Morning Star Builders home, Home built by Morning Star Builder of Houston

As seen in Houston Design Resources, Spring 2013
Just beyond the city lights sits a country estate on the rolling landscape of Magnolia, Texas. This estate styled home is witness to a long– term dream realized. The acreage was purchased years prior before a job transfer took the owners to London for several years. The longing for home became even stronger when they learned they would soon be grandparents for the first time! A real family home where generations gather was the heart’s desire of this undertaking.
Designing a home is challenging enough. There are millions of decisions and minute details that go into the building process, but designing and building a home from across an ocean offers additional challenges beyond differing time zones. This takes a momentous amount of trust in the builder, architect, and interior designer.
Planning on the front end was time well spent with architect, David Patterson, DWP Architects; builder, Ted Cummins, Morning Star Custom Homes; and interior designer, Cindy Aplanalp-Yates, By Design Interiors; along with homeowners Michael and Tammy Gibbs – Much of the team’s focus was how this home would really live and serve the intentions of this family. Due to the distance, most of the real design work, scouring the plans, space planning, and building details were done via teleconferencing, email, and Skype. The Gibbs made only about six trips to the US as the home was being built.

“Listening to the client, is much more than simply hearing what they say; it’s touching the pulse of their intention, which is the secret to designing well for any client,” says Cindy Aplanalp-Yates. “People can’t generally use design vernacular relating things like adjacencies, egress, space planning, balance, harmony, contrast, scale and the like, but if a designer really listens well, clients will tell you what they want their home to ‘do’; such as- entertain guests, host showers and parties, have room enough for giant family styled dinners, accommodate visits from grandkids, gather around the fireplace at christmas, or a quiet place to read and rejuvenate and the like. It is the designer’s job to bring these intentions, warm emotions and desires to life. As an interior designer, this is my passion and why every project is unique, because every client is unique!”

kitchen of luxury home in Houston, Luxury home by Morning Star Builders of Houston

By really listening to how the gibbs wanted to live in their new home, we ultimately moved the dining from the family room area into the oversized kitchen. Doing so gave us the opportunity for the radial sitting area and a wine table (not shown) which offers the opportunity to sit, relax, and enjoy one another in a beautiful space without the distraction of TV or other attention stealers. Another thing they very much enjoyed in London was the breakfast area with two oversized wing chairs and a garden view. This intimate arrangement was repeated and is the favored spot for morning tea and a cozy reading area for granddaughter, Grace.

Very early in the process, the color palette was set, a client book was made with inspiration pictures and fabric swatches that would later turn into window treatments, rug samples were gathered, and a picture index of the client’s pre-existing furnishings was compiled complete with dimensions. This helped to keep the integrity of the design on track and simplified the process. “I wanted to include as much of the Gibbs pre-existing things as possible, because I didn’t want the home to feel all shiny and new, but instead familiar, welcoming and immediately like ‘home’,” shares Aplanalp-Yates.
With a smile, Aplanalp-Yates muses, “I had a whole lot to work with, and I must share the success of this design with the numerous professionals, including my fabulous assistant, Amber Reddoch, whose talents added immensely to this project and most especially to the Gibbs themselves!” Tammy Gibbs is an accomplished fine artist with a Masters in art history and an art history professor at lone star college. The Gibbs have traveled the globe, collecting the most wonderful finds which were frequently incorporated into this design. For example, the tile inset in the laundry room is from an anniversary trip to Italy and the laundry window treatment was made from antique linen procured on a trip to Belgium. The entry plays host to an ancient console which was almost discarded, but after receiving a fresh coat of paint and a little tlc, it offers a touch of time-worn elegance that no new piece could approach! In the kitchen above the pro-styled range, antique transfer-ware tiles collected from time spent in London add a bit of gentle color and meld nicely with this modern day kitchen. The kitchen and master bath window treatments are embellished antique lace from the Paris flea market. Fuse this with the owner’s free- spirited passion for art, whether it be an over scale museum poster irreverently hung in a prominent spot, one of her own pieces, or the work of another, and you create a very fascinating place to live. The home is warmed by family photographs, heirloom style antiques, simple modern day finds which lean ‘contemporary’collections, and shared memories from a long and loving marriage. The home exemplifies the couples’ adventuresome nature, exposure to the world, their gift for hospitality, and great passion for family and friends. “This was honestly a no-chance of failure project!” laughs Aplanalp-Yates.

master bath of luxury home in Houston TX, Master bath suite by Morning Star Builders of Houston

Elegant, classic, and timeless are all words that describe this home, and most especially, the master bath suite. The softness of the palette is immediately relaxing and sense- soothing. The free standing tub is nostalgic and inviting. Intricate tile patterns, custom glass mosaic tile, hand-made antique looking crackled tile, and the subtle quartz harlequin on the groin ceiling gently echo gracious living at its finest. The freestanding vanities house electrical outlets and offer storage for necessities. Adjacent to Tammy’s mirrored dressing table (a birthday present from her husband) is a boutique styled closet complete with gilded ceiling, damask wall coverings, mirrors galore and topped with a sparkling chandelier.

Office of luxury home in Houston, Morning Star Builders

The home office was a challenge, because it not only had to be “pretty” since it is so present and in clear view of the family room, but “smart” as well, for Michael, who is an it executive for a major oil company who frequently works from home. The contrast of warm walls and rich wood tones are joined by the client’s own desk and well-worn antique leather wing chairs which all add a richness that the best executive office suites enjoy. The final touch is the window treatments whose striped contrast banding emulates a man’s tie. The powder bath that serves this office has maps of London on the walls and Burberry Plaid on the ceiling, just for fun.
Another challenge was the size of the gathering room. Aplanalp-Yates explains, “Soaring ceiling heights and very open spaces can stump homeowners.” A trick of the trade is to use textured walls and ceilings. In this home the builder wisely implemented beams that were fauxed to appear old. This took up vertical space and added instant charm and the sense of completeness. Of all the things that have been said of this home, to me, the nicest of all was Tammy’s mother’s comment when she walked in for the first time and exclaimed, “Tammy, this home looks exactly like you!”

Now that’s good design!