10 Mar Creative Space
THEY SAY THE EYES ARE THE WINDOWS TO THE SOUL, but perhaps the home is as well. At the very least, it is a reflection of the spirit and essence of those who reside there, and Jene and Jean Lamans’ San Marcos, Texas, residence is a prime example.
Their home is a reflection of a love of craftsmanship, evident in the carefully placed treasures they’ve collected over the years; for teaching art, demonstrated in the recent addition of a studio, gallery and library; for contemporary design, which flows seamlessly from the original 1970s West Coast Modern home to the new addition; a love for the outdoors, palpable in the detailed landscaping, outdoor spaces and walls of windows; and for the everchanging, displayed in the way they move their furniture and art collection around every few months to make the home feel fresh and new.
It wasn’t until the Lamans were in their early 80s that Jene, a professor of interior design at Texas State University, and his wife, Jean, a professor of fiber arts at the same institution, thought about retirement. “Retiring was a big decision, because we loved the students so much,” Jene says. “I think they kept us young.”
During the transition, and envisioning more time on their hands, the couple decided to add to the 1,800-square-foot home they’d lived in for 30 years. The additional 1,500 square feet would enlarge the home’s creative spaces to keep the arts alive and their spirits young, while also adding room for visiting grandchildren and updating their original master bedroom.
Working with A.Gruppo Architects on the design and construction, the challenge was to match the addition to the structure that already existed. “They had this really lovely modern house already,” says principal architect Andrew Nance. “Due to various site constraints, we decided that we needed something to stand physically apart from the existing house with an interconnecting entry.”
Since the existing home was nestled in the trees toward the back of the property, the only place to build was in front. “It was a great opportunity. How often do you get to completely transform the image from the front?” adds Thad Reeves, principal architect at A.Gruppo.
The end result is two tower-like structures, one a gallery, the other a studio, connected by an upper floor that serves as a library and office; a window-lined walkway connects the addition to the main home. “With lots of windows, you feel like you are really on a bridge,” Jene says. “It’s a visual joy to look through and gives a feeling of the artwork, the antiques and the outdoors.”
The gallery doubles as a guest suite in disguise. In order to keep the exhibit space wide open, the architects designed a solid cabinet wall, like a hidden bookshelf, to camouflage the bathroom; a Murphy bed pops out of another wall and another cabinet hides a basic kitchenette. The studio space, shared by the couple, is where Jean now paints and Jene focuses on collage.
The couple also spends much of their time in the library, which hovers above a dense canopy of oak trees. “We feel like we’re in a little treehouse up there,” Jene says. “We go up and meditate, see the birds; you feel very close to nature there.”
Also incorporated into the plans was an updated master bedroom in the main home. A.Gruppo enlarged the existing bedroom to include a bathing and dressing room, and they added a hallway to connect the addition to the main house. The master bedroom now opens to a Zen garden. A bocce court and a barbecue area flanked by a stained-glass partition — all new areas defined during the remodel — were added to the other side.
Aside from the natural wood floors, the addition is stark white, inside and out, which is exactly what the Lamans and the architects were going for, modeling the addition after the existing home. “I have to point out to people when they are leaving the new space and going into the old, because it’s such an easy transition,” Jene says.
The white walls also act as a blank canvas for creativity. “In the end, it works amazingly well,” Reeves says. “Because of the way the Lamans approach their lives and inhabit the building, it’s not stark at all; it’s an enriched, diverse interior palette, the light quality and volume are all really nice, and the furniture and artifacts they’ve populated the spaces with take it to another place.”
The Lamans created a home that fully reflects their lifelong passions and a space where they can continue to practice their artistry for years to come. And they have fun with it, curating, modifying and changing the house every two to three months for fresh perspectives and to enliven the display of their art collection, made by artists from around the world.
“The home inspires us to be more creative,” Jene says.