This New River Oaks house features French country style and antique materials

The old stone fireplaces, thick wood beams, gorgeous limestone tiles that cover the floor, and antique rooms in the River Oaks home of Bruce and Susan Winfrey are big clues to where the couple spends a lot of vacation time: the south of France.

When they visit Provence, soaking up French country style and enjoying its cooler climate, they dream of recreating that life here in Houston, where home builder Bruce Winfrey owns the Winfrey Custom Build. Over time, they bought French art, antique furnishings, lighting, and home accessories and kept thinking about their dream.

More from DIANE COWEN: Podcast: It’s Not Just Jim Crane’s $24 Million Mansion—River Oaks Is Gradually Losing Historic Homes

After meeting a former British architect living in France, they knew they had found an architect who could really capture the French country style they were looking for. Architect David Price of David Price Design not only designed a home for them, but directed them to places where they could find reclaimed wood, stone, and architectural antiques of all kinds. From time to time, he’d find an old chandelier and send them a picture, suggesting it would be perfect for their home.

In all, it took three 40-foot containers of salvaged architectural masterpieces to finish the Winfreys’ 6,500-square-foot home.

In Houston, another home designer, David Cox of Design DCA, took Price’s European-style plans and made them buildable in Houston. Interior designer Pam Giarrusso of Design Tap assisted with the interior finishes.

“It’s been a lifelong goal to do a house like this. It’s my personal style and my wife’s personal style,” said Bruce Winfrey, a San Angelo native who moved to Houston after graduating from Texas A&M University. “We tried to keep it original in design, materials, and architecture, and create our own little oasis here. We enjoy wine, and it’s nice to pretend like you’re in France sometimes, even though the weather is completely different.”

All of the exterior doors are steel, which isn’t really French, but it’s functional and fits in with the neighborhood. Triple pane windows help keep out the noise, as the house backs onto Westheimer, which seems to be busy all the time. You won’t find baseboards, minimal millwork or trim in this home.

The house has a central courtyard where the patio and pool are located, and much of the first floor overlooks this outdoor space, where you can also see a tower-like structure made to look like a French pigeon, a place where the pigeons could perch, once meat and manure were available to use as fertilizer.

Even the home’s exterior carries an old-world feel to the place: working shutters, limestone and stucco with lime washed, Roman gravel driveway and antique terracotta shingles for the roof. Below the roof is an interesting tile treatment intended to emulate the historic homes of France. There, people often put new roof tiles on top of the old ones to save money. Bruce notes that you can tell how rich the homeowners are by how many layers of roof tiles you can see, two means you are very rich, and three means you are better off.

The Winfrey family visits France every year, because they have family there. It has been one of Suzanne’s favorite places since she headed to Europe after graduating from the University of Houston and lived in Europe for several years. An actress, much of Suzanne’s work has been performed in theaters in London.

Large blocks of limestone cover most of the main floor, and in the entryway, they pair well with wrought iron sconces and an antique chandelier. The circular staircase is flanked by newer stair rails, but has a special decorative paint job to make it feel old. The stone, lighting, and other artifacts are here.

In this blended family, Susan has two children, Alexandria and Julian, and Bruce has one, Anneliese, all in their early twenties. Their son is 16-year-old Pierce. Several family members live nearby. In addition to their two dogs, it is not unusual for them to dog sit for others. With five in the house now, and the kids always bringing friends, Susan said, it’s not uncommon for her to cook dinner for six to 10 people.

In the kitchen, a baker’s-style baker’s counter with Calacatta gold marble is the primary work area, with white stone surround counters. Their La Canche range – with both gas and electric hobs – is a famous French brand whose delivery always takes a long time; The Winfreys have waited 15 months for them.

Beautiful tile backsplashes in a small print pattern behind the range are repeated in this casual chef’s kitchen, a kitchen/pantry/storage space that makes you feel like you’re in France, with its rustic shelves and linen curtains where the doors, pots, pans, and cookware hang from a brass rod on the back wall. The cool blue-gray paint blends with the creamy travertine floor.

Two sitting areas branch off from the kitchen, living room and family room, filled with antique French furniture and accessories, thick wood beams on the ceiling and stone accent wall treatments. The antique art and mirrors look perfect against the atmospheric Chateau Domingo finishes on the walls.

The couple enjoy their own private lounge space, a cozy bar designed and decorated to feel like their favorite bar in London, at the Milestone Hotel.

It has its own fireplace with antique surrounds, plus seating areas and a tiered, climate-controlled, limestone-lined wine cellar. Wall paneling and cabinetry are painted a navy blue and dark gray that contrast with bar counters in light natural stone on the top counter and brass plate on the workbench.

Bedrooms, a game room, and an exercise room fill the upper floor. The large master suite includes approximately 1,600 square feet. The suite has its own hallway to make it feel like a private suite, the suite has a bedroom and a spacious bathroom in addition to its walk-in closets. (Her closet has enviable shoe racks.)

Details make all the difference in the bathroom, where there is a freestanding bathtub with wall mounted tap in one corner with a beautiful chandelier hanging above. The room has more ceiling beams and antique marble floors, and the dressing table has open shelves underneath, covered in pretty gray linen curtains that fit the ambiance perfectly. Moroccan zellige tiles in shades of blue cover the shower walls.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *