A Westlake House Reflects Moroccan Heritage

Posted Wednesday, Jan. 02, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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The house is more than a lovely indulgence, more than a clever investment for the owner, a 30-something businessman who speaks several languages and whose career takes him to far-flung corners of the world.

Instead, it seems at once a tribute and an anchor to his Moroccan heritage, a sanctuary from the demands of his busy life and an incubator for the man he is becoming.

Completed in 2006, the home already has been tweaked in several places to satisfy an owner eager to have the house that best serves his needs.

"I think this house will continue to evolve as long as he owns it," says designer Russell Ross, who is a principal with Brian Kelley in the Richardson-based Intuitive Design Group.

The lot and the builder already had been selected when Ross came on board, and he quickly understood that this owner's taste level and vision for the project outstripped the original plans.

But all those upgrades in Moroccan tile, top-of-the-line granite and state-of-the-art equipment didn't mean the owner was overbuilding the neighborhood. Hardly.

Tucked away in an exclusive Westlake enclave, the house, with its domed tower encircled by jewel-toned stained glass windows featuring geometric stars, may become a landmark in this affluent community where entertainers, professional athletes and captains of industry happily pony up millions of dollars for sprawling homes behind the stone security gates.

Light-years away from the much older and more sedate confines of Fort Worth's Westover Hills or Dallas' tony Highland Park, both strongholds of "old money," this beautiful golf course community -- with a top-notch club, fishing ponds and first-rate schools -- is a magnet for the "new Texans" willing to spend the abundant jingle in their jeans for luxury where they find it, and the convenience of an international airport close at hand.

But in this neighborhood of swanky houses boasting eye-popping amounts of square footage, this unique house is a compact and manageable 4,200 square feet, every inch of it reflecting the owner's devotion to his heritage and drive to make this space comfortable.

Many of the elements are the owner's personal "finds" -- some crafted to his specifications in Marrakech or Fez: lovely Moroccan tiles, ornately carved doors, a tile fireplace surround, a gilded figurine that fits perfectly into a tiled nook high in the wall of the great room, massive mirrors for the master bath and more.

"So many things were handmade for the house ... the tiles were hand-painted and shipped here. But this house is a marriage of traditional architectural design elements and modern technology," says the owner, who talked by phone from the West Coast but asked to remain anonymous.

He insisted on state-of-the-art construction and appliances while embracing green elements that make the home energy efficient.

Always hands on, he ferreted out the elaborate front doors, which are carved and colored and inlaid with brass and bone. Ross protected them behind an outer door of iron with an inset of obscure glass.

A cozy study fills the bottom of the tower, and the owner had the custom desk built in Morocco. Upstairs, the tower space is used as an intimate media room that seats only six people on three custom-made couches that fit the room's curved walls. Just outside the Moroccan-made doors, guests can enjoy refreshments from the wet bar.

The kitchen is cutting edge, with Wolf appliances and a built-in Miele espresso machine with two "cup warmer" drawers. Its floor is of rojo travertine with insets of Moroccan tile.

Originally the kitchen island was smaller than it is now and held tall display cases at each end. The space between was bridged by elaborate, custom-crafted ironwork. That structure has been ripped out and reworked into a "hutch" that sits at the end of the breakfast room.

It was replaced by a massive 7-foot-by-10-foot slab of red dragon granite with seating for five.

"I'm taking the top of line ... modern conveniences and marrying them with handcrafted elements. It's modern and yet it's traditional in terms of architecture and style. It's a comfortable feel," says the owner.

Both the master bath and the spacious closet have been reworked, as well. The original sunken tub, which sat below floor grade, has been replaced by a larger jetted wonder with LED lights and space for two to stretch out.

The master closet with a convenient hidden door to the study has also seen a complete makeover, and the addition of sliding racks and functional drawers.

Custom touches are everywhere. Cabinet doors throughout the house have wooden insets that offer another layer of the exotic, another salute to Moorish inspiration. These wooden lattices are also inset into the Moorish arches that frame every doorway.

The master bedroom, with a heart pine floor and views of the back yard, is a comfortable retreat, but it, too, has been modified. Windows across one end of the room have been replaced with a wall of glass.

"In pictures, you can't tell if the bed is outside or inside," says the owner.

This four-bedroom home hugs an impressive inner courtyard that truly is the heart of the property.

A long rectangular pool dominates the space and stretches under the wide patio overhang, almost to the great room's glass doors, which can be folded open.

A pair of tall, mosaic columns with footings in the sparkling water add drama that is punctuated by a series of tiled fountains that march down the gentle slope from a hot tub and spill into the pool.

There are several seating areas, not one but two outdoor kitchens and a gigantic television screen to entertain swimmers and sun worshippers.

The back yard feels like a large, protected courtyard inspired by the exotic interior gardens of Spain and Morocco -- beautiful, sheltered spaces tucked away behind unassuming walls. "It's like your best-kept secret," says the owner.

But even now, he is planning an expansion of the house, with construction to begin in the spring or summer.

The work will stretch the front courtyard, which has already been revamped once. The first time, a "wall of water and fire" fountain was installed, incorporating an existing mosaic wall as a backdrop.

New plans double the size of this space.

"I want a beautiful courtyard in the front of the house to create a welcoming feeling even before you come inside," says the owner.

This melding of inside and outside creates an unexpected extension of living space that is a central theme of this surprising home.

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