By Suzanna Logan.
Photography by Daniel Nadelbach.
A Texas hill country retreat celebrates its surroundings year-round.
Rodney and Susan Bingham's home sits atop a wooded knoll surrounded by rolling hills, ponds, and groves of oaks. It's a nature lover's paradise, and just what the long-time city dwellers had always longed for.
Six years ago, when the empty nesters began hunting for a place in the country where they could spend weekends and eventually retire, they had visions of a lot no larger than 20 acres with plenty of trees. They got even more than they bargained for when they stumbled upon a 90-acre horse farm, complete with two ponds and a barn in a quiet Hill Country town. "As soon as we saw it, we loved it," Susan explains.
Right away, the couple built a small one-bedroom cottage on the property and started taking regular weekend getaways. It was not long before they were hooked. "We had been in the city almost 21 years, and we loved how peaceful it was here," Susan says.
After a fortuitous shift in Rodney's career, the couple began making plans to build their forever home. The ideal design would suite their surroundings as much as their lifestyle. They crave a place that would maximize the stellar views of the landscape and showcase a variety of natural materials. They also wanted a home that would function efficiently for day-to-day living and still offer plenty of room for friends and family to gather on special occasions.
To help them create the perfect space, they enlisted the help of Rick Burleson, principal architect at Burleson Design Group. "I had seen his work in a magazine, and it had a lot of the things I was looking for," Susan says.
"A house just feels so much better when it is shaped by the land," Burleson remarks. "We really worked hard to allow the site forces to form the house."
The home, modeled after a traditional dogtrot design - a centuries-old concept created in the South to take advantage of cooling breezes - features three district sections that allow the compound to maximize air-flow and views of the pond and trees.
The Binghams' main living quarters include an easy-flow living, kitchen and dining area plus two bedrooms and bathrooms. Separate guest quarters features two additional bedrooms and bathrooms. The distinct spaces are connected by an open-sided breezeway with an outdoor kitchen and sitting area. All are centered on an inviting courtyard space that has a pool, plenty of chairs for lounging and stunning views of the hills beyond.
"This design meets the needs of the owners much better than a traditional house," Burleson says. "Separating the two living quarters creates privacy for the owners and gives guests the sense they're staying in a resort."
The unique layout, in addition to being energy-efficient, keeps the home's outdoor spaces comfortable year-round. Because the dogtrot enhances the flow of the breezes, the outdoor porch is usable for much longer than typical addition that runs along the back of the house.
Of all its benefits, the Binghams' most loved the design's focus on outdoor living. "We are really outdoorsy people," Susan says. "Knowing the patio, pool and outdoor kitchen area would be at the center of the design really appealed to us."
Once Burleson and the couple had nailed down the ideal design, they looked to builder Alvin Minarcik of Minarcik Construction to create their ranch retreat. Fittingly, the materials they chose to construct the home are as distinct as the design.
On the exterior, locally quarried limestone marries with sinker cypress lumber, echoing the home's natural bent. (Sinker cypress, also known as "deadhead cypress," is made up of century-old logs that have been recovered from the bottom of Southern riverbeds.) The roof, made of galvanized metal, adds another nature-inspired element to the mix.
Inside, limestone, reclaimed barn wood, mesquite flooring and an abundance of windows create a strong bond between the outdoors and interiors. "With glass on all three sides of the main living area, you can look out the windows and see a different view," Susan says. "It makes you feel like you're outdoors even when you're inside."
The plethora of glass, especially the 15-foot-tall sliding glass doors in the main living area, have another benefit beyond the views. "It really opens up the space to the outdoors and helps it function more efficiently, so you don't have to worry about containing 30 people in one room," Burleson says. "By providing good connections to the outdoors, everyone can spread out and overflow onto the porches."
The home's indoor-outdoor connection is continued in the earth-toned hues that appear on everything from the faux-painted walls to the furnishings. "We wanted the interiors to be harmonious with the surroundings of the ranch," says Kimberley Dart, owner of Fauxliage, the designer who spearheaded the interior selections. "They're slightly rustic but in an understated kind of way." To punch up the primarily quiet palette, she and Susan placed cheery pops red and turquoise throughout the interior spaces. "To me, it feels very warm and inviting," Susan says.
The surfaces in the home are equally as welcoming. With three grandchildren and plenty of visitors, Susan said everything had to be hard working. "We lived in a formal, traditional house in Houston, and here we wanted something that was really comfortable where you didn't have to worry about mud on yours shoes or spilling something," Susan says.
From the floor plan to the finishes to the furniture, the couple agrees that the home is just what they had hoped for from the start. "It fits the land perfectly," Susan says. "And, it fits us perfectly."