Traditional Building Portfolio



Georgian Approach

A Georgian-style residence takes shape in Houston.

Project: Residence at Hunters Grove, Houston, TX

Architect: L. Barry Davidson Architects, Houston, TX; Leslie Barry Davidson, AIA, principal

Contractor: Renaissance Builders Incorporated, Houston, TX

By Annabel Hsin

When a retired couple living in Houston, TX, wanted more space for their visiting children and grandchildren, they couldn't decide whether to build a new house or remodel their existing home. The house was located on a wooded site in Hunters Creek Village – one of five villages within the Memorial area west of downtown Houston. Although within the city limits, these villages operate autonomously with individualized rules and regulations. Therefore, building a new house means contending with strict building codes.

After deliberating for a year, the couple selected L. Barry Davidson Architects to design a house in the English Georgian style. "The clients had a large, beautiful lot but they had been living in a very small house that was really in disrepair and wasn't architecturally noteworthy," says principal Leslie Barry Davidson. "The lot is 25,000 sq.ft. and the building codes stipulated that we could only cover up 25 percent of the lot with the footprint of the new house, although that doesn't include the driveway and terrace.

"The clients were getting older and they didn't want to walk up stairs to reach their bedroom. So while we designed the main portion to be a standard Georgian house, the first-floor master bedroom suite rises one-and-a-half stories."

The footprint, which includes the terrace, takes up nearly the entire length of the rectangular site with required 15-ft. side setbacks. The height of the home was restricted to 35 ft. and because of frequent flooding in the area the house was raised over two feet from grade level. A driveway leading to the garage on the north side of the house curves around existing trees while concealing the garage doors from the street view – another stipulation of the building code.

"The design process was lengthy because we tried very hard to nail down as many details as possible before bidding," says Davidson. "We find that if we don't make all the selections ahead, it means that the house is not on the 'thread' that we continually pin everything back to. These clients wanted to achieve as authentic a Georgian house as possible, so we picked the windows, hardware and all the decorative elements to go with a strictly Georgian theme. If we stay on the thread during the design phases, it becomes our guiding light."

The main façade features a series of hipless gabled roofs with charcoal slate tiles and copper step flashings, both of which were supplied by Houston, TX-based David Alvarez Sheet Metal, and are accompanied with twin symmetrical brick chimneys topped with English chimney pots. Heavy cast-stone cornices with dentil moldings complement the lintels and keystones above traditional metal-clad, double-hung wood windows (manufactured by Dubuque, IA-based Eagle Window & Door) with raised-paneled operable shutters. Between the solid hand-molded bricks, which were manufactured by Salem, VA-based Old Virginia Brick, the concave mortar joints contain grapevine tooling, a detail Davidson notes is historically accurate to the style. An arched cast-stone pediment, pilasters and rectangular wall panels form an exterior vestibule over a formal front entry.

"The design of the fanlight over the front entry came from an English pattern book and the divisions that create the pattern are made of wood," says Davidson. "The contractor was challenged by that because it was so intricate. It would have been easier to make the fanlight with leaded glass instead."

In the interior, the lower level of the two-story portion of the house is organized with a central hall leading to primary living spaces. On either side of the grand staircase, the living and dining rooms are identically sized and detailed to create symmetry. Both rooms contain dentil crown molding, raised-paneled wainscoting, wide hickory floor boards and Rojo Alacante marble fireplace surrounds. Even the placement of windows and built-in cabinets is the same.

Towards the rear, the kitchen, breakfast and family rooms are separated from the formal spaces with a bar and butler's pantry. Wide-plank flooring, supplied by Houston, TX-based Schenck & Company, was used in the family room, where the simple fireplace mantel and moldings create a casual atmosphere. The beams of the 11-ft.-high ceiling break up the length of the room. French doors and floor-to-ceiling windows on the east side of the room allow for ample natural light as well as views of the terrace with Doric columns and the garden beyond. A mahogany-paneled library south of the family room leads to the private spaces in the south wing.

A large maple butcher block island serves as the focal point of the kitchen and is complemented with green granite countertops, subway tiles, raised-panel cabinetry and brass hardware. The kitchen opens to the breakfast room with a pass-through counter and to the family room with a shuttered opening. The breakfast room's beadboard wainscoting and slate flooring, as well as its bay window, which is visible through the kitchen opening, unite the two spaces. "The clients wanted the kitchen to be open to the breakfast and family rooms, but because this is a traditional house we didn't want an open floor plan," says Davidson. "The shutters close off the kitchen so when there's a formal event guests cannot look into the kitchen from the family, living and dining rooms."

A guest suite and the master suite are located on the lower level of the south wing and feature high vaulted ceilings. The utility areas, such as the garage, mud room, laundry area, work room and an additional powder room, occupy the opposite wing. On the second level, four bedrooms with en-suite baths, a study room and an office surround a large game room. A play room above the south wing is equipped with a small stage area for the clients' young grandchildren.

After a close collaboration between client and architect, the success of the design was highlighted when it was included in AIA Houston's house tour. "This was a very challenging project," says Davidson. "It was really exciting to work with a couple who really understood and loved the design concept. They worked with us to make selections that stayed within the integrity of the theme for the home. They stayed on the Georgian 'thread' and that was very rewarding for us. It's a beautiful house that has great light, colors and enjoyable lovely spaces."  

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