Lake House, Clear Lake, League City TX
Restoration, Renovation, Design, Project Management
In the early 1960s, noted Houston architect and University of Houston professor, Ed Furley, designed a simple, three room, one-story, pier-elevated house on the south shore of Clear Lake. Similar in style to mid-century houses designed in the late 1940s by Richard Neutra in Pacific Palisades and Craig Ellwood in Beverly Hills, Furley’s design featured visible wooden floor and ceiling beams running uninterruptedly from the front to the rear of the structure and wide open interior spaces. The waterside face of the house was mostly fixed-glass panels and the street-facing façade showed only simple vertical wood siding and a large exterior staircase. The one element that would have drawn attention was a massive stone chimney beginning in the open space beneath the house and extending well above the flat roof. It was a simple, small and efficient lake house, and architecturally pure.
Ten years later, the house was expanded in depth and length: upper decks were added, the exterior staircase enclosed, and brick veneer enveloped the previously open ground floor. Interior space was divided into separate rooms, two bedrooms were added, floors were carpeted, and new baths were installed -- complete with all-the-rage 1970s faux marble sinks. To his great credit, Furley retained the lines of the exterior, but with the exception of the monolithic stone fireplace and chimney, the sense of mid-century simplicity was lost.
When we began, Furley’s exterior elevation was mostly hidden by overhanging trees and vines. Wood siding, windows, decks, and exposed structural beams needed replacing, and the flat roof required immediate attention. On the inside, galvanized pipes had begun to fail, wiring met neither code nor contemporary needs, the galley kitchen and laundry proved too small for modern appliances, and the floor coverings had exceeded their life expectancy; and then there were those faux marble sinks! Our goal was to restore the mid-century senses of the house, design and renovate it for contemporary living and entertainment, and create an architectural gem.
New primary beams were added to support the floor and solid-surface decks were installed in place of the open slats. To enhance the visual width of the upper floor, horizontal siding replaced original vertical planks; and for both appearance and safety, new hurricane-resistant fixed and operable windows were installed throughout.
To bring back the open feeling of the original design, we removed the interior walls of the 1970 remodel and added a clerestory adjacent Furley’s spectacular stone fireplace. And in areas lacking natural light, installation of triangular prism skylights solved the problem.
Pony walls enclosing the 1970s staircase were eliminated, and stainless steel wire railing was installed to give a clear view of the main room and the massive stone chimney.
The project was a success and soon purchased by a Houston couple who wished to add a modern house to their collection of period-style properties. With their acquisition of adjoining lots, they created amazing gardens that fully complemented the clean lines of the house. .
A new kitchen, opening onto the adjoining lounge with views towards the renovated boat house, took the place of the former wood-paneled library, and the once-enclosed galley kitchen was replaced with a light-filled, open bar.
We felt it essential that the house had a comfortable, cohesive feel, so one material and style was selected for each finish: travertine tile for all hard-surface flooring, crystallized brown quartz slab for all countertops, one carpet design wherever wall-to-wall or area rugs were used, one style of cabinetry and millwork, one style of hardware for all doors and cabinetry, and one fabric selection for all upholstered furniture designed for the house.
Today, where a once decaying house stood destined for demolition, we were successful in saving one of the most beautiful examples of Texas-style mid-century architecture.
LINKS and PUBLICATIONS
PaperCity Magazine, Fall, 2004