It’s not every day that an architect gets to design her own home. Usually designers’ days are spent conscientiously uncovering other people’s spatial needs and satisfying them, often on tight budgets and with even tighter time frames. So when Maria Gomez and her husband Luis Escobar decided to build their own home, Gomez was thrilled. Having herself as a client was almost as irresistible as hiring herself as an architect. “It was the best experience of my career,” she jokes. Best, maybe, but not easiest. Gomez the architect and Gomez the owner are both very demanding, she admits. “I spent every spare minute for months solving problems I’d made for myself!”
The intense scrutinizing paid off, though. Each space is a carefully calibrated volume considered within the context of the site, function and materials. This stripped-down aesthetic is the foundation of minimalism, and Gomez is one of its strongest advocates, following in the footsteps of architects such as Mies van der Rohe and Richard Meier. The desired effect is a home that’s strong and linear and leaves nothing wasted. “How can we get things as simple as possible is the question that guides all my work,” says Gomez.
Take the way the house is set onto the land, for example. Rather than tearing down the existing trees—mature pecans, elms and cotton- woods—Gomez discovered a block of usable terrain between them that allowed her to spread the house out, barely affecting the landscape. The spot was perfect for constructing the home as a long rectangle with a broad southern exposure. Gomez also cantilevered a flat roof form out over the glass expanses to provide shade to the interiors during the summer, while welcoming the warming sun during the cooler months. Then, she used a plane of Brazilian redwood to slice the house in half cross-wise, separating the public spaces from the private ones and adding a visual exclamation point to the design.
With the basics in place, Gomez began to craft the volumes of each room. When designing the interiors, she didn’t differentiate her architect self from her interior designer self. “The process is the same,” she says. “I didn’t know how to separate them.” What emerged was a plan that grouped the living, dining and kitchen areas together in a single, thoughtfully proportioned space. To create a cozy sensation and to keep glare under control, Gomez enclosed the sitting area within walls and outfitted it with a suite of classic modern furniture.
Then, she turned her attention to the kitchen. “We’re not really cooks, though we enjoy cooking,” Gomez admits. So, she and Escobar opted for a simple array of cabinetry from Bulthaup, the German manufacturer with high standards for fit and finish. “Their idea of precision and my idea of precision are a perfect match,” she says. A pantry and additional countertop space are tucked away behind pivoting doors. In between lies the dining area, furnished simply and opening onto the spacious, almost floating deck. A George Nelson pendant fixture lights the table.
The multifunctional space is painted in a neutral white. “It’s not warm, and it’s not cool,” explains Gomez. “It’s pure.” As is the concrete flooring— no special additives, just plain old Texas concrete. The pure-white palette extends to the private spaces. The master is also a carefully proportioned white box, but here the flooring shifts to white oak, which has been specially cut to reveal the straight, tight grain. The room opens onto a rooftop deck that is sheathed in Brazilian redwood and stucco and shaded from the sun with another cantilevered overhang. “It’s my getaway,” Gomez says: her minimalist perch.
The best part? “As the designer, I knew exactly what my needs, desires and budgets were,” says Gomez. “But as the owner, I got to tell myself when to break my own rules!”