We conceived this project as a series of strategic interventions to adapt a small house to an owner’s new requirements while maintaining its intimate scale. We made the new elements sympathetic with the low-key architecture of the house and its working-class neighborhood a few miles north of downtown Houston, Texas. These vernacular urban landscapes are becoming increasingly precious as the pace of Houston’s inner-city redevelopment accelerates and is replaced by much larger new building.
Architect: Ben Koush Associates
Architectural Design Team: Ben Koush, Luis de las Cuevas
General Contractor: Ben Koush Associates
GFA: Original House 1284 Sf, additions to house 287 sf; total 1571 sf
Completion: Phase I, 2015; Phase II, 2019
The great irony of this entire project is that this little wooden house set on a rudimentary foundation of concrete blocks on the dirt, which looks so old, was actually built in 2007. We took its sly, chameleon-like styling into consideration when we were commissioned to remodel and expand it. The cosmopolitan new owners, originally from Brisbane, Australia, had lived on three continents and returned to Houston, where they had lived in the 1970s, for their retirement. Growing up in pre-air-conditioned Brisbane, they were accustomed to hot weather living and insisted that a major component of the project include multiple verandas, a memory of tropical Queensland. To achieve this, they acquired the adjacent, unbuilt lot for a garden. We reoriented the long, narrow house to open to this extensive side yard. Another issue was accessibility as one of the owners was in a wheelchair.
We located the new, free-standing carport with a storage closet adjacent to the house close to the street to provide privacy for the garden. Because there was a giant, native pecan tree we wished to keep at the center of the side of the house facing the new garden, we added two new porches instead of a single, long veranda, to allow it to remain. We added a new lap pool, located as far from the tree’s crown as possible. Around the pool we used a raised, wood deck so as not to cover the roots with concrete. We lengthened the master bedroom at the rear of the house by ten feet and reconfigured the existing bathroom to make it barrier-free. We added a six-foot-long addition to the front of the house to provide a reading alcove and more defined entry off a new front porch. We equipped the porches with ramps for the wheelchair. The porches and carport are framed with exposed, dark stained cedar posts and exposed, white-painted rafters with a beadboard soffit.
Four years later we came back and added a rose garden at the rear of the house and two new patios paved with reclaimed bricks in place of flower beds that had become too unruly. To increase the natural light levels inside, we added skylights in the living room and rear bedroom. This was a design-build project
Ben Koush Associates
Our goal is to design projects that are rigorous and disciplined. The result of dedicated work but which appears natural and inevitable. We seek spatial and material richness by way of economy, modesty, and restraint. Specifically, we look to the context of working in Houston, a contemporary city on the Texas Gulf Coast and take from it with wide open eyes what is special; magical even. We hope that what we design will step back and serve as a frame for the activities of our client’s lives.
We offer a variety of architectural design services ranging from residential to commercial, new construction, remodeling, interior design, and historic preservation, all with sustainability in mind. We are also able to offer a design-build option for certain projects.
Ben Koush is a graduate of Columbia University and Rice University. He is a registered architect and interior designer in Texas with two decades of architectural experience. He has a special interest in the preservation of modern architecture and is a founding member of Houston Mod, which has won numerous local and state awards. His architectural writing appears in Architects’ Newspaper, Cite magazine, and Texas Architect. He currently serves on the Texas Historical Commission State Board of Review, the Houston Archaeological and Historical Commission, and on the Texas Architect magazine publication committee.