This area has a lot of energy, but at the same time it’s natural and peaceful, and this house reflects that,” says architect Cliff Welch of the Dallas home he designed overlooking White Rock Lake for a pair of art enthusiasts looking to start the next chapter in their lives. “Not only are there really nice views of White Rock, but the house has a real presence when you look at it from the trail that goes around the lake.” The owners—empty nesters with three grown children—envisioned a warm modern retreat that would embrace the views and create a backdrop for their extensive collection of artwork by the Dallas Nine, a group of artists active in Texas during the 1930s and ’40s, and other Texas Regionalists. “The art brings warmth into the house, and that was one of our goals,” says the wife. “We wanted the house to feel welcoming, and the team did a great job of selecting the appropriate colors and materials.” Concurs designer Allen Kirsch: “We were all on the same page that everything needed to be modern yet warm, especially since the clients’ taste in art is more traditional.”
The new modern two-level home that the team created for the couple seems to emerge from the landscape, with rough limestone along the steeply sloping lot behind the house giving way to a more refined Lueders limestone at the hilltop in front of the home. “It’s a very complicated structure, because we were building into the hillside around existing vegetation,” Welch says, noting that the lot’s triangular shape inspired him to design the home with a 15-degree shift between the main and master bedroom wings. “The entire house is positioned to maximize the views of the lake.” Building the cantilevered structure on such a hilly, wooded piece of land was not easy. “The floor and the roof cantilever out over each other, so there’s a lot of steel utilized that one can’t see,” says builder Steve Hild, who used a crane to hoist the massive structural beams up and over the existing trees. “Getting the beams to the site was very challenging.”
In front, a Pennsylvania bluestone cobble terrace leads from the street to the entry, where a curved mahogany privacy screen introduces warmth and softens the home’s limestone massing. “We wanted the entry to be an experience,” says Welch. “There are faint glimpses of the lake through the screened fenestration at the entrance, hinting at what’s to come.” Landscape architect David Hocker further enhanced those views by removing trees in poor health and selectively pruning others to frame vistas of the lake beyond. “Making sure that the property didn’t lose that shaded woodland aspect was important,” Hocker says. In addition, along the back of the home, a screened-in porch overlooks a deck and infinity-edge pool perched along the hill. “There’s this beautifully reflective pool surface that the house looks down onto, and then it drops off into a lush landscape,” Hocker says.
While the landscape beautifully connects to its scenic surroundings, the entry acts as the perfect gallery- like setting, with ample wall space for paintings and sculptures. Here, an exposed structural steel I-beam that runs through the entire home and out to the back is painted a deep rust orange. “It never would have occurred to me that an exposed steel beam would be attractive, but it’s one of our favorite elements in the house,” says the husband. “One of the benefits of working with a forward-thinking team is that they open your mind to endless possibilities.” Kirsch consulted on the beam’s bold hue selection and used it as an accent color throughout the interior. “The clients love orange and really respond to that color,” he says.
To contrast the reddish tones, the designer looked to the opposite end of the spectrum, zeroing in on olive green, which he used for the large sofa and a pair of leather armchairs in the living room—a place the owners spend most of their time. “The natural greens beautifully mirror the trees and plant material outside,” Kirsch says. “I filled the spaces with comfortable furnishings in earthy hues—something different than the usual modern expression.” A mix of iconic pieces effortlessly pairs with cushy furnishings and custom-designed items. For instance, Eero Saarinen’s Tulip table and chairs mingle with a walnut-topped coffee table and a Le Corbusier chair in the game room, while an Eames chair holds court in the living room next to a custom-designed side table by Kirsch. Furthermore, dining room chairs pop with orange leather, and the upstairs landing is enlivened with an orange rug. “The owners wanted color, which was a departure for me,” Kirsch says. “However, the entire project was very much a group effort.”
Indeed, the owners, who were involved in the project from the get-go and attended nearly every design meeting, are quick to credit the entire team for the finished product. “We wanted a house that looked like it belonged here, and Cliff and the team did a fabulous job of designing something that fits this radically sloping lot in a way that reminds me of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater,” says the husband. “We have a beautiful home designed by a talented local team that showcases local artists. That really makes this place feel like it belongs here.”