High Ridge Ranch - Burleson Design Group, the Hill Country Architect


By Lisa Y. Tyalor.

Photography by Coles Hairston.

A Wimberley ranch retreat melds cottage comforts with sophisticated style.

A renewing of the mind occurs as Dana Foster and Storm Lippman approach their Wimberley home.  Through the gate and up the winding gravel road, they glimpse their property's expansive view, and the stresses of big-city life in Houston melt away.

"The goal for our home was to provide a retreat for ourselves and a place for family get-together," Foster says.  "We wanted to escape the city and really enjoy nature."

They do exactly that.  Their 3,700-square-foot home in High Ridge Ranch is haven of relaxation and tailor-made for family bonding.  The married couple retreats to the 43-acre site as many weekends as they can, and it serves as a central meeting ground for their three adult children who live in San Antonio, Austin and Waco.

The home's architect, Burleson Design Group Inc. in Wimberley, oriented the house to benefit from prevailing breezes, the direction of the sun, and of course, gorgeous panoramic views.  "When you marry the owner's wishes for the home with the site's natural features, then you have a great house," says Rick Burleson, principal of the firm.

The home's front courtyard welcomes visitors with the sound of waters bubbling from a turquoise vase.  Just ahead, two rocking chairs grace the front porch.  Lippman, a physician, sometimes plays his banjo on the porch, which is shaded by an exposed metal deck and kept cool by the southern winds.

The home's living space is divided into three self-sufficient spaces - the main house, which contains the master bedroom; the bun house, with two bedrooms; and the bird's nest, an apartment above the garage - all connected by breezeways.  With family and friends visiting, the separated quarters offer comfort and privacy with their own sleeping, kitchen and bath spaces.

"This design model is great for empty nesters who entertain," Burleson says.  "They have different needs than families who want a traditional home with several attached bedrooms."  Burleson implemented the segmented, yet seamless, layout so residents could experience the outdoors in every room.  "We spread out square footage, so that windows can be opened much of the year," he says.  "Long roof overhangs and lots of porches buffer the sun."

Decor details clearly show the owners' love the Lone Star State.  A retired nurse with no interior design training, Foster discovered her creativity when selecting the home's art and furnishing.  In the foyer hangs a lively Texas flag painting by one of her favorite artists, Sage Gibson of San Antonio.  However, the most striking picture in the home is the view captured through the great room's arched portrait window.  Swaying grasses and wildflowers give way to a subtle rocky drop-off and rolling hills as far as the eye can see.

"The owners wanted to reveal the most impressive view when people stepped inside the house," Burleson says.  "It's an element of surprise."

Another defining component of the great room is the authentic barn wood finish and timbers supplied by Barn Wood Etc. in San Marcos.  "The wood brings history and soulfulness that you feel as you walk in the home," Foster says.

"The reddish tones of the barn wood, taken from structures more than 100 years old, influenced the decor's theme colors.  Most notably, a deep red stains the concrete flooring found throughout the home.  The builder, Coachman Homes Inc. of Wimberley, literally brought the outside in by embellishing the floor with leaf impressions taken from foliage on site.

In the dining room, a faux antler chandelier that Foster found at The Original Round Top Antiques Fair in southeast Texas hangs above a handsome round wood table.  Other interesting pieces include a barrel side table and a sofa table resembling a door with a keyhole.

The kitchen's charm takes its cue from the pantry door that Foster discovered at Spice Home Furnishings in Waco.  It's actually a screen door with original turquoise paint.  The visit blue-green, also used on the island cabinetry, serves as the home's accent color against dominant reds.  "That turquoise was actually the color of the sky on the first day I saw the property," Foster recalls.

Down the hall, Foster and Lippman share another surprise.  Her office connects to his by a secret door that Coachman Homes disguised as a built-in bookshelf.  "A lot of times, I keep the door open when Storm starts playing his banjo in his office," she says.

Foster experiences her favorite view when she wakes up in the morning - from her bed which is angel to face north.  Stone pilasters protrude from the bedroom sliding door area to the patio, again achieving indoor-outdoor unity.  Through the glass door, the couple can spot distant bison.

Between the main house and bunk house, the family enjoys breakfast and barbecues on the dogtrot, with its 14-foot high ceiling and a white pine table crafted by Micky Maness, president of Coachman Homes.  "Even if it's a miserably hot, there's always a breeze to cool us off," Foster says.

Though most of the home soars to pine ceilings, the bunk house has an eye-catching corrugated metal ceiling.  This part of the retreat represents a younger look, with guitar artwork, a custom-made white oak bar built by Coachman Homes and a unique ceiling fan, which has bladed of individual metal fans, purchased from TriCity Electric Supply Co. in New Braunfels.  Best of all, visitors can take their pick of two whimsical rooms.

The cowboy room pays tribute to Roy Rogers and the love that Foster's oldest brother had for the legendary performer.  Collectibles such as a Roy Rogers lunchbox, a suede bedspread and a "Happy Trails" collage contribute to the playful theme.

On the opposite side, the cowgirl room exudes a softer touch.  The yellow walls shine with a plaster-like finish that complements the cheery quilt bedspread.  An antique chandelier and red boots provide lighthearted accents.

Above the bathroom's copper sink, red hearts and cowgirl hats adorn a "Cowgirl at Hart" mirror made by Vintage Sculptures.  On each side of the mirror stand cowgirl figurines.  "I took sewing machine drawers and turned them upside down to make the shelves," Foster says, sharing one of her creative ideas.

The only second-story part of the home, the bird's nest sits atop a garage that bears nostalgic pine barn doors.  Yet the apartment's bright colors and clean lines feel contemporary.  Immediately, eyes are drawn to ceiling beams that converge to create a starburst effect.  A red suede sofa contrasts with cream walls, and above the kitchenette, a turquoise wall lined with chrome shelves displays keepsakes.

"This part of the house is light and airy," Foster says.

Modern touches in the bathroom include a glass vessel sink, turquoise cabinets and two-directional chrome-and-frosted glass scones.

Everyone has their favorite view, but for some it's the one caught on the bird's nest balcony, which is made of durable South American ironwood.  "I have a friend who will sit there with a glass of wine and not leave until she sees the sunset," Foster says.

Although the couple spends weeks away from their tranquil getaway, they return to lush landscaping that is virtually maintenance-free.  Freedom Enterprise of New Braunfels created drought-resistant gardens that include buffalo grass, red salvia and purple butterfly plants.  "We wanted to live with the land, and not encroach on it anymore than we did by building a home there," Foster says.

Other environmentally conscious features include polyurethane foam insulation sprayed on the underside of the roof deck to provide a tight attic seal and an on-demand water heater.  Also, because the owners often visit alone, they have the option of only heating and cooling the Main House rather than the entire home.

In a few years, the couple hopes to retire here.  Until then, at least on some weekends, they live their dream.

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