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Writer: JO LEE FERGUSON // Photographers: SARAH A MILLER and DAVID WHITE
It was November. Erin Wright had just turned 30, and she realized she would have to set some new goals.
She met the first goal she’d set for herself when she was younger — having a home in the Tyler Area Builders Association’s Parade of Homes by the time she was 30 — in June. She finished her own home, a “rustic modern” project at Lake Hawkins, in time to get it into the parade, after beginning construction in February.
The work went fast, because she’d been thinking and dreaming about and designing her home for a long time.
“I definitely didn’t want it to be cookie cutter,” says Wright, a builder who owns Wright-Built in Hawkins. She’s also a member of the association board. “I think that we get stuck on a lot of things that we don’t need. I was just trying to do everything against the grain, so it could look good and be functional…”
It’s an hour’s drive to Hawkins from Tyler, so she knew her house would have to be something special to attract visitors. She saw more people than she expected during the tour, she says.
Libby Simmons, executive vice president of the Tyler Area Builders Association, described Wright’s house as “one to see.”
“In the Parade of Homes™, houses outside the Tyler area typically receive less traffic because people aren’t willing to make the drive. But Erin’s house created a buzz, and everyone wanted to see it,” Simmons says. “Parade visitors soon labeled it as a must-see house on the tour.”
Wright has been building and remodeling homes for almost half her life, after working in the banking industry. ”My father was always doing dirt work and running heavy equipment, and my step-dad was always building stuff,” she says. “I paid attention, and it was something that sparked my interest, and the rest just fell into place.”
Her new house is in the Crystal Sands Estates at Lake Hawkins. She had already been living there in another house she built. It sold quickly when she put it up for sale.
Her new house is slightly closer to the lake.
“I lived in a tiny little cabin in Hawkins that I rented from a friend with a flooring store in Hawkins,” she recalls of the time between houses. It was a 400-square-foot cabin she shared with her boyfriend and two labs.
“We spent a lot of time on the construction site, and we didn’t ever want to go home,” Wright says, laughing.
The home she built combines function, efficiency, originality and style, and she designed it with her lifestyle in mind.
The end result is a home with some eye-catching details that caters to the love of outdoor entertaining she shares with her boyfriend.
Visitors can’t miss the biggest deviation Wright took from typical home construction: the large steel canopy that shades the entire house — kind of like a carport for a house.
“It shades the whole house, plus it lets air flow through it (between the canopy and the house),” Wright says. That means it really helped with her utility bills during the summer. It also helped avoid the cost of constructing a traditional roof. She has a shop on her property she can use for storage, and the roof of her home was made so she can store things on top if she needs.
“If you think about a whole house, you’ve got your roof structure, which is a lot of lumber,” she says. “I was able to eliminate my entire roof structure and do a flat roof and put this canopy over it and spend about the same money (as building a roof), but I had twice as much porch square footage…”
The house itself is a 2,157-square-foot, three-bedroom, 2bath home. The outdoor canopy adds an additional 2,643-square-feet of living space, and she’s designed it for maximum use.
SEAMLESS INDOOR/OUTDOOR LIVING
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Wright says of living in her new house. “We entertain all the time. In fact, it seems like we entertain almost every day.”
An outdoor kitchen on one side of the house adds to the ease of entertaining, but anyone working in the indoor kitchen can easily be a part of what’s going on outside.
The indoor kitchen and outdoor barstool-seating area are separated by what looks like a window. It’s actually door that Wright turned on its side to use as a window. She spent $20 to purchase gas actuators — the kind used to hold up the heavy rear doors of sport utility vehicles — so the window can be propped open or shut easily.
“It just kind of frames whoever is cooking. It brings the outside inside, so not just one person is closed off in the kitchen,” Wright says.
A big-screen television hangs on the wall above the window to the kitchen, and a Big Ass Fan — it’s not a cuss word when it’s used as a trademark name — helps keep the front porch comfortable.
A bar with a concrete countertop and a fire pit in the middle provide another place to gather outside; an outdoor bathroom adds to the convenience.
