Fabbris. The home could be a set for the New York version of Downtown Abbey.

Life in a City Palace

An account of the party Edith gave in 1937 for the debut of her grandniece, Anne Louise Schieffelin, gives the flavor of life in such a grand city palace. “Supper was given in the wide, vaulted dining room on the ground floor, while the dance was held in the library above, where fruit was strung in garlands around the balcony railing. The New York Times reported that members of the Rockefeller, Roosevelt, Redmond, Iselin, Auchincloss and other leading families were there. In fact, The Times listed all 283 guests and noted that the house had "the artisanship of a bygone era."

Gift to the Episcopalian Church

The era was indeed fleeing. The Lycee Francais de New York, the private school, bought the old Carhart house in 1937, and in 1949 Edith Fabbri created an Episcopal retreat, the House of the Redeemer, to which Edith donated 7 East 95th. She died in 1954 in an apartment at 116 East 63rd Street, a comfortable but modest building. Although it now functions as a nondenominational retreat, the House of the Redeemer is a de facto house museum. Mrs. Fabbri left most of her furniture to the house, from the Renaissance and later periods, and most of it is still in use, like the eight grand gilt torchères that light the library. The pantry with 16-foot ceiling and a mezzanine office from which the butler could supervise the staff is almost completely intact.06 chambersarchitects fabbrihome frontdoorLooking through the ornate wrought iron interior gate to the oak front doors of the Italianate Edith Fabbri home in New York City

Historical Landmark

The House was designated a New York City Landmark in 1974 and is considered by many architectural historians to be one of the most distinguished examples of early 20th century residential architecture in New York City.

In appreciation of my colleagues in NYC Writers' Path for their continuous support: Tina Carter, Brady Diggs, Catherine Faubion, Lori Folz, Alexia Gordon, Joan Kilbourne, Melissa Walker-Luckett, Heather Morschauser, Julie Scherer, Carter Stack, Terri Taylor, Kaitlyn Van Dorn, and Estee Whitaker. Write on!

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Hotel St. Francis in Santa Fe: Complexity in Simplicity

Santa Fe’s Oldest Hotel is on the National Register of Historic Places

08 chambersarchitects st francis hotel receptionDallas residential architect, Steve Chambers AIA, checking in to the reception area of the oldest hotel in Santa Fe, NM, the Hotel St. FrancisThe historical Hotel St. Francis has the distinction of being Santa Fe’s oldest hotel and holds a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. Built originally as the De Vargas, Hotel St. Francis offers its guests a unique experience through its use of simple Franciscan traditional sacred art, New Mexico artifacts, and historical black and white photographs of the city’s early history, visible throughout its lobby and hallways. Colors are the natural shades of wool from the churro sheep brought to New Mexico by early Spanish settlers. Guest rooms are furnished with handcrafted furniture created by many of Santa Fe artisans. Most guest rooms now have had their original hardwood floors exposed and refinished.

Hotel Interior Design Reflects Simplicity of Franciscan Order Monastic Life

The Hotel St. Francis design throughout the halls and rooms reflects the simple and spiritual style of the Franciscan Missionary Order. It exemplifies serenity, spirituality and simplicity in the heart of the vibrant city of Santa Fe. Its elegant white, Mexican marble of the lobby reflects the flickering light of candles spaced throughout. A stone baptismal font serves as the lobby’s focal point. Various handmade crosses and historical religious prints and images throughout this unique hotel celebrate Santa Fe’s spiritual history.01 chambersarchitects st francis lobbyThe centerpiece of the Hotel St. Francis lobby is an antique baptismal font

Original Hotel and the Mysterious Fire

The De Vargas Hotel's demise was as famous and mysterious as its guest list. On a cold evening in January of 1922, the hotel burned to the ground leaving a sole brick chimney to mark the location. It was the biggest fire in Santa Fe in 300 years. There were no high winds to keep the blast alive and the six-hour fire was across the street from the "then" fire department. So unpredictable was the impending destruction that guests were still checking into their favorite rooms while the hotel burned. The mysterious explosion heard by the owner, William Sargent, was rumored to be a copper still in the basement. One of the hotel's permanent guests frustrated with Prohibition was experimenting with peach brandy. According to the rumor, a peach clogged the copper pipe and the "booze blew up". The spectators called the fire "the darnedest show ever."

