Article No: 241

2008-08-01 17:37:47
A Foundation as Solid as a ROCK
By: Steve Habel

Many twists and turns in the two-year planning process engulfed Terry and Lawanda Fricks as they mulled ideas for their new home in the affluent Fort Worth suburb of Westover Hills. But the Fricks were adamant about the foundation and structure of their new home—it would be constructed of concrete; in a fashion not often utilized in residential building. Concrete was used for the structural foundation retaining walls as well as for the floor system consisting of an elevated concrete slab on peers, which is more typical in a commercial building. The foundation and the first level of the residence are all concrete, looking like an ancient ruin when first poured. Some of the benefits of using concrete in this way are a stronger structure, greater retention, and better sound attenuation between floors.

“My husband is in the concrete construction and industrial concrete floor business,” explains Lawanda Fricks. “He has been in construction for more than 40 years, and we knew this use of concrete would be ideal for the conditions of this lot because of the lot’s vertical drop and soil conditions. This area of the country has expansive soils, and the engineering of the structure and concrete foundation accommodates those active soils.”

The Fricks had five architectural firms create conceptual designs before employing RPGA Design Group, Inc., the Fort Worth-based company known nationally for its beautiful and elite projects. Rick Garza, the home’s architect and a principal at RPGA Design Group, says the location of the foundation and structure of the Fricks’ home created some challenges. The main challenge stemmed from a diagonally sloped lot, which slopes from the front corner downward to the back corner of the house. The design allowed for the house to step downward with the declensional grade of the site.

“Our client was determined to design a home that had a long-lasting foundation that would support the home indefinitely while creating additional space, which could be capitalized on for use of storage, wood shop, and other uses as needed,” Garza says. “They also wanted to be very sensitive to the topography of the existing site as the grade slopes downward towards an adjacent golf course.” Because it is poured, concrete is the most flexible of building materials, says Rick Garza, allowing it to be formed into any shape the site required.

“He actually listened to us,” Lawanda Fricks says when asked why she and her husband picked Garza. “Rick didn’t create this huge monstrosity. His drawings reflected our conversations with him about who we are, how we envisioned living in our space, and how we wanted to feel when we looked at our home.”

Terry Fricks, an award-winning member of the concrete industry, built the home. Lawanda designed the lighting schemes and the interior. The Fricks wanted to avoid stark materials, so stained moldings and trims were utilized to add to the character. Their home is of a hybrid Texan–Tuscan style, with Italian ceramic tile and Lueders limestone, cut-stone accents, and an inviting front porch with cut-stone floor. Wood-framed arches and a vaulted ceiling accentuate the home’s entry. The countertops are made of marble and granite. Arched doorways allow for lots of natural light.

Natural woods provide warm accents throughout the home. Walnut trim on a curved wall of windows and walnut millwork highlight the traditionally masculine office. Floors of wide-plank mesquite trimmed with maple borders provide warmth throughout the home. “Mesquite is often considered an unusable wood when in reality, it is a gorgeous and a great option,” Garza says. “We looked and studied different species of wood, and when we came to mesquite, we knew it was the answer.”

The home’s master bedroom has barrel ceiling and seating areas, his/hers master bath separated with pocket doors for privacy and with separate water closets, dressing areas, and closets. It also has a downstairs powder room, an upstairs guest bedroom and bath, and an upstairs library and loft area for artistic projects. The loft can be converted into additional bedrooms as plumbing was brought into room for just such future considerations.

“The ‘ah-hah’ moment in working with Rick was when he realized you have to create ‘outside of the box’ (literally) with this home,” Lawanda Franks says. “We didn’t want a bunch rectangles situated on an empty lot. The view, the access to the home, our privacy, and the function of the rooms were the keys to figuring out the footprint for our home.” 

“After we got past that hurdle, the rest seemed to work itself out,” she continues. “We took our time with the plans and wanted to make sure the space fit us and we utilized every inch of space. There are no rooms that ‘memorialize’ a scene from a storybook. All of our space is used on a daily basis for living.”

The residence’s living room has 12-foot ceilings with fir beams, a gas-burning, Lueders limestone fireplace and arches. The study is done in walnut with doors, molding and trim around an impressive wall of windows. Commercial grade appliances, custom alder-wood cabinetry, and granite countertops create a kitchen Lawanda loves to cook in. Many items in the home are custom-designed and constructed in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

Off of the kitchen is a morning room with a gas fireplace below a mesquite mantel surrounded by built-in mesquite cabinetry. Terry Fricks carved the mantel in his basement woodworking shop.

“As a young man, Terry began his career and love of woodworking as a carpenter working for his dad who was also in the construction business,” Lawanda Fricks says. “We both wanted a variety of woods [in the home], and Terry emphasized an attention to detail in all the wood used in our home. His favorite wood is walnut for its beautiful grain and durability. Alder is another beautiful wood that I chose to use in the kitchen. It takes different stains beautifully. Mahogany is another rich, hard wood that we used in the wine cellar.” Together, they built the entire wine cellar; it is made of mahogany and can hold up to 1,000 bottles.

The Fricks’ dining room windows, accented with walnut and warble cabinets, overlook a view of Fort Worth. An exterior living room, complete with heating, air conditioning, and a gas fireplace, has Lueders limestone walls and flooring. The home is positioned on the property to take full advantage of the downtown skyline.

“The Fricks’ home is one of the most unassuming residences we have designed,” Garza says. “It is full of character, warmth, and charm. Additionally, it is extremely well thought out, down to the hanging space in the closets. Our collaboration with the Fricks is what made this home dynamic, warm, beautiful, inviting, and very functional. “At the risk of sounding arrogant, it is a brilliant design that addresses a number of very difficult questions.” The architect describes the home as gracefully, yet confidently perched upon the lot. He says ”It is a wonderful surprise to everyone who visits the home.”