We often think of houses as objects,” architect Mark D. Hoesterey says of a perspective he feels can quickly compromise the harmony between structure and site. “But if you can be humble in your approach, the result is a better marriage between nature and architecture, each making the other stronger.”
Hoesterey recently drove home this point on a 1.4-acre Dallas lot bisected by a creek. “We saw that adding a house would allow us to elevate the site by framing different views—by giving the promise of the property a big hug,” he recalls. With that visual in mind—and the aim of creating a flexible floorplan for a young family that grew by three children during the four-year project—Hoesterey and builder Mark Danuser created an L-shaped house with arms “that work their way into the environment,” Hoesterey notes. One arm features a creek-spanning, glass-walled bridge connecting the garage and guest quarters to the main living spaces. Another contains the main bedroom suite, which overlooks a guest house and a curved, negative-edge pool appearing to spill its contents right into the creek.
A stone path leading from the driveway on one side of the waterway to the front door on the other offers an even more dramatic interaction with the land. “You start high, and then you’re down low—in the creek, essentially—and then you come back up on the other side,” Hoesterey says of the entry sequence. “It’s a long way to the front door but making that walk an experience helps create more appreciation for the site—and then when you enter the house, the views toward the pool really open up.” In other words, the design unfolds instead of revealing everything at once.
Guests owe that sense of discovery not just to the architecture but also to how the structure facilitates enjoyment of the property, revitalized with a series of natural and hardscaped spaces by landscape designer Mary Ellen Cowan. “We didn’t try to incorporate all our tricks and make the home showy, because the grounds have so many beautiful things we could capture,” Hoesterey explains. The kitchen and family room, for example, open to the outdoors on two sides via floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors, offering views of both the entry court and the pool. “They’re sort of the heart of the home, but also the heart of the property,” says Hoesterey. Vying for that title, the adjacent bridge structure encloses the dining room, bar and lounge in glass while providing views up and down the creek. The space also creates a literal connection to the outdoors with a white-oak ceiling appearing to pass right through the windows and become exterior soffits.
Interior designer Leigh H. Mall, working with junior designer Becky Baker, repeated this technique throughout the house. She incorporated honed Lueders limestone floors passing from the kitchen and family room out onto adjacent terraces; a light interior wall color blending with the exterior’s stucco façades; and a palette of warm woods, brushed metals, leathered stones and quiet colors nodding to the natural surroundings. “There were little elements we added for interest,” she explains, noting details ranging from sculptural light fixtures to patterned decorative tile, “but with this architecture and landscape, we didn’t need to try too hard.”
And that suited the homeowners just fine. “We wanted to keep things simple and clean without overdoing it,” the wife says. “We were so drawn to the white oak, which was used for our kitchen and bathroom cabinetry, and we kept going back to pairing that warm wood with clean white countertops and quiet gray tones.” She did, however, leave her comfort zone every now and again, approving an emerald-green tufted sofa for the bridge lounge area, and a blue marble kitchen backsplash complementing the family room’s soapstone fireplace. “These touches of color and texture incorporate a warm, grounding element that’s important when the rooms are so large and exposed to the outdoors,” Mall notes.
They also contribute to the sense of surprise this dwelling was designed to provide. “The house offers something different throughout the day and throughout the seasons from every room,” Hoesterey says. “It’s not just an object; it really is an experience.”