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Modern Home on RDA Tour Showcases Successful Architectural Strategies for Living in Houston’s Flood Plain
By Marsha Canright • Photography by Paul Hester

Living in the flood plain in Houston brings both challenges and joys to the homeowners who settle there.

Chad and Jenna Arnold bought a small mid-century ranch house in the Linkwood neighborhood eight years ago when Chad’s work in financial management brought the couple to Houston. They fell in love with the neighborhood, especially the people, the large, lovely trees and the easy walk or bike ride to Brays Bayou.

Although the house did not flood in 2015, it was small and had major infrastructure problems the couple knew had to be addressed. 

“When they came to me initially they wanted to renovate the beautiful old ranch house on the property,” says Brett Zamore, who was awarded Houston AIA's Young Architect for 2016. “Because of FEMA and city of Houston regulations for the 100-year flood plain, it made more sense to design and build a new home instead of trying to renovate or add an addition to their existing home.”

After much consideration, the Arnolds decided to take down the old structure and build a new house with Zamore as their architect and builder. They wanted a modern, timeless home, but one with warmth, and they wanted to be sensitive to the architecture of the neighborhood: It had to blend in with the other homes. 

“Jenna did not want to disturb any of the mature trees,” Zamore says, so the tree canopy became the inspiration for his design. The result is a handsome two-story brick and stucco L-shaped house, which rises among the lofty pine and oak trees, topped with a standing-seam Galvalume roof. 

This year, the Linkwood house is one of the featured homes on the Rice Design Alliance Architecture Tour, which looks at architectural adaptations to living in Houston’s flood plain.   
“It’s something of a tree house,” Zamore says.

The porches both upstairs and down give the house a true connection to the outdoors, and the floor-to-ceiling windows on both levels provide ample natural light. The house sits about three and a-half feet above grade to meet requirements of building in the 100-year flood plain.

The rich, earthy-colored Acme brick, found at a local supplier, has a longer shape than typical brick, giving the house a sleek appeal.

Visible from the entry is a winding steel and wood staircase and below it, a grandmother’s treasured piano.

The interior is open and airy with 10-foot ceilings and white oak floors. The space flows from the entry to the back deck, perfect for entertaining, but with defined areas for living and dining. The L-shaped design creates a balance between open public space and private space for the family.

The house has four bedrooms with three full baths and two half-baths, including one powder room with custom wallpaper made from a map of the neighborhood and another half-bath next to the garage with a large utility sink. The downstairs bedroom is a full guest suite to accommodate visiting family and friends.
The kitchen is specially designed for a family that entertains. It has a Wolf six-burner stove, oven and warming drawer; two Bosch dishwashers; and a KitchenAide refrigerator and electric oven.

“I know it may seem like a lot for a family of three, but we love to entertain,” Jenna says. “We just hosted the St. Thomas’ Episcopal cross-country team and their families for a pasta night before the meet, and I used it all.”

The kitchen is L-shaped and opens to the living and dining rooms, yet offers privacy for the informal breakfast room and workspace.

At 3,500 square feet, the Arnold home was slightly smaller than the average house being built nearby, but it was a comfortable scale for the family and it worked well in the neighborhood. 

“We didn’t want it to be a modern beast,” Zamore says. “Still I knew we must be conscious of the size of homes that are being build in the surrounding areas.”

It was also important to the Arnolds to be environmentally responsible. They succeeded in donating all the materials from the deconstructed house to Habitat For Humanity.

Exterior landscaping is organic and respectful of the lines of the house. Horticulturist Terry Gordon Smith guided the selection and placement of hardy, native plants.

The project at 3811 Linkwood Drive took about two years from start to completion. This included almost a year of planning with careful consideration of flood zone requirements and neighborhood deed restrictions. All neighborhood and city of Houston permit approvals had to be in place before the original house came down, Zamore says.

During the construction, the Arnolds were able to lease a home down the street, so they walked to the house in the evenings as the structure took shape.

“We love the design of the house, but living in it is pure joy,” Jenna says. “From the start we trusted Brett’s vision and artistry and we were never disappointed.”

Jenna’s favorite part of the house is the kitchen and living area, which opens to the outside. Large sliding glass doors open to an expansive deck and sizable back yard. Chad is partial to the screened porch upstairs. They are both college football fans and during the season, they like to watch football on the porch.

“On Sunday afternoons, it’s a great place to take a nap with a wonderful north-south breeze," she adds.

Sometimes they are asked: Why not just buy a new lot or a new house in another part of town?
“It comes down to the neighborhood,” Jenna says. “It’s a fantastic community that we didn’t want to leave.”


Brett Zamore Design
1137 E. 11th St.


Acme Brick, Tile and Stone
5020 Acorn St.

Berridge Manufacturing Co.

Terry Gordon Smith

Numerous locations

K&N Sales
1401 Shepherd Drive

Habitat for Humanity Northwest Harris County

Jose Floor Finishers
1039 Beaver Bend Road

Ram Industries Inc.
8600 Commerce Park Drive

H2OUSTON: Living in Flood Plains
Rice Design Alliance Architectural Tour
March 25-26, 2017
1:00 P.M.-6:00 P.M.

By Marsha Canright

Get ready architecture and design lovers: This year’s Rice Design Alliance (RDA) architectural tour, set March 25 and 26, explores how architects are coping creatively with homes and businesses in Houston’s flood plains.

Called “H2Ouston: Living in the Flood Plains,” the tour of five homes and business demonstrates six architects’ approaches and solutions to flood plain designations and new construction requirements.

The self-guided event begins at 1 p.m. and ends at 6 p.m. both days. This is the group's 42nd annual architectural tour.

“Recent catastrophic flood events like the Memorial Day flood in 2015, the 2016 floods of Brays Bayou and the massive flooding after Tropical Storm Allison clarify the consequences for those living in what they discover, too late, is a flood plain,” says Linda Sylvan, executive director of the Rice Design Alliance. "This year’s offerings explore the way that architects have responded."

Initially mapped in the 1970s, the city’s flood plains present unique physical, political and economic challenges for architects and their clients.

Featured architects are: Brooks and Brooks, Lake/Flato and SWA Group, Nonya Grenader, Francois de Menil, Taft Architects and Brett Zamore Design.

Tickets are $35 or $15 for students with an ID. Current RDA members may purchase discounted tickets for $25.           

The home tour is one of three RDA events with a focus on resilience. A free civic forum, “Living in the Flood Plains,” is set 6 p.m. March 8 at the Cherie Flores Garden Pavilion at McGovern Centennial Gardens at Herman Park. An Instagram “Scavenger Hunt” takes place 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on April 1
to challenge teams to walk and bike the new trails along Buffalo Bayou between Sabine Street and Shepherd Drive.

For more information on these programs or to purchase tickets for the architectural tour, visit RDA’s website at

Houston Web Design Company