By: Shilo Urban
Photography by Jason Kindig
“It took an army” to build the MAAD H Ranch, so says man-of-the-manse Mike Erinakes. And while we don’t have the exact specs, there are no two ways about it: This place — sited on approximately 90 palatial acres in Johnson County — is just plain big. But here’s the remarkable thing: For all of its size (somewhere around 18,000-plus square feet, including porches, decks and garage), the house magically manages to feel more comfy than complex. Indeed — although it could swallow most other houses whole — it feels, simply, like a home.
And that’s exactly what Mike and Angie Erinakes had in mind when they launched the massive undertaking nearly five years ago. They didn’t, however, set out to build a mammoth abode, the couple contend. It’s just that all of their desired elements ended up pushing the blueprints to the extreme.
“We wanted a house designed around our daily needs,” said Mike, a venture capitalist who served as general contractor on the three-year build. “And we wanted a user-friendly house that was laid out well, with no wasted space, and was more comfortable [than their former residence].”
Avid entertainers, the couple also wanted a sizeable kitchen that opened to the living room, Angie noted.
“We wanted a social gathering site,” Mike added. “We are huge into charity events and wanted a big house and a large exterior barn to invite people over. And we wanted to make it energy efficient because I didn’t want to build it and not be able to afford it.”
After a virtually glitch-free construction process, Mike and Angie moved to MAAD H in December 2011 with their three daughters: Danielle, 15; Allison, 12; and Hunter, 9. (In case you were wondering, “MAAD H” is a riff on the entire tribe’s first names.) The family shares the spread with their spirited 3-year-old blue merle/sheltie mix, Sugar. (Sugar, by the way, is every bit the herding breed, as she attempted — quite successfully, in fact — to herd this writer several times by way of the pant leg and shoe strap.)
Nature lovers through and through, the Erinakes get a kick out of whooping it up in the great outdoors. (Their girls, incidentally, will soon be making some literal kicks in their very own backyard soccer field, which was in the works when this story was being written.) As such, Mike and Angie desired a place with plenty of wide-open spaces.
“We duck hunt in the backyard, ride four-wheelers, and shoot guns, and bows and arrows,” said Mike, who, among his numerous business ventures, has been involved as a producer for two TV series on the Outdoor Channel, Rocky Geared Up and Wardens. “It was important for us to have a place to be away from the TVs” — and, rest assured, they’ve got many — “and do stuff outside.” (The interior, though, isn’t without its fair share of activity. “The kids love having Nerf gun fights in here,” Mike said.)
Before they commenced the project, though, the spouses toyed with the idea of making over their former home — a more, shall we say, conservatively sized residence just a jump down the lane.
“We had 6,000 square feet [of space] and at first wanted to remodel,” Angie explained. “Then we said, ‘What if we just build instead?’”
“We wanted to expand, have more acreage, be in Johnson County and have room for the kids,” Mike noted of their must-haves, which also included a homework room for the girls and strategically located storage zones to keep their clutter from ever reaching the kitchen counters (which, as any parent will tell you, is the preferred dumping ground for kid-related detritus). With their original intentions now taking on more epic proportions, they bid adieu to their redo and set about activating a from-scratch plan.
Informing that plan is a decidedly “old-world Tuscan feel that’s rich yet inviting,” said Angie, who helmed the fashionable (and fuss-free) interior design, with help from pal Angie Bransom. Both Angies worked wonders at engineering an assemblage that is at once wow-inspiring and welcoming. “The house was going to be large, so I wanted that warm feeling,” Angie said of her creative approach.
The duo picked up pieces from a variety of places (and at a variety of price points), encompassing everywhere from Grandeur Designs and Brumbaugh’s to Kirkland’s and Hobby Lobby.
Their main sticking point: fetching furniture that could stand up to the king-size surroundings. “There were so many things we bought and had to take back,” Mike remembered. “The walls just eat stuff.”
A Peek Inside
While our allotted word count doesn’t grant us nearly enough column inches to recount all of its glories, please allow us to regale you with some of MAAD H’s most notable highlights.
Setting the tenor for the home (i.e., richly appointed, but rustically appealing), the grand entryway features cantera stone columns and arches, a 24-foot ceiling and wraparound staircase. (“It’s impressive,” Mike described of the posh-meets-practical landing point, “but not over the top.”) Don’t feel like traipsing up and down the stairs? No problem. Just hitch a ride on the elevator, an architectural element that adds convenience, as well as ADA-compliance.
Ceilings are 12 feet high downstairs and 10 feet upstairs; second-floor hallways are 5 feet wide. There are five bedrooms (the girls’ cheery suites reflect their individual styles to a T; one even has her very own “secret room” tucked away behind a movable wall) and eight bathrooms in the main house.
Also composing the quarters: a dining room featuring a groin-vault ceiling with pillow-top tiles and rope detailing, 12-seat theater room with “movie posters” fashioned from family photos, a playroom for Hunter, a craft room, wine cellar, billiard room, storm shelter (“a bank vault on steroids,” described Mike of the 10-inch-thick-concrete-reinforced space), and separate offices for Mike and Angie. Butt-joint glass in the master suite (and also in the living room) grants unrestrained views to the backyard. Marrying equal measures form and function, their bathroom has heated floors and a steam shower. And Angie scored a walk-in closet that measures 30x17x12.
