AN ARCHITECTURAL ADVENTURE
Sugar Land House Marvels with Contemporary Beauty
Article by Marsha Canright Photography by Ben Hill
At first look, the house on Vista Creek Drive is like any of the pristine suburban homes in Lake Pointe, a gated community in Sugar Land. That is, it’s a very nice home that fits all the neighborhood’s requisite guidelines.
And beyond the facade, an architectural adventure awaits.
Designed by Greg Swedberg of 2Scale Architects, the C-shaped home has a floating staircase; a sculptural, temperature-controlled wine cabinet; and floor-to-ceiling glass walls that open onto a sparkling rectangular pool and two courtyards. One of the courtyards has a 24-foot living wall planted with lilies, geraniums, hostas and ivy.
“This house is a real home for real people; it’s not a museum,” says Julie Atun, homeowner with husband/physician Victor. “We have a 10-year-old, two teen-agers, two dogs, two cats and two fish, so we have a lot going on. Even now, there’s a science project on the kitchen island.”
Julie is an artist and art lover. Both she and Victor share a passion for contemporary design.
The couple met the architect at an AIA Houston Home Tour that featured one of Swenberg’s houses. They were building a new house and liked his design style.
Together they wanted a comfortable, contemporary home for a blended family in a location that was convenient for all its members.
Delivering what the couple wanted in their chosen location was not without significant challenges, Swedberg says. The neighborhood has specified building codes and because there are zero lot lines, one wall could contain no windows.
“A typical home design might take about four months; this one took about six because we were pushing the boundaries of the HOA approval process," Swedberg says.
The process was about finding a way to follow the rules while coloring a bit outside the lines, he adds.
Built by Texana Builders, the 4,400-square-foot structure has four bedrooms and four bathrooms, including a private master suite, an upstairs art studio and a roomy kitchen at its heart. What might have been a shoebox is instead a house full of light and open space that blur the line between the inside and the outside.
“We wanted a more intimate, communal space where we could have everyone together in the kitchen or out by the pool,” Julie says. “It had to be a place where our teen-agers could hang out without being closed off in some media room.”
Downstairs the ceilings rise to 11 feet and the floors are a polished concrete, which Julie says adds warmth and texture and is easy to clean. All the functional rooms are downstairs and built with accessibility in mind, which will allow the couple to age in place, if they desire.
Among the many standout features, the staircase has the most eye appeal. The upstairs landing appears to defy gravity and is able to hold a small army of teen-agers.
“I wanted the stairs to be sculptural, an object rather than an assemblage attached to the wall. We found a way to take the owners’ collection of books and create a library that dances up the wall with the stairs,” Swedberg says.
The combination of cantilevered stairs and playful library boxes is beautiful and functional.
To design the interior, Julie collaborated with Darin Brooks of Brooks Design Works in Houston. The decor is clean and contemporary and brims with personality. The downstairs powder room has a wall of Bansky graffiti tile that Julie found at La Nova Tile.
“It’s made from actual photographs of graffiti in Spain and each tile is different,” she says. “It was a lot of fun to lay them out on the floor and decide which one would go where.”
Art plays a colorful role throughout the house. There’s a painting of Jimi Hendrix in the dining room by a Galveston artist and, over the fireplace, is one of a girl with the cello purchased in Tzfat, Israel, on a recent trip. The glass-encased wine tower was built Bob Martin of Merge Studios in Houston.
As for the elegant furnishings, Julie spotted the living room couch at Noel Furniture, but it was only available in suede. She contacted the manufacturer to have the same couch but in leather. The blue silk rug is from Rug Mart. The contemporary light fixtures come from Lightology with a few from YLighting, she says.
The 10-foot kitchen island is a single slab of pure white Silestone and all the appliances are Jenn-Air. The sleek cabinets are by Mandeval and are very minimalist and European. A nook at one end of the kitchen serves as a home workstation and there is a deep pantry situated beyond the refrigerator.
To give the glass and steel interior a touch of warmth and texture, Julie requested a brick facade along the kitchen wall, the dining room and even the wall of the pool. The repetition gives the space a satisfying continuity, Swedberg says.
“My intention in this design was to create long views. I love taking small spaces and layering them in such a way that you can see two or three or more rooms,” he says.
The upstairs has three bedrooms and Julie’s art studio, where she works in glass fusion and ceramics. A wood-clad balcony outside the studio houses the kiln.
The long windowless hallway is cleverly lighted overhead. The angled walls open up to a monitor along the spine of the house with clerestory windows providing ambient light.
“That’s why it has this wonderful, glowing quality, even though it’s in the belly of the house,” Swedberg says.
Downstairs, the private master suite overlooks the pool and also has a glass wall that slides open. It has a cantilevered wood ceiling that continues into an exterior seating area. The wallpaper is “Trove” by Holly Hunt.
Julie’s favorite space and sanctuary is the master bath with its freestanding tub, fireplace, walk-in glass shower and an elongated zebra wood vanity.
“The large window is only partially frosted so you can still see the grass, the tops of the trees and the sky,” she says.
THE PETS & NATURE
The merging of interior and exterior is not only a plus for the human residents. Pet doors leading out to the patio make an indoor-outdoor haven for Florence, an English bulldog; Lola, a lab rescue; and two cats, Frankie and Jasper.
Julie is also active in Monarch Watch and brings in and hatches Monarch butterflies, which are endangered.
“I’m in love with the majesty of these butterflies,” she says.
The family has lived in the house for almost two years and so far, it’s a perfect fit.
“We have family and friends over all the time,” Julie says. “When the weather is right, we put on the music and open all the doors.”
40 Cypress Creek Parkway
8945 Long Point Road
Brooks Design Works
La Nova Tile
2325 Fannin St.
Decorative Center Houston
5120 Woodway Drive
508 W. Crosstimbers St.
2727 Southwest Freeway
5910 Southwest Freeway