The limestone slabs that form the pathways around the Hill Country, Texas, house of Bob and Janet Curtis appear anything but intentional. Like the residence itself, designed by architect Ted Flato, the stone seems deeply connected with the topography–as if soil were swept off the land, exposing the bedrock underneath. “My ancestors were early Hill Country ranchers and that’s the reason I’m here,” says Flato. “The landscape is near and dear to me, and I fully appreciate all of its subtleties.”
It was a similar appreciation for the inherent wildness, deep ravines, natural springs and, most importantly, extraordinary views that encouraged the Curtises to purchase this property. They identified a long, flat stretch on a hilltop as the perfect spot for their abode, but plans for a Tuscan-style residence by a different architect never materialized. “We realized we wanted a timeless home that was more a work of art and would capitalize on the natural setting,” says Bob, “so we asked Lake Flato Architects to help make that dream a reality.” Flato came onboard, joined by designer Joel Mozersky, landscape architect Jon Ahrens and Duecker Construction Co., Inc.
After walking the property with his new clients, Flato heartily concurred with them on the home’s placement. “It was a magical spot with sun, prevailing breezes and incredible views,” recalls the architect, who collaborated on the plan with partner Karla Greer and project manager Mindy Gudzinski. But the challenges were twofold: The house needed to be in scale with the elongated peninsula and shielded from the strong winds.
The series of buildings that emerged includes a main living space with a connected master suite, and two separate guest casitas–all arranged to fill the commodious hilltop while forming a large protected courtyard that’s also in proportion with the sprawling hill. “The idea of spreading out the structures a little bit felt more in tune with the site,” Flato explains. Not surprisingly, the buildings connect to the locale via limestone walls topped with a rusted Cor-Ten steel roof, while generous overhangs keep the harsh sun at bay. Ahrens selected native plants and grasses to further meld the residence with the coarse surroundings.
A key element is the home’s porch, which extends the great room without obstructing the views yet has sliding panel doors to help block the winds. “It’s one of my favorite features,” says Janet. “On warm nights,” Bob adds, “I sit out there for hours and simply slide the doors closed if it becomes too breezy.” Critical details such as these doors fell to Duecker Construction Co., Inc., credited by Flato for understanding the challenges that come with building remotely. “They know that if you forget a hammer you can’t just go and get it,” he says.
Turning to the indoor spaces, the owners envisioned an open floor plan designed to utilize every square foot. Hence, the layout features the great room containing the kitchen as well as the main living and eating areas. “While we used the dining room in our previous home only during the holidays,” Bob says, “we dine in this space every night.” Avid entertainers, the couple also requested a full-size bar–“an important piece of the puzzle,” notes Flato–complete with wine storage, which is also located in the great room.
A black panel wall on one side and a white one on the other add drama to the great room’s otherwise quiet palette of soft gray limestone, Douglas-fir trusses and weathered cedar. While the home contains plenty of windows with views, these windowless panels provide a place for artwork and, come nightfall, a respite from the darkness. “During the day, the house is a celebration of the landscape,” Flato says, “but at night these panels help bounce light around.”
When asked to furnish these spaces, Mozersky assuaged Janet’s fear of an overly stark result. “He promised he wouldn’t incorporate anything chrome or shiny,” she laughs. True to his word, the designer opted for warm, comfortable, party-proof fabrics. “The limestone floors and wood throughout provided a clean slate on which to build textures,” notes Mozersky, who favored a mix of wools such as that in the living room rug, woods like the walnut coffee table, and doses of leather. “I love leather,” the designer notes. “It’s luxe, livable, wears beautifully and contrasts nicely with the wood and stone.”
For the homeowners, the finished product is an inviting respite that celebrates the land they love. “We feel very fortunate to wake up here each day,” Janet enthuses. “Of all the ranch homes I have seen in my life, this one has the most spectacular view,” Bob adds. “But I am a little biased.”