It’s not often that an architect is asked to design a house with very little direction. It’s even more unusual that an architect is asked to design a helicopter barn to complement that house. And rarely is an architect charged with picking out not only the kitchen and bath fixtures and flooring for a project, but also the furniture and linens and dishes.
But the owners of this Lufkin home asked Harry Crouse to do all that and more. It was a dream project for the Kilgore, Texas-based designer — and for Solara, which worked closely with Crouse on custom doors, lighting, and more.
The 22,000-square-foot house sites on 30 acres in Lufkin, Texas. “They transformed a forest into a park,” Crouse says. “It’s really incredible.” The husband and wife, who work in the oil and gas and timber industries, gave Crouse carte blanche on the project.
“They were very vague about what they wanted,” Crouse says. “They wanted a theater room and a game room. They wanted two guest rooms and a pool. They wanted it to be comfortable. But they were otherwise vague. So I just designed the house that I wanted to design.”
Crouse likes homes that are one-story tall and one-room deep, “so we can get a lot of light from different angles,” he says. A design like that means that the house is very long and spread out. “Basically the footprint of this house is a football field.” But, Crouse says, the house doesn’t feel like a McMansion. “It’s very down to earth. The scale is correct, and you just don’t realize how large it is.”
Crouse has turned to Solara for custom ironwork for his designs for 20 years. “They are involved in almost every project I do,” he says. “They are the source for custom iron. I don’t even think about going anywhere else.”
Solara’s contribution to this project can be seen all the way from the front entrance gates to the underground wine cellar, which has a gorgeous custom iron door and custom iron sconces.
At least 50 Solara lanterns illuminate the exterior of the house, Crouse says. Some are gas; some are electric. Getting the right scale on the lights was important, he says, and “in trying to figure out the scale of the lanterns, we made actual-size mockups and held them onto the house before Solara built them.”
Solara and Crouse worked together on the home’s custom front doors as well. “Normally the rails that go around the doors are 5 to 6 inches wide. We wanted the rails around the door to be as thin as possible. It’s perfect. They did exactly what I wanted to do.”
Inside the home, in addition to the wine cellar work, Solara designed custom lanterns with glass bowls and a long, marble-topped table for the theater room. (Tables aren’t ordinarily something Solara makes, but Crouse saw a counter in our showroom and asked us to adapt the design for his client.)
And about that helicopter barn — it’s a garage for, yes, an actual helicopter. (Who hasn’t said to themselves at one time or another, “If only I had a helicopter — it would make life so much easier right now.”?) And not a small one, either. “It seats six to eight people,” Crouse says. “The family uses it to get to their beach house and to friends’ houses.”
When not in use, the helicopter resides in a timber-frame building down a hill, a little ways from the house. “I wanted it to look like it had been there a lot longer than the house,” Crouse says. “I tried for the look of an old Amish barn: stone facade, tin roof. It’s absolutely phenomenal.”
In order for the helicopter to be moved in and out of the barn, it has to have huge doors, of course. Solara designed those doors and the windows over them, as well as the exterior lanterns on the barn.
This spectacular home took two years to design and four years to build. Crouse and Solara were in touch each step of the way, concepting and producing a range of custom ironwork that complements — and completes — the project and will stand the test of time.
To learn how you can work with Solara, contact us.