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Quietly Modern in Memorial
From slab to sophistication on Soldier’s Creek


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We’ve all driven through the Villages of Memorial and admired the big lots, wonderful architecture and amazing landscape of the area. But unless you know the way, you’re unlikely to drive by the exquisite residence I visited for this month’s home feature. The route here took me deep into the interior of the neighborhood and asked me to turn off of what I had previously perceived as a dead-end street. This intriguing approach led me across a quaint, little bridge over Soldier’s Creek.  Just beyond was a very impressive abode on a very large, interesting lot. Brian and Oya Freed built the home, and they’ve lived here since July 2013 with their sons, Taner, 12, and Devin, 9.

However, when the Freeds found this lot in 2011, it was a far cry from the stunning impression it makes today. “There was nothing but a small slab left here,” explained Oya. “The previous home was small and the garage was across the creek from the house.” She  continued, “The owner would park her car on one side of the creek and cross a little footbridge to actually get home.”

“At that time,” Brian elaborated, “it had been on the market for a long time. The problem was that Soldier’s Creek bisected the lot, so when people would look at it, they didn’t know what to do with it.”

The Freeds did what no one before had the vision or resources to do. They re-routed the creek, thus enlarging the size of the lot’s buildable area, and built their dream home. But it came through quite a process. The couple explained that they had to work with the city, including Houston Flood Control and the Corps of Engineers, who had to conduct a wetlands study. “So it took about a year to get our building permit,” explained Brian.

After the building permits were obtained, the first step was to secure the area around the foundation and raise it above the flood plain. Gabions were installed around the newly re-routed creek bank to keep the foundation from sliding in. Piers were installed and secured to raise the home above the flood plain. Now, the construction of the home could begin.

The Freeds had already found their builder, Frankel Building Group, and based their choice on this company for a number of reasons. “We researched and really liked their work, we liked the scope of services that came with their company and primarily we chose them because they were willing to do “cost plus a percentage,” which was important to us because of the degree of control it gave us over the project,” Oya detailed.

With this method, the homeowner pays the builder for all direct costs associated with building the house plus a pre-determined percentage of all those costs as his/her builder fee. For example, if all the products and services needed to build the house add up to $100,000, and the builder’s fee is 20 percent, then the fee is $120,000 for the total job. This pricing method is very common for remodeling projects and for many custom builders.

The exterior of the home is what Oya described as California Mediterranean. “We wanted simpler, cleaner lines than traditional Mediterranean; less fussy. For interior design, we went with Elizabeth Garrett because I liked her work and she had previously worked with our builder,” Oya continued. “We knew they had a good working relationship and that she was familiar with designing a Frankel home. She was really good with scale and budget and understanding what I wanted.”

They made the selections and took them to the builder. Brian reported, “We had a good team who stayed on budget and on schedule. We didn’t spend money unnecessarily, there were no surprises and we were able to be a part of the process the entire time.”

After 20 years of marriage and the experience of living in three previous homes together the Freeds knew what they wanted pretty well. The couple met in high school in Pennsylvania, courted through college then married. He joined the military, she had a teaching degree, and they moved to Hawaii where they lived in a 900-square-foot cinder block duplex. “We didn’t care,” said Oya, “because we were young and the place was right on the North Shore beach. We loved living there.”

Upon leaving the military, Brian joined the technology and consulting industry. They moved into a starter home in Dallas where Brian found work and here they celebrated the birth of their first child. A few years later, a job and eventual career change into the oil and gas industry resulted in a move to Northwest Houston, where the small family upgraded into a much larger home in Cy-Fair. They also added a second son to their number. So with two growing boys, plus Brian’s transfer to his company’s downtown location, the couple decided to begin their search for a larger home closer in.

“Initially, we thought we wanted to find an existing home to remodel,” said Oya. “We looked and looked and looked, and either the house didn’t work or the lot didn’t work. We believe we were meant to find this lot, because we had seen all these wonderful places that didn’t work for us, and now we were standing in front of this lot that no one else wanted, and we fell in love with it.”

Their home shopping experiences helped refined their list of must-haves, and they nicely incorporated these into their new home. The GHBA Houston’s Best Prism Award-winning design of the master suite is themed around rest, relaxation and romance. The large room mixes elements and textures and features a fireplace, lush linens and an amazing view of the pool and the creek. Also, Oya wanted her own custom closet, which is beautifully organized and spacious, and they each have a private toilet.

Additionally, the common living areas are fabulously open and perfect for entertaining, just as the Freeds desired. The contemporary aesthetic of the home’s interior design, the monochromatic color scheme and the use of glass — both in huge floor-to-ceiling windows and as loft railing — provides spaciousness and floods light into both the up- and downstairs. Another fireplace — this one double-sided — along with over-sized barn doors connects the kitchen, breakfast room and living area to the game room.

The kitchen features a few of Oya’s specific requests: a griddle on her cooktop and grow lights above the buffet, which allow her to grow her herb garden indoors and right next to her prep space. Pretty clever!

“We were very specific about our outdoor space,” said Brian. “We wanted the infinity edge pool, the hot tub, the tanning ledge and the landscaping.” Oya added, “We wanted a fire pit and a fire feature in the pool. Basically, we wanted to maximize our options with the lot size and the creek bank.” Maximize they did, too. It is fabulous; especially with Brian’s golf tee on one side of the creek and the green on the other side. Fore!

The casita, too, was a non-negotiable on the list of must-haves. “Our casita is one element of the design that we love,” they shared. “We use it even when we don’t have guests. And it is perfect for parties. We just fold back the glass to enjoy the extra kitchen, fireplace, more seating and another fireplace. It also serves as a bathroom/dressing area when we use the pool.”

