By: Shilo Urban
Modest Sophistication Echoes from this Spanish-Inspired New Build in Colonial
There were just a few stipulations that Chris and Whitney Cotten had in mind when searching for a new home. “We didn’t want to be the pink house at the end of the block,” laughs Chris, who works in real estate investments.
Building a brand new home wasn’t out of the equation — although it needed to be in just the right place and with a very personalized plan. “Chris kept saying, ‘If we are going to build, let’s do something a little bit different that we couldn’t just walk down the street and buy,’” explains Whitney.
So when they first laid eyes on a particular lot in Fort Worth’s Colonial Hills subdivision, the perception of promise reeled them in. “This sweet old lady was living there, and the house was 65 years old,” recalls Chris. “It was only about 1,200 square feet.”
The couple, who met while Chris was earning his MBA at Texas Christian University, had been living in Dallas for nearly a decade but was now ready to put down roots in both a home and a community. A native of San Angelo in West Texas, Chris prefers more of the small town feel. “I knew that he would eventually get me over here because he’s not a big city guy,” says Whitney, a former event planner and Dallas local herself. “The pace of living [in Fort Worth], I think, is a little bit slower and a little more down to earth.”
The parents of two young children, Mary Claire and Clyde, were soon smitten with the Colonial Hills neighborhood, situated near a stretch of the Clear Fork Trinity River and in close proximity to TCU and Overton Park. The real estate that caught their attention, however, was not quite their style. The small single-story residence was tucked far back onto the lot, a cottage-like home with white trimmed windows, deep blue-green shutters and vintage metal porch columns. In January of 2014, they leveled the lot, and by March 2015, they moved into their brand new 4,350-square-foot home with the feeling it was always meant to be.
And seemingly, so many things were, like several close-knit connections that played a role throughout the process. Chris’ father lives in Austin, and during visits there, Chris and Whitney had admired several nearby homes, thus discovering Ryan Street and Associates. They reached out to Street for a local referral and were introduced to his college roommate, Mark Hoesterey of SHM Architects. “We met with Mark and got along great,” says Chris. “He just drew some things on a napkin, and it really blew us away. He had a lot of good ideas from the start that we liked.”
They then met their interior designer, Cassie Watson, also with SHM Architects, who turned out to be one of Chris’ second cousins. But perhaps the most important connection of all is Chris’ inherited knowledge from his mother, who was a talented interior designer. Though she passed away in 1999, the couple have treasured being able to infuse her design instincts she shared with Chris into a space they can experience every day.
And Hoesterey helped them capitalize on all their aspirations. “We lead the design, but we need a roadmap on how to get there,” he says. “The Cottens provided that. Without a good ‘roadmap,’ [a house] misses the opportunity to be something special.”
The results were special, indeed, with a beautifully designed exterior that sets the tone for the entire property. “Its design direction took cues from the Cottens’ personality, its context in an older neighborhood and some of the older Spanish eclectic homes of architect Clifford Hutsell,” says Hoesterey.
The clean-lined, light brick exterior provides a modern contrast to the dark window trim and door frames. A highlight is the parabolic arch-shaped front porch — “just quirky enough to draw you in,” says Hoesterey — and a matching arch-shaped steel window set with brick corbels that looks into the dining room. Equally impressive is the 8-foot-tall front door, a custom-made elliptical arch-top design in steel and glass. It gives way to a foyer area, set with a simple vignette of an oak-topped black iron console table with a pair of iron wall sconces framing a large circular mirror.
“The fact that it has a clean and modern interior and the exterior has a little more of a Spanish style to it is what I really liked,” says their builder Jon Castor of Castor Vintage Homes. “Everything went great, which is a compliment to the architect and to the Cottens.”
Simple yet visually stunning details, like a dramatic row of aligned arched openings that stretches down the length of the home, highlight the beautiful bones of the house. It’s a space that doesn’t require any outlandish bells and whistles to be able to reveal its impeccable forethought and design. The Cottens’ creative input shows in much of the flooring and unique finishes on display throughout. For instance, the guest bathroom features hexagon-shaped tiled flooring in an unexpected terra cotta tone, and the north wall in the powder bathroom off the main hallway is clad in gray concrete tiles.
The entryway, dining room, main living area and kitchen all share the same darkly stained scored concrete as well as several carefully selected rugs Chris sourced from Anatolia Rug Gallery. The ebony-hued flooring ties in well with the darkly toned trim of the windows and French doors on the downstairs level, which pop against the white walls. “I never wanted my home to feel cold. And in the interior, that was my fear,” says Whitney. “But they nailed it.”
Designer Watson also helped the Cottens learn how to mix more modern pieces with some of their existing furniture to create a contemporary environment that was welcoming, not stark. In the dining room, a sleek black wrought iron light fixture hangs above a large wooden table. On one wall is a single painting by local artist Sally Taylor, a colorful recreation of a black-and-white photo of cattle being worked at the Cotten’s family ranch in West Texas.