02 chambersarchitects st francis fireplaceAll of Chambers Architects photographs were taken in summer. During the fall, winter, and spring, this beautiful tile fireplace offers a warm pinon glow and fragrance to the visitors of Hotel St. FrancisThe new hotel opened its doors in 1924 as a first class hotel with a spacious lobby where men wore top hats and ladies wore full-length dresses. The bellhops escorted the guests to their rooms, after the couples had shown their marriage licenses, and the house detective ensured that all guests stayed in their own rooms. The hotel boasted a wonderful dining room and a bar. Anyone wanting to meet almost any high-level politician in the 1930's and 40's could probably find him at the De Vargas Hotel Bar.

De Vargas Hotel Becomes the Hotel St. Francis

The hotel purchased and remodeled the hotel and reopened it as the Hotel St. Francis in 1986. Heritage Hotels and Resorts acquired it and fully renovated the hotel in 2009. Heritage opted to create a new experience for the hotel finding its inspiration from the patron saint of Santa Fe, St. Francis of Assisi. In 1610 when Don Pedro de Peralta founded the city of Santa Fe under the direction of the Viceroy of Spain, he gave it an official name – La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Assisi, or The Royal City of the Holy Faith of St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis himself was a wealthy nobleman raised in privilege, who chose to give up this life to follow the teachings of Christ. In 1209 he founded the Franciscan Order. The Franciscan Order provided for a simple mendicant’s existence. The Franciscan missionaries were significantly involved in the settlement of Santa Fe and New Mexico, bringing their religious, architectural, agriculture, artistic, culinary, and other traditions to the region.

Famous Hotel Bar, Secreto Lounge: Winner of Best Cocktails in Santa Fe19 chambersarchitects secreto bar drinksCorpse Reviver #1 Recipe: spray or swirl 1/2 teaspoon of absinthe in a cocktail glass. Shake and strain 2 parts brandy and equal parts Calvados, sweet vermouth, fresh squeezed lemon juice. Pour in glass and garnish with a twist of lemon. Revive.

Hotel St. Francis is home to the award-winning Secreto Lounge. Guests learn about the ancient wine-making traditions, which were introduced by Santa Fe's Franciscan monks, or enjoy a wide array of modern, award-winning, hand-crafted cocktails. Secreto is fortunate to feature the unique concoctions of Santa Fe's #1 Cocktail Blogger and Mixologist, Chris Milligan. Chris' knowledge of mixology is exemplified in his unique "garden-to-glass" cocktail creations. If you tell him what type of alcohol and fruits or vegetables you prefer, he and his team will concoct a special cocktail exclusively for you. Secreto's signature drink is the Spicy Secreto (First Place Winner of the Las Vegas 2010 "Shake It Up”). The drink is a tantalizing blend of organic Novo Fogo cachaca and St. Germain elderflower liqueur with fresh cucumber, jalapeño, lime juice and cane syrup, and rimmed with red chile salt. The Spicy Secreto and many other distinguished cocktails like the Smoked Sage Margarita and the Agave.

32 chambersarchitects st francis hotelThe back patio of the St. Francis is a serene locale to eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, share a cocktail, write or read a bookOn warm days, Secreto’s seasonal patio and loggia extend the bar to become Santa Fe’s living room, providing a vantage point to watch an enjoy the vibrant Santa Fe street scene.

Tradition of the Zozobra, Burning of the Year’s Worries

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—

            Only this and nothing more.”

Though Edgar Allen Poe did not live to see William Shuster’s Zozobra tradition take form in 1924, perhaps the above first verse of “The Raven” would have crossed his mind. The toothless, empty-headed specter has been made, staged, and flamed since 1964 as part of Santa Fe’s 303 year-old Fiesta season’s tradition. Last year marked Zozobra’s break out attempt to brood in quiet, then grow fierce and fiery on the Friday night of Labor Day weekend.

Inspired by Mexico’s Yaqui Indian’s effigy of Judas, Zozobra gains his namesake from Will Schuster’s and E. Dana Johnson’s collaboration to bring physicality to anguish, angst, or dread.  Zozobra, literally means “anxiety, or gloom” in Spanish - an apt name for the literal embodiment of our collective worries. Guests of Zozobra are invited to place their worries in a jar. The collection of worries is burned along with the effigy of Zozobra.06 chambersarchitects zozobra festival santa feThe Zozobra Festival burns gloom and worries in a 50 ft. effigy on Labor Day Weekend

The six-foot puppet has since grown to fifty feet. Made of muslin and stuffed with shredded paper, Zozobra is an eerie, groaning, flailing character, which appears as part ghost and part monster. Amid fireworks and the ceremonial dances of ghosts and fire, a growling Zozobra is set ablaze and, it is said, as the fire consumes the beast, so go the feelings of gloom and doom from the past year, the flames renewing the hope and optimism of the gathered celebrants. The ever-howling Zozobra can be heard echoing throughout Santa Fe.

