HOUSTON’S “GOOD BUILDING”
The Bayou City’s Only Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Home with a Modern Addition Hit the Market Again
Article by Mary Chavoustie • Photography by Buck Ballas
The chance to own a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright rarely comes along, particularly in Houston. Yet, to have the opportunity for the same house to become available again, and this time, beautifully refurbished to Wright’s original 1955 design, is even more of a rarity. Add to that uniqueness, an 8,000-square-foot-plus, six-bedroom and seven-bath addition, meticulously orchestrated by the owners and an award-winning architect firm, and you have a new paragraph for the history books.
William L. Thaxton Jr. was a successful insurance executive in 1954 with a keen eye for property. What is now Bunker Hill Village looked quite different back then, an area that in December of that year became incorporated with a mayor-council form of city government, establishing restrictions to prohibit businesses. What better location for Thaxton to consider what would become his home than a wooded plot of land that would marry with the Wright structure, each unobtrusive to the other?
THE THAXTON HOUSE
The Thaxton House at 12020 Tall Oaks St. is Usonian, a terminology created by the architect defining the affordable homes he would design and make available to middle-income families. Garages would be replaced with carports, while formal dining rooms would be dismissed and reduced in size and folded into a more generous living area. Private spaces such as baths and sleeping areas would be small. And room for a housekeeper would be nonexistent or in the case of the Thaxton House, almost miniscule.
Wright once commented, “The good building is not one that hurts the landscape, but one which makes the landscape more beautiful than it was before the building was built.”
Ceiling height, noticeably low in the foyer and halls, would encourage guests to make their way into the larger, higher-ceilinged living room where they could converse and, as in the Thaxton House, take in the expansive view through the floor-to-ceiling windows.
The view of the courtyard from the living room is understandably the favorite of the current preservation-minded owner, Dr. Allen Gaw.
“It’s almost a Zen-like atmosphere,” explains Gaw. “The natural light, the balance of colors and the feeling of calmness that comes together are so unique. It’s hard to believe we are just blocks away from major thoroughfares, yet sitting here and also in the courtyard, you find a peacefulness and quiet that is unique.”
Gaw purchased the dilapidated home in 1991, a sale that potentially saved the structure. A prospective developer, given the prime location of the 51,727-square-foot lot, was considering the purchase for teardown.
“The built-in furnishings had been disassembled, and the concrete walls and knotless redwood paneling had been painted over in multiple layers of paint,” says Gaw regarding the condition of the house at the time of his purchase.
BACK TO THE ORIGINAL
It took five years of construction and many dollars to breathe “Wright” back into the design.
In 1995, the homeowner sought the expertise of Bob Inapa with Kirksey Architecture to design the U-shaped addition that would, in Gaw’s words, “complement, not copy” Wright’s original design. The stunning three wings include expanses of wood and glass and serve as the primary residence for the family, leaving the Wright property in almost museum-like quality as a tribute to the American architect many deem a “creative genius.”
Greenwood King Properties’ Sharon Ballas has the prestigious listing, being able to offer the home that has agreeably, thanks to its present owners, become more beautiful with age.
Greenwood King Properties
Sharon Ballas, realtor
6909 Portwest Drive