WRITTEN BY: LINDA LEWIS
It is rare to find a perfect match, but the match between Will Haraway of Haraway Construction and the owners of this custom designed home in Harlingen seems to be one of those rare instances. Over the four years that it took to design and build this home, builder and owners have become fast friends.
Communication is a key element of any collaboration. This project involved extensive customization, and the homeowners were involved in every aspect of designing the home. They agreed upon a basic floor plan that fit their needs, and then customized the home extensively as it was built over the next eighteen months. As the home evolved, new ideas and opportunities were incorporated into the plan, and the final product took shape.
The floor tiles are an example of this process. They selected tiles at a big-box hardware store but customized the installation. The owners wanted the grout lines to be broken up instead of being straight lines across the floor. To achieve the desired effect, they utilized three different sizes of tile. This attention to details makes this home unique.
The property has a dedicated green area on one side, and backs up to a resaca. In order to take advantage of these features, the builder elevated the property by three feet. He dug an 18” hole and placed 4 1/2 inches of a select fill that doesn’t contract or expand. The builder explained that this is a technique commonly used for commercial buildings. It creates a rock solid foundation and eliminates any future issues such as shifting and cracking. Then, they added more fill to elevate the property by three feet.
The walled courtyard on the front of the house provides a view of the green area and is an entertainment mecca. An elaborate wrought iron gate allows entry into the courtyard area from the front. Just inside the gate, there is a beautiful groin vault ceiling inspired by a trip that Haraway took to Israel. The intersecting lines of the vault resemble an emblem used throughout the house. The emblem can be found in the wrought iron gate, an inlaid mosaic on the floor inside the door entrance, and in the bottom of the swimming pool, and other places.
Within the courtyard, there is a separate casita, an immense stone fireplace, with a seating area in front of it, an outdoor kitchen with Sahara Gold granite and cypress cabinets, a combination sitting and dining area, a large fountain, and hand carved limestone relief sculptures. One of the carvings is a floral bouquet and the other is a floral design. The former is part of a unit of elements, made to look like a hall console table. Even the windows have hand carved limestone trim pinned and epoxied to the structure.
The southern coastal mediterranean styling of the home’s exterior and front courtyard continue in the home’s interior. The front door of the home is made from Italian walnut. The wood is beautifully textured with warm red/brown tones. The door’s window is arched with 12 panes of beveled glass. This door opens directly into the formal living/dining area of this 6,000 square foot home.
A massive tile and stone fireplace extends upward to the ceiling of the two story room. An extraordinary two-tiered chandelier, with straight cut crystals, hangs in front of it. A smaller version hangs over the formal dining table. Expertly painted venetian plaster and other faux painting techniques add interest to the walls.
Elaborate moldings throughout the home create emphasis and add architectural interest. A striking example is a grid of molding on the ceiling over the formal dining table that creates the look of a coffered ceiling. A similar, but smaller, design is repeated over the kitchen dining table. In the kitchen proper, the ceiling moldings become an extension of the custom cabinetry. An outline of molding around the stove vent gives definition.
In the kitchen, all moldings and cabinetry were glazed, for a slightly antiqued look. They used an amber colored textured glass in the cabinet doors. The homeowners wanted the home to look lived in rather than brand new. The yard had to have a lived in look also, so plantings were mature.
Beautiful custom cabinetry fills the home, with much of it designed for specific purposes. For example, at one end of the kitchen’s center island, there is a lift for the blender, and niches in the drawers for baking tools. The laundry room is amazing. It has beautiful cabinetry that includes a sewing center with a lift for the sewing machine. A center island in a separate food pantry is just as beautiful as the kitchen island.
This home has an exceptional array of appliances. My eye was immediately drawn to the built-in coffee maker in the kitchen. It has its own water supply. There are other things in this kitchen that are mind-boggling. For example, there are six ovens, one food warmer, two microwave ovens, and two dishwashers (one full size and one half size). There is a professional stove with a pot filler faucet. In the laundry room, there is a heated drying cupboard for delicate items that you wouldn’t want to put in a tumble dryer.
Will Haraway commented that he really likes the “round” study. As you enter the study, you see built-in desks and cabinets to the left and right. They are stained in a rich dark brown and have Tropical Brown granite countertops. There are three windows looking out over the front courtyard with built-in window seats with upholstered cushions. In the center of the room is a tufted and skirted upholstered ottoman. It is a very cozy room.
There is only one inset tray ceiling in the entire house located in the master bedroom. Wide molding, with a rope detail, and inset lighting enhance the tray. A secondary trim of molding was added to the ceiling inside the tray. The molding is painted a medium tone of beige, the ceiling a light cream color, and the ceiling fan has a bronze finish. Utilizing these three tones add interest to a color scheme that is fairly muted in tone.
A wide arched opening in the master bedroom creates a visual separation for an alcove sitting area. The alcove features two chaise lounges and a round ottoman with turned wood legs and tufted upholstery. Luxurious silk drapes, with a sheer under curtain, provide privacy. A wrought iron and crystal chandelier has an interesting octagonal paneled glass drum shade. Overall, the room has a perfect blend of elements that create a casual elegance that would please a man or a woman.
The homeowners commissioned a local artist to paint a mural within an arched niche in the master bedroom. It is a trompe l’oeil painting of a window divided into eight panes of glass. One can “see” a body of water and the sky in the distance. A painted green vase, with the homeowner’s favorite flower (white tulips), looks as though it is sitting on the real marble sill. The skillfully blended blue and green hues give it a cohesive look. This same artist also created individual paintings of flowers and plants that are in the homeowner’s yard.
Even though this is a luxurious home, the practical aspects, of energy consumption and safety, are not overlooked. Energy bills are kept low by utilizing energy star products. They sprayed foam insulation to keep the wood frame home air tight. All windows have a high impact rating. The home has a water filtration system that utilizes top tier filters.
Reflecting upon this project, Will Haraway mused that every aspect of this home required the application of creative energy. He says that change is a part of the process because new ideas and opportunities develop as you work. Both parties were open to this process, so they were able to realize their dream successfully.