Another size and space specific must-have was the dining room. Oya explained, “It had to be large enough for our Koa wood dining table, chairs and buffet.” When the couple lived in Hawaii, they commissioned a local artisan to craft the dining furniture, and it is simply stunning in the smoothness of the wood and the design.

One dining room wall also features a huge glass panel that allows a view into the couple’s distinctive wine vault. The couple owns a vineyard at the Vines of Mendoza in Argentina; having a special space to display their wines, as well as others they’ve collected through the years, was obviously a high priority in their home design. I have never seen another like it.

The Freeds have a lot to be happy about in their new home. It’s custom to their family, their interests and their budget. From slab to sophisticated, this couple saw past the problem to the potential of this particular piece of real estate. They saw the neighborhood, the privacy allowed, the massive size and the amazing prospects this lot afforded. And what they got for their vision — their dream home.

Text by Cheryl Alexander  |  Photography by Connie Anderson  |  Interior Design collaboration with  |  Elizabeth Garrett Interiors Architecture and Construction by  |  Frankel Building Group  |  Designs by Elizabeth, Elizabeth Llaguno Pool by Great Escapes  |  Golf Green by Green Links

The spectacular driveway clearly forecasts the distinctive nature of this California Mediterranean abode.

The spectacular driveway clearly forecasts the distinctive nature of this California Mediterranean abode.

The white cabinetry, quartzite countertops, stainless steel appliances and modern furniture and lighting make this contemporary kitchen feel both simple and clean. Contrasting the dark stone backsplash and the dark wood floor allows the white to really pop.

The white cabinetry, quartzite countertops, stainless steel appliances and modern furniture and lighting make this contemporary kitchen feel both simple and clean. Contrasting the dark stone backsplash and the dark wood floor allows the white to really pop.

The contemporary aesthetic and monochromatic color scheme of the art and furniture in this living room juxtapose beautifully with the wall of arched windows and lush, verdant backyard scene

The contemporary aesthetic and monochromatic color scheme of the art and furniture in this living room juxtapose beautifully with the wall of arched windows and lush, verdant backyard scene

 In the entry, the fabulous lighting, ample natural light and a soaring ceiling, along with the glass banister, are just a preview of the many wonderful elements throughout this lovely home.

In the entry, the fabulous lighting, ample natural light and a soaring ceiling, along with the glass banister, are just a preview of the many wonderful elements throughout this lovely home.

A stone wall frames a fire place in the breakfast area.

A stone wall frames a fire place in the breakfast area.

The dining room makes a bold statement with the grand chandelier and the beautiful handmade Hawaiian Koa wood dining table, chairs and hutch from the couple’s first home together. Even more fascinating is the glass wall behind the table which reveals the wine vault.

The dining room makes a bold statement with the grand chandelier and the beautiful handmade Hawaiian Koa wood dining table, chairs and hutch from the couple’s first home together. Even more fascinating is the glass wall behind the table which reveals the wine vault.

This game room has something for everyone,  from the big screen projection TV to shuffleboard to foosball. The bar doubles as a casino game table. The large French doors and the double-sided fireplace both open to the common living areas making this room a natural extension for parties and entertaining.

This game room has something for everyone, from the big screen projection TV to shuffleboard to foosball. The bar doubles as a casino game table. The large French doors and the double-sided fireplace both open to the common living areas making this room a natural extension for parties and entertaining.

The master bedroom is oversized, elegant and comfortable mixing elements such as the stone wall, wood floor and plush soft bedding. The vaulted ceiling with exposed beams and the contemporary lighting make a luxurious statement.

The master bedroom is oversized, elegant and comfortable mixing elements such as the stone wall, wood floor and plush soft bedding. The vaulted ceiling with exposed beams and the contemporary lighting make a luxurious statement.

The stark white soaking tub is accentuated by the smooth marble floor,  the brick subway tiles, the pebble effect of the accent tile and the texture of the faux finish on the wall.  Natural light along with the elegant chandelier bring a warm ambiance to bath time.

The stark white soaking tub is accentuated by the smooth marble floor, the brick subway tiles, the pebble effect of the accent tile and the texture of the faux finish on the wall. Natural light along with the elegant chandelier bring a warm ambiance to bath time.

The casita doubles as a guest cottage or more space for entertaining outdoors. With a simple fold back of the glass walls, the space opens up and allows for cooking, serving or lounging by the fireplace.

The casita doubles as a guest cottage or more space for entertaining outdoors. With a simple fold back of the glass walls, the space opens up and allows for cooking, serving or lounging by the fireplace.

This view of the outdoor living space includes the hot tub and the swimming pool with a tanning ledge. The far end of the pool features a fire element and the guest casita — a fully equipped living/dining space has glass walls that open on two sides.

This view of the outdoor living space includes the hot tub and the swimming pool with a tanning ledge. The far end of the pool features a fire element and the guest casita — a fully equipped living/dining space has glass walls that open on two sides.

Inside the casita, the view is an infinity edge pool overlooking green space on the banks of a creek. Guest and homeowners alike enjoy the solitude and peacefulness this space affords.

Inside the casita, the view is an infinity edge pool overlooking green space on the banks of a creek. Guest and homeowners alike enjoy the solitude and peacefulness this space affords.

Many extraordinary features of this custom home are evident from the backyard view. From the landscaping to the expanse of the home to the rooflines, each element speaks of luxury and elegant detail.

Many extraordinary features of this custom home are evident from the backyard view. From the landscaping to the expanse of the home to the rooflines, each element speaks of luxury and elegant detail.

  Many extraordinary features of this custom home are evident from the backyard view. From the landscaping to the expanse of the home to the rooflines, each element speaks of luxury and ele

This stunning California Mediterranean style home sits along the banks of a creek.


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