“For years, I’ve daydreamed about an expansion. Always an admirer of outdoor spaces defined by the structures that bound them, I envisioned another building with a large garage to house our ranch vehicles and above it a guest apartment for our friends and a bunk room for our younger son and his buddies. I pictured the space between the two buildings wrapped by a circular, trellised walkway with a fountain at its center. From this simple idea, Steve Chambers fashioned a design so arresting it has surpassed my most fanciful expectation. It always lifts my spirits. My family escapes from the big city and heads there at every opportunity. It’s our place in the world, and we love it.”

Mike McKool, Owner

Rustic Texas Ranch: Drone Video, Daniel J. Hale for Stephen B. Chambers Architects, Inc.; Royalty free music--Sunrise by Jeff Buckley

Rustic Texas Ranch: Drone Video, Daniel J. Hale for Stephen B. Chambers Architects, Inc.

Designed by Texas, Oklahoma, architect, Steve Chambers, the main house on this Hill Country ranch was published in “Southern Living” in 1998. In 2019 it was renovated and expanded to include an auto-court, guest quarters, new family room, and garage. (Conceptual sketches for the additions to the home, above.)

Rustic Weekend Retreat

“For my family, the ranch is our getaway. I bought the land originally as a place to ride motorcycles, as my older son and I were then competing in cross-country racing. It was perfect for that, certainly, with its deep woods, many creeks, and challenging elevation changes. And since we are a family of clay target shooters, we added skeet, trap, and sporting clays ranges. As time went on, we began to embrace the beauty of the meadows and forests and the constant sightings of deer, turkey, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, hawks, and eagles. One of the many things my family shares is our love of the place. The original ranch house, constructed over 20 years ago, was designed by Steve Chambers. Its historic form is beautiful, its spaces are always welcoming, and on this land, it fits. For us, it’s solid and reassuring. Most certainly, it’s Texas.” Mike McKool, ranch owner and founder McKool Smith law firm

New Ranch Home with Historic Forms and Materials

The clients, Erin and Mike McKool, wanted something new, but was timeless and echoed the character of early Texas. “Our daily routine in the city is hectic and fast paced,” says the owner. “We wanted a retreat where we could slow down, relax and have some fun, but we also wanted the house to look like it belongs to  the Hill Country.” The 1800-acre ranch as a second home features thirty miles of motocross trails and a track, three shooting ranges, main house, and guest rooms where the family can entertain on the weekends.

How to Achieve the Hill Country Look

“The Hill Country has a strong tradition of design using its local materials and simple regional forms,” says Dallas architect Stephen Chambers. In this region of Texas, local means limestone, and the regional forms of steeply pitched metal roofs, deep porches, and wide overhangs. To create the look of a ranch house that has evolved over the years, Steve broke the house into a series of wings. Varied rooflines, window configurations, and dormers also enhance the feeling of an ongoing expansion.

The rambling arrangement of a central core and flanking wings defines the major spaces and belies the fact that the main section of the original house employs a relatively small footprint. Its configuration also carves out a welcoming courtyard terrace positioned to capture prevailing breezes. Inside, the main living/dining room soars with light, volume, and a tradition of fine craftsmanship. The design reflects the talent of the architect; the new construction reveals the art of builder, Marcus Taylor of  English Heritage Homes of Texas. Timber trusses crafted of recycled longleaf pine with old-fashioned mortise and tenon joints and oak pegs support a 17-foot-tall ceiling were crafted by the home’s original builder.

Attention to Details

A limestone wall with an arched fireplace, raised hearth, and massive mesquite mantel also reflects the regional personality of the home. A floor of bluestone in a range of colors complements the limestone finishes.

Attention to detail and a sense of openness extend throughout the house. Handcrafted kitchen cabinets of longleaf pine echo the exposed trusses. A large kitchen island provides storage and counter space and creates an efficient work triangle; a peninsula offers space to spread out casual buffets for both the dining room and new sunroom. The handmade stairway features an unadorned balustrade and newel post based on simple farmhouse designs. Bedrooms open off a glass gallery with views to a pool terrace.

Auto-Court, Fountain, Deep Porches Add Ambiance to Outdoor Entertainment

The 2019 addition deftly reorients the entry and center of the house, and integrates with the original personality of the home. The design solution for relocating the front of the home evolved organically. The McKools commented that their lifestyle is casual, and their guests tended to arrive at the garage and enter the back of the main house. The collaboration with Steve resulted in the creation of a circular auto-court with a 200-year old fountain as the center focal point. Loggias encircle the court and form a welcoming center that announces the new entry. The old four-car garage now features deep porches and a newly-configured family room and bar that opens to the pool.

Casual Second Home to Entertain Family and Friends

Texans contend that everything is bigger in the Lone Star State. From a seat under the loggias on a warm spring night, looking out into the fields of bluebonnets, under a setting sun, rising moon, or a 180-degree view of a sky of the stars, it sure seems so. But the new addition/reconfiguration increases the intimacy of the original design. The curved loggia enclosing the entry and antique fountain feels as though a pair of arms reaches out to greet friends and family as they arrive for relaxation and recreation.

Structural Engineer for remodel: Philippe Lalonde, Lalonde Engineering

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