Her outdoor living area also includes a pool table — complete with outdoor felt and rubber stoppers under the legs to avoid water damage — and a pool for use in the warmer months.
Wright can further blur the line between indoor and outdoor living by opening the garage door she installed between the front porch and the great room that is next to the kitchen. The garage door is made of glass windows. It’s insulated and weather-proofed, so it completely seals off the house when it’s closed, Wright says. She designed the trusses in the barrel ceiling in the great room so the garage door would disappear up and into them when it’s opened.
RUSTIC REUSE AND MODERN TOUCHES
Wright’s personal touches can be found throughout her home in a number of design elements, from new items to old pieces that she repurposed.
The home’s exterior carries the combination rustic/modern look with creosote siding and a product called Cor-Ten™, which resembles rusting barn tin.
“I use (creosote) because it doesn’t turn like cedar,” Wright says. “It’s not that expensive compared to cedar.”
The Cor-Ten™ is frequently used to achieve a contemporary feel in commercial buildings, she explains.
“It rusts to the point that the rust is its coating. Rusted tin seems to be more rustic country, but (Cor-Ten) looks way more contemporary to me. I was trying to get the feel for both…,” Wright says. “I don’t have to worry about it rusting all the way through like regular barn tin.”
The wood on the barrel ceiling in the great room, is an example of how she recycled and reused — it is from an old building from downtown Mineola. Wright thinks it’s probably more than 100 years old.
Some of her interior doors are made from the pallets that the rocks she used in part of the construction arrived on. She ripped them up and made the doors, she says.
Her open-concept kitchen was designed around a table she had purchased from a dealer in Canton about a year before she started construction on her house. The table was made from the bottom of an old train car, she says. Because of her limited construction time, she worked with the same dealer to make a number of pieces in her home or ship her unique items from Mexico
She used old Coke crates for drawers in her kitchen by adding sliders and building them into the cabinets. A bar seating area in the kitchen has a copper countertop. Concrete is used for other countertops in the kitchen.
She made the fixtures in the kitchen and elsewhere in the house from old egg baskets she found in Forney. She added decorative items found at Decorate Ornate in Gladewater, and floors are stained concrete. “I like it because I did my own, and I’ve got about $500 in all my flooring,” Wright says, but it’s also practical. She does a lot of entertaining, and she has two big dogs. The sand that would be inevitably tracked into the house would damage any other kind of floor.
“I don’t have to worry about messing my floor up,” she says, but she does still have to worry about clean-up. That’s why she installed a central vacuum with floor sweeps.
The bathrooms, again, are a combination of modern, antique and rustic touches. The guest bathroom, for instance was designed around a window she bought at an antique store in Forney. The window, she says, was reportedly an old European skylight. The vanity is made from a sideboard she purchased in Canton, and she made a vessel sink out of wooden bowl she purchased for $30.
“We’ll see how it holds up,” she says. “I figured that for $30, but if doesn’t work out, I’ll just buy a new one.”
Her master bathroom features double stainless steel sinks on a black walnut countertop.
“I did the corner sinks so it would free up space in the middle, so I wouldn’t have to continue to put my blow dryer in the sink,” she says. Vintage light bulbs hanging from an old wooden yoke and an antique cabinet she had cut to look like a file cabinet complete the look.
She purchased the large, round cedar bathtub from Seattle-based Snorkel Hot Tubs and used an old hand pump to make her water fixture. The wall behind the tub lets light in from outside through bottles that were cut in two and joined together with duct tape. They were mounted into the wall of glass rock and mortar.
“It actually lets in a lot of light,” Wright says. As a builder, Wright uses subcontractors to finish much of the work on homes she builds.
“Most of the guys that I use I’ve used for a long time, and they enjoy (the different approach she takes to her projects),” Wright says. “Sometimes they get a little frustrated, but they enjoy doing things that are a little different. It makes it where it’s not as boring, too. It’s kind of fun to them.”
Now, she has her eye on the 60th annual Parade of Homes. She already has several houses in the works that could be candidates for the home tour.
“Now I’ve got to get some new goals,” she says. “I’ll have to work on that next week.”