The Erinakes fetched all of the light fixtures in the house from Fort Worth Lighting. “It was their largest sale to date, according to Lee [Jordan], the owner, who took care of everything and was so helpful,” Mike said.
Franks Development built the house, with Mike handling the GC duties. “I looked at all the bids, made all the decisions and paid all the money,” he quipped. “Being the GC and managing it for three years, I saved a lot of money. It was [built in] a bad economy, and we employed a lot of people.”
Approximately 70,000 feet of structured wiring house-wide powers the numerous TVs, audio-visual equipment and security cameras, Mike noted. As for its structure, MAAD H is as intricate underground as it is above. “It’s got a very complex steel foundation with concrete on top,” said Mike of the elaborate pier-and-beam structure, erected by Basden Steel.
Although they could easily slip away to other areas of the house (and remain completely oblivious of each other), the close-knit clan often finds itself occupying a single space. “The kids all have their own huge bedrooms,” Angie said, “but we all seem to be gathered in the living room at night.”
That said, however, each Erinakes has his or her own preferred refuge in the impressive pad. Mike’s favorite? The trophy room/pub. “You walk in and go, ‘Wow!’” he said of the room he (quite aptly) calls his “Super Cabela’s.” Hunting fans will delight in the realistic retreat, bursting with manmade trees and cliffs (they’re made of Styrofoam but look straight from nature), hand-painted murals that grant a three-dimensional air and menagerie of creatures from every walk of life. (A full-size giraffe and elephant will soon be joining the flock.) “I wanted it to be very detailed and highlight the animals,” Mike said. (Rest assured, it does both in spades.)
Angie’s fave? “I like my kitchen and my workout room, but my Christmas tree closet is pretty cool too,” she said. “You just roll them in when they’re decorated and roll them out when you’re ready to use them.”
As for the kids? “They’d say it’s the pool,” Mike said of the resort-style infinity-edge waterway that looks more Tahiti than Texas.
“The pool has nine waterfalls, nine fire pits, two slides, a diving rock, caves and a Jacuzzi,” Mike said. “It’s 11 feet deep in the deepest part. And everything was made out of real mossy boulders.” Close enough to the action for unblemished views but far enough away to shelter from splashes, the exterior living area seats dozens. A fully equipped cabana with lockers to corral any manner of swim gear is located a few easy steps from the patio zone.
Also on the property: two lakes stocked with fish; a third is on the drawing board.
As far as those potentially scary electric bills Mike mentioned earlier, well … are you ready for this? Instead of a conventional HVAC unit, he opted for a geothermal system, which uses 300-foot vertical wells to heat and cool the house at a constant temperature of 70 degrees. The entire dwelling is also encapsulated in a spray-foam “envelope”; there are no vents on the roof. If you have any doubt about the efficiency of such a setup, one look at the Erinakes’ utility bill will quickly quash those notions: $450 a month, Mike said. No joke.
Oh, and remember the barn? Built to mimic an old-timey town, it has a café, hotel and gas-station-type garage. “It’s very big and open inside,” said Mike, who mostly uses it to host charity parties and events — and for daughter Danielle’s upcoming sweet 16.
Big Dreams in a Small Town
Originally from the Burleson area and still extremely active there both personally, professionally and philanthropically, Mike knew the country (and, more specially, that country) was the place he and his family wanted to be.
“We are outdoorsy, down-to-earth, laid-back,” agreed Angie, a native Nebraskan who moved here in 1993 and ended up trading her Husker status for a Lone Star lifestyle after a friend introduced her to the man who would soon become her spouse.
“Mike and I met in January 1994 in Arlington. He proposed in May 1994, and we married in June 1995,” Angie recalled.
“Glad she knows that,” Mike jested. What Angie and Mike also both know is that — despite the girls’ atypical upbringing — they want Danielle, Allison and Hunter to remain rooted as much as possible in normalcy.
“We’re just grounded people, and we’re trying to keep our kids that way too,” said Angie, a University of Nebraska at Lincoln grad who majored in finance and accounting. Mike graduated from Texas A&M with a criminology degree.
How do they ensure their kiddos keep their feet firmly planted on terra firma amid all the luxury? “Sure, there are those people who assume they’re ‘rich snobs who live in a mansion.’ But we tell the girls, ‘No, it’s just a large home,’” Angie explained. “They ride the bus. They go to public school in Joshua. … We don’t discuss financial stuff in front of them. And we make sure they understand that people [in general] don’t live like this — this isn’t normal. We push for good grades and college. We tell them that [their livelihood] is not going to be handed to them, that they have to earn it and create their own futures.”
The Erinakes make no bones about it — while their mentality is very much rooted in workaday values (they’re just as comfortable digging in dirt as they are clinking Cristal), Mike and Angie are the first to admit their upsized address is anything but ordinary. Ironically, though, its dimensions really aren’t that big of a deal, they say.
“The size really doesn’t matter,” Angie said. To us, it’s a home.”
By: Shilo Urban