Spring brings so many rewarding reasons to get out of the house — fields of bluebonnets, art-filled streets of the Main St. Fort Worth Arts Festival and the exquisite houses on the American Institute of Architects Homes Tour.
This year, six homes by local architects are on view, ranging from a 237-square-foot remodel in a modest mid-century neighborhood to a new, 6,000-square-foot luxury home near TCU.
The homeowners have graciously accepted the conditions of the homes tour, allowing hundreds of strangers to tromp through their houses while their architects bask in the compliments and kudos.
The architects will be on-site to answer any questions and point out specifics. So, not only can visitors and neighbors finally see what’s been under construction on the block, they can get all the details from the designer.
The two-day event is April 25-26; tickets are available in advance or on the days of the tour. Here is a closer look at the homes that will be open for viewing.
3813 W. Fifth St.
Norman Ward, architect
Photos by Chad M. Davis, AIA
The newly constructed three-bedroom/two-bath home was built on a narrow infill lot near the museums west of downtown Fort Worth. Currently, a young woman lives there, but her parents — who were very involved in the construction of the house — are eying the 2,290-square-foot space as a possible downsize location for themselves.
Architect Norman Ward designed the house in two large rectangular zones. The public space, with 12-foot ceilings, is constructed of paint-grade steel with hardwood floors. The private areas, with 9-foot ceilings, are sheathed in Silver Mist sandstone with cement floors. The two zones are connected by the kitchen. The public rectangle is offset to create a garden area in the front of the house. Fencing surrounds the lot and extends across the front yard to render maximum privacy.
The house operates on a solar system, and during winter, the electric bills were running about $60 a month. Come summer, the system should be more efficient, and the homeowners can expect a negative electrical bill and might be able to sell excess back to their electrical provider.
The client is an avid woodworker, and he supplied all of the wood used in the house and even made the doors. The highly contrasting kane wood used in the public area is from a reservoir in Ghana, the doors are ebony and the trim poplar.
One of Ward’s signature floor-level windows is used on the west side of the house, a way to capture light without losing privacy. The east side of the house wraps around a small garden surrounded by windows that act as a light well for the bedrooms.
“The whole idea of this work is searching for clarity,” says Ward. “It’s one thing to live out in the country like I do and pull in light, but how do you do the exact same thing in an urban environment? I never look at things as a challenge. It’s not a challenge. It’s a joy to find clarity and how to turn that into architecture.”
Ward will be on-site during the tour with brothers Daniel Novak, who was the general contractor, and Inman Novak, the landscape designer.
Talking Points: Ask Ward about the ideological and mechanical connection between the two spaces. Ask the Novak brothers about their collaboration during the building process so that, when the project was finished, there was landscaping that was as integral as the interior fixtures.
2321 Ryan Ave.
Philip Newburn, architect
Photos by Ron Jenkins
In 2008, architect Philip Newburn found a lot between the Elizabeth Boulevard Historic District, the city’s first, and the Fairmount Historic District. Half a block was unclaimed by either of the groups and on that half block was a vacant lot. Newburn snapped it up and slid a modernist white box on the land. The result was the first Fort Worth house with a LEED platinum certification. (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design uses a rating system that measures building standards for sustainability. The levels are certified, silver, gold and platinum)
Newburn, his wife and child lived there for several years and now are redoing a Mistletoe Heights bungalow, but he is still tied to this house, and regrets his bungalow isn’t as weather tight.
The tour house was built with structurally insulated panels, which consist of two layers of particleboard sandwiching foam insulation. They are ordered to size in a factory and are delivered to the job site and snapped in place. The exactness means there doesn’t have to be any trim. The walls meet the floors and ceilings in a perfect line. “For a house like this that doesn’t have a lot of trim, it helps,” says Newburn. The exactness was necessary, as there was no trim budget to hide irregularities of construction.
“While I was working on this house, I was designing a huge Tudor for Dobbins+Crow, where I worked,” he says. “It finished out at $700 to $800 a square foot; this one was $140.”
The budget dictated many of the choices, such as the commercial-grade storefront glass doors and windows on the back of the house, that were painted white to lesson their industrial look.
While the house style is a radical departure from that of the neighbors’, Newburn says it is compatible in size and setback. He believes new homes should look new, unlike two nearby builder-grade homes designed to mimic the gingerbread bungalows of Ryan Place. They have an insincere quality of newly minted trying to pass as antique.
Talking Points: Ask Newburn about the demands of LEED certification and the design decisions he made to meet the requirements.
2924 Alton Road
Tom Holifield, architect
Photos by Ron Jenkins
These clients were savvy. They had built several homes in the past, and when they moved to Fort Worth from Austin, they were ready for another home-building experience. They called in architect Tom Holifield and found a lot immediately behind the newly renovated Amon G. Carter Stadium on the TCU campus in an established neighborhood. The existing house was demolished and in its place, a large two-story French Colonial home rose from the razing.
The clients said they wanted something that looked like it belonged in the neighborhood, and while Holifield says the house is French Colonial, it is a modern Americanized version. An original Colonial would have had livestock or storerooms on the ground floor and the living area on the second.
He was careful to build in aspects that suggested the 6,000-square-foot house had been there for decades. The master bedroom wing was clad in wood siding instead of brick so it looks like it was added long after the original construction.
Holifield used Creole-influenced shutters, dormers in the attic and fish-scale shingles on the roof for verisimilitude, as well as flickering gas lights on the porches.
