Modern-style builder Carol Isaak Barden admits her latest undertaking, the 5,000-square-foot "The House of Many Gardens" in the Rice Village area, presented a different challenge.
"I've never landscaped like this before," Barden said at the open house for the recently completed residence at 3320 University Blvd. "And we wanted to make sure that every room enjoyed garden views, from the living room to the master bedroom — everywhere."
In fact, Barden said she usually searches for lots with large, mature trees, but this lot had only a small, neglected crepe myrtle. From there, the decision was made to plant many trees during construction for future enjoyment.
"I love trees," Barden said, adding with a laugh, "I have been called a 'tree-hugger' before."
"I've never landscaped like this before," Barden said. "And we wanted to make sure that every room enjoyed garden views, from the living room to the master bedroom — everywhere."
Barden is well known in Houston's building and design circles. About 12 years ago, the one-time Houston socialite and Manhattan-based travel writer and editor for such publications Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, Southern Accents and Elle Decor embarked on a venture to offer modern style to Houston's real estate market. Since then she has developed and built 17 one-of-a-kind contemporary homes designed by noted architects amid natural surroundings.
"The concept for this house goes back to living in Seattle, where I'm from," Barden said. "With the rains there, we tended to stay inside. In Houston, it's the heat that keeps us indoors. Considering both circumstances, I wanted to build a home that integrates the outside and the inside to be enjoyed in all types of weather."
Barden teamed up last September with architect Scott Strasser, who is known for creating simple, modern spaces, on the project to design the two-story house with uninterrupted views of trees and planned garden niches as serene, scenic surprises around every corner of the five-bedroom, four-and-one-half bath structure. Carefully placed windows frame the green spaces like paintings, from a small garden welcoming guests to the entrance to a horizontal floor-level window overlooking a flower bed outside the living room to walls cut for glimpses at neighboring trees.
"As we were building, we saw opportunities to knock out walls for views of not only our own surrounding, but the neighbors', too," Barden said. "We saw a tree in the next yard, so we made views of that happen."
To make sure those vistas remain for the new owners, Barden purchased the lot next door.
Attention to detail
Her warm, Pacific Northwest design approach not only includes detailed attention to nature and light, but to different woods used within the same setting. Accents like a row of ceiling planks in the kitchen, natural wood window shutters and wooden flooring intermittent to concrete for high-traffic areas are found throughout the residence.
"From the street, you see very little, but as you pass through the gate, the house reveals itself bit by bit."
"From the street, you see very little, but as you pass through the gate, the house reveals itself bit by bit," Barden said.
She also drew from her long magazine career to add special touches to the home. "(My) building career has been a huge departure from the magazine business, but it really feels like all that happened to prepare me for this," she subsequently emailed.
"It may not surprise you that there are three details in the house that were inspired by hotels — the bronze light fixtures (Setai in Miami), the fireplace (Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles) and art gallery space in the upstairs hall (Amangiri in Utah). We did our version of these elements, and I continue to draw from 20 years on the road."
"The House of Many Gardens" is for sale at $2.2 million.