MODERN FARMHOUSE WITH A TWIST
A Blend of Traditional and Contemporary Creates a Perfect Family FitBy Marsha Canright | Photos by Benjamin Hill Photography
When the temperatures cool, Sarah Queen likes to sit on her front porch in the late afternoon and watch pedestrians walk or push a stroller past her home on East 9th Street in the Heights. Many of those passing by stop to gaze at the house, and no wonder.
“There are lots of unique and interesting-looking homes in the Heights,” she says. “Ours is one of those.”
Framed in large live oak trees, the 4,000 square foot house has a stylish peaked roof, a broad porch with cedar details, rows of luminous windows and a prominent stone chimney. It has both traditional and contemporary aspects and aligns perfectly with the scale and ambiance of the neighborhood. It seems like the house has always been there, even though it was only constructed two years ago.
Queen, a fifth generation Texan, finished university in California and worked there for ten years before returning home to Houston, where she now works in sales and marketing for an oilfield services company. Through friends she met her husband, who grew up in Baltimore and moved to Houston to attend Rice University. Following graduation, he stayed to launch a career in banking. After the couple married they immediately embarked on a common goal: to build their very own home in the heart of this historic neighborhood.
“The Heights is wonderfully eclectic and close to everything. It was a good location for us because we wanted to be inside the Loop near our work, our friends, and cultural opportunities,” she says.
Thus, their first years of marriage were spent interviewing architects and builders, looking at materials and fixtures and, ultimately, immersing themselves in the details of designing and constructing a house. Greg Swedberg, AIA, owner of 2Scale Architects, was their choice for the right architect to help them realize their ideal home. They had biweekly meetings with him during the ten months of design and preparation.
“Designing this house was a lot of fun because the clients were so engaged from start to finish; I was excited to go on the journey with them,” says Swedberg.
“They had real preferences, both contemporary and traditional home concepts, so navigating how much of each made for some interesting design conversations.”
The finished product references Queen’s affinity for contemporary California design and her husband’s Baltimore upbringing. It has elements of a classic farmhouse, along with craftsman and contemporary features. Swedberg calls it modern farmhouse styling with a twist.
The atypical floor plan creates some fun indoor-outdoor connections not typically seen on an urban infill lot. “It’s all pretty modern and sophisticated. There’s no crown molding, no excess. We chose materials that age well, like the bluestone. The columns and the beams are all cedar. We stained the handrails to add some warmth,” says Swedberg.
The house faces south and all the windows get ample shade. There are big overhangs and a slight taper on the eaves, a feature that makes the appearance more streamlined.
Entering the house, there’s a guest suite on the front left and a study and parlor on the right that share a two-sided fireplace. The house is awash in natural light.
Although the couple had no children when the house project began, they knew they wanted a family, so that was a consideration in the design. By the move-in date, they had a baby daughter and, two years later, a second daughter.
“The downstairs guest suite has been great,” Queen says. “When my parents come from The Woodlands or we have out-of-town guests, they can actually get a good night’s sleep and never hear a crying child.
Beyond the study and the parlor is the kitchen, large and functional, that flows into a family room. It’s definitely the heart of the home. “We cook dinner most nights and our weekend family time is spent here,” she says.
The kitchen islands are placed long ways so they don’t block the living area. The continuous granite surface above the stove makes it easy to wipe down. One of the couple’s best choices was a high-end Sub-Zero wine fridge to house their wine collection from northern California. All the other appliances are Thermador.
Adjoining the kitchen and living area is a courtyard that serves as a covered exterior room.
“With the cooler weather, we are out there all the time,” says Queen.
A special piece of art is the stained glass window by Karen Farrell, a local artist. The art glass depicts a combination of elements representing Maryland, Texas and California.
For the home’s interior, the couple worked with Colby Weems of Eclectic Home
“Our house has a lot of natural stone and color. It’s definitely my happy place,” she adds.
Greg Swedberg, AIA
40 Cypress Creek Parkway
Farrells Art Glass