The nearby living room is comfortable and well-appointed, with several large dark wooden beams and an oversized dark bronze lantern pendant from Visual Comfort accentuating the tall ceiling. More neutrals command the space — the seating and sofa are all cream tones — with a subtle splash of color from the blue-and-cream rug beneath.
There are eight sets of French doors throughout the home. Three sets open off the main living room into a covered patio space with ample seating, an outdoor fireplace and flat-screen TV. On the left and right are more French doors that lead out from the second living room and the kitchen, respectively. During pleasant weather, the doors are all flung open, and the courtyard becomes like a breeze-filled room in the house.
The simplistic yet functional arrangement of the home is on center stage in the kitchen by way of a 12-foot-long quartz-topped island. The oversized counter space, which measures four feet across, features immense storage capacity and a literal clean slate for the family’s various activities throughout the day. “We love to entertain, but we’re also parents of young kids,” explains Whitney, “so I think it was about finding the balance in that.”
The kitchen’s L-shaped expanse of white Caesarstone quartz countertops are clean and uncluttered. Even a large flat-screen TV can be hidden away behind a set of cleverly designed upper cabinets. A fun bit of personality, hand-painted terra cotta tiles, is on display above the industrial range.
The Cottens’ relaxed yet polished vibe is most prominent in the master bedroom. Situated at the back of the property, one of their requests was to keep the bathroom separate from the bedroom space. A short hallway leads into the bedroom with an opening into the bathroom on the left. It’s an impressive space, punctuated by a visually stunning walk-in shower. The arched top ceiling is tiled in a delicate herringbone pattern, curving down into an arched inset window and limestone bench. Dark wood accents warm the space with a built-in that matches the wooden ceiling beams as well as the separate vanities.
In the bedroom area, sunlight beams in through the windows and French doors, the latter opening onto a small courtyard that leads to the covered backyard patio. White walls create a bright space, set off with room-warming wood furnishings. A cream linen bench with black iron legs sits at the end of the neutral linen-clad bed for a perfectly scenic vantage point through the facing French doors. Another of Chris’ prized rugs, this one a beautiful cerulean tone with cream and rust-colored accents, anchors the space.
But the pièce de résistance is the fabulous reading nook, a custom oversized bay window that extends outward, beyond the bedroom walls. “I love a place in a house that feels like you are sitting outside,” says Hoesterey. “The bay window helps achieve that while also providing a cozier scale.”
A pair of comfortable beige arm chairs, a gold lampstand and a small limestone-topped end table from Gabby Home complement the reading nook. “They had to do some work to figure out how to engineer it because it’s really just windows with two wood beams,” says Chris. “It’s a great space.”
Perhaps the only other area in the home that boasts as much light is the second level. There, it’s a bright and breezy palette with all-white window trim, doorways and walls and neutral-toned plush carpeting. Next to the top of the stairs is an unfinished room, its small French door-accessible balcony looking directly over the front yard. It even boasts a glimpse of the TCU football stadium through leafy tree branches and pretty rooftops.
A common area connects the children’s bedrooms, equipped with a parched oak and distressed ivory cabinet by Gabby Home that serves as a TV stand. A pair of adorable chalkboards occupy the wall on either side. A nearby built-in desk with a pair of high-top chairs touts a view of the backyard.
The youngsters’ bedrooms are kept simple with neutral furniture and sparse accessories for a neat and spacious appeal. Little Clyde’s room arguably has the best view in the house, with a three window-wide line of sight right onto the neighbor’s fun-loving treehouse. His parents laugh as they explain it’s already spawned Clyde’s own ambitious backyard plans.
Back downstairs, Chris walks into their second living room and opens yet another set of French doors onto the back patio. It’s his version of a man cave, a rustic though upscale place to entertain and relax. “I didn’t want it upstairs where it just never gets used,” he says, gesturing to the perfectly distressed (and comfortable) leather sofa and pair of club chairs. “You can have people over, turn on the games and open the doors. Everybody just comes in through the gate at the driveway and comes right here.”
There’s a wall-to-wall, built-in wood cabinet, topped with a long row of family photographs. It also inconspicuously houses the Cottens’ barware, an icemaker and even a dishwasher. A large TV hangs on the north wood-paneled wall, and in one corner of the room is a prized set of golf clubs autographed by President George Bush.
Out on the covered patio, Chris and Whitney notate a space in the grassy yard, explaining that’s where they’ve had bands set up for various parties they’ve hosted. “We have a lot of barflies that show up!” laughs Chris. “We didn’t intend on this, but now probably all of our friends live in a one-mile circle. It’s a great little pocket.”
It’s this very mentality, the desire to build a home that reflects the way they live, that contributed to the success of their contemporary yet accessible style. And it’s certainly no pink house at the end of the street.
| photography by Alex Lepe |