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Sun-Drenched West Oak Abode


The kitchen, which set the color scheme of the home, includes the showstopper piece, the La Cornue range, and glazed cabinets with a textured finish to give a worn and distressed look. The cool plaster walls and honed statuary marble countertops, along with the polished nickel hardware set the standard for the luxury throughout the home.

The kitchen, which set the color scheme of the home, includes the showstopper piece, the La Cornue range, and glazed cabinets with a textured finish to give a worn and distressed look. The cool plaster walls and honed statuary marble countertops, along with the polished nickel hardware set the standard for the luxury throughout the home.

For These Homeowners, A Smaller Home Truly Was Better

Text by Cheryl Alexander   |   Photos by Wade Blissard

Gene and Stacey Strouhal have been sweethearts since they attended high school together at Wharton High. Though they went their separate ways for a few years (she attended college at Southwest Texas State; he went to University of Texas), as life and love would have it, the two of them reconnected at age 35 and have now celebrated a decade of marriage.  For seven years, the Strouhals lived in a very large home in Tanglewood (about 8,400 square feet), where Stacey’s inclination toward projects (she was a school teacher and still tutors children at the Shlenker School) was a bit stifled. She shared, “There were no projects for me at that home. It was already perfectly ‘done’ and I began to feel the home was too large for us.”

With Gene staying busy at Strouhal Tire, a third-generation family-owned business, and Stacey growing more restless, she says she realized one day that they were spending more and more of their time at home in their library. “The library was a small, cozy room where we were essentially drawn to every evening, so one night we decided to begin looking for a smaller home,” she said.

The couple’s search led them to their current home in West Oak, where they were initially drawn to its abundance of natural light. Gene recalled, “Stacey loved this home and she really didn’t want to see anything else. However, the home was already under contract to another family, so I went ‘undercover’ and asked our realtor to contact the buyer who had the contract on the home and make an offer to buy out their contract.” The buyer accepted Gene’s offer, sold him the home, and Gene was able to surprise Stacey with the news.

Stacey initially thought her “projects” would entail a little painting, some new carpet and cabinets, but the day they closed, they went to the house to celebrate and the entire back fence was lying on the trees. “The week we moved in,” Stacey said, “we realized that though we still loved the home, it may well be our very own ‘Money Pit,’ because after the fence fiasco, I soon realized I was going to have to re-do the whole kitchen.” Not only did she not like the layout, she went downstairs to cook breakfast on their first morning in the home, and when she opened the warming oven, it literally fell out of the cabinet and onto the floor.

Work on the kitchen commenced almost immediately and the whole color scheme of the home was ultimately centered on the choices in the kitchen, but the remodel didn’t stop there. In fact, the couple gutted the entire downstairs, opening all the walls and stripping the place down to the studs.

In the kitchen, several elements contribute to the overall impression, including the fabulous La Cornue range, handmade in France and embedded with custom accent pieces. The kitchen island is a somewhat sentimental piece, or more precisely, the butcher block in  the middle of the island. “That butcher block has belonged to Gene for many years, and it has been in every home he’s lived in as an adult,” explained Stacey. The island is French Oak with Gene’s butcher block inset.

Additionally, the smooth plaster walls,  honed statuary marble and polished nickel hardware create an exquisite effect in the kitchen. “We spared no expense,” said Gene. “We didn’t want to sacrifice on luxury and amenities just because we were no longer in a large home.”

Just beyond the kitchen is the kitchen office/coffee station/mudroom where the handmade terra cotta tiles from Susie Atkins at Architectural Design Resource make a striking statement. Here, Stacey can efficiently manage her kitchen out-of-the-way, yet conveniently nearby; she can quickly prepare an espresso, coffee, tea or hot chocolate with the push of a button from the built-in Miele machine; and she can manage the laundry while the couple’s Westies, Max and Myles, are out playing in the dog run. Then, she can drop them into the sink for a bath when they are done.

