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From the Manor to Memorial


The comfortable assembly of antique beams and random sizes of limestone stones cover the island and range top.  Beadboard face cabinets contribute to the authentic collection of materials. Chateau Domingue antique concrete tiles were used as the backsplash. Bar stools by Custom Creations.

For the past decade, the professional couple (both physicians) whose home is fea­­tured here, lived, worked and started their family in France. Both Texas natives, they met while in medical school in Houston and married after dating a few years. To add some excitement to their lives and to add some variety to their careers, they both took jobs in a hospital in the countryside of the Provence region of France.

“We both learned the French language at an early age,” the wife explained, “and we traveled in Europe during college. We fell in love with the French culture — and each other — so when the opportunity to live and work there presented itself, we grabbed it.”

The couple flourished there and started their family, relishing and immersing in the lifestyle, architecture, food and community of their adopted home. Declared the husband, “No less than the food and art of the region, we really loved the architecture of Provence, especially the country homes.”

Though this couple lived in a townhouse, they were able to emulate some of the style and ambiance they admired so much in the large, country manors they visited and toured. He continued, “There are no such things as ‘built-ins’ in most authentic European dwellings, and antique or vintage is the norm. Everywhere has a little wear-and-tear, something reclaimed or re-purposed, which is what we found so charming about the buildings.”

Though the couple loved living in France, they both knew that they’d eventually move back to Houston to raise their children and return to the proximity of their families. So when their contracts were finished, they began preparation for a move back stateside. “I connected with a family friend/realtor from Houston and began online searching for a home we could love, and though I saw lots of great, amazing spaces, none really tugged at me,” the wife said.

One day, the couple was on the way to look at another house for sale on the same street and passed one under construction. They liked the look of the façade, the placement of the home on the lot, the size of the home and the name of the builder. “We had friends who had used this company to build their home.”

They made an appointment for a showing, and that was all it took. What they saw when they toured the home took them right back to the village in France in more ways than one.

The team of Ben Crawford and Tracy Design Studio has made perfecting the expression of a Provençal Manor House – a bastide – the cornerstone of their business, Bastide Homes. Together the team works to produce a casually chic, understated elegance through the use of authentic regional repurposed materials and exquisite, uniquely European design.

“The word ‘Bastide,’” explained Ben Crawford, the developer, “means ‘fortress.’ It provided protection in the Medieval Ages.  The County Seat was later governed in a Manor,  a large freestanding house. The connotation of the word ‘manor’ evolved to evoke images of gracious living in a large, inviting and comfortably aged setting. These are the cornerstones of our mission at Bastide Homes — to build homes which infer a sense of pedigree, a certain status in the community, about the people who live there.”

“We also want to include an aesthetic,” added Maria Tracy, Bastide Homes’ interior designer, “that is not showy or ostentatious, but rather casual in its setting and rich in its use of materials and how they are put together.”

Several features of the home’s design make it uniquely European, which is the specialty of this team. One such component is the use of local, native materials and the repurposing or reclaiming of antique and vintage finds. All over the home, native Texas limestone is used—on the floors, the walls and elsewhere. In the kitchen, for example, the oversized island is hand waxed limestone; the fireplace in the billiard room with its 72-inch box is made of and surrounded by limestone; the stairs are also limestone and beautifully sanded in the middle to create a nicely worn, old world authentic feel. Several walls in the home are clad with 8 x 12 limestone, and where there isn’t stone, there is smooth, timeless, cool plaster — distinctively old world and luxurious.

Additionally, mixed northern hardwoods are utilized on floors and for built-ins. “We also repurposed the wood from an old barn in Wisconsin,” explained Crawford, “and sawmilled the beams to one-inch thick to use on the floors wherever possible. This allowed us to authentically create that worn, distressed wood finish that makes even a brand new home immediately feel so comfortable.”

George Tracy, the architect, used an axial architectural design for this home, another distinctively old world European design concept. Simply put, axial architecture is the symmetrical layout of a building, part of a building, or a group of buildings, or of spaces in each case, around or along an axis — in this home’s case, the grand foyer. No matter which way you look, to the right, left or even upward, you find symmetry of design that dramatically appeals to the eye.

And before you think such symmetry might be monotonous or boring in any way, rest assured that is not the case. Though you can stand in the foyer and see from one end of the home to the other, each space is defined distinctively from the others by the height of the ceilings as well as the unique features of each ceiling. In the foyer, for example, the ceiling is domed, plastered and painted in the same fresco style used by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel. In the dining room, the ceiling is groin-vaulted with stone on the corners to further define the space. The billiard room includes plaster and exposed beams, while each bedroom has a different ceiling, with a dramatic barrel arch in the master. The floors, too, in the bedrooms are definitive — all sea grass.

The master suite also offers a uniquely European feature — a Roman bath. This entirely “wet” room is completely enclosed by stunning tile walls and fabulous glass doors. The tub, showerheads, benches, steam are all contained here and the effect is utter luxury.