 Videos of the hotel interiors, an interview with mixologist Chris Milligan on creating award-winning cocktails and the Zozobra Festival are below our photo gallery. 

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Video Inside the Hotel St. Francis:

Video Chris Milligan's "Garden to Glass" Cocktails:

Video Santa Fe Burns Zozobra's Gloom and Doom:



Apartment for Rent: With or Without a Ghost?

01 chambers architects new orleans apt hauntedHaunted is good for business in New Orleans.Chambers Architects doesn’t usually post articles about ghosts or the supernatural. But, when the spirits of the dead are a major part of the psyche of a culture and add value to marketing campaigns focused on architecture, we take notice.

On a recent trip to the French Quarter as research for a book, the number of tours and signs advertising live-in ghosts, or the absence of phantoms, impressed us. One retail store posted this sign at their entrance, “Good Spirits Allowed.” Not knowing whether we were good or bad for business, we dared to enter. At Marie Leveau’s home, we were asked to use “Only Positive Magic Please.”02 chambers architects not haunted aptNot haunted with a balcony is good for business in New Orleans.

One of the Finest Street Museums in the World

The evolution of house forms, from French Colonial Plantations, Creole Cottages, Entresol, Townhouses and Shotguns to Cornerstone Storehouses, can all be seen in and within walking distance of the Quarter. Only three solely French structures remain in the eighty-five block area of the National Historic Landmark district known as the French Quarter. 

The Great 1788 New Orleans Fire destroyed 856 of the 1,100 structures in New Orleans, Louisiana while it was a colony called New Spain. Rebuilding continued in Spanish style, and most French-style architecture disappeared from the city.

Had the French held on to more than the name in the rebuilding of the Quarter architecture, most buildings in the Vieux Carre would have retained French influences. After forty years of Spanish rule, the settlers abandoned the character of their homes, keeping only the French language and customs. They still make the sauces of their ancestors, drip coffee the French way and dance in the streets long after their children have fallen asleep. The Quarter's par terre gardens remain French in style with flowers in the middle of yards and walkways along the boundaries. Grassy lawns are not common and considered lacking in imagination.03 Chambers Architects Shotgun House sketchBracket Shotgun Double, circa 1880-1905, New Orleans Vieux Carre, hand-drawn sketch by Steve Chambers, AIA

What Remains of Quarter Architecture is Primarily Spanish. 

A semi-fortified streetscape, common-wall buildings, narrow alleyways and secluded patios abound. The Spanish also gave New Orleans their flat tile-roofed buildings and entresol houses with hidden mezzanines. The use of repeating arches, Arabesque ironwork, covered passageways, and attempts to guard the privacy of building inhabitants are all Spanish in nature. Creole townhouses have the Spanish addition of a short middle level or entresol between the shop and the residence that was used for stock and storage. The mezzanine spaces get light and air from extra high, arched and barred, first-story transoms. They were an experiment with full-service vertical living in the growing 18th century city.05 chambers architects pontalbaThe Pontalba Apartments overlooking Jackson Square feature Spanish-style ironwork and a few ghosts at night in its windows

Some Famous Ghosts

The ghostly tale of the Lalaurie Mansion dates back to 1832. Madame Lalaurie was known as the most influential French-Creole woman in the city. But there was another side to Madame. The finery of her household was attended to by dozens of slaves and Madame Lalaurie was brutally cruel to them. There were whispered conversations among neighbors how the Lalaurie slaves seemed to come and go quite often.

In 1834, a terrible fire broke out in the Lalaurie kitchen. Fire fighters discovered a secret barred door to the attic. Many slaves were found chained to the wall. Most in Madame Lalaurie's "Torture Chamber" were dead.

08 new orleans lalaurie houseThe infamous Lalaurie Mansion, the "torture chamber" removed long ago, is renovated and ready for occupancy.The stories of ghosts and a haunting at 1140 Royal Street began almost as soon as the Lalaurie carriage fled the house. In 1837, the house was purchased by a man who kept it only three months. He was plagued by strange noises, cries and groans in the night and soon abandoned the place.

It was never easy to keep tenants in the house and finally, after word spread of the strange goings-on, the mansion was deserted once again. Today, the house has been renovated and restored as luxury apartments.