The den is conveniently situated and opens to the kitchen where the media cabinet is the pièce de résistance. Stacey explains, “The cabinet has a three-fold design purpose. First, it had to be pretty enough to house my antique book collection and my Staffordshire dog collection; second, since my husband loves movies, it had to accommodate the exact kind and size television he desired on which to view his movies, as well as hide his surround-sound speakers; third, it had to be large enough for me to see from the kitchen because I love to record cooking shows, then play them back while I try my hand at making the dishes.” Stacey also chose four big comfy chairs for the den because she and Gene feel that chairs are more conducive to conversation.

Just adjacent to these spaces is a huge barn door. Though it was the last thing  added to the renovation, it is the first thing guests see when they enter the home. Gene says, “Stacey got that idea and since it was unplanned, she kind of said, ‘I want this; now where can we put it?’” Stacey answered, “We put it here, between the more informal living spaces downstairs (kitchen, den, mudroom) and the more formal social spaces (dining, living, outdoor), because it works perfectly for entertaining. When we have a party, it is so easy to just slide the door closed so that the caterer and other service staff can work from there behind the scenes.”

Beyond the barn door, through the foyer and down the long hallway is a gallery of windows that that spans the back of the house. “It’s like living in a window box,” Stacey shared, “and it is one of the main reasons why we fell in love with the home and why there are no drapes downstairs at all. We wanted to maximize the light as much as possible.” The warm, natural light which floods the downstairs rooms truly invites comfort, ease and coziness. The unobstructed view of the back porch with the swing and ceiling fans and the backyard garden and seating area add a picturesque quality that summons the homeowners and visitors alike to come out and bask in the natural elements.

To enlarge the aesthetic of the exterior of the home, Stacey offered her design trick: “When your home is small, one trick is to match the trim color with the mortar color. The result is a larger feel and a smoother flow. The lines are uninterrupted, so to the eye, the space feels larger.”

Another design technique Stacey shared is an idea she stumbled on when she was working with the carpenter on the baseboards. She explained, “When the carpenter removed the quarter-round from below the baseboards, it occurred to me that much like dressing yourself in all black to look taller, or like a dancer wearing nude shoes to elongate her legs, if we got rid of the quarter-round and instead used a small piece of wood painted the same color as the baseboard, the result would be the same. And it worked! The rooms look taller and feel larger.”

She continued, “I am an accidental designer in that if something occurs to me and it seems like a good idea, I will try it.” Stacey insists that though she knows what she likes, most of her ideas just fall into her lap, “much like the warming drawer did that first morning in our home.” She also shared, “We didn’t use a designer at all, just myself, Leslie Sinclair of Segreto Finishes, and Pattie Barnett of Barnett Custom Homes, Inc. I made sketches on paper and Leslie and Pattie interpreted my vision into what you see now.”

The couple’s effort and vision has paid off. With their hard work, willingness to see the potential in a much smaller home and collaboration with the experts, the result is a stunning, sun-drenched abode in the middle of the city, right where they belong.

The mahogany shutters on the home’s exterior were added after the Strouhals moved in. Segreto Finishes distressed and aged them to give that ‘been there forever’ feeling.

The mahogany shutters on the home’s exterior were added after the Strouhals moved in. Segreto Finishes distressed and aged them to give that ‘been there forever’ feeling.

 The steep roof lines make for a dramatic exterior façade. The driveway of this home, large and expansive to allow room for guest parking when the couple entertains, includes a unique feature: paw prints of Millie Bush who lives just down the street.

The steep roof lines make for a dramatic exterior façade. The driveway of this home, large and expansive to allow room for guest parking when the couple entertains, includes a unique feature: paw prints of Millie Bush who lives just down the street.

 The back porch is pleasing in its simplicity. Stacey enhanced the space by matching the mortar with the trim, which is a design trick to enlarge a smaller outdoor space.

The back porch is pleasing in its simplicity. Stacey enhanced the space by matching the mortar with the trim, which is a design trick to enlarge a smaller outdoor space.

