As engineers, homeowners Al Khotanzad and Sogand Shoja-Khotanzad lead busy lives without time to travel as often as they would like. So when building their new residence on a wooded 1-acre lot in Dallas, they sought the ambience and style of a relaxing resort. “They wanted to live at home with the feeling of being on vacation from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m.,” explains architect Jason Erik Smith, who worked on the project alongside partner Signe Smith. Rounding out the design team, designer Brant McFarlain, builder Barry Baldwin and landscape designers Michael Dickerson and David Hunchik also signed on to help make the couple’s dream of an at-home getaway a reality.
To create their retreat, the couple envisioned a modern space similar to the one in which Sogand grew up—full of glass, teeming with natural light and well-connected to the outdoors. In the past, the couple had wound up in more transitional spaces. “I would renovate them to be modern, but the homes would lose their identity,” Sogand says, adding that updating within the original structure constrained the creation of a pure modern ambience. The homes they found in their search, however, were “a bit too minimalist and box-like,” her husband notes. While the couple wanted clean lines, a sense of playfulness and sensuousness was also important. In addition, as recent empty nesters, they pictured a cozy and spacious space that would entice their two grown daughters to visit. They also needed to accommodate their love of entertaining and hosting charity fundraisers.
Meeting all of these needs within a resort-like setting resulted in a plan for a newly built home Jason Erik Smith “intended as a delicate balance: to make it work for both a party of 150 and for just two to four people,” he explains. The design wraps around the backyard, allowing for large expanses of floor-to-ceiling glass while maintaining privacy. The shade from several mature live oak trees and sizable overhangs in front and back creates ample outdoor space protected from the elements as well as interior spaces with a bounty of natural light yet very little glare. "There's a lot going on orientation-wise that subtly makes the interior environment pleasant with those huge expanses of glass," Jason Erik Smith says, referring to the deep roof overhangs and other architectural elements that minimize direct sunlight. "You want that connection to the outdoors, but it shouldn't come at the expense of harsh light or too much heat."
In addition to the glass that ties in the outdoors and lets in natural light, the home's signature material is a cream- toned Texas shellstone incorporated indoors and outside, imparting a calm and tranquil feeling. "It's a fossilized limestone, with lots of imprints from crustaceans and shells,” Baldwin explains. “It’s a very porous, textured stone. When you have a beautiful material like that, it’s such a centerpiece.” The shellstone influenced the palette for the entire home, from the stain on the floors to the countertops.
McFarlain wove a similarly neutral and soft palette into the design of the interiors, evident in the rift-sawn white-oak floors and cabinetry, with accents of color complementing the homeowners’ existing Persian rugs. “It’s a light, soothing palette,” he says, pointing to the furniture and surfaces. Within the modern space, he brought in rich materials and textures such as mohair and velvet for luxury, interest and contrast while varying the furnishings to avoid an overly minimalistic design. “Rather than all modern furniture,” he explains, “I tried to mix in different cultures, materials and vintage elements.” In addition to the Persian rugs, for example, he introduced the living room’s vintage Knoll sofa. A gently curving wall near the entry further breaks up the linearity while showcasing a porcelain art installation that echoes the standout geometric yet oral-like pattern gracing the front door and study ceiling as well as a prominent sculpted-steel screen.
Outside, the landscape serves as a quiet accompaniment to the architecture. Situated on a corner lot, the house is set back from the street amid a grove of mature live oak trees, which—along with a lush array of plantings, from ferns and hydrangeas to flowering dogwoods—contributes to the relaxed setting the owners had envisioned. “This home has graceful, organic yet modern architecture,” Dickerson says, “and we created complementary landscapes with clean, calm and wide-open spaces.” Though the home has proved to accommodate large fundraisers—allowing visitors to mingle around the piano with glasses of wine in the spacious entry area or outside around the pool under the overhangs—it also manages to be snug enough for the owners to gather in the great room or the master suite in the evening surrounded by luxuries typical of a boutique hotel. From having tea in a sitting area outside the bedroom in the morning to standing on the second-floor balcony, “right under the canopy of the trees,” Sogand says, “it really does have a resort feel.”