WORLD WAR II HOUSE GETS CONTEMPORARY UPDATE
Purchasing their home nine years ago, on a quiet street lined with mature trees, the young couple soon settled in. Now with a son entering Cambridge Elementary School as a first-year Spanish Immersion student and an active 3-year old, the family of four finds the neighborhood irresistible. “It’s a great neighborhood, and we love our neighbors,” says the active mother. “There are so many young children on our block that our sons can grow up with, we really don’t want to ever move.” At first, the small post-WWII-era tract home was not the perfect place for a growing family. But with contemporary vision and a keen understanding of the active family’s lifestyle, architect Tobin Smith’s transformation was the right redo for both the neighborhood and the family. “The goal was to sensitively add to the existing structure without overwhelming the scale of the neighborhood,” says Smith.
The mature live oaks on the property served as inspiration for the front porch roof structure, a man-made arbor that protects dwellers from the Texas sun and tucks neatly under the oak canopy. Entering a receiving gallery from the front porch, friends and family are sometimes greeted by two rambunctious boys racing about on their scooters and pedal cars. In addition to perfect play space, the room serves as a gallery for the couple’s growing contemporary art collection. A new study/library — it does double duty as guest suite when pocket doors are closed — includes powder room, guest room, guest bath and laundry room. Original plans called for wooden floors in the study, but as the slab was poured, small twigs and leaves from the oak trees fell on the surface and left impressions in the cement. The clients loved the blemishes in the smooth texture and the fact that the oaks provide protection for their home. “We left the floors alone,” says Smith. “Tobin knew to make our home kid friendly,” says the mother of two. When the couple moved into the neighborhood, “we were probably the youngest family on the block.” Soon, new neighbors began to move in with young children of their own.
There are no less than 10 neighbors that the couple can call upon at any time to watch the boys while they run errands or take one of the boys to soccer, school or other appointments. And their home has become a kid zone for neighbors’ children, as well. Blocks of Lueders limestone — the same used for front porch columns — form a retaining wall at the back of the property, allowing the space to be flattened into a grassy area for the couple’s two sons and their playmates. A rear-access carport doubles as a birthday pavilion and party space. Neighbors organize block parties twice a year, and impromptu gatherings and weekend pop-up parties are always anticipated. On Howdy Night, all of the neighbors gathered at the end of the block with children in tow. The couple walked to the parade, chatting with fast-made friends. Laughing and enjoying the gleeful anticipation of their children as the sounds of the Alamo Heights band reverberated on the evening’s breeze, the group pleasantly strolled the tree-shaded streets of the place they call home.
BY JOHN BLOODSWORTH
PHOTOGRAPHY BY AL RENDON