Southern Living Showcase Home
Exuding the very best of Southern charm
The notion of a Southern Living home evokes all kinds of iconic images such as rocking chairs on deep porches, window seats in wide shuttered windows and lush landscapes with fruit trees and backyard gardens. While many architects, builders and designers are able to incorporate some of these elements in their construction, few are able to do so with the abundance of detail found in the Southern Living Showcase Home in Bellaire, the first in the Houston area. This gorgeous home is a model for architecture and craftsmanship as well as a gold mine for décor ideas.
The $1.4 million, 4,777-square-foot, two-story house (constructed by Stone Acorn Builders, a sister-brother team from Bellaire — Sarah Lavine-Kass and Benjamin Lavine) marries regional charm with design ingenuity in its four bedrooms, 4.5 bathrooms, chef’s kitchen, library and craft room, study, mudroom, gardening stand, and outdoor living rooms.
Southern style is obviously the order of the day adorning the abode’s interior and exterior with details such as intricate trim work, dramatic room transitions, casings between entryways, ceiling details, reclaimed brick finishes, window shutters, deep front and rear porches, and even a barn door between the kitchen and mudroom. Natural light and charming lanterns are two of the outstanding features of this house, illuminating a seemingly endless number of cozy reading nooks and window benches throughout.
A generous and inviting floor plan is interspersed with classic nuances making this dwelling a Southern beauty from the moment you enter. Guests are immediately mesmerized by the wonderful walnut floors and knotty alder doors which add warmth to the wainscoted walls and magnificent 11-foot ceilings, each topped by triple-crown molding.
On one side of the entry is the home study, where the pièce de résistance is a sleek, grand cherry desk with alligator accents in front and on the drawers. “I imagined the father of the house as a well-traveled, saxophone-playing, hippie-turned-lawyer,” says designer Edwina Vidosh. A comically oversize metal saxophone on the wall is in homage to the character.
The formal dining room beckons across the entry from the study and reflects its importance to a Southern family. This room features a large farm dining table with antique Queen Anne chairs illuminated by an exquisite Turquoise-beaded chandelier. “I love using pops of color to add style and a bit of whimsy,” says Edwina. Adjoining the dining room is the butler’s pantry where a sink with a marvelous marble backsplash and a wine storage cooler make for convenient entertaining.
Just beyond is the sprawling gourmet kitchen — a family haven and a chef’s dream — where even more color brings the room to life. The lemon yellow, reproduction vintage enamel Viking range and hood with matching microwave oven exude a very Southern and comfortable aesthetic.
Beyond their color, the yellow appliances lend contemporary flair to the room, offsetting traditional gray-and-white Carrera marble. An apron-front farmhouse sink reminiscent of Grandma’s house is offset by honed, black granite countertops. The oval penny tile back splash also contrasts the sunny stove. A lower counter invites the kids to help stir the pot or to bring their homework to the kitchen. The full working pantry truly warms the heart and pleases the eyes with a lovely herringbone-laid reclaimed brick floor, marble and granite counters — yes, even in the pantry — and custom art glass doors.
The adjoining mudroom adds even more Southern authenticity with its barn door kitchen entry and Dutch door exit. So fun! Morning light streams through big bright windows into the kitchen’s adjacent built-in breakfast area, and the tongue and groove crossbeam ceiling appropriately caps off the room’s happy ambience.
The downstairs flows expansively from family room, study and formal dining room to library. Builder Sarah Lavine-Kass points out, “The design is such that from the kitchen, you can actually see the kids doing their homework in the library (a tranquil escape for both serious study and relaxation with its rolling ladder and reading bench) AND watch the news on the television in the family room while you are preparing the evening meal.” A multi-tasking mom never had it so easy! Also, each of the rooms make impressive use of high block wainscot, tall ceilings with triple-crown molding and elegant built-in shelving.
French doors off the family room transition living to the outdoors and onto a deep back porch floored in reclaimed brick. The porch is fashioned with a griller’s summer kitchen and overlooks a lavish cook’s garden with an antique tub, circular herb garden, raised vegetable beds, a composting area and rain barrel collection station. The herb garden offers such tantalizing flavors as a variety of basils, along with ginger, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme; while the vegetable garden stocks the kitchen with fresh pepper, spinach, eggplant, okra and tomato. You don’t get much more Southern than that.
Southern-style porches wrap the front and back of the home as well as a second-story balcony, where traditional wooden rockers and ceiling fans beckon you to bask in an evening breeze and enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the circular criss-cross garden feature and the matching circular Belgard Paver walkway surrounding the herb garden.
Upstairs the privacy and personality of the home are consistent in the master suite plus three more spacious bedrooms, a comfortable laundry room with extensive storage, a large linen closet and gift wrapping center. Built-ins are incorporated into each room with special attention to the children’s rooms, each with window reading benches, bookshelves and display cabinets to showcase awards and trophies.
