The unusual curved design of the elegant glass, limestone, stucco and steel house was inspired by a 100-year-old Oak Tree growing in the middle of its 2-acre lot in Dallas’ Preston Hollow neighborhood. “A tree like this is an asset you very seldom find, and, if you do, typically it would not be in a good place to design a house around,” says architect Lionel Morrison, FAIA, of Morrison Seifert Murphy in Dallas.
Morrison initially presented the homeowners—who have two small children—with a traditional linear house plan, along with a more artistic, curved version. Both plans incorporated the tree, but the couple enthusiastically embraced the more unconventional one and happily gave Morrison the complete design freedom he needed to execute it.
An arborist was enlisted even before construction began to monitor the health of the tree every step of the way. “I had some sleepless nights because the house is designed around the tree, and what would happen if it died?” Morrison laughs. Construction has since finished, and the oak continues to thrive. Morrison’s team used computer modeling to position the house precisely, not only for the sake of the tree, but to ensure that every room would receive maximum natural light.
Computers also assisted in the design of the home’s steel skeleton, which acts as a sunshade as well as a decorative element. For Morrison, the carte blanche commission allowed him to hone architectural ideas he’d been developing for years. “It was about refinement rather than experimentation,” he says.
Constructing a large-scale curved house presented big challenges for builder Steven Hild, of Dallas-based Steven Hild Custom Builder. “The walls and windows all align on a hub-and-spoke system, which is difficult to carry out. I’ve never done a curved house on that scale before,” says Hild. “One of the most unique features is the curved wood floor upstairs—the first floor is concrete. Every board had to be bent, and every room literally had a different radius.” Hild knew what he was getting into, however. He’s worked with Morrison for more than 15 years, and this was their 10th house together. “Projects with Lionel are always challenging, but that’s why I like working with him.”
Special effort was made to ensure that the house was sustainable, green and technologically advanced. Cooled and heated by a super-efficient geothermal system, the materials in the home are both environmentally conscious and local, like concrete, steel and Texas limestone. In lieu of teak, doors and cabinets are made of renewable afromosia wood. And a sophisticated Lutron system controls the security features, shades, pool, lighting and thermostats, all remotely accessed from the home- owners’ cell phones.
The interiors are minimalist to the max. The design team at Morrison Seifert Murphy “treated the interiors almost as landscaping,” says Morrison, who notes that “it’s not the easiest task to place furniture in a curving space.” Comprising sculptural pieces from Scott + Cooner and David Sutherland, along with custom furnishings, the interiors play a supporting role to the architecture’s star billing. One of the surprises about the nature of Morrison’s curved design is how intimate each room feels in such a vast overall space. And there’s a delightful bonus, he says: “Every window in the house naturally focuses back on to the big tree.”