“U” GOT IT
Curb Appeal and Private Quarters Are Both Possible When Designing From Front to Back
By Sam Byrd | Photos by Ayala Vargas Photography
When 2016 AIA Young Architect of the Year Brett Zamore was tasked with updating a single-story 1920s bungalow into a two-story modern, 4,140 square-foot home that fit the neighborhood and also offered privacy, he handled it much in the same style a barber handles a mullet. His design approach ended up becoming something both neighborhood-appropriate to the street-facing side and more relaxed in the back.
For the Lexington Street property, which is close to Highway 59 and in proximity to Rice University and Upper Kirby, there were a few immediate challenges.
“One of the main things we had to figure out was how to control the noise of 59, connect the street to the existing language of the neighborhood, and also provide some privacy for the homeowners,” Zamore says. “It fronts the street, but it has its own life hidden within the shell of the house. It’s dedicated more to the back courtyard which became the focus of the house. It became a “U” shape and that’s [what creates] the privacy.”
Another challenge is that the client is a lawyer for a development company, and he took the helm of bringing in other people to aid in the construction.
“I think the key is having that really good team of people to help out and focus in on the client and make sure things are done to his goals and fine tuning,” says Zamore.
For a lot located in the cramped inner-city, space was crucial. The simplicity and clarity of its plan has little to no wasted space.
The downstairs is dedicated as an open public area. Homeowners are immediately greeted by two sets of garage doors that provide ample parking for this modest-sized lot. The exterior is clad with cement board siding and aluminum-framed windows. It has cedar soffits and a standing seam metal roof. The wood decks are ipe, sometimes called Brazilian walnut.
From walking in the front door, the house boasts a decadent entryway, living and dining area and kitchen. Large, north-facing glass windows bedeck the entryway. From the street the passerby has a view through its front living room back into its dining and kitchen. The living room is separated from dining and kitchen by a double-sided fireplace faced with cedar and limestone from Arizona Tile.
Other amenities on the first floor include a butler’s pantry between the kitchen and den that has access to the outdoor patio and a small room behind the staircase that can either be a downstairs bedroom or an office space with access to a full bath.
The kitchen’s island, wrapped in Dekton stone counters, runs the length of two sets of sliding glass doors. Poliform cabinets line the room. Stained concrete flooring provides simplicity and sleekness, and windows from RAM introduce natural lighting.
The double doors also provide access to an exterior covered patio and central courtyard, all nestled within the U-shape, which almost becomes an extension of the home.
“[The client] likes to have events and friends over, so this is a great house for dinners and parties and events,” Zamore says.
Whereas the first floor is great for entertaining, the second floor houses the private quarters. Stained white oak stairs lead up to a second story with the same wood used for the floors.
Zamore details the second floor as having four bedrooms, a washer and dryer room and a large future family room with a street-facing covered balcony. The master bedroom has a large balcony to its north that faces the courtyard and windows that offer views to I-59 along its south.
Three other bedrooms run along the west side of the house with a hallway facing the central courtyard. The large family room sits at the front with a large covered balcony that faces the street to its north; windows provide views back to the courtyard.
The design process took roughly six months, but due to Houston’s floods in recent years, the construction lasted nearly a year.
“This was during the Tax Day Flood and Memorial Day Flood. The owner was fortunate to get the foundation in but, for the framing, it was nonstop raining. It took so long but he finally got it dried in and it turned out to be a really beautiful project,” Zamore says.
Zamore says that, overall, the design of the house was meant to be modern but have a vocabulary that fits the other homes in the neighborhood. It borrows from the neighborhood’s palette, yet retains the privacy the client requested. From its modest front to its secluded courtyard, it looks like mission accomplished for Zamore.
Brett Zamore Design
Brett Zamore, Lead Architect
Tzu-Yu Chen, Project Lead
Giovanni Pena, Intern
(Dekton stone countertops)
La Nova Tile
Tokerud + Co
Lindsay Robinson, RID
Color Houses, Inc.