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Urban Adventure, A husband and wife architect team offer a new look at city living

A view from the front of the residence: Stone block and Galvalume make up part of the home’s exterior. The architects wanted to avoid the hardened look of fences opting instead to soften the effect from the street with a fountain wall (far left and close-up below) and lush drought-resistant plants.

When Sumit and Yvette Bhutani moved to Houston a few years ago, they had definite needs since they were starting a family. Three bedrooms, all on the same level, were important to a home design. And access to the freeway for Sumit’s commute to the north side was equally high on their list of wants.

“And let’s just say that we’re not ornate. We’re probably the opposite of ornate,” explains Yvette, of their preference for a modern space awash in light that could accommodate clean-lined furnishings.

The couple researched several architects and spec homes but came up empty. “We were kind of in the middle range where townhomes felt a little cramped. And budget-wise and time-wise, we really couldn’t buy land and build custom,” explains Sumit. “We just didn’t have time for it. Long story short, we couldn’t find anything we liked in our price range and in the areas we wanted.”

But fate intervened in the form of Houston’s AIA show where the couple took note of a home designed by husband and wife architects Russell and Rame Hruska (Intexture Architects). They liked the architect’s uncluttered, less-is-more style. Friends also had good things to say about the architect couple.

Of particular intrigue was Intexture Architect’s new urban project, Southmore Terrace, a community of freestanding modern homes built to LEED standards and replete with plenty of outdoor living space and connection points for community gatherings.

“It seemed perfect for us and the style we liked. And getting the custom design we wanted was wonderful. Our architects Russell and Rame are so easy to work with,” says Sumit.

“We offer a hybrid,” explains Russell Hruska. “We work with clients to build custom and meet their needs like in the traditional role of an architect. But we’re also developing the concept of community. We have land available. We don’t do the homes as spec. We get the client first and then work with them on design. And it’s a community with common areas like a garden and play spaces.”

For the Bhutanis, it was a perfect fit.

These days, they’re soon to be a family of four. Their young daughter will soon have a sibling. The growing family appreciates having three bedrooms — the master and the children’s rooms — on the same level. But, then, this couple appreciates every element of this 3,600-square-foot modern dwelling.

“We really love it,” says Sumit. “We love the clean lines, the expansive spaces. And it feels like our little neighborhood. It’s just a great concept.”

In the case of the Bhutani home, it’s a graceful ode to vertical living. The ground floor consists of a casual living space and guest room with a grassy side courtyard offering additional entry to the home. Den, powder room, kitchen, breakfast room and dining room make up the second level. The bedrooms round out the third story with a small bonus room on the fourth floor that is used for exercise equipment and storage.

Geothermal air conditioning, reclaimed and recycled materials and increased energy and water efficiency were integral components to the home’s design. “Rame and Russell build green and they’ve taught us a lot about what it takes to be LEED certified,” explains Sumit. “Our utility bills are great! We were renting a 2500 square foot place before and our bills were double what we pay here.”

The Hruskas offer a holistic approach to clients, helping in all facets of design from landscaping to interior finishes and furniture selection and placement. They even acted as consultants on art selections and helped the homeowners decide where to hang certain works. The result is a more cohesive space.

“It all did seem to click,” says Yvette, who feels at home with white walls, using only an occasional bold accent color in certain rooms. This makes for a serene look that is easy on the eye.

A front door off to the side allows an extra touch of privacy from the street. Once in, a casual living area to the left is awash in white walls with smooth porcelain floors. The homeowner’s preference for an uncluttered look is apparent here with a streamlined sofa from 2Modern mixing with Malena chairs from Design Within Reach. A pair of fun cork stools is the underbelly for a wonderful glasstop coffee table. Artwork by Tatfoo Tan adorns a wall.

On the second level, warm bamboo floors sweep underfoot, connecting den to kitchen, breakfast and dining room. Comfortable leather sofas mingle with a pair of classic Hans Wegner chairs for a high-end look in this living space. A Noguchi coffee table plays anchor to the scene. A balcony connects to this second-floor living space.

The kitchen is particularly striking in dark brown maple cabinetry that contrasts with white countertops in composite quartz. A backsplash is so faint in color that it reminds one of water. “I love that!” says Yvette. “My favorite tile.”

A breakfast room sits pretty in a Saarinen tulip table and Globus chairs from Design Within Reach. “This whole space in the kitchen area was well thought out, very efficient,” Yvette continues. “And we followed the theme of the faint colored tiles in the bathrooms as well. Bright tiles? Not for me.”

A trio of pendants from Lighting Unlimited hovers over table and chairs from Nusa furniture in the dining room. And on the wall, a fun cluster of sculptural balls by artist Gregory Story of Fort Worth.

“We buy art when both of us like it and agree on it,” explains Yvette. “There have been a lot of times when one of us has vetoed something. If the price is right and we both just love it, we pull the trigger!”

The third-floor master bedroom is a vision in furniture from Cantoni and Crate & Barrel bedding. A balcony off the master brings the outdoors in. The adjacent master bathroom has a spa quality with a large, open shower, floating vanity and porcelain floors.

A bit of fun color was brought into their daughter’s room across the hall — an orange accent wall amid built-in bookshelves and cabinet. Another bedroom is being prepared for the family’s new addition. A Jack-and-Jill bathroom connects the two rooms.

Indeed, this house is well thought-out with a stair tower window facing a side view instead of the street, adding even more privacy to the home. In lieu of a front fence, the architect team opted for a low fountain wall and a zone of lush, drought-resistant plants for a softer effect from the street.

It’s truly home sweet home for the Bhutanis, who love living in this unique urban setting. The Hruskas are not only their architects, but also their friends and neighbors. Indeed, the Hruskas combination home/studio is but a few paces from the Bhutanis’ home. The two couples pluck vegetables from the same neighborhood garden. Their children play together, meeting at the community sandbox.

“It’s a nice place to come home to,” says Sumit. “A good decision for us.”

A view from the back and side of the Bhutani residence. The dwelling is part of a community of small urban houses at Southmore Terrace that are built to LEED standards. The freestanding homes share community space — a new pattern for urban living offered by Intexture Architects.

A light and bright modern kitchen has all the bells and whistles. A glass tile backsplash provides a hint of color that reminds one of water. Countertops are a composite quartz product. “This kitchen has amazing use of space,” says Yvette of the architect’s design. Barstools from Cantoni.

Earthy bamboo stairs and industrial elements combine for a beautiful step-up to other levels.

Clean lines and an occasional punch of color through accessories define the décor here. A beautiful streamlined sofa from 2Modern looks great against porcelain tile floors in the ground floor living area. Artwork by Tatfoo Tan.

The front entry leads to a ground-floor casual living space.

Globus chairs from Design Within Reach mingle with a classic Saarinen tulip table in the breakfast room.

Pendants from Lighting Unlimited hover over table and chairs from Nusa furniture in the dining room.

The dining table is a vision of understated elegance. A Mother of Pearl accent runs through the center of the table.

A bit of whimsy in the dining room — sculptural balls by artist Gregory Story of Fort Worth.

Three-legged chairs by modern master Hans Wegner are paired with durable leather “workhorse” sofas in the second-story den. “They’re indestructible!” says Sumit. Both look great with the Noguchi coffee table. Bamboo floors sweep underfoot, garnished with a colorful rug.

Streamlined furnishings from Cantoni make up the master bedroom. Lamps by Crate & Barrel’s CB2 store; bedding by Crate & Barrel.

A splash of orange and swirls of color in the rugs provide a fun element in their young daughter’s room. A built-in cabinet with shelves is not only practical, but also beautiful, framing a wonderful window view.

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