HILL COUNTRY HAVEN
By Allyn Calton.
Photography by Daniel Nadelbach.
On the shores of Lake LBJ, a Texan and his wife finally find the perfect pasture.
A warm breeze blows gently across the rolling hills, tugging at the leaves of the tall oak trees and caressing the lavender-colored fields bursting with bluebonnets. The soothing sound of water cascading down a natural creek bed is occasionally punctuated by the neighing of horses. Relaxing on their limestone porch, John and Nancy Loftis gaze out across the lush, bucolic countryside. "There's no place like Texas Hill Country," says Nancy. "This is exactly where we want to be."
John and Nancy are no strangers to the Southwest, having previously made their home in the Sonoran desert, where they owned and operated a dude ranch for more than a decade. So when the native Texan and his wife decided to retire, they were certain of two things: "We wanted to return to the Texas Hill Country, and we wanted to have a place with room for our horses," Nancy says.
Their search for the ideal property led them to Trails of Horseshoe Bay, a 550-acre gated community along the shores of Lake LBJ. Less than an hour northwest of Austin, the development boasts miles of private hiking and riding trails, a clubhouse, pool, and marina. But for John and Nancy, one amenity trumped all the rest - the community equestrian center at the heart of the development, which offers 30 acres of lush pastureland for their beloved horses.
Local architect Rick Burleson, who is well acquainted with the traditional designs and materials of the region, was the natural choice to help the couple design their dream home. Incorporating cooling architectural elements like expansive porches and long overhangs, Burleson also stayed true to the Texas aesthetic by taking advantage of indigenous materials, such as located quarried limestone, cedar, and soft fir. But the Loftises didn't want to lose sight of the forest for the trees.
"We were careful to preserve the natural vegetation and live oak trees and integrate them into the landscape," Nancy says. In addition to complementing the home's rough limestone and timbered exterior, the mature foliage and tall trees help diffuse the hot summer sun and enhance the sense of privacy. While inside, the continued palette of reds, yellows, and browns brings the natural landscape into the home's grand spaces.
"The property was challenging to work with, but those challenges also created opportunities to build something unique," says Burleson, who convinced the Loftises to construct two completely separate living spaces connected by a dogtrot - a Southern term for a breezeway. The smaller wing, where twin beds with Western-inspired linens and an antique game table remain at the ready, is reserved for visiting family and friends, while the larger of the two studies serves as the main house.
Having spent a lifetime acquiring Western antiques and artifacts, the couple integrated pieces from their personal collection into the decor, throughout. Vintage rugs, tables, art, and primitive relics mesh tastefully with comfortable furnishings and modern amenities. "We wanted our home to feel warm and personal, and reflect our love of horses and the Old West," says Nancy.
An open concept design connects the spacious great room, dining room, and kitchen, providing plenty of space for both entertaining and cooking. In the kitchen, two oversized islands anchor the room. Topped with reclaimed barn wood, the first serves as a gathering spot and is lined with bar stools that boast antique tractor seats for guests to sit on. The second island, used primarily for food preparation, is topped with dusty red granite found locally near Fredericksburg.
Because the home was already abundantly furnished with natural wood, Nancy opted for something different for the kitchen cabinetry. "We had a designer create an aged patina look by first distressing the wood, and then using a multilayer faux painting process." High above, three small windows in the gable hold a special place in Nancy's heart. "Those three windows were reclaimed from a barn from my childhood home in North Dakota," she explains. Another of her favorite touches in the kitchen is the pantry door. "It's an old screen door," she says. "It's so unexpected; everyone loves it."
In the formal dining area, an antique milliner's table from the 1850s serves as the dining room table. Above it hangs a one-of-a-kind light fixture. "The base is an old ox yoke I found at an antique show, and the chain came from a different antique shop," Nancy says. "The architect and designer didn't think it would work, but we had it wired, added shades, and it's perfect for the space."