"On Possum Kingdom Lake"Spring 2006, Luxury Log & Timber Frame
Set on 1.2 acres in the exclusive gated community known as The Ranch, the Stephens Texas timber frame home is a dead ringer for something that one might have found in the framed Texas Hill country more than a hundred years ago…only a whole lot bigger.
Architect Dick Bundy of Wichita Falls, Texas, was given the task of designing this Hill Country creation. “We wanted a German influence with lots of stone,” says Bundy. “I grew up in the ranching business in the Hill Country not far from Fredericksburg (Texas), so I used some of my background to work through the design process on this home.”
“That German influence was the main reason for combining the logs and stone,” Bundy continues. “Even though there were no pioneer homes this size, I wanted to look like a more primitive home built with indigenous materials and square logs that were typical in the late 19th century Texas.”
The two-story center portion of this 4,300-square-foot hybrid is built of Lueders limestone from the quarries at Lueders, Texas. Harder and denser than most limestone types, this material was chosen because of its ability to withstand weather extremes and maintain its natural appearance.
The two single-story wings extending off of the center are built of 10-inch square tongue-and-groove pine logs with through-bolt construction provided by Precision Craft Log and Timber Homes. Saddle-notched corners and a Sikkens stain helped to complete the old-style, weathered appearance.
From the construction side, architect Bundy says that the Stephens home was complex to build. “Building a hybrid like this can throw your sequence of construction off,” he explains. “When using a log package, obviously it has to go up on its own before you can carry on with the roof, framing, and other elements of the home. In a hybrid you may have a part of a house that’s waiting on a log package and vice versa. It takes a special kind of guy to build it.”
That special guy for this project was contractor Mike Washburn of Michael Washburn Construction in Graham, Texas. “This home did have its challenges,” says Washburn. “The stone wall in the great room has a radius instead of being square, so tying in the rafters and the porch roof to create the right look was a challenge.”
Another challenge was creating a cat-walk off the second floor in the great room that followed the rounded stone wall with its high German-style windows. “We designed a suspended pathway so that you can walk up to those windows from the second floor balcony and look at the spectacular view,” Washburn says. “The Stephens felt those windows should be used as a little observation area, so we created it with post and beam construction and a cantilever braces that actually enhance the timber frame look of the interior.”
Beneath a 25-foot high ceiling of pine and beams that give the illusion of true timber frame construction, the floor of the great room was done in a random, multicolored slate imported from China. The rest of the house was floored with long leaf wide-plank pine that had been distressed then finished with tung oil.
The towering wood-burning Leuders limestone fireplace in the great room is one of three found on the property. “The rock work goes past the beams and up through the ceiling,” Stephens says. “It was Dick Bundy’s idea to have my cattle brand, and FS, and my son Tom’s TS cattle brand inlaid into the stone above the mantel of the great room fireplace and on the one in the game house.”
With all the stone, the fireplace, exposed timbers, and the lake view, it’s no wonder that Stephen’s admits that the great room is by far his favorite place to spend time with the family. After all, “I feel comfortable there, and that’s where all the action is!” he says.
Open to the great room is a large kitchen designed to accommodate several cooks at a time. “This is a family place, so it has a great eating area and a kitchen where they can fix up these big mule skinner breakfasts for all the kids and parents,” says Bundy.
Tom Stephens agrees that cooking for the family can be a big operation. “We can have quite a few people staying here at the same time, so that’s why we have a big kitchen,” he says. “My sisters Susan (Beyer) and Katherine (Smethie) and my wife Brenda are big cookers.”
In the center of the kitchen is a custom island with a limestone countertop, veggie sink, and dishwasher. Surrounding the island are cabinets made of knotty alder with a four-step wash/stain finish. “There is a second dishwasher near the main sink and a Viking gas stove, Thermadore ovens and microwave, and then a six-burner stove top with griddle and another oven recessed into an arched opening in the wall,” Tom says.
Behind the main house is an 1,100-square-foot two-story game house/guest house combination. “Fred asked us to design a room around an old-fashioned shuffleboard table,” says Bundy with a laugh. “These people love their children and want to have plenty for them to do when they are at the lake.”
Built completely of center-cut square logs to match the residence, the game house was designed to give the Stephens kids a place to go and watch TV, play games, and stay up all night without disturbing their parents, Bundy says. “It has its own kitchenette, a sleeping loft, a full bedroom and a bath, a powder room, and the big game area,” he says. “It alone would be a really nice lake house.”
The three-car stone garage provided its own issues and the opportunity for innovation. “We had to excavate deep into the side of a hill for the garage,” Washburn explains. “Then we used a unique system called ICF, or insulated concrete forms, for the 12-inch concrete structural walls with a stone veneer over that.”
The same ICF technology was used to create a safe room off of the master bedroom. “We are in Tornado Alley,” says Washburn, “so we designed an ICF safe room in the master closet that could probably withstand an F-5 tornado. It was built to be like a storm cellar with concrete walls, but because it’s covered with dry wall and masonry you can’t tell it’s there.”
Bundy attributes one special feature of the house to the home owner’s keen eye for design. “Fred Stephens is very perceptive and was responsible for one of the biggest changes in the design,” Bundy says. “He was the one who said to change the roof from standing –seam galvanized metal to copper. Originally it would have looked like a real indigenous Texas material, but the copper makes this house stand apart.”
Interior decorator Patty Nabors and Brenda Stephens did most of the decorating, says Fred Stephens. Done in a Texas Hill Country ranch style, the house is filled with paintings of horses, Western art, and bronzes. The furniture is leather, iron, and wood with fabrics that recall an earlier time in Texas history.
Complementing the décor is a variety of iron work designed by artist and fabricator Ludwig Schweinfurth III of Weatherford, Texas. From the seven-foot-diameter iron chandelier in the great room to the hanging pot rack in the kitchen and the twisted railings along the stairway and suspended walkway, Schweinfurth’s German heritage shines through on every piece.
“The whole project came off quite well with the combination of the house, the landscape stone, and everything that is there now,” Washburn says. “It has a real dramatic look to it. It almost looks like it grew out of the ground; like a true Hill Country house.”
“It is a very relaxing place and everyone enjoys going there,” says Stephens. “It’s more rustic and there is nothing really formal about it. You can feel like you are there to have fun.”