The Best Gift of All
New Custom Touches for an Older “Spec” House
By Susan Fox • Photography by Mark Scheyer
It may have been a long 14 months for one Memorial-area family, but their patient wait to move into their newly remodeled home culminated in beautiful rewards.
The owners and their four children moved out of their 1990s spec house — a very dated and restrictive space — after living there for a few years.
It was one summer day that they handed over their keys to David Gunn, owner of Gunn Construction — with great anticipation of returning to the home of their dreams. And that all happened, quite successfully.
They came back home more than a year later — on one late November afternoon — to find it enlarged, reconfigured, updated, and even decorated for Christmas. Elizabeth Munger Stiver and Amy Munger, owners of Munger Interiors, had made sure the family’s move-in was a warm welcome — and full of sparkle and fun.
Hand-embroidered holiday stockings, lovingly made by the childrens’ grandmother, hung at a mantel adorned with a garland made of eucalyptus and magnolia leaves. A tall full Frasier Fir tree — one of two in the house — stood in the corner near the fireplace, alive with long-time family favorites that evoke treasured memories of holidays past.
Red tulips and peonies of a similar hue graced tabletops — in both the living and family rooms. In the kitchen, they delighted in finding large apothecary jars filled with red Christmas balls, white and red candy M&Ms, and Apex berries. In the more formal living room, the family enjoyed another Frasier fir decorated in glittery and mirrored ornaments.
“We love decorating simply — by filling up bowls with such naturals as backyard greenery, and adding tangerines and other fruits,” says Elizabath Munger Stiver.
A cleaned up traditional look is what the owners favor, and the Munger sisters accommodated them by choosing easy living, yet elegant pieces. In the family room, where the family “lives,” they brought in club chairs, upholstered in a faint blue floral cotton blend, that can swivel around to view and be part of the kitchen scene.
The owners wanted the option of opening up the kitchen to the family room or closing it off, so they had two very large, six-foot-wide pocket doors installed.
The family room’s two flax-colored sofas — custom made by Joseph & Co. — are separated by a coffee table topped with a lovely bluestone.
According to Amy Munger, the family room evokes a bit of a formal feel with the sofas facing each other, but overall it is a room that is designed for comfort and family togetherness.
The TV placement was a compromise between the couple. He wanted it above the mantel; she convinced him that placing it on a shelf to the side of the fireplace accomplished more versatility for the room.
In the corner, the Mungers married a folding card table with a pretty banquette — a perfect place for homework or board games.
The design goal was to add some movement in the room, which features an overall calm feel and soft color palette. The Munger sisters accomplished the goal by finding a pretty floral and geometric-designed fabric by Cowtan & Tout, in a mix of light blues and earthy browns.
What a transformation inside and out; the house went from plain Jane to being the belle of the neighborhood.
According to Gunn, everything about the house was “touched.” While the original footprint of the house remained the same, the company did move some walls, reconfigured rooms, installed new flooring and countertops, and also added space.
The existing attached garage, for example, was turned into living space and a new detached garage was built with a long covered walkway to the back of the house.
Inside the converted garage, says Gunn, is an office, utility room and a TV room. Its second level was framed out for a future game room.
When entering the before version of the house, guests stepped into a two-story foyer with “a swooping staircase.” The architect — Roger Cooner — designed the second-level “empty space” so that it became added square footage, now used for closet space for each of the owners’ two girls.
The old bathrooms — which featured an old tiled floor, and cultured marble sinks — got upgraded to marble. New oak floors were installed elsewhere in the home, with a herringbone pattern formalizing the foyer.
According to Gunn, they also took this time to replace most of the exterior windows — some of which were rotted — with double-hung, traditional, customized mahogany ones. Door trims, crown molding, cabinets, the staircase itself . . . all were replaced with new designs.
On the exterior, shutters also were added and a new roof installed. It was a process, made easier with weekly meetings that involved the owners, builder/remodeler, and interior designers, says Gunn.
“Our client was interested in the process and was very much part of the decision-making process.”
Gunn provides these two tips to those thinking about remodeling:
1. Be flexible. There is always the case of the unknown when remodeling. And you might need to be willing to work around something.
2. Do advance homework. By being prepared, there are fewer delays. Know ahead of time what materials — everything from door handles to light fixtures and countertops — you want to use in the house. That information helps keep the budget in check, and plans accordingly with vendors.
The Home Tour runs from October 24-25, from noon to 6 pm.
It includes nine houses scattered across the city.
Roger M. Cooner Architect
Found for the Home
The Joseph Company
Carlos de La Puente Antiques
River Oaks Antiques Pavillion
Cowtan & Tout