Photo credit: Photos: Miro Dvorscak, DM Photography
By pure definition, a custom home meets the needs and wants specific to a client. The only way these needs and wants can be met successfully is with open communication — especially when the end result is a highly detailed 6,500-sq.-ft. home in a high-end gated community.
The details are unclear on how each party became involved in the design and build of this project, the Gracious Estate in Kingwood, Texas. Danny Foster, vice president and partner, Sugar Creek Homes in Kingwood, Texas, says there is a good reason for that. “The best way for it to work is for a professional builder, interior designer, architect and homeowner to work together in unison,” he says. “And because of this, it’s hard to remember when people became involved in the process.”
The interior designer played a major role in this project, helping the homeowners decipher the level and type of details needed to go into this home. The open communication between the interior designer, architect and builder guaranteed the process moved smoothly without any surprises.
Meeting wants, needs
The homeowners were extremely involved and clear about what they wanted in this house. “The first thing she requested was that she liked contrast; she wanted a lot of contrast in the house. We accomplished it with our finishes and designs — using a lot of greens, blacks, creams,” says Jane-Page Crump, president, Jane Page Design Group, Houston.
The homeowners also wanted views of the lake. “They both emphasized to me the beauty of their waterfront, heavily wooded lot and explained their desire to take advantage of all views of the lake in rooms which faced the back,” says Bat Oggero, AIBD, partner, Sullivan, Henry, Oggero, Houston. “Within an hour [of the first meeting], the floor plans of both first and second floors were roughly sketched. At this point, I gave [the homeowners] the homework assignment of cutting out pictures of house elevations they liked from magazines and bringing them back to our next meeting. They were to make notes on these cutouts as to what specifically they liked and even noting features they disliked, in order to give me a clear idea of this couple’s taste preferences.”
Jane Page Design Group prepared the interior design, proposed it to the client and presented it to the architect and builder. “There were never major issues because we were good about giving the architect and builder our specifications early on,” Crump says.
Certain factors in the house needed to be prepared early on including the lighting according to Crump. “It’s easiest if the lighting system is prepared early on because you have to determine what the light source will be — hanging, ceiling, accent lights,” Crump says.
To prepare the lighting plan, it was important for Jane Page Design Group to understand how the homeowners lived. By understanding their lifestyle, the interior designers were able to create a lighting system that met the homeowners’ every day needs. Most rooms have an average of five light sources, Crump adds.
Approach challenges head on
This house, like many other custom projects, had its handful of challenges. “One of the initial challenges was getting it to fit on the lot,” Foster says. “The lot sits halfway in and halfway out of the city. Getting this close-to-7,000-sq.- ft. home positioned correctly and then trying to permit the house whether in the city or county was a big challenge.”
The solution of getting the home to fit on the lot properly is due to Oggero’s expertise, Foster says. “It required a lot of geometry, allocating space, trying to maximize the number of rooms on the back of the house,” he says. “We pushed the house farther back toward the lake. Almost every room has a view of the lake. [Oggero] was able to make it work.”
Oggero emphasizes that working with Sugar Creek was a great part of creating a solution to this problem. “Although it was a full acre lot, its shape was a long and narrow trapezoid which presented a challenge due to the largeness of their desired house. Through working and negotiating with [Sugar Creek Homes], I was able to place the house at its most advantageous position meeting all restrictions while utilizing the lot’s intrinsic lakefront scenic views,” Oggero says.
Working in unison
When asked what’s their favorite part of the house, Oggero, Crump and Foster all provide different answers. “I love walking into the space; it feels good,” Crump says. “The theater is also one of my favorites.”
Foster likes the backyard and back porch. “It has a great summer kitchen with tile that has the homeowners’ initials laser sketched into it. The Phantom Screens protect from bugs, there are great views of the lake, and the giant yard with trees are great,” he says. “My other favorite is the whole house automation and media room. It has a whole house Crestron system that is pretty awesome.”
Oggero’s favorite part is the home’s flow literally and figuratively. “Not just because of the open floor plan, but it is our combined team’s expression of using flow to express our clients’ descriptions of how they planned to use their home. ”
No matter whom you ask, Oggero, Foster or Crump, they are all in unison when they say the success of the project relied on teamwork and communication of all involved.
“It was the formation of our triad, a team working at times together and other times separately with the single purpose of creating a home full of the many obvious and subtle architectural components, multilayered design features, and complex building techniques which uniquely expressed our clients’ vision for their home,” Oggero says.
“It does help that we’ve worked together before, but it really helps when you have the right personalities of each member,” Crump says. “If you have someone who cares about the client and giving the client quality, then we are all on the same page.”