THE OLD OAK TREE
Couple Centers New Home Around a 100-year-old Majestic Beauty
Article by Barbara Canetti • Photography by Benjamin Hill
In the end, it was all about that oak tree. Almost 100 years ago, someone planted a live oak in the city’s right of way, and Trevor and Shirley Jeffries wanted it to continue living and growing on their property. In order to build their new Cherryhust neighborhood house, variances had to be requested and made to build on a corner lot on Haver Street.
With a little give-and-take by the city, homeowners’ association and the Jeffries, the home was created around this live oak tree, which provides natural filters for light and sound with its long branches covered in ferns and moss and extending in three directions. The effect of the tree is felt inside the house, as well as on the outdoor spaces.
“It’s almost like a tree house, with the wood siding,” says Trevor. “We really wanted to preserve that feeling.” The Jeffries started planning their 4,300-square-foot house in May 2014, began construction in October 2015 and moved in last December. The house was part of the AIA Home Tour in October.
The house, a modern three-story structure with sloping rooflines and windows everywhere, is divided inside: Living space downstairs, with bedrooms and private areas upstairs. The downstairs is basically one large room, joining the kitchen, dining and living rooms unencumbered by walls.
To define the spaces, architect James Evans, AIA, with Collaborative Designworks, transformed the ceiling heights, first by lowering them in the dining area and covering them in ipe wood (a sustainable Brazilian hardwood) to match the exterior of the house. The kitchen, although tucked away in the front of the house, is bordered with dark walnut cabinets and has large crystal chandeliers and fixtures hovering above the long island and Calcutta avalanche stone breakfast bar.
The living room’s high ceiling and wall of windows take in the tree and an outdoor green space with a long table and fire pit, as well as a water feature with a bright “Ferrari” red backsplash — matching the front door of the house.
Upon entering the house, visitors encounter a decorative brick screen-type partition in the vestibule, erected for privacy and to separate the area from the rest of the house. The durable glossy-white terrazzo floors covering the entire downstairs space heighten the brightness of the house. But visitors are immediately attracted to a face-to-face encounter with an imposing 8-foot-high 1873 painting of a British military gentleman, Jeffries’ great-grandfather Capt. Henry Augustus “Sugar” Candy, attired in a full-dress uniform of the 9th Lancers. He commands your attention!
Nearby in the dining room, designed to accommodate 10 at the table but extended to seat 25 for a family feast, floor-to-ceiling windows border one side with a row of smaller glass boxes under the stairs to let in a cross breeze and additional light. The 10-foot-long table, created by the Phillips Collection, is a natural Chamcha wood slab with deep grain lines and natural knots shown on its surface.
And, the Jeffries note, the acoustics in the housework work great for the majestic grand piano, situated between the living and dining areas.
Up a floating staircase of cork steps is a large room for mixed uses: Relaxing, watching television, working out, practicing yoga or just sitting. Another glass wall leads out to a large terrace, tucked into the tree’s canopy with frequently used comfortable chairs and a sofa.
“It is always noticeably cooler out here, with the breezes,” the Jeffries agree. “And although we are outside, it is private. The outdoor space joins the indoors.”
The bedrooms in the house are noticeably smaller than the other rooms in the house, and this was by choice, says Evans.
“The trend now is for smaller bedrooms but larger living spaces, and that just makes more sense,” he says. “Everything in the house is easy to access and functional and operates well for the homeowners.”
A third level of the house includes a large pool table and walls adorned with sports memorabilia. Because of the three large skylights in the ceiling, the room is bathed in natural light all day long.
The master bedroom has its own mini-terrace and a small office behind a divider in the rear of the room. The entry to the master suite is through a vestibule, leading to a large his-and-hers closet, a mostly-hers shoe closet and a lovely bright bathroom with a soaking tub that resembles an egg. The bathroom is lined with quartz countertops and glass-enclosed fixtures.
Evans says although many of the house’s walls are windows, it is constructed to be extremely energy efficient. The walls were sprayed with foam insulation, which he says is better than the fiberglass batts or rolls, and the windows are all high performance. Additionally, the Jeffries are able to control all of the technology in the house from their smart phones: Air conditioning, lights, music and alarm system.
Because of all the luminous and bright interiors, the house feels much larger than it is.
“The design here was flexible. The light colors (gray palette) make the space look open and is a blank canvas,” says Evans.
James M. Evans, AIA
4415 Woodhead St.
8945 Long Point Road
9090 Katy Freeway
Exterior Worlds Landscaping & Design
1717 Oak Tree Drive
CENTRAL VACUUM SYSTEM
Airline Central Vacuum Systems
2226 Richmond Ave.
10811 S. Westview Circle Drive, Suite 200
Worldwide Stones Inc.
405 E. 31st St.