Bringing English heritage to North Texas
July 1, 2010
For a private residence in University Park, TX, architect Steve Chambers, AIA, NCARB, Principal of Stephen B. Chambers Architects, Inc. incorporated a range of elements, including English antiques as well as classic architectural detailing. Many of these details can be found in the stonework, which was employed in a range of traditional formats.
“One of the controlling factors in the design of this house was that the couple collects English antiques,” Chambers said. “They will get a container full and bring them back. They brought back old English doors, and they have one room with paneling from the 1600s. The idea was to make the house look as authentic as possible, and to do that, we used elements such as cut stone around the windows and entry door.”
The residence is sited on a narrow urban lot within University Park. In addition to incorporating the antiques collected by the couple - who travels extensively in the Cotswold countryside of England - the home needed to provide light, openness, convenience and other amenities of modern design.
The architect’s approach was to use authentic English details and architectural antiques, and one of the most noteworthy details was the use of limestone at the windows. “We designed an authentic 16th century detail of fixed leaded glass windows that were set directly into the structural stone,” Chambers explained. “It was a challenge to convey this to the contractor. We actually spent time looking at old historic gothic details to figure out how to do it. It was something I had never done before, and neither had the stone or the glass [contractors]. We did some research on how it would be done, and we do have some very old books with old English details in them.”
Once the windows were installed, they quickly contributed to the overall goal of creating a home that looked centuries old. “These are single-glazed windows in a metal frame, so they ‘sweat,’ and when the condensation runs onto the stone, it looks like what you would see on a building that is 200 or 300 years old,” Chambers said. “That is part of the natural effect of what happens with the stone. Some might consider it an imperfection, but we liked the natural effect. The home-owner loves the idea that the house looks old. She didn’t want something that looked shiny and new.”
The limestone was quarried and processed within Texas, and it was supplied by Mezger Enterprises of Lampasas, TX. “The stone itself is cut Leuders limestone, and it has little pits and slight imperfections in it,” Chambers said. “The natural air pockets in the limestone, to me, give that old character that really adds so much more to the feel.”
Complementing the limestone windows in the main living area, the design includes a traditional stone fireplace. “The fireplace is actually an antique that the owner brought from England,” the architect explained. “It is a marble surround, and it is really a testament to the longevity of stone. Here’s an example of something that was used before, and is now used again. We designed the firebox open to fit the fireplace.”
Meanwhile, at the kitchen/dining area, a raised fireplace utilizes Leuders limestone in several formats. “We have cut Leuders stone on the hearth, and the face of it is a chopped Leuders stone,” Chambers said. “We used rough-back pieces, which show the minerals [and evidence of] the quarrying process, and the homeowners decided it was appropriate to the design.” Additionally, the kitchen countertops were done in a rust-colored granite that blends with the overall aesthetic of the space.
Natural stone can also be found at the entry foyer, where Pennsylvania Bluestone was specified. “We had a cut pattern with a border around the outside and a diagonal on the inside,” he said. “The front door was brought in from England, and [the homeowner] kept telling me the thickness of the door. It was very thin, and I wasn’t sure how it would work in terms of the hardware, but everything came out great. Sometimes your clients have incredible ideas and imagination. It was wonderful working with them and all these antique pieces.”
The same Pennsylvania Bluestone was used at the pool area, and in addition to its design value, the stone provided practical benefits as well. “There are some stones that are a little less money, but we have enough cold weather down here that we can have a severe winter,” Chambers said. “We know we won’t have a problem with freeze/thaw cycles with Bluestone. It is also rustic and attractive. It is similar to some of the stones you see on surfaces in Europe. We noticed a lot of them in Italy, where they are doing new paving patterns to match older patterns that have worn down.”
In addition to stone that was cut specifically for the residence, the homeowners also selected antique slate roofing from England. “There is a little bit of it over the bay windows, and then the roof was done in the slate,” Chambers said. “It was brought to the U.S. in containers. That was another example of stone being used again, and having a long-lasting value. We do new slate roofs, and we consider them to be 100-year roofs, but this was older than that. One detail that we wanted was a parapet wall at the end of each gable of the slate roof, with a limestone cap. From the standpoint of the brick, we did an English Garden Wall bond pattern on the brick, which has some of the bricks turned. The masons did a great job.”
Speaking on some of the challenges in completing the project, the architect said that utilizing traditional building processes and techniques was something that required an extra level of communication. “We were trying to create something that had an Old World look to it, but to do it like it was done originally,” he said. “So often, people try to imitate the look of something historical. But when trying to build these bay windows, for example, a lot of contractors forget that you can build out of solid masonry.”
For more information, please visit the Chambers Architects' Web site at http://chambersarchitects.com/mcfarlin-english.html