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Home on The Range

Photography by Ryann Ford

Photography by Ryann Ford

In Texas, a new home mixes modern design with ranch roots.

Atop a sandstone escarpment, overlooking a field of wheat, a new Texas ranch house blends a modernist sensibility with agrarian roots and serves as a welcoming retreat for a couple and their extended family. Its airy, yet grounded design is thanks to the talents of architect Christopher Sanders, AIA and interior designer Laura Britt, ASID, who worked as a team with builder David Wilkes.

Located in Brown County, the working cattle ranch and farm had been in the family for years and it was dotted with smaller homes where the husband and wife had stayed when they visited. But the owners had long dreamt of adding an easy, breezy home there, where they could transition from weekend stays into a full-time retirement mode. With thousands of acres to choose from as the new home’s site, the couple were particularly drawn to one area of lichen-covered sandstone boulders, dotted with post oaks and mesquites, which offered unobstructed views of the ranch.

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Ryann Ford

“Naturally, it would have been easier to design and build a house for a flat parcel within the ranch, but we wanted the home to be tucked into the landscape,” says architect Sanders. “It needed to look like it rises up from the land.”

Sanders created a one-level plan that traces the topography of the boulder-dotted dropoff, designing a 2,700-square-foot main house that includes the master suite and an 820-square-foot, two-bedroom guest quarters, both flanking the pool patio. 

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Twilight Back Exterior

Ryann Ford

“Naturally, it would have been easier to design and build a house for a flat parcel within the ranch, but we wanted the home to be tucked into the landscape,” says architect Sanders. “It needed to look like it rises up from the land.”

“We positioned the main house and the guest house to make the most of the breezes on the site,” explains Sanders. “The prevailing winds blow across the pool, which cools the site, as does the breezeway that separates the two bedrooms in the guest house.” Deep overhangs shade the floor-to-ceiling glass walls in the main house and create outdoor living spaces.

With simple architectural forms that are a nod to the ranch’s existing buildings, Sanders also reached for a humble palette of materials, using local sandstone for walls, standing-seam metal for the pitched roof forms and galvanized steel panels as accents for the exterior, all serving as rustic counterpoints to the large expanses of view-grabbing glass. 

Overall Interior

Ryann Ford

Sanders included many design gestures that spoke of the site and its ranching history. In the living room, for example, where exposed trusses mark the soaring ceiling, an awning-style glass wall cranks open with a simple mechanical gear. In the master bathroom, the tub feels hidden in a bower of oaks, thanks to a corner window. Placed at the front of the house, the dining room serves as a welcoming lantern by night, thanks to large banks of windows.

Indoors, material choices were also based on simplicity and ease of maintenance. “We wanted to dial down the quantity of materials, both inside and out,” explains interior designer Britt. “The floors are concrete, the walls feature hand-troweled plaster and the colors come from the landscape.” 

Kitchen

Ryann Ford

Britt imbued the interior with numerous custom touches, such as the kitchen’s sleek walnut cabinetry, designed to look like furniture, and the locally fabricated black steel hood. Steel also was used to create thresholds between rooms and to craft a custom armature to hold the television in the living room. The bar features a countertop made of mesquite salvaged from the yard and a custom concrete light fixture affixed with the ranch’s brand. 

In the master bath, a long towel bar, set below the vanity, was inspired by a ballet bar. The designer’s favorite space? The powder room. “With its exposed copper plumbing and the integral soapstone vanity, it just seems to be a microcosm of modern ranch style,” she says.

 

Ryann Ford

For the furnishings, Britt steered the homeowners toward clean lines and warm pieces that are also sophisticated and modern. A leather Century sofa—long enough to encourage napping—holds its own in the living room’s soaring space, where a quartet of leather-wrapped steel drum pendants illuminate the setting by night. More leather seating was used in the dining room, where the table top was also made from reclaimed mesquite found on the ranch. In the master bedroom, a Croft steel bed’s angles are softened by an array of handwoven baskets, displayed above the headboard.

For the owners, the house is at once a refined retreat and a celebration of the ranch. It’s a welcoming place where their children, grandchildren and friends can gather. When the sun begins to slink low in the sky and the evening breezes rustle the wheat below the house, they know they’ve come home. 

Living Room with Dog

Ryann Ford

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