Amy Prince -- Interior Design, 4/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
Located on the northern fringes of the Texas Hill Country, this 2,100-square-foot box of a house is deceptively unassuming. The ipé-slat front fence, gray brick facade, and standing-seam aluminum roof blend so well with the native scrub grass, cedars, oaks, and yuccas that it comes as a surprise to discover that Buchanan Architecture's update on the Lone Star vernacular contains a gleaming European kitchen. Its streamlined stainless-steel components are actually the perfect complement to the washed-out colors of the windswept landscape surrounding sparkling man-made Lake Whitney.
"The drama of the house unfolds as you pass through the entry, and the panorama of the lake opens up before you," says Russell Buchanan, who collaborated on this weekend retreat with its owner, a longtime friend who's also the namesake principal of Kathleen Muñoz Interior Design. A 64-foot-wide wall of lakeside windows in the public space—comprising kitchen, dining area, and living area—provides a front-row seat for those legendary Texas sunsets.
The galley kitchen is literally two kitchens in one: a combination of separate lines from Bulthaup. Kathleen Muñoz had long coveted an older version of the German-engineered components. When she found out that a floor model was for sale, she scooped it up from the Dallas showroom.
Buchanan and Muñoz were still working on the plans for the house, so they and Bulthaup manager Mason Franz figured out that they could construct the island from new components and line the wall opposite with the floor model's mobile pieces—integrating sinks and European appliances along the way. Counters are plastic laminate on the island and stainless steel on the wall units, but the systems' turnkey design enabled the team to avoid a cobbled-together appearance.
Having two sinks has been a godsend at peak prep times, as Muñoz's two daughters also like to cook. Recessed in the range hood and the one overhead cabinet, halogens provide targeted lighting. Long drawer pulls are easy to grab, even with wet hands. Wide under-counter drawers hold plates, and the overhead flip-door unit "houses enough glassware for a crowd," Muñoz says. (She and her doctor husband often host up to 25 guests at a time.)
The island's cantilevered ledge doubles as a buffet for the dining area. Before large parties, Muñoz switches out eight of Mario Bellini's Cab chairs for 12 of Arne Jacobsen's stackable Series 7s and arranges them around the custom table, which she designed. Its top is a 72-inch-square slab of Italian marble that took three men and a winch to place. "When we sell this house, they get the table for free!" she promises.
The steel base of the table and the adjacent living area's iron mantel shelf and fire screen are all by the same Dallas sculptor, Jim Cinquemani. Further unifying the public space is sealed concrete flooring. "Russell is so creative with humble, everyday materials. Dallas can be known for excess, but he gives you the essence," says Muñoz, who's known Buchanan since their fledgling firms shared an office 20 years ago. "Here, it's more of a camp feel, not so slick."
Only in Texas could Bulthaup possibly pass for roughing it. Only in Texas.