Couple Changes Direction in New Home

Posted Wednesday, Apr. 03, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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She'd been looking for a long time, driving Fort Worth's west-side streets, searching for the perfect place to build their next home.

After a decade in Westover Hills, one of the city's most exclusive enclaves, Dahlia and Paul Grant Sr. were tired of vintage homes, no matter how splendid, and weary of the patina of elite tradition.

At 60-something, the Grants wanted something new: a new house, new furnishings and a different sort of neighborhood.

In 2005, Dahlia found two small bungalows side by side in a neighborhood of cottages built in the 1920s and 1930s.

One lot wasn't large enough for the contemporary house they planned, but two lots offered 100 feet of street frontage, and an alley gave garage access from the back of the property.

Two lots, she decided, would be enough. It was a gamble, to be sure. In 2005, builders had torn down a few houses in the area and raised new homes here and there, but no one in the area had used two lots for one house and no one knew if this street would sustain the drive to revitalize older districts.

The Grants were unperturbed. They had grown accustomed to following their dreams.

Born in Jamaica, they had immigrated to Canada to finish medical studies in the late 1960s with two small children. He is a physician. She is a retired nurse.

Like most students and young parents, they lived on a strict budget, digging under the chair cushions to find enough change to see an occasional movie, said Dahlia, whose childhood had been decidedly advantaged, with a chauffeur delivering her to school and household servants to cook and clean.

But Canada had been a hard time, a busy time -- a happy time, she said.

Then, more than 30 years ago, the Grants, disillusioned with Canada's socialized medicine, headed to Texas in search of economic opportunity and landed in Fort Worth.

They prospered and their children flourished. In 2005, the senior Grants had another chance to follow their hearts. They purchased the two lots and never looked back.

They took their ideas for a house to Randall Walton of Walton & Walton Architecture-Interior Design, who delivered a set of plans in short order.

"They knew what they wanted, but they didn't talk about square footage. They talked about what they liked and how they lived," he says.

"They liked a contemporary look. They liked light stucco. They wanted a big kitchen because they socialize around cooking, but they also like formal dining and so they wanted a formal dining room. They wanted two guest rooms with baths and a place for their grandchildren, which is what the second floor is about. They wanted a hot tub and an outside entertainment area."

"He hit it with the first shot," says Paul.

Walton prepared working plans showing 10-inch-thick exterior walls that gave the entire home a more substantial visual weight and significance. Better yet, the walls accommodated more energy-saving insulation.

In fact, thanks to those thick walls, energy efficient windows, tankless water heaters, energy-stingy appliances and only the smallest nod to a yard, this 5,300-square foot house is astonishingly affordable to operate. "Only about $150 a month," says Paul Grant Jr., wistfully, as he compared his parents' monthly electric bills with those he pays in his smaller Monticello home only a mile away.

While Walton worked on the project, his wife and business partner, Amy Walton, helped the Grants with finish selections: honey-colored travertine floors, flamed granite countertops that are smooth to the touch but full of texture unlike honed or polished stone, anigre wood from Africa to sheath a wall that surrounds the fireplace and climbs two stories to the ceiling.

In 2007, the Grants jettisoned most of the antiques they'd lived with for years and gathered up a few of their favorite things, including a series of limited-edition Inuit prints by several artists, a collection of colorful glass urns purchased on their many travels, an old Audubon bird print, several small studies of people by Canadian artist Ken Danby, the formal mahogany dining table and chairs by Baker that they'd grown to love. They moved into the sleek contemporary home that is at once a serene retreat and an anchor for their busy family.

A spacious entry gallery runs from one side of the house to the other with a study on one end and a formal dining room on the other. Each end of the gallery is open to the great room outfitted with sleek Italian pieces by makers such as Cassina, Giorgetti and de Sede.

Dahlia is completely responsible for the interior furnishings. Her daughter-in-law, Brynja Grant, a native of Iceland who once worked in Dallas' Design District, did offer a few suggestions, but the vision and the selections are all Dahlia.

It is clear that she admires spare, clean lines in furniture and art.

Contemporary watercolors by Icelandic artist Rakel Steinthorsdottir, one of Brynja's friends, occupy the little bit of wall space in this room.

A grand kitchen designed to accommodate a family of cooks fills one end of the massive great room.

"We all cook together," says Dahlia.

She patted a bar bordered by Moroso stools. "This is for those who do not want to be in the kitchen," she says. "They can watch from here."

There is plenty of room in this house for the Grants' two grown children, who are both physicians, and six grandchildren to gather.

The two narrow mezzanine floors that flank the great room and are furnished only with low bookcases and decorated with the cherished Inuit prints are used most by the children, who fill these spaces beneath the sloping ceilings with mattresses for sleepovers. Outside, a grand 36-foot-by-15-foot portal in back of the house easily accommodates dining and offers a generous seating area.

Motorized phantom screens roll down from the ceiling to enclose this space. Radiant heaters and fans make the area usable almost year-round for gatherings of family and friends.

Family is the Grants' core and crown, but they also like to socialize with neighbors. They are part of a neighborhood "round robin" dinner group, says Paul. There is no formal schedule. Families take turns hosting when the spirit moves them. The Grants like this casual approach as much as they like the neighbors.

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