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An Architectural Gem

The home has unmistakable curbside appeal with a French influence

When Cary and Veronica Benson decided to move from North Carolina, they set their sights on The Woodlands. Relatives lived within close proximity to the community. Cary, former part-owner of American Leather furniture company, was venturing into the next step of his career. And the eldest of their three children was about to start high school.

“It seemed like the right time if we were going to move,” says Cary, now president of Palliser Furniture.

So the couple spent a whirlwind weekend searching for that perfect home. On the second day, they found it, a French-inspired curbside beauty in the gated community of Carlton Woods.

They were drawn to its architectural detail, the groin and barrel vault ceilings and spacious yet cozy feel. And they particularly liked its layout with a private downstairs guest bedroom suite to one side of the house and master suite on the other. “It was perfect for company,” says Veronica. “It just felt right. And we loved the clean lines. It isn’t an overly ornate house. It fit us.”

The family of five has been happily settled into this 7,800-square-foot house for four years. Their eldest child is now a freshman in college. But the love affair with the home continues. “It’s been totally enjoyable living here,” says Veronica who has put her stamp on the décor.

The Bensons bought the home during the early stages of construction. The framing was up, but all the decisions on materials and surfaces were yet to be made. This freed them to make the house truly their own.

A particular space off the entry hall caught Cary’s eye — a circular wine vault. “That was a huge selling point for Cary!” says Veronica. “He loved that and had the chance to finish it out the way he wanted.” Wide-plank, hand-scraped hickory wood floors are underfoot.  And the room’s detailing is finished out much like that at Perry’s Steakhouse & Grille in The Woodlands.

“I admired the wine room at Perry’s. So we had the guy who was project manager over construction go over there and check things out!” recalls Cary. “I think it turned out really nice.”

A funny aside to the wine room décor — Veronica ordered a large wine barrel for $65 but shipping costs far exceeded that price. “Not too mention another $100 we paid a carpenter to cut it in half so it would fit in the room! Then he had to put it back together,” she says, laughing. In the end, the wine barrel gives the space a most authentic feel.

Indeed, there are a lot of features to like in this home. It boasts five bedrooms and a seven-car garage. “Cary is a total car buff…. we added another garage,” says Veronica. In doing so, they had the opportunity to put an exercise room above the new garage, as well as an office for Cary.

“We can’t say we don’t have enough rooms, that’s for sure,” says Veronica. The large library across from the master bedroom suite serves as homework central during the school year. The master bedroom suite is lovely with matching silk draperies and bedding made by Windows of Opportunity (all draperies in the home furnished by this company). A sitting area with fireplace makes this space especially cozy.

The main corridor of the abode is particularly striking with a sweep of tumbled marble floors that carry through the home. Enter the front door and the dining room sits to the right with formal living situated toward the back of the home with scenic views of the backyard and pool. And all around are unique architectural details in the form of groin vault ceilings and wooden beams.

“We flipped the front of the house,” Veronica explains. “Originally the living area was in the front and the dining was in the back, but we thought ‘why waste that beautiful view?’ If we’re hanging out in the living room, we want to take advantage of that!”

The dining room is a vision in table and chairs from Baker’s Far East Collection. On the far wall is something dear to Veronica — a traditionally accented chinoiserie furniture piece that Cary gave her. “He knew I loved it! I’d seen it and wanted it so badly!” she recalls. “We’d seen it at an antique shop and he surprised me with it.”

A casual, comfortable decorating style — combining leather and upholstered pieces with tables of rich wood — seem to fit this house. Cary’s lengthy career in the furniture business makes him infinitely qualified to recite the list of furnishings in this home. American Leather furniture is found throughout as well as pieces from Century, Bernhardt, Baker, Lee Industries and Hickory Chair.

Veronica’s keen eye is behind the clean-lined, warm décor. And she sought out artwork that would complement the surroundings. A marsh scene by Houston artist Kirk Mullenax (purchased at the Bayou City Arts Festival) hangs prominently on a large wall in the living room. And she commissioned local artist Lulu Burkett to do a martini painting for the home’s wet bar, an eclectic space with leather tile floors. Olive “wall balls” purchased at the Bayou City Arts Festival hang, appropriately, next to this painting.

Around the corner from the wet bar the house angles toward the kitchen, breakfast room and den. This is no cookie-cutter kitchen. The island bar sits at an angle giving the room new perspective. Beautiful Lagos Azul stone countertops mix with wooden surfaces on the island. Creamy cabinets contrast with this visual scene. A farmhouse sink adds charm with a bank of large windows allowing for views while working. Soft pendant lights were designed by Veronica, then custom-made. She purchased the fabric and sent it off to the fabricator, asking that they craft cylindrical pendants. “I knew I wouldn’t find them any other way,” she says.

The breakfast room in custom red paint is a cheery offshoot here, adorned with beautiful slipcovered chairs by Lee Industries that sit around a beefy table found in High Point, NC. The den is amazingly cozy, tucked into the furthest angle of the house that permits another view of the back yard and pool.

A covered back porch with summer kitchen offers another livable space. A large screen comes down with the click of a remote control, protecting those outside from mosquitoes and the elements. “We are out there a lot,” says Veronica. “It’s like another room to the house.”

In addition to the exercise room and office upstairs, there are three bedrooms with baths, a home theater and a gameroom.

The Bensons had fun putting the touches on this home, though looking back they wonder how they did it all. “We were actually building a vacation home in North Carolina at the same time,” says Veronica. “Who does that? It was insane! A very challenging time!”

But worth it.

“We love both places,” she says. “And this house suits us well.”

The Bensons have the best of both worlds on this back porch with a large screen that can separate them from the elements with the click of a remote. “Great during mosquito season,” says Veronica. Furniture by Lane Venture.

In the living room, handsome leather furniture from American Leather (forefront) mingles nicely with a beautiful Century sofa. Chairs, also from Century, flank a marsh scene painting by artist Kirk Mullenax (purchased at the Bayou City Arts Festival.) A bank of windows gives clear view to a beautiful back yard.

The kitchen is functional as well as beautiful in a variety of materials. Lagos Azul stone countertops contrast nicely with a wood countertop at the island bar. Tumbled marble flooring and creamy linen cabinets complete the look.

The home is warm and open with a casual, yet elegant feel that fits this family of five. Brick detailing meshes well with tumbled marble floors with transition pieces in Lagos Azul stone. Beams overhead add to a rustic, organic feel. The rounded wet bar to the side leads to the back of the house where kitchen and den meet

The dining room and living room sit opposite of each other along this open hallway. The home’s graceful arches and beams are especially handsome at night when recessed rope lighting shines softly from a crevice behind corridor ceiling beams.

The breakfast room delights with walls in a custom-blended red from Sherwin Williams. Chairs from Lee Industries outfitted in washable slipcovers are not only pretty, but also practical. “You can just whip them off and wash!” says Veronica. • The den with crossed-beamed ceiling is tucked away in the back of the house with views of their backyard.

A wine vault with features patterned after those at Perry’s Steakhouse & Grille is a standout feature. The couple ordered the wine barrel for an authentic touch.

The master bath is serene in creamy ivory cabinets and tumbled marble floors.

The Benson’s backyard is a private oasis with a pool and lush backdrop.

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