The girl’s bedroom is an explosion of color,
with Lilly Pulitzer textiles. The mint green walls
are complemented by a sky-blue ceiling (a technique employed in various rooms). The room is
furnished with reproduction antique iron beds
and authentic antique mini-chairs. The boy’s room features a wooden, geometric pattern willow bed and lacquered wood elk head, as well as a metal
The Hermès-inspired master bedroom features painted French furniture, mixed with a simple, contemporary wood bed frame. “All of the bedding is Hermès, playing off of horses and the South and that old plantation feel,” Edwina explains. The entrance to the master suite is notable, including an art alcove, a serene mood-setter for the most intimate area of the home.
The master bathroom is both palatial and dazzling. Spacious and bright, it has a double-head shower and a deep pedestal-style soaking tub. Large, hexagonal tile and gray painted cabinets add vintage flair while feeling contemporary. Gleaming marble is repeated on bath counters, wainscot and spa shower as a cool counterpoint to the vaulted ceiling in the suite, where time and tension easily melt away. The sweeping walk-in closet/dressing room includes a marble-top island and built-ins on every wall, along with convenient bench seating.
Inspiration abounds outside and inside the house, which is rich with color, texture and architectural elements, like the layered lighting throughout the home. In addition to the main fixtures in each room, unique sconces adorn the walls and tread lights line stairs. “When a home is layered with detail and interest,” Edwina explains, “it feels more charming.”
A personal influence the builders had on the home is an emphasis on reading. The home pays special attention to the theme of literacy with a library and incorporation of reading nooks and benches throughout the house. “Sarah is a big reader and so are her kids,” said brother and partner Benjamin Lavine. “You’ll see that inspiration throughout the house, even down to its location — it’s situated just down the street from the Bellaire City Library.”
As well, to further underscore their commitment to literacy, the sister/brother team designated two literacy charities as beneficiaries of the home tour proceeds: The Houston Center for Literacy and Friends of the Bellaire Library. Robin Cavanaugh, the media specialist promoting the event discloses, “We hosted more than 3,500 visitors during the home tour and at private events. We raised more than $30,000 for our two literacy charities and $18,000 for the charities tied to the private events. Needless to say, we were thrilled with the results.” Southern philanthropy at its finest, no doubt.
In keeping with the ingenuity demanded of a Southern Living Showcase Home, Stone Acorn Builders also incorporated as many green and sustainable elements as possible into the design and construction. Some of these elements include the exterior finish in Artisan siding, the use of reclaimed brick, the concrete shake roof, non-toxic zero-VOC paint and stain, rain water collection, and solar panels to energize the AC unit or provide energy directly to the home when the AC is not in use. Tankless water heaters, aluminum clad wood windows and safe entry lighting finish off this earth-friendly, energy-efficient domicile.
This Stone Acorn Builder’s home was chosen as a Showcase Home after the team joined the Southern Living Custom Builder Program, a network of some of the finest custom homebuilders in the South, with only three companies in the greater Houston area participating. Benjamin learned about the Custom Building Program while reading Southern Living magazine and decided to look further into the membership application process.
Members of the program blend ideas, inspiration and excellence in architecture, craftsmanship and home building to tell the Southern story. Stone Acorn Builders had experience emulating styles from Southern Living because prior clients would bring the magazine to them wanting a Southern Living-like home. “There’s a synergy between what we do and what you see in the magazine,” Sarah says. “We like a lot of detail and the feel of a new home but with an older ambiance.”
When Benjamin called to inquire about membership, he recounts that Southern Living initially seemed reluctant because they are selective about the number of members they accept from each region. However, after the magazine saw some of their work, they decided Stone Acorn Builders was a company they wanted associated with the Southern Living brand.
The team was excited to bring a home with the Southern Living brand to the community so Houstonians could finally see in person during the home tour in May, what they’ve been reading about for years in the magazine. “We’re really bringing the magazine alive,” Sarah said. Kristen Bryan, assistant marketing director for Southern Living, concurs, “The home really transcends the pages of the magazine.”
You’ll likely agree. In fact, this home exudes such Southern hospitality, we wouldn’t be surprised if after browsing this article and feasting on these amazing Southern images, you aren’t inspired to settle into a rocker and sip a cold mint julep.
TEXT BY CHERYL ALEXANDER | CONSTRUCTION BY STONE ACORN BUILDERS | DESIGN BY JKM DESIGNS
ARCHITECTURE BY JENNIFER MCGEOCH
INTERIORS BY EDWINA ALEXIS INTERIORS | LANDSCAPE BY JACQUI HIGHTON | PHOTOGRAPHY BY TK IMAGES