Atop one of Bluffview’s highest points, a graceful country French home subtly exudes its splendor.
“This is one of the most elegant yet casual family homes I have seen pulled off. It’s very tailored but, at the same time, it is quite warm and comfortable,” says builder Brad Ellerman of Ellerman Homes in Dallas.
Wrapped in old yellow limestone from south Texas, this striking sanctuary wasn’t always destined to become the dream home it is.
Ellerman explains that his client acquired the property along with the building plans and first-floor framing already in place. The day the homeowners engaged their builder to resume constructing the home, he took a bold step. He advised his clients against building off of the original set of plans and to pause for two months. They agreed. During this critical period, he assisted in assembling a new design team, which included Stocker Hoesterey Montenegro Architects and Collins Interiors, both of Dallas, and began to build a dream.
“We really needed to close our eyes to the set of drawings we had received with the purchase of the house and hear the goals and visions of the owners without presupposing what was given to us,” says Ellerman. Consequently, the team abandoned the originally planned, opulently formal home with steep slate rooflines to deliver a true custom home that fit their client’s personality.
Clarity unfolded. Patterned window panels that broke incoming light were replaced with larger windowpanes and French doors tucked behind deep porches at the front and back of the home.
“We discarded and resold every window and door that was called for in the original design, because they did not fit the aesthetic we were after,” Ellerman explains.
Inside, rather than use conventional ornate crown moldings to deliver this home’s details, antique, hand-hewn ceiling timbers from old Pennsylvania barn structures were used to cast warmth and earthy appeal.
To further the more relaxed feel of the home, the design team selected antique heart pine. Since heart pine varies in color and quality, Ellerman located and purchased truckloads of the antique wood from one source to ensure consistency. When the wood arrived in Dallas, it was distributed to his craftsmen for the fabrication of paneled cabinets, trim, 10-inchwide floor planks, stair parts and custom doors to maintain a sense of unity throughout the house.
One of the most conspicuous design marvels of the home is the staircase that spirals from the library’s first floor and through its ceiling to a private office above. Ellerman created identical stair treads carved with a computerized aided machine, then stacked one on top of another in a fashion that rotates the spine out of the way from where you walk. In this way, the stair is more comfortable to climb than a typical spiral staircase.
Another, yet more playful, multistory feature—a fireman’s pole—leads from a third-floor children’s loft to a second-floor playroom. Adjacent to this common loft, two separate private lofts accommodate children’s sleepovers.
The 28-by-28-foot playroom presented an engineering challenge, however. This expansive space needed to support the heavy, multicolored, reclaimed Ludowici clay tile roof above it. An exposed timber-framed trestle that resembles a woodframed bridge answered the call. “This not only allowed us to transfer the roof weight around this open space, but made for a striking open ceiling,” Ellerman says.
Another challenge facing the builder was the client’s desire for heavy stone walls with arched passageways on the main floor, which were not anticipated in the originally designed home. It was too late to add concrete foundations inside a partially constructed house, so Ellerman’s team devised a solution. They installed strategically located supportive steel beams into the floor upon which the stone walls and arches could be built.
Due to the home’s high elevation, the builder foresaw a potential hazard—lightning— and installed a protective mechanism to shield the home against strikes. Such thoughtful planning, combined with creative artistry, resulted in the fruition of a home built with brilliance and beauty.
“I’m very honored when people place their trust in us to create their most personal possession,” Ellerman says. “I’m not cut from the same cloth as most homebuilders. I’m an artist and a very hands-on boutique builder. We provide a very high level of personal attention to our clients and their homes and have an immense capacity for detail. In the end, I am certain my advice [to pause, reflect and redirect] was my most valuable contribution to what is now a very personalized home for my client.”
Denise Henry is a freelance writer based in Ohio. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.