By Cynthia Lescalleet
For The Leader
The term “open floor plan” has a far more expanded — and literal — meaning at a renovated 1912 Craftsman bungalow in Houston Heights.
Within its reworked, slightly expanded floor plan, an entire back wall of the home now features full-height glass doors that fully retract. When opened, a seamless transition links interior and exterior spaces, which include a large covered porch, ground-level deck and adjacent landscaped pool area. Abundant landscaping further transforms the outdoors as a centerpiece that’s tucked into the “L”-shaped footprint.
While still looking like a classic porch-entry Heights home from the street, its interior and outback was transformed by 2013 renovations. The year-long project repurposed and repositioned existing rooms, added 700sq. ft. for a master suite, side entrance and laundry room, and smoothed out the flow in a floor plan — and grounds — left a bit choppy by two rounds of renovations by previous owners.
If there’s a theme to the now 3,300-sq.-ft. home’s redesign, it appears to be about making connections: nature with structure, old with new, past with future, local with global, and modernism with historic. The design also bridges cultural influences from the owners’ international backgrounds and shared world travel.
Rather than start from scratch, the project reflects the couple’s preference “to work with what we had and find cost-effective, non-destructive ways to enhance,” said Laura Lopez-Marks, a veteran marketing exec, author — and developing artist. She and husband Lewis Marks, an energy business consultant, share an appreciation of older properties and architecture. They own and lease out several Heights homes as well as an historic commercial building downtown.
This has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1983 and as a Houston Landmark property since 1998.
Lots of lot (and work)
The couple and their young daughter lived about five blocks away and had been seeking a place with a little more room and a pool. They had long-envisioned an “L”-shaped Asian-inspired home with indoor-outdoor emphasis. Although they abandoned that project in 2008, she said, the vision remained.
In 2011, she toured the triple-lot property with house-hunting friends who later passed on buying it.
“When I saw it, I started re-planning it,” she recalls. It held promise as a better version of their long-held design.
One of the challenges was the design process itself, she said, which took about a year, followed by a year of construction in 2013. The family shared the home’s cozy garage apartment during the project.
Having lived in the home for a year, Lopez-Marks delights in how the revisions integrated the various spaces and moods.
While the retractable glass wall is a favorite space, she said, so too is the “pass-through” the streamlined-but-original front rooms (with their wavy glass windows) and the opened-up space shared by a modern kitchen and great room. Lined in original shiplap boards harvested elsewhere in the home, the pass-through “signifies moving from the past to the future, the old to the new,” she said.
Open door policy
“We use all the outdoor spaces,” she said. “Each one transports you somewhere else.”
The front porch, for example, time travels back to a slower time. The back deck, facing the home, highlights the modern glass wall and “clean lines of the future.” The large back porch, meanwhile, “feels like we are in a jungle surrounded by tropical flowers,” she notes in a follow-up account.
The home’s emphasis on outdoor living harkens back to their childhoods. Marks grew up in Singapore and Indonesia as an energy business expat. Lopez-Marks’ Spanish parentage, as well as summers in France and Spain, also imprinted a love of sun and warmth, she said.
Her tip for others considering a similarly scaled portal? Assess your “personal tolerance” to Houston’s tropical tendencies: heat, humidity — and the occasional bug defying insect control systems.
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