Provençal ambiance is additionally attained through the use of certain reclaimed elements throughout the home, as well as the use of furniture, rather than traditionally American “built-ins.” Maria explained, “In Europe, the buildings are old and come ‘as is,’ so you’ll find that families will bring in furniture for storage, even in the kitchen and bathrooms. To lend authenticity to this home, that’s exactly what we did.”

Not only are all of the interior doors reclaimed antiques from France and Belgium, but in the bathrooms and in the kitchen, there is antiqued or custom built furniture rather than cabinetry. The lighting throughout the home, too, is reclaimed antique or made authentically in an Italian Atelier.  The exterior doors and all of the windows downstairs are steel as done in Europe; the beautiful picture windows in the dining room were influenced by the acclaimed designer John Saladino.

Additionally, a truly Provençal home offers its inhabitants and their guests a plethora of outdoor spaces to enjoy along with all of the grandeur indoors. This home is no exception. There are no fewer than five outdoor spaces, each as lovely as the other and each as inviting as any of the rooms inside. Comfortable furniture, interesting accessories, essential shade and lovely landscaping beckon from every window in every room.

If history makes a home feel comfortable, then this team of experts, along with this particular family, has hit the mark on this newly constructed Old World abode. This cosmopolitan couple never dreamed they would find a home with the European style, elegance and architecture they’d loved and grown accustomed to while living abroad. But they did. With a little bit of fortuitous intention and the right team of developers, they managed to find right here the familiar ambiance of the charming Provençal village they left behind.

Text by Cheryl Alexander  |  Photography by Mike Willcox, EMOMEDIA  |
Home Developer, Pool by Bastide  |  Homes  Architecture by George Tracy  |
Interiors by Maria Tracy, R.I.D.  |  Landscape by Dwight Rozier

TOP IMAGE: Beadboard face cabinets contribute to the authentic collection of materials. Chateau Domingue antique concrete tiles were used as the backsplash. Bar stools by Custom Creations.

The entry features an arched steel front door. Coat closet is enclosed with a repurposed antique pine door. Plaster inset ceiling with antique wood lantern lends a uniquely authentic European touch. The stairwell features a limestone wall and the limestone treads are sanded in the middle to convey a sense of wear. Reclaimed antique doors open to the library.

 

Library with antique Belgian sphere light pendants. Rug from Madison Lily. Art from Dean Day Gallery. Upholstery provided by Custom Creations.

Library with antique Belgian sphere light pendants. Rug from Madison Lily. Art from Dean Day Gallery. Upholstery provided by Custom Creations.

Original chromone on antique door leading to library.

Original chromone on antique door leading to library.

The “keeping room” adjacent and open to the kitchen allows for interaction between cook, guests, and family members. Custom fireplace and plush seating options provide a warm aesthetic and comfort. Repurposed hardware fits perfectly with the antique pine door leading into the powder room.

The “keeping room” adjacent and open to the kitchen allows for interaction between cook, guests, and family members. Custom fireplace and plush seating options provide a warm aesthetic and comfort.

Repurposed hardware fits perfectly with the antique pine door leading into the powder room.

Repurposed hardware fits perfectly with the antique pine door leading into the powder room.

Gray blue plaster in the powder room complements the found vessel used as the sink.

Gray blue plaster in the powder room complements the found vessel used as the sink.

 

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The dining room groin vault ceiling resting on cornerstone columns enhances the romantic ambiance of the space. The arched antiqued mirror doors conceal an ample china cabinet closet.

The Billiard Room runs east to west and allows the room to engage visually with all the exterior spaces. Billiard table from The Billiard Factory. Art from Dean Day Gallery.

 The baker’s island in the kitchen is topped with carrera marble, and the window sill is clad with a zinc top. Antique cabinet doors were built into the kitchen staple pantry while a baker’s hutch was custom built to the left of the steel back door.


The baker’s island in the kitchen is topped with carrera marble, and the window sill is clad with a zinc top. Antique cabinet doors were built into the kitchen staple pantry while a baker’s hutch was custom built to the left of the steel back door.

The butler’s pantry provides ample storage. Antique windows were used as doors for custom cabinets. Linen drapes add softness to the space.

The butler’s pantry provides ample storage. Antique windows were used as doors for custom cabinets. Linen drapes add softness to the space.

Mud room lockers were outfitted with antique shutters for a clean uncluttered look. The caterer’s  kitchen has a large Shaw farmhouse sink, zinc counter top and antique wood floating shelves.

Mud room lockers were outfitted with antique shutters for a clean uncluttered look. The caterer’s kitchen has a large Shaw farmhouse sink, zinc counter top and antique wood floating shelves.

Outdoor dining area overlooks pool and other outdoor living spaces.

Outdoor dining area overlooks pool and other outdoor living spaces.


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