A TREE HOUSE FOR A HOUSTON FAMILY
A Closer Look at One of the Stunners on This Year’s AIA Houston 2018 Home Tour
By Marsha Canright Photography By Benjamin Hill Photography
Nestled among half a dozen old oak trees, this contemporary family home near Rice University is an ideal haven for Houston physicians Justin Bird, Terri-Ann Samuel and their three young children.
“We love the views from the top, the open space for entertaining and the wonderful location,” Samuel says.
Designed by Rame and Russell Hruska, principals at Intexure Architects, the 5,000 square foot house has five bedrooms, four and-a-half baths, and a private suite for grandparents or other visitors. It was completed in 2017.
“The exterior is a combination of brick, natural stucco, metal, glass and hardwood, so it has warmth while embracing modernity,” Rame Hruska says. “We took special care to blend the design of the new structure to fit with neighboring houses on University Boulevard.
It fits the family’s casual lifestyle, aesthetically and practically.
“We wanted to fill the space with natural light but keep a connection to the beautiful oaks and preserve private spaces for the family,” she says.
“The downstairs living areas are large and open so it’s easy for the parents to keep an eye on their little ones,” Hruska says.
The architects chose durable, family-friendly materials to keep the house looking great and to make cleanup easy. The flooring is slate gray polished concrete, sleek and modern, but almost indestructible
The front entry and the adjacent dining area have 21-foot ceilings with open sight lines to the back of the house where wall-sized windows overlook the garden and pool areas. A sculptural steel staircase ascends from the entry with multiple framed views of the trees, flanked by a wall of ipe wood.
A cozy office, perched above the treetops, has panoramic views of Rice Stadium, the medical center and the downtown skyline.
It’s a quiet place for Bird to think and to tackle problems in different ways, but the whole family enjoys the views from the office; they were able to see the Fourth of July fireworks from Hermann Park.
The heart of this house is the kitchen, which has a wide island designed for the kids to eat or do art projects or homework. There is a large pantry with a ladder to make every shelf accessible and a built-in Miele coffee maker for specialty brews. A mudroom transitions from the garage to the house with ample storage for shoes and backpacks.
Other features are low-e insulated windows, highly efficient AC, low-flow plumbing and solar-ready connections.
“We learned so much in the process of building the house; I learned the importance of patience and also that aiming for perfection can be counterproductive. Almost perfect with some wiggle room is fine,” Samuels says.
One design challenge was how best to create a subtle approach to the house and provide ample guest parking. The architects didn't want paving to dominate.
“We solved this with a gravel area for guest parking that blends with the landscaping and we added an enclosure that allows children to play in both the front and back yard. Custom planters help to blend these areas with the landscape,” Hruska says.
Rame and Russell Hruska
AIA Houston 2018 Home Tour Showcases Excellence in Architectural Design
Seven architect-designed houses selected by a jury of industry experts to represent the finest in new residential architecture are being featured in the AIA Houston 2018 Home Tour from 12-6 p.m. on October 20-21.
The self-guided, two-day tour attracts approximately 3,000 people each year and showcases design excellence, quality and craftsmanship, innovative design solutions and use of materials, and sustainability of design. All of the homes on the tour are located within the Houston metropolitan area, have been designed by an AIA architect and were completed within the last five years.
Tickets are $25 to $35 per person; $20 to $30 for bicycle riders; $15 for children up to age 12 if purchased in advance; and $10 for viewing a single house. Tickets are available online at aiahouston.org/hometour and also can be purchased at any of the participating houses during the home tour hours. Tickets are good for both days of the tour.
Houses and architectural firms include:
1909 Gardenia (Cusimano Architect)
2040A Arlington (Brett Zamore Design)
2171 University (Intexure Architects)
2326 Tangley (Dillon Kyle Architects)
2923 Drexel (studioMET)
8725 Banzer (RD Architexture, LLC)
8913 Friendship (JT ARC Studio)
The AIA Houston is the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects, a community of architects who work together to create professional excellence.
The AIA Houston Home Tour is a nonprofit fundraiser and supports various AIA Houston initiatives throughout the year. For more information about the tour, visit aiahouston.org or call 713-520-0155.