A Texas couple adds regional rustic flair to their timber frame home.
Story by Jason Peak
Photography by Roger Wade
Next to a blue lake, Bob and Jean Ann LeGrand’s timber frame home rises from the West Texas dust and mesquite, a shimmering oasis of handcrafted artistry. Their idea was that this vacation home, less than an hour from their primary residence, would be comfortable and have the rustic look and feel of a 19th-century barn. They owned one lot, and when an adjacent plot was put up for sale, they bought it too. Suddenly, they found themselves the owners of a 3-acre parcel.
Bob and Jean Ann turned to architect Ralph Duesing of Dallas. He churned out a three-bedroom, one-bunkroom floorplan influenced by the architecture of early German immigrants to Texas. The design includes unique elements like the tall center core that contains all of the plumbing and mechanical systems, including three separate heating units that regulate individual parts of the house.
“We had a plan, and Ralph turned it into this design,” Jean Ann says. “He was absolutely the best. Each time you walk around the house, you find details he added in.”
“Every project is only as good as the details,” Ralph says. “Our goal is to be experts from the big idea to the little details. If you get all that right, it can be beautiful, and that’s the case in this house.”
In various spots around the house, doves with olive branches are carved into the stone. Other details, including the hand-made kitchen cabinets and mesquite wood vanities with limestone countertops, were chosen with the help of interior decorator Gina Lucchi. “We wanted the house to all flow with the woodwork and make it look authentic,” Gina says.
Gina and Jean Ann worked hand in hand to create a new home with an older home look. “I didn’t want the eye to jump from old to new,” Gina says.
More local craftsmen contributed to the house. Randy Kiser of Kiser Iron Works in Paint Rock, Texas, custom-forged all of the ironwork in the house. With his own hands, he heated and hammered blocks of iron into custom pieces for the LeGrands. “Old techniques get you an old-world look,” Randy says.
This fact is evident in the bed in the master bedroom. It weighs 1,200 pounds and can be taken apart, but the LeGrands have no plans to move it. “It’s amazing to realize that every mark was put there by Randy with a hammer,” Jean Ann says. “He’s a real artisan.”
Randy even made a morning glory flowerJean Ann’s favoriteout of copper and wound it around the foot of the bed. He also made the range vent hood and the fireplace tools that weigh a combined 55 pounds. The top of the tool stand features a turkey, and each tool’s handle is shaped like a leaping fish. Randy had to make special tools and dies to create the fireplace tools.
Once they had a floorplan, the LeGrands selected Texas Timber Frames of San Antonio for the timber frame package. “We did a lot of research, looked at their work and saw the quality,” Jean Ann says.
Texas Timber Frames owner Bill Farrar says the design made their work somewhat tricky. “They came up with some unusual looks that forced us to be creative to make it structurally sound, but we consider it one of the nicest houses we’ve done,” he says. “Some of the most challenging houses turn out to be the most beautiful.”
One formidable task was working with the red oak beams to construct the kingpost truss system. “We distressed them to make them look hand-hewn,” Bill says. “Then we used an alkaline solution to darken them and make them look aged.”
Jean Ann is delighted with the result. “They look like they’ve been exposed in a barn for many years,” she says, “and they hide the west Texas dust very well!”
With six kids, the LeGrands designed the house with three factors in mind. “It had to be strong, durable and easy to maintain,” Jean Anne says.
The porch rails are made of galvanized steel, so there is no rust and no upkeep. The wood floors are knotted pine, accented with square horseshoe nails. They were stained dark, sanded down and re-stained in a light honey color. “Every dent or scratch just makes them better, so we don’t have to worry about the kids scratching it up,” she says. The great room has a stone floor with natural-colored grout. The wall paint was treated to speed the aging process, so there is no fuss over kids’ dirty fingerprints around light switches.
Situated to face the widest part of the lake, the home invites breezes. “The breeze and water are calming,” Jean Ann says. For this reason, the great room is the family’s favorite spot, and its fireplace and hearth are rife with quality details.
The LeGrands didn’t want the fireplace to encroach on their space, so they selected a Rumford-style fireplace. It’s only about 18 inches deep; the burning logs stand vertically. The cypress wood mantel came from a water tower that held a cistern for Jean Ann’s 1920s-era childhood home. Old Chicago brick radiates from the top of the fireplace opening, and Texas stone in a mix of sizes and colors completes the rustic look. Stonemason Paul Poindexter hand-carved the stone, which also was used for headers over doorways. “We enjoyed watching him,” Jean Ann says. “That is an art.”
The property was left natural with little landscaping, just a stone path leading to the boat dock. Their neighbors are quail, deer, turkeys and the occasional owl; and for this reason, they refer to the house as “The Roost.” The gazebo contains another hearthone the LeGrands use as a fireplace in the winter and a barbecue pit in the summer. All of these elements combine for an unforgettable experience. “Guests are awed by it,” Jean Ann says. “They say it’s almost too much to take in.”
The home’s builder, Jimmy Shatto, based in San Angelo, Texas, thinks the LeGrands had a lot to do with the way the house turned out. “Jean Ann was wonderful to work for,” he says. “She did a lot for that house. If something wasn’t quite right, we’d change it. Each change made it better.”
Of course, there were a few trials and tribulations that the crew faced. The house took nearly six months longer to build than was originally estimated, and the construction crews worked 18 days in a row at one point when the temperature topped 100 degrees. Other days, wind off the lake threw dust in their faces.
“All the subcontractors found the house so exciting,” Jimmy says, “that they didn’t let it bother them. They took pride in it because it’s such a special place.”
The LeGrands also feel that their home is special. “Everything handcrafted lasts a lifetime,” Jean Ann says. “The house turned out so pretty that we hope it will last a lifetime, too.”
For a list of companies who contributed to the home, see the Fall 2001 issue of Timber Frame Homes magazine.
Texas Timber Frames photos/ Styled by Debra Grahl