A Sensational Equation
When award-winning construction meets stunning style and classic design
In the Houston Heights, neighborhood charm is paramount when folks list reasons why they love living in this part of town. As reported in National Geographic on Foot, “The Heights sits just four miles northwest of downtown Houston. But stroll the area’s broad, tree-canopied esplanades and side streets dotted with homes dating from the early 1900s, and you may think you’ve landed in a small town. Residents wave greetings as they walk dogs, tend to gardens exploding with palms, crepe myrtle trees and trumpet vines, and tote farmers market finds…”
Lambert Arceneaux, president of Allegro Builders, a multiple award-winning Houston-based custom home builder, is acutely aware of what is required to capture and maintain the aesthetic and allure of the Heights neighborhood. And he should know… he’s built many of the newly constructed and renovated homes in the neighborhood, and Allegro’s won numerous awards to prove it.
When asked about his formula for success in the home featured in this month’s story and the others he’s built in the city, he says, “We’ve been very successful in the Heights, and we make sure that what we build enhances the community. Our headquarters is in the Heights; we’ve established roots there, and we make sure that every home Allegro builds there makes the Heights a better place. Beyond there, it’s important to note that we take what we’ve learned about shaping community architecture in the Heights and use it to design architecturally correct homes all over the city.”
The homeowners, who also own two other homes — a townhouse in Plantation, Florida, and a home in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina —and who previously lived in the Montrose area of Houston, found their Heights lot in 2007. They wanted to move in order to build a home together that wasn’t just “a more me than you” kind of home. The couple had already heard about Arceneaux’s reputation as they had friends who lived in an Allegro home. When the homeowners initially met with the Allegro team, they brought a lot to the table for consideration.
Allegro’s architectural designer, Greg Swedburg, shares, “As for the design, the home was a true collaboration with the clients and the Allegro team. They had very specific ideas about the floor plan — even had drafted detailed ideas in a CAD type program. Over the months that they worked with us, we developed the design, refined some of their ideas and included some of our own. It was definitely a joint effort.”
Arceneaux concurs, “All of our clients have ideas about what they want their new home to be. As a design builder, we take the ideas of the homeowner, interior designer, landscape architect, kitchen designer, etc., and put them on paper. Then we coordinate and direct all the vendors and subcontractors — who we’ve worked with and trained over the last 15 years — to build the perfect home for our clients. Each contributor plays a huge part in making the finished home spectacular.”
For the exterior of the home, the homeowners knew they wanted a Hill Country home merged with elements of the Arts and Crafts style so dominant in the Heights. They took their cues from the neighborhood instructing the architectural designer to “fuse a contemporary home into the quiet neighborhood, but not so modern that it doesn’t blend in with the other homes on the street.” It took about three months for the design to evolve into what they call “Contemporary Craftsman.”
Inside the home, the same elements are at play evoking a Frank Lloyd Wright influence throughout. The owners didn’t want a lot of big windows and don’t prefer window treatments; however, they did want to incorporate as much natural light as possible. The result is a lot of small and very symmetrical windows high up the walls with rooms and hallways flooded with light and architectural appeal.
The front entryway encompasses a small entry with the home’s stairwell and downstairs hallway adjacent. By designing the wall between the stairs and hallway as display panels with well-placed lighting, the hallway becomes an art gallery showcasing a collection of beautifully framed photographs of the North Carolina landscape where the couple owns a home and plans to retire.
Flanking the gallery hallway and stairs are the home’s office — boasting a wonderfully barreled ceiling and two work spaces because as these smart and efficient owners confess, “If we don’t office together, we would never see each other”— and a guest room and bath, strategically placed downstairs to accommodate aging parents. Each is beautifully finished, especially the bath, which was built around a remarkable and artistic bowl which now functions as a sink.
The living room of this abode echoes the Arts and Crafts aesthetic with its attention to dramatic detail. Though one large space, one wall is angled to offset the music room/library from the TV/lounge space. The effect is charming and delicious. Behind the living area is the screened porch, where the homeowners enjoy Houston’s weather year-round. “Because the backyard is shaded and the outdoor room is screened, it is cool and mosquito-free in the summertime, and in the mild winters, we keep the fireplace going. We live in this room all year long.”
