2022-07-07

This couple built a modest home in the Heights with big porches

6 min read

After living several years in Washington, D.C., and New York, Carolyn and Greg Calhoun longed for a home where they could spread out just a little and their young daughters could have their own yard in which to run and play.

A business opportunity for Greg — a Philadelphia native who works in private equity — brought them to Houston a few years ago, and they first opted to rent a home in the Heights, since its older houses felt like a connection to their Northeastern roots.

“We are used to older homes and buildings. We lived in Park Slope in Brooklyn, which is known for its old brownstones, and we gravitate to that,” said Carolyn, 38 and a native of Washington, D.C.

“We found a great rental in the Heights and fell in love with the character,” continued Carolyn, who worked with international students in the Fulbright program before quitting to stay home with their daughters, 8-year-old Kristen and 5-year-old Ella. “The community and people were really welcoming, and we decided that since we’re going to be here for a while, let’s build a home.”

Their dream house would be just over 3,000 square feet — plenty of space but modest by some Houston new-home standards. Their daughters would have their own rooms plus a playroom, Greg would finally have a home office, and their main living area — kitchen, living room and a single space for dining — would extend to a screened-in porch that wraps around the back and side.

“We’re not formal. The kids are in their bedrooms and play room a lot. We use every inch of this place,” said Greg, 41.

The exterior is Craftsman style, and the interior matches the aesthetic with reclaimed wood floors, vintage and antique doors and doorknobs and vintage lighting.

Because they moved to Houston from homes that were so much smaller, they didn’t have much furniture. Their old stuff is in a small garage apartment, and about 90 percent of what’s in their main home is new.

From the small house they demolished on this site, they salvaged shiplap and installed it in a niche that serves as their charming dining area.

That space has paneled wainscoting below with the shiplap in a natural wood tone on top. Windows look out to another place that gets used a lot — the L-shaped porch, with its own dinner table and seating area for more casual meals.

Their interior designer, Austin-based Lauren Ramirez Interiors, had their indoor dinner table custom made from a single slab of wood.

“Because you see all the way into this room from the entry, we wanted the space to be symmetrical,” Lauren Ramirez said. “I wanted the furniture to be dovetail joints, solid wood and no veneers. I thought he would like a solid slab dining table, and using actual tree slabs from here in Texas is pretty cool.”

The whole space is neutral, with brown leather head chairs and wood side chairs painted black. A long, custom-made bench on the back side of the table is painted black, too. Cushions on the wood chairs are made of Perennials indoor-outdoor fabric.

Over the table, an antique, two-lamp light fixture adds to the casual vibe.

Similarly, the kitchen has an oversized island with a walnut counter, with stone counters atop cabinets on the outside wall. Cabinet doors have a Craftsman style, and a top row of glass-front cabinets shows off a growing collection of porcelain and ceramics. More vintage lights blend with the one in the dining area.

The living room blends well with a caramel-colored leather sofa, a vintage coffee table, curvy wood chair and a pair of stools for extra seating.

Against one wall is an antique table with a tapestry that’s one of the Calhouns’ favorite new things. The tapestry is by Zanny Cox, an Austin-based artist who taps into her multicultural heritage in her woven art and handmade jewelry.

The couple had explained their love of the Southwest and affection they had for Mexico and Central America.

Earlier, Greg spent a year in Ecuador and never lost his love of that culture. On vacations to Austin, San Antonio and Mexico, they became enamored with Southwestern style.

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For his downstairs home office, Ramirez encouraged them to go bolder in their paint selection. They were going to paint it the same color as the rest of the home, but now it’s a deep blue-gray. Soon he’ll have a new piece of art hung here, vintage Guatemalan textiles they’ve had framed.

Ramirez also had a desk made for the office. It’s smartly designed so that power cords for his computer run through a hole in the back and through a casing in the legs to an electrical outlet in the floor.

Having a nice rug and using an outlet in the floor can be tricky business since no one wants to purchase a beautiful rug only to have to cut a hole in it. Ramirez said the rug’s weave was loose enough that they could push fibers to the side and get the plugs through.

The home’s three bedrooms are all upstairs — as is the play room, where the girls have an almost secret loft they can climb into.

Though Kristen and Ella have their own rooms, Kristen’s room can serve as a guest room for now because she prefers to share Ella’s room, with full-size bunk beds. Kristen’s room has a queen-size Jenny Lind bed and lavender walls, so she might love those bunk beds now, but in a few years she’s going to enjoy having her own girly room.

Their bathroom has a blue-green antique dresser converted into a vanity with a pair of vessel sinks for another room that feels very vintage.

A cozy primary suite awaits the Calhouns, with a roomy bedroom and a bathroom also filled with great finds: an antique bathtub, another dresser converted to a vanity and antique lighting. They used Phillip Jeffries grasscloth wallpaper and hung linen draperies over windows that span the headboard wall. Automated wood blinds make it easy to darken the room for better sleep.

A reclaimed door in one corner leads to their own L-shaped, screened balcony with a sink and small refrigerator, where they can sit and enjoy the view of treetops and a sliver of Houston’s downtown skyline.

More vintage finds include a pair of old phone stands — the kind a family would have installed in a kitchen or hallway wall for their only landline. They have one at the end of the upstairs hall and another in the kitchen, though their modern use is as a charging station for cellphones and other electronic devices.

As much as they like their indoors spaces, the Calhouns planned for a good deal of outdoor living.

Their first-floor L-shaped porch has a wide space for a sofa and chairs and another for a table and chairs for dining al fresco. The Calhouns moved into their home during the pandemic so their plan for hosting friends hasn’t really happened yet, but they’re sure it will someday.

Kristen and Ella have their own fun spaces, in the family’s swimming pool and a spectacular play-fort with a climbing wall.

“We wanted the porches to be an extension of our living space because we like being outside. Instead of a bigger dining room and living room, we wanted a bigger porch,” Carolyn said. “Here it is in Houston in January, and we’re out here now.”

Texas summers can be hot and steamy, but the Calhouns have the perspective of Northern transplants.

“We’d rather be in a swimming pool in summer than shoveling snow in winter,” Greg said.

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