The custom island in the kitchen features a butcher block, a sentimental piece that has been in every home Gene has owned, inset into French Oak. The cabinets, finished by Segreto Finishes, are all raised to resemble pieces of furniture. The hardwood floors throughout the home are waxed red oak with ebony stain, added after the homeowners moved in.

The custom island in the kitchen features a butcher block, a sentimental piece that has been in every home Gene has owned, inset into French Oak. The cabinets, finished by Segreto Finishes, are all raised to resemble pieces of furniture. The hardwood floors throughout the home are waxed red oak with ebony stain, added after the homeowners moved in.

The barn door, which lends character and charm to this entry feature, was actually a new door that Leslie from Segreto Finishes refinished to look aged. The door also serves as a divider between the kitchen and more formal social areas when the couple entertains. All the beams were stained in a pine aged finish.

The barn door, which lends character and charm to this entry feature, was actually a new door that Leslie from Segreto Finishes refinished to look aged. The door also serves as a divider between the kitchen and more formal social areas when the couple entertains. All the beams were stained in a pine aged finish.

 The gallery of windows spans the length of the back of the house and floods the rooms with natural light. “It’s like living in a window box,” says Stacey.

The gallery of windows spans the length of the back of the house and floods the rooms with natural light. “It’s like living in a window box,” says Stacey.

The dining room, previously a boxed- in room, was opened to the gallery of windows when the couple renovated. The walls were plastered with a diamond plaster, giving a reflective quality to the room. The room’s design is a blend of styles — traditional, contemporary, French — which are reflected throughout the home. The impressive buffet is from Roche Bobois.

The dining room, previously a boxed- in room, was opened to the gallery of windows when the couple renovated. The walls were plastered with a diamond plaster, giving a reflective quality to the room. The room’s design is a blend of styles — traditional, contemporary, French — which are reflected throughout the home. The impressive buffet is from Roche Bobois.

he living room makes use of an abundance of natural light, lots of comfortable seating and luxurious plastered walls to afford opulence alongside comfort and coziness. The antique mirror is from Thompson and Hanson.

he living room makes use of an abundance of natural light, lots of comfortable seating and luxurious plastered walls to afford opulence alongside comfort and coziness. The antique mirror is from Thompson and Hanson.

The powder room walls were plastered using the antique console piece from Vieux for color inspiration, then finished with a hand-painted, very soft Grazie inspired design on the walls. Sconces are from Brown.

The powder room walls were plastered using the antique console piece from Vieux for color inspiration, then finished with a hand-painted, very soft Grazie inspired design on the walls. Sconces are from Brown.

The wine bar, which Stacey designed, includes an antiqued Rocky Mountain brick backsplash with custom wine label tiles from Architectural Design Resource.

The wine bar, which Stacey designed, includes an antiqued Rocky Mountain brick backsplash with custom wine label tiles from Architectural Design Resource.

In the mudroom, backsplash and handmade terra cotta tiles from Architectural Design Resource, exposed beams (faux-finished to look old) and a farmhouse kitchen sink make this space chic and inviting.

The cabinets are physically distressed with a black glaze on top. The hanging light from Brown is an antique from a hotel in Belgium

In the mudroom, backsplash and handmade terra cotta tiles from Architectural Design Resource, exposed beams (faux-finished to look old) and a farmhouse kitchen sink make this space chic and inviting.

In the mudroom, backsplash and handmade terra cotta tiles from Architectural Design Resource, exposed beams (faux-finished to look old) and a farmhouse kitchen sink make this space chic and inviting.

The Strouhals prefer chairs (these from Roche Bobois) over sofas in this space, as they believe chairs are more conducive to conversation, to tie the spaces together.

The Strouhals prefer chairs (these from Roche Bobois) over sofas in this space, as they believe chairs are more conducive to conversation, to tie the spaces together.

 The blue/gray colors from the kitchen were pulled into the den cabinets, which were physically distressed and layered with stains.

The blue/gray colors from the kitchen were pulled into the den cabinets, which were physically distressed and layered with stains.


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