The owners share that Arceneaux was really good at offering high quality build-out items which fit within their budget; however, they admit that they splurged in the kitchen. It is a masterpiece. The cabinets take on the look and feel of furniture as they float above the floor on legs; the grid pattern in the incredible glass backsplash is mimicked in the custom barstool metal backs; there is a ceramic apron that wraps wonderfully around the kitchen space allowing the cook to focus on the preparation of the food on either or both of the two state of the art ranges, rather than worrying about what is being splashed onto the floor; all the plugs are invisible under the countertops and appliances sit at the ready in their own garage; the counters and dishwasher are elevated to accommodate the height of the cook; a breakfast nook at the room’s end offers a lovely view of the elegantly landscaped back courtyard; and between the dining room and kitchen, a bar space easily accommodates the downstairs of this home, making entertaining a breeze.
Upstairs, too, is elegantly designed for living comfortably and accommodating superb taste in art and furnishings. The hallway at the top of the stairs offers an architectural view of the surrounding neighborhood, showcasing the variety of gabled roofs and treetops in the Heights. The master suite is as functional as it is beautiful with room for a large bed and a sitting area for watching late-night TV. The art here is more nostalgic, encompassing more personal charm—a rice goddess suggesting the Louisiana roots of one owner and a wall dedicated to the children of the other.
The master bath is spa-like in its design and aesthetic. The Italian floor tiles are each separated by aluminum stripes to pull the eye from the bedroom area to the star ensuite: the tub. However, the shower and vanities are no less stellar and alluring in their presentation. The placement of each element suggests privacy and pampering, while function and comfort are not sacrificed.
The homeowners obviously love living here and disclose, “It is a home that is designed from top to bottom for the way we live. Lambert really took our vision, tweaked it to perfection and steered us in the right direction.” Arceneaux answers, “Well, we really love working with our clients from the earliest planning meeting until we hand over the front door keys. Finishing a quality home and having an overjoyed customer is the most satisfying experience in the world for me.”
Award-winning design, stunning style and classic design. Definitely an equation for a sensational home and a happy homeowner.
Text by Cheryl Alexander | Photography by Larry Fagala and Felix Sanchez Construction and Architectural Design by Allegro Builders Kitchen design by Baroque Fineberg | Interiors by Jed Guilbeau and John Hillin
ALLEGRO BUILDERS AWARDS
Allegro Builders swept the National Association of Home Builders awards “The Nationals” with six honors at the 2012 annual ceremony:
• Best interior design for a Custom Home (gold)
• Best Outdoor Living Space (silver)
• Best Architectural Design for a Custom Home (silver
• Best Social Marketing Program (silver)
• Best Website for a custom builder (silver)
• Best Black & White ad (silver)
Allegro Builders also swept the Greater Houston Builders Association Best Awards (previously the PRISM awards) with six honors at the 2011 annual ceremony. Awards were won in the following categories:
• Grand Award Winner – Custom Builder of the Year
• Custom Home Bedroom – Home over $1 Million
• Custom Home Design – $1.2 Million -$1.8 Million
• Custom Home Front Elevation – $1.2 Million -$1.8 Million
• Custom Home Kitchen – Home over $1 Million
• Custom Home Specialty Room (Study) -Home over $1 Million
Allegro Builders, founded in 1997, is a leading homebuilder specializing in the construction of distinctive custom and spec period homes that are unique to West University, Houston Heights, Woodland Heights, Midtown, Montrose, Memorial, Tanglewood and Bellaire. Allegro has won a variety of awards including the 2008 Landmark Award, 2007 Paper City Magazine Design Excellence Awards, 2007 Corporate Citizenship Award, 2005 Fall Bellaire New Home Showcase, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 Greater Houston Builders’ Association PRISM Awards, 2005 Houston Heights Christmas Home Tour and the 2004, 2007 Texas Association of Builders Star Awards. For more information, visit allegrobuilders.com.