The mark of a talented design professional is often not the duration of his or her career, the caliber of client or even the awards. Rather, one might argue, it’s in his or her ability and willingness to take risks—to step out of a comfort zone and try something new. Such was the case when local builder Allan Edwards, a tried-and-true traditionalist, approached the team at Newberry Architecture—a historically traditional firm—to design an 8,000-square-foot ultramodern spec home near Memorial Park in Houston—a decided departure from each company’s portfolio. “This type of architecture has become more popular in the last five years,” says Edwards of the clean-lined, minimalist style that dots new builds in and outside the Loop. Not complete strangers to modernism, team Newberry jumped at the opportunity to collaborate with Edwards, with whom they have worked often. Together, they came up with a precise profile of their prospective buyer—He has numerous automobiles! He loves outdoor space!—and got busy.
“The house is definitely a play on shapes and forms,” says Clint Johnson, principal at Newberry—a description that’s obvious from the street, with the structure’s cantilevered second floor and unornamented stucco facade. “There are several rectangles represented in the home. How the rectangles come together and meet with each other, including heights and sizes, was something we brought focus to during our creation process.” The seemingly simple design elements of modern architecture can yield cold, cavernous interiors, something this design team cleverly combated: “We wanted to stay true to [those elements] but create a warm and inviting space,” Newberry’s Gina Brown chimes in. They devised a materials palette of textured tiles, soft blue and gray tones, and mixed metals to achieve a more collected, lived-in feel.
With the framework in place, the team called on local designer Benjamin Johnston of Benjamin Johnston Design to work his magic on the interiors. “They really needed the home to be softened and given personality, texture and layers,” says Johnston. “It was my task to not only give them those elements, but also do it in a way that complemented the architecture.” His first step? Art. Before considering furniture and accessories, he filled the empty spaces with works by Hunt Slonem, Meredith Pardue, Christy Lee Rogers, Udo Nöger, Stallman Studio and more. And without the constraints of a traditional “client,” he says, “I got to handpick pieces that I wanted for this home.” The furniture, too, functions as art, with sculptural silhouettes from Holly Hunt, Cantoni Trade, David Sutherland, Casa Italia and Kravet; unique vintage finds; and painterly rugs from Stark Carpet. “From the front, [the house] has this very austere appearance that feels perhaps a little unwelcoming,” Johnston explains, “but as soon as you go through the gate, it opens up—it’s really a jewel box.”
The outdoor spaces in particular were top priority for the team, who brought on Oasis Landscape Architects to perfect a Japanese-inspired rock garden and a roomy backyard with a pool. “We wanted to have an enticing exterior environment that included a pool, kitchenette and green space,” says Johnson. “We also imagined [a buyer] who would greatly utilize the outside space.” The pool was intentionally kept close to the house to allow for more backyard; and the designer enlisted pieces from Dedon to surround the space, making it all the more inviting for a potential homeowner. Floor-to-ceiling windows were incorporated in the main living areas, blurring the boundary between the interior and the impressive exterior, and warming up the wide-open floor plan. “What initially struck me about the home was the beautiful sense of light that comes through,” Johnston says. “The house really embraced the landscape, from the courtyard to the backyard.”
As you might imagine, the home sold immediately—and with many of those pieces Johnston selected. The buyers: a pair of empty nesters from Kingwood, who were leaving a traditional family home in search of a new life in more modern digs. Match made.