It is the wide, graceful brick sidewalk that sweeps up to the house that gives away its more recent lineage. Were it slightly stained and showing signs of moss, it would be hard to tell when this house was built.
Talking Points: Ask Holifield about building in an old neighborhood in a period style and the elements he used to give the house the patina of age.
4032 Eldridge St.
Marta Rozanich, architect
Photos by Ron Jenkins
A small house in a modest 1950s neighborhood needed more than its two bedrooms and one bath. The owner envisioned an additional bedroom for her teenage son, and an expanded living area. She put her desires for a new kitchen on hold, knowing the bed/bath combo in 400 additional square feet would consume the budget.
She called in architect Marta Rozanich, who comforts her clients with the admonition, “There is no project too small for good design.” By reconfiguring the existing space and moving walls around, Rozanich was able to give the homeowner a bedroom, a bath, a larger living room and a new kitchen with high-end appliances in 237 square feet of space.
“Had we not hired an architect, the contractor would have done what I wanted instead of looking at the space to see how we could get more. We got the better end of the bargain hiring Marta,” says the homeowner.
Of course, there were delays during construction. There was a roof problem, as in too much of it. In some places, there were 20 layers of shingles, and the excessive weight was causing the structure to buckle.
The original living area is now an entry and dining room and the kitchen is large and imposing, a real show-off space — just what the homeowner wanted. The living area, with a feature wall of rich cedar, is intimate and cozy.
Doing all the renovation “made me love my house even more,” says the homeowner. And there was a bonding project for her son.
A cedar-sided shed had to be torn down to make way for the new bedroom wing. The cedar shingles were saved. Her son cleaned them and sealed them, and they were repurposed onto the living room wall. Saving part of the original building’s history is good for the soul. Plus, it gave the owner’s son a hand in the process. All good investments in materials and commitment, says Rozanich.
Talking Points: Ask Rozanich about her configuration of space that allowed a kitchen when only a bedroom and bath were expected.
3928 Bishop Flowers Road
Nolan Bradshaw, architect
Photos by Ron Jenkins
The only house on the homes tour built by an architect for himself, and still being lived in by the architect, is Nolan Bradshaw’s home in southwest Fort Worth.
He and his wife had built for themselves before, so they were experienced. When it comes to being the architect and the client, the hardest part, he found, was what often plagues construction projects — staying on budget. “You have high expectations, and you hate to make concessions. It’s a totally different experience,” he says.
He says that with clients, it always seems like you are waiting for them to make decisions. The give and take is always about the budget, not about taste.
He did have one huge advantage in building the style house he wanted: He sits on the Riverhills Design Review Committee; his position is the Town Architect. This is the neighborhood where he built his home, and like so many neighborhoods, there were design standards that had to be met. The usual suspects were listed — Mediterranean, French, Tudor, Craftsman — but Bradshaw saw that an appropriate regional style was on the list, too: Texas vernacular.
His house is of that style; it incorporates the traditional Texas building materials of limestone, wood, stucco and steel. It is a consistent palette that plays out on the exterior and interior. “I felt Texas vernacular was more interpretive of my design aesthetic, with LEED and energy consideration,” he says.
There is a standing-seam metal roof held aloft by large Douglas fir timbers. The second floor is stucco, as it is lighter than the limestone that is used on the ground level. The gutters are heavy-gauge metal, as are the lintels above the windows. A charming water feature is formed when the metal downspout feeds into a rill alongside the front porch.
Talking Points: Ask Bradshaw about the chimney. While you can’t see the machinations of what it took to have two fireplaces, one upstairs and one down, he says, “It was a structural dance that will never be seen, which is a shame.”
575 Quail Ridge Road, Aledo
Rick Wintersole, architect
Photos by Rick Wintersole
The clients were ready to downsize and move down-slope, from an aerie on a hilltop in Aledo to the shelter of the woods on their expanse of rural property. They called in their neighbor, architect Rick Wintersole, and his son, Colin, who collaborated on both the design and supervision of the construction.
The homeowners wanted a small house for two, with a single bedroom and one living area, nestled in the woods, with absolutely no harm done to any of the trees. On this point they were adamant.
The process took 18 months from initial talks until move-in day. One of the first things the Wintersoles did was choose the building site and mark the trees that needed to be saved.
“Colin and I located what we thought were major trees,” says Wintersole. “We flagged them and the next time we came back, all these other trees were flagged. I guess major trees are in the eye of the beholder.”
The Wintersoles gave the couple the simplicity they desired, by carefully counting and measuring everything that needed to come from the big house, now home to their daughter and her young family. Books were measured by linear foot so there would be enough shelf space to accommodate the collection. The piano was measured, too: “We made sure we had a home for that,” Colin says.
There is a separate building that houses a home office that can be used as a guest suite, and a large carport. The buildings are connected by an expansive deck that is embraced by the beloved trees. The home turns its back to the public approach; it is not meant to impress the neighbors — there are none. This is a secluded sanctuary for a time when life becomes more private, and the need for shelter overrides the need to make a statement.
Talking Points: Ask the Wintersoles about siting the house and protecting the trees during construction. Be sure to note the wonderful cabinets and ask who made them.
AIA Fort Worth Homes Tour
Tickets: $20 in advance, $25 days of tour, $10 for individual house
Tickets, on sale April 1, may be purchased online at http://aiafw.org/2015homestour/ or at the AIA Office at 2821 W. Seventh St., Suite 300, inside the VLK Architects offices.
Tickets can be purchased on Saturday or Sunday of the tour at any of the participating homes.