For the owners of this sprawling Palo Pinto County property in Texas, a forever home isn’t always so perfectly tailored to its occupants that it never needs to change. Instead, this Dallas-based couple has come to understand that to stand the test of time, a house must evolve with its inhabitants. Three decades ago, when they purchased the first few hundred acres of their wild and windswept land traversed by the Brazos River, they envisioned an intimate family retreat, “where our kids could be in nature in a way they couldn’t be in the city,” the wife remembers. With Lake|Flato Architects, they created three original dwellings—a main residence and two guest houses—featuring glass and stucco walls and corrugated-metal shed roofs rising from a bluff overlooking a bend in the river. Here, they settled into a comfortable routine of weekend visits and holiday gatherings.
However, by the time their youngest child left for college, the family’s rhythm had changed—and their getaway was out of sync. “It had become more about hosting visiting families,” says Mil Bodron, the abode’s original interior designer, who, along with architect Svend Fruit, was tasked with updating the compound. “It didn’t need to function the same as it did when the children were young.” Mindful of the original vision, and of the clients’ refined casual style—which both Bodron and Fruit knew well after designing several of their Dallas homes—Fruit, with project manager Jason Trevino, reconfigured the guest quarters and removed the primary bedroom wing, its larger replacement taking full advantage of the river view. He added a glass-walled card room that’s comfortable for the couple when it’s just the two of them, “and an overflow space when the living room is full of guests,” Fruit notes. By shortening one of the main residence’s long roof overhangs, he also extended the living room’s view to the horizon. And the addition of a working pantry changed the kitchen—“and our lives,” the wife quips. “We’re 40 minutes from the nearest grocery store, so we have to bring everything with us when we visit the house.”
With the layout in place, Bodron and Fruit focused on softening the home’s finishes, lightening the pine ceilings and painting the stucco walls a pearly hue. They replaced the kitchen’s upper cabinets with open shelves, topping the matching lower cabinets with slabs of Pennsylvania bluestone; its soft color now echoes the new, blue-green tile floors in the card room, its adjacent terrace and a new dining porch. “It was going to be impossible to match the existing concrete floors,” explains Bodron, “so we envisioned the porch of an Arts and Crafts-style house from the 1930s or ‘40s as inspiration, where the color green was used almost as a neutral.”
Quiet furnishings complete the natural palette. “It wasn’t about doing the interiors in a dominant way,” adds Bodron, who worked with project manager Dustin Penney. “It was more about the architecture of the space.” Case in point: low-arm sofas allow the living room seating area to remain open to the views on both sides. Meanwhile, select details, such as the dining area’s handwoven pendants and the kitchen’s distressed-leather counter stools, nod subtly to the traditional ranch-house vernacular. Others—namely a vintage wire Bertoia chair in a guest bedroom and sleek upholstered beds in the sleeping loft—emphasize the clean lines the homeowners love.
But above all else, each detail honors the views, which landscape designer John Grove lists as among the most compelling he’s encountered in his career. “This place is all about being out on this incredible bluff,” Grove observes. To emphasize the effect, he and his colleagues—landscape architect Doug Reed and project managers Garrett Newton and Ryan Wampler—created a network of sandstone terraces connecting the compound’s structures. Framing them, low concrete retaining walls feature linear forms pointing the eye up and down the river and across the water to distant bluffs. “The walls orient the views, support the terraces and, most importantly, heighten one’s feeling of being on the edge,” adds Grove.
All of these modifications transformed the family’s experience of the house—making it the most recent version of the forever home they anticipated when purchasing the land all those years ago. Says the wife, “Now we’re outside much more and it all seems to work differently for this next stage in our lives.”