While no house in the Quarter has a past as grisly as the Lalaurie House, many houses and apartments are still considered haunted. Sightings at the end of the strange dark passageways in the Pontalba Apartments, where several literary ghosts are said to still hold their ‘salons,’ are often reported. The eccentric Madame the Baroness Pontalba would be pleased at the notoriety of her eponymous apartments.

Why NOLA Has So Many Ghosts?

We’re not sure, but we have a few ideas. Living in a city simultaneously located at or below the level of the sea and the mighty Mississippi River must facilitate a bond with the unseen world. How does a city manage to hang on to its resources and beauty when every day is a walk with capricious elements? Each of the French, Spanish, Caribbean African and Acadian immigrant cultures brought with them their own superstitions and folk remedies for ‘bad spirits.' The early inhabitants must have started each day with a prayer, a treatment and the hope that nature wouldn’t get angry and wash away their city. The new arrivals wanted to appease the bad spirits and encourage the good ones to safeguard their precarious balance in nature. One has to wonder if the spirits born from all of the city’s tragedies and continuing battles with nature can ever really rest, when there's so much work to do?

More pictures by Chambers Architects in the gallery, below.

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chambers architects blanco river cabins destroyedRemnants of an exterior wall and fireplace in one of the destroyed antique cabins on the Blanco River near Wimberley Texas.There were no injuries or loss of life at the Pulley's two historic Craftsman-built stone cabins on the Blanco River, because of the good judgment of the owners. David and Tegwin Pulley knew of the wild reputation of the normally lazy and shallow river. When an historic Texas drought was broken by three weeks of steady rain, the couple decided to skip their annual Memorial Day trip to Wimberley. The two fine examples of the playful 1920s Hill Country stone work were destroyed by the recent flooding of this Central Texas river. Their cabins were sited at twenty-seven feet above the Blanco. The river broke the flood gauge at forty-four feet. The previous flood record was at thirty-three feet in 1929. The roofs and walls of their stout solid masonry cabins were submerged and swept away, washing against the nearby Highway 12 bridge. The highway was subsequently closed for repairs. Chambers Architects was lucky to have spent many wonderful evenings at the cabins on the Blanco River and document these beautiful examples of 1920s stone craftsmanship. We're saddened by the loss of historic treasures, "Rocky "and "Woody," but thankful we still have our dear friends. Photos of cabin damage, below. The story of our visit to the cabins several years ago to document the stone work follows.

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Hill Country Stone Home Wimberley"Rocky," one of two of the Pulley's antique cabins. All that remains of this cabin today is a wall and a fireplace.In the early 1920’s, stone weekend homes were designed and built in the Texas Hill Country on small ranches and rural property. As urban dwellers used the improved highways and automobiles to retreat from Austin and San Antonio, the area drew some residents, but many more vacationers and weekend visitors. Because of its natural beauty, relatively high altitude, cool rivers, and wildlife, Wimberley was known as an attraction for artists, musicians, and sportsmen.


Several years ago, spent time visiting with friends who own two 1920’s vintage stone cabins on the Blanco River. blancodeer 2White tail deer walking in six inches of water in the normally placid Blanco River.As an architect who specializes in designing homes, I spend a lot of time studying historic structures. And although I have visited these properties previously, on this occasion I spent more time examining the details of these quaint masonry structures. The owners’ sensitive renovation of these river cabins provides modern comfort, yet shares the rustic ambiance and charm of early Texas cabin life. A close observation of the stonework reveals the masons’ attention to detail and their artistic whimsy. Though most likely not directed by an architect, the crafstman's inclusion of various exotic and contrasting stones: petrified wood, geodes, quartz, and a blend of various colors and textures of local limestone, is aesthetically pleasing.  One can still see the ‘hands of the masons’ in the tool marks around corners and openings where they cut the stone and finished the edges with bush hammers and other tools to blend them in with the native stone surfaces. The construction of the buildings is a curious combination of wood framing and masonry. It appears that a 2x4 framework, apparently without sheathing, was built and then masonry added to the inside and outside, in some cases extending through the wood framing. The end result is a wood structure braced by stone that resembles a solid masonry building.

While many lavish weekend houses have been added in recent years to the landscape of this Hill Country retreat, they pale by comparison for those of us who seek a built environment that introduces us to the authenticity of the past rather than sanitizing it. Few capture the honest character as well as these craftsman-built 1920’s homes.

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