This ranch is a cut above

Posted Wednesday, Nov. 06, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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He strides confidently into the conference room at the ranch office wearing a baseball cap and T-shirt with a Nantucket logo, looking younger than his 54 years.

In his previous life, he was an investment banker who climbed to the top of the corporate ladder, and along the way, Jon Winkelried became a man who could indulge his interests. As it turns out, ranching and the horse sport of cutting are two of his favorite pursuits.

He owns cattle operations in Colorado, but a premier cutting horse ranch 25 minutes west of Fort Worth is one of his master works and his home.

Designed by San Antonio-based Lake|Flato Architects, the celebrated and award-winning firm famous for creating buildings of unique beauty that seem to bloom from the building site, this versatile horse facility of a little more than 340 acres won the Texas Architect Award for design and functionality in 2011.

Now this place is an impressive complex with paddocks, three barns, indoor and outdoor arenas, a tiered water feature, cattle pens, an industrial-size workshop, workout room, hay barn, entertainment pavilion, foreman’s house, staff housing and more.

But when Winkelried bought the property in 2005, he says the brush was so thick it obscured the contours of the land. For him, these almost untouched pastures were an advantage.

“I liked the idea of having a blank canvas … I’d rather build my own things than have to deal with improvements someone else made,” he says.

The exception was the main house, a gracious and unique three-bedroom home that the previous owners, Becky and Jon Brumley — who were married on the property — raised on the highest piece of ground in 1991.

Designed by Emery Young, an award-winning architect, it is an elegant aerie with commanding views. Thick plantings of pomegranate, oleander and oak surround this home with its tall windows, wide porches, large balcony and standing seam roof. Deer and turkey wander close, and it’s no accident that this house seems to wear the mantle of a time now gone.

The house was based on historic homes that were only one room wide, so that light could flood in from both sides, says Becky Brumley.

All three bedrooms are on the ground floor, while the kitchen and living area, which is one big open space, are on the second story with its exposed rafters and long vistas.

Carvings of oak leaves and acorns adorn woodwork throughout the house, and the fireplace mantel is carved with a panorama of the property.

Empty-nesters Winkelried and his wife, Abby, moved into the house just as it stood. “The Brumleys have great taste,” says Winkelried. But before the boxes were unpacked, he was already focused on building a top-notch horse facility.

The Big Idea

For architect Bill Aylor of Lake|Flato, the project was as demanding as it was exciting.

“We’d done ranches before, but the scale of this project was new to us. It was so large, it was more industrial, with all the things that go into the care and training of the horses,” he says. “It was interesting to get our arms — and brains — wrapped around the property.”

The bottom line was that Aylor and his team wanted the barns and building to be something more than functional.

“We wanted it to be a pastoral experience, “he says. “We wanted the structures to feel like part of the natural environment.”

They used corrugated steel for roofs. “It’s a more humble material than standing seam roofs,” he says.

Siding is of sinker pine, a wood harvested from rivers and bayous.

“It’s sort of marinated at the bottom of a river for a while,” says Aylor. After installation, it is allowed to weather for a time and then sealed, he says.

The office and conference-room floor, as well as the wooden porches, are constructed of ipe, a South American hardwood often used in outdoor decking.

“It’s a very, very hard material and will last decades without maintenance,” says Aylor.

Clear stories in the barns and the sides of the arena are made of perforated molded steel, which doesn’t impede air flow but cuts the wind.

“I saw this used in a parking garage once,” says Winkelried, who is delighted with the result of the application here.

This molded steel is allowed to rust along with all other metal surfaces, including the five-rail fencing of tubular steel that surrounds pastures, paddocks and cattle pens.

Stall doors and the perforated doors that slide over the outside of the stalls to cut the wind have rusted, too, making the entire complex feel somehow organic. Seen from an overlook on the caliche road that winds down from the gate, the complex seems a study in sepia.

“I didn’t want any maintenance,” says Winkelried.

Horse sense

Barn floors are brick set in sand, and the “horse wash” has radiant heat beneath the floor. This wash area and the 36 stalls are surrounded by rubber. Huge fans stir the air on hot days, and every stall has automatic watering troughs.

Of course, there are facilities for veterinarians and a farrier, an employee break room and a generous tack room, but Winkelried is especially proud of the horse hydrotherapy pool with its underwater treadmill. “The horses love it,” he says.

But of all the structures in the horse facility, the arena is the most dramatic.

“The land slopes down, and we dug out the hill and dropped this big arena into that part. It’s big, but you don’t know how big until you get inside,” Winkelried says.

Aylor agrees. “It fits the environment. It works well,” he says, but he is especially proud of the simplicity of the foreman’s two-bedroom house and the hay barn, with its now rusted sides of perforated, molded steel.

Winkelried is pleased with the outcome, too. “After all the planning, construction and work that went into building the facility and transforming the property, it’s amazing how it feels as if it’s always been here,” he says.

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