Nestled in the Woods
Beautiful home was worth the wait
As the saying goes, “The longer it takes, the longer it lasts.” And if that is the case, then the Williams’ home will be around for quite a while. Married since 1996, Dena and Jay Williams moved to their current community in 2001 with their two daughters, Alex and Lily, because they were attracted to the neighborhood’s quiet, wooded community.
Located in this unique area with large, tree-filled lots, the beautiful homes here are some of the country’s finest. Unlike some neighborhoods in the city, this one has ordinances establishing zoning regulations through the years that have effectively preserved the unique characteristics, which make it a desirable place to live close to urban life and also raise a family.
The home the Williamses originally purchased no longer stands. The former ranch-style structure was built in the 1950s, and when the couple acquired the home, they intended to eventually tear it down and build something new, which they did in 2013.
From the beginning, they had a pretty clear idea of what they wanted. “We waited almost 13 years,” said Jay, “so we had a long while to consider what we needed to fit our lifestyle.” Their vision was a place that would blend naturally, both into their wooded lot and their neighborhood. Their initial goals were to complete the project on budget, have a home with no wasted space and for each room to have its own experience.
For design inspiration, Jay had ideas from travels to Scotland for the home’s exteriors. Dena came to the design table with ideas of a home comprised of a natural, Old World feel with a dash of contemporary for both inside and out. She described her aesthetic preference as “clean lines, simple décor — a mix of old and new — with an outcome that was serene, cozy and inviting.”
To help their concepts come together, the couple enlisted a team. Robert Dame drew the home design and Thompson Custom Homes built it out. Interiors were designed by both Sarah West, who offered her expertise as an architectural consultant on the home’s finishes, and Cindy Witmer, interior designer. The Williamses agreed that hiring this team was the best thing they did, as it saved them from might be the most stressful thing a married couple can do: build a home from the ground up.
One early challenge to the project included saving the age-old trees on the property while honoring the lot setbacks and deed restrictions that are part of the neighborhood’s allure. Once completed, though, the couple couldn’t be happier with the end result that is truly unique. Jay admitted that “saving the trees was worth every headache.”
Though the community is in city limits, it has a less urban feel due to the thickly wooded and spacious lots. Nestled in the trees, this home is hardly visible from the street. When guests drive up the front driveway, they immediately notice that the home seamlessly fits into the landscape. Hearty stone and gray-washed wood siding make it seem that the home has been there for a very long time.
Upon entering the home, the reclaimed barn oak floor really stands out as it leads to a family room with a wall of black steel windows. The impressive and sweeping height of the vaulted family room also adds to the spacious feel of the house, and those large windows bring the outside in. “I absolutely love the open concept of my new home with its tall ceilings, natural beams and especially the beautiful floor,” said Dena. “We had never seen a floor done like this, and it was honestly kind of an accident.”
When they went to the flooring company, Dena couldn’t decide which samples she liked best. The solution turned out to be a mix of the woods. “Voila! The designers came up with a sample that blew us away. Jay and I loved it, and everyone who has seen it agrees.”
Neither the owners nor the designer wanted the house to become too traditional or ranch style despite some of the elements that could lead in that direction. They decided to utilize a more transitional and modern approach to the furnishings. The family loves the outdoors; they hunt and shoot often, both locally and abroad. They successfully incorporated treasured mounts and skins throughout the home without having them become too overbearing. For example, in one place they laid a zebra hide over an antique Oushak for a bit of unexpected fun.
The home’s welcoming and open flow is noticeable immediately upon entering. The architect drew in a grand entry hall and also included cased openings into each room. This type of detail invites guests to move around without squeezing by each other, making it a perfect home for entertaining.
Another design element that lends itself to entertaining as well as expanding the home’s living space is the screened-in porch, which is Jay’s favorite spot in the house.
“As much as we love to be outside, whether with our family or during a party, we knew that we wanted a retreat from the ever-present Houston mosquitos,” said Jay. “The screened-in living area gives us the best of both worlds and was really a must-have on my checklist. We spend as much time out here, even in the summertime, as we do in the interior living space, so the minimal added expense of screening the room was a no-brainer.”
Jay’s next favorite space is the mud room, where he can leave his gear at the end of a hunting trip before cleaning it and organizing it.
For Dena, tops on her must-have list was an open kitchen with lots of natural light. She said, “I truly love to cook and entertain, so I enjoy the openness of my cook space and the ability it gives me to spread out. Even when I make a big mess, it doesn’t feel like one because there is so much room.” She also made sure the layout of her kitchen allowed for storage where pots, pans and appliances are behind beautiful cabinets, yet easy to locate with ample access to what she needs for any given task.
Dena’s second favorite space is her master suite in which she enjoys the simplicity of the room’s aesthetic with colors that are calm and cool and where the ceilings are soaring and dramatic with exposed beams. Too, the master bath is a serene retreat space and her closet is organized and spacious, “exactly how it should be.” The sitting area allows the couple a place to unwind and discuss the events of their day.
While it took 13 years from the time they actually bought the real estate to accomplish their initial goal, the couple had the opportunity to plan the project exactly the way it worked best for them, factoring in their budget, their lifestyle needs and their must-haves. And they accomplished the task without sacrificing the amenities of their neighborhood: an acclaimed family-oriented community with large, private wooded lots in a municipality committed to preserving its unique character and quality of life.
The couple still plans to install a pool in the backyard, but are thoroughly satisfied with their new home. “Our home is inviting, beautiful and comfortable. It is everything and more that we could have imagined. It is perfect for our family. We are blessed,” said Jay.
Text by Cheryl Alexander
Photography by Miro Dvorscak
Architecture by Robert Dame, Robert Dame Designs
Construction by Thompson Custom Homes
Interiors by Cindy Witmer, Cindy Witmer Designs
Finishes by Sarah West, Architectural Consultant
TOP IMAGE: The beams in the great room were brought to life with creamy plastered walls and ceiling. All the elements are an extension of the exterior in a softer, subtler way.