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gulf coast special magazine



Heights Home Stands Out With Updated Look, Fresh Design
Story by Sam Byrd | Photos by James Leasure, Modern Architecture + Design Society

Amodern home in the Heights area might buck the trend of the neighborhood’s plentiful bungalows and vintage charm, but for the Walji-Raissian family, it was exactly what they wanted. They hired architect Charles Todd Helton to design a house on the land they owned and turn their wishes into a reality. Now that the family has realized their dream home, they’re opening the doors and sharing their 21st century abode as part of the MA+DS Modern Home Tour this month.

The four story home spans 3,800 square feet and towers over nearby structures, with an additional 42 inch raised foundation to accommodate the flood plain. Three existing trees were preserved on the lot and the end result is a uniquely noticeable home, thanks to ingenuity and bold choices.

“On the first floor, you can build up to a certain amount of feet close to the property line. On the second and third floors, you can overhang past those lines. [However,] you don’t want to build too close to the trees either,” says Charles Todd Helton.

Upon entry to the home, the foyer immediately stands out. The view straight up spans the first three floors — an idea the owners came up with as part of the design. The guest bedroom at the back of the house looks out onto the base of a large sycamore tree. Exiting the side door, a large pecan tree is visible.

The second floor, designated as public spaces for entertaining guests, utilizes an open floor plan. From this level, the residents can see the front, side and rear trees through large side windows. The kitchen, decked out with appliances from Factory Builder, is spacious yet functional. A balcony off the living room faces a tree in the back yard and reveals a small outdoor kitchen to the side.

The third floor, the couple’s private retreat, accommodates the master suite along with a loft/office space, the laundry room and an extra bedroom suite. Both bedrooms contain large picture windows, allowing for nice views in all directions.

The fourth floor holds a one bedroom suite designed for the couple’s son, complete with its own kitchenette. Also located on the top level is an open space that can serve as a flex space for a studio or loft. A final touch to the interior is a gallery area where art collected from the homeowners’ many travels is on display.

The outside terrace offers a spectacular line of sight: The southeast side prominently displays Houston’s downtown skyline while the southwest side captures a view of the Texas Medical Center.

The owners’ lifestyle called for a few nuances within the design. They wanted a fairly large sized home, but the lot size could accommodate only so much — especially considering the three existing trees the family wanted to keep — but Helton rose to the challenge. All the specifications required some push and pull in the design, and Helton was pleased to find the owners were amenable to his suggestions. He employed cantilevered space, where a floor above can overhang into the floor below, to accommodate the spatial restrictions. Helton says he used this design tactic several times throughout the property.

The star of the home, though, is the grand staircase that connects the floors and that features glimpses of the outdoors through the copious windows sourced from RAM. “I wanted [the home] to have the treehouse feel to it. When you’re climbing up the stairs, it directly looks out to the trees at different levels and through different windows. It’s one of the coolest parts of the house,” Helton says.

If the idea of traversing four stories strikes fear, fret not. Florida-based Residential Elevators added an elevator for their elderly parents who often visit. Other accoutrements to the interior are wood floors from Robert’s, tile flooring from ProSource, mirrors and interior glass from Bobbitt Glass, and counters from Omni Surfaces.

For the exterior, the owners stuck with the modern theme by adding splashes of color: paint from Sherwin Williams and exterior cedar from Montalbano Lumber.

“If you’re looking at the color scheme, you’ll see gray tones, and an orange stain pops out against it. There’s a white feature wall on the front of the house. The idea was we were going to [eventually] have colored lights shining on the wall,” Helton adds.

Helton reports the Walji-Raissian family is happy with the modern home and is excited to welcome guests to tour their quarters this month.



Charles Todd Helton Architect, Inc.
4115 Irish Ivy Court, Spring

ABC Supply
11155 FM 529

Bayou City Cabinets
1665 Townhurst, Suite 100

Bobbitt Glass Co.
(Mirrors, glass)
807 Fairview

Factory Builder Stores
4242 Richmond

Heights Metal Works LLC
(Metal railings and awnings)
1212 East 28th

M&M Lighting
5620 South Rice

Montalbano Lumber
(Exterior stained cedar, treads)
5850 North Shepherd

Northside Plumbing Supply, Inc.
(Faucets, hardware)
9605 Kirkton

Omni Surfaces
802 FM 1960 East

ProSource Wholesale
(Tile flooring and surround)
9009 Pinehill Lane, Suite 200
RAM Windows
(Windows and sliding doors)
8600 Commerce Park

Residential Elevators
Tallahassee, Florida

Roberts Carpet & Fine Floors
24025 Katy Freeway, Katy

Sherwin Williams
4418 North Shepherd

8708 West Little York, Suite 130


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