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Family Sets New Roots in Sweetwater

| October 1, 2017

An aerial view of the living room demonstrates the magnitude of the space. Fabrics by Pollack adorn chairs in the bay window. Other fabrics include Lee Jofa, Rogers and Goffigon, Scalamandre and Diane Von Furstenberg for Kravet. Bench and coffee table are from Mecox

Text by Cheryl Alexander | Photography by Miro Dvorscak | Architecture by Robert Dame | Construction by Sims Luxury Builders | Landscape design by Moss Landscaping | Interiors by Cindy Witmer Designs

A French Manor In Suburbia Suits Their Lifestyle

Eight years ago, Naveen and Vimi Arora moved to Houston from Princeton, New Jersey. The move brought Naveen, who is in the field of energy trading, closer to the action, and Vimi, an ER physician, found an opportunity with Memorial Hermann Hospital, which made the transition relatively seamless. Even though neither had Southern roots, it didn’t take them long to fall in love with Texas, especially the Sugar Land area. The tree-lined streets, the sense of community and family oriented environment — they have two children, 10-year-old Nikhil and 7-year-old Alisha — all contributed to their decision to choose Sugar Land as their hometown.

After living in Sugar Land for a few years, the Aroras were still searching for their dream house. The couple had both fallen in love with classical French architecture and design, and their hearts were set on building a home with a chateau-esque feel. They explored all available options, including building something from the ground up and had also narrowed their search to the Sweetwater community. However, they found many of the homes in the area to be Mediterranean-inspired, so they knew that finding a French-style home in Sweetwater was going to be like finding a needle in a haystack. Then one day after searching on HAR.com, they discovered “their home” — a beautiful French chateau — for sale right in the middle of Sweetwater Estates.

The couple was so excited, but when they toured the 12-year-old home, it became apparent that even though they had found a beautiful French Manor in the exact location they desired, a major renovation was necessary to bring the home in line with their vision.

Their first meeting was a consultation with Robert Dame, the original architect of the home, and Christopher Sims, its original builder. Once the couple was comfortable with the design plan, they decided to move ahead with purchasing the home. Given the elaborate nature of the whole house remodel, including re-engineering of some areas, a decision was made to reassemble the original team for the renovation: Sims Luxury Builders and Robert Dame, architect. For the interiors, they brought in Cindy Witmer Designs.

“Selecting Robert Dame and Sims Luxury Builders was an easy decision,” said Naveen. “They originally built the house in 2002, and have worked together on some of the finest homes in the Houston and Sugar Land area. They have great chemistry. Working with both of them was a great pleasure. Sims is known to be one of the best at its craft in our area and very meticulous and thorough.”

The couple researched the selection of an interior designer. “During our exploration, we fell in love with Cindy Witmer’s design work. We saw some of her work in various magazines and books and were really impressed with her ability to bring together different elements of design to create beautiful spaces,” said Vimi. “Cindy was easy to work with and understood our vision. She was part of the process from the beginning, was intricately involved in every aspect of design, and worked closely with Sims builders throughout the process. Without her, our vision would never have become a reality.”

Cindy’s firm was quite busy when Naveen and Vimi reached out to her. “I was hesitant as it was already a busy time for my firm. I knew that a remodel this large would require a lot of my time, but as soon as we met, I immediately knew I wanted to work with them. The Aroras’ enthusiasm was contagious, and they had studied my work as well as other country French-inspired interiors and seemed to know exactly what they wanted,” Cindy said. “As well, I was really intrigued to work with the team of Robert Dame and Chris Sims — both giants in their industries. I knew the attention to detail would be intense, and the finished product would be pristine.”

The initial plans for the renovation were to target specific areas for remodel, mainly the kitchen and family room, and to add a pool on the large back lawn. However, after digging deeper into the house’s design needs, the couple, along with their team, concluded that they would do a whole-house renovation to bring every aspect of the 13,000-square-foot home up-to-date and match the family’s style.

Some of the “must haves” the family identified were to bring in more of the European/French influence through some of the architectural details and home décor. They also wanted to add space to the family room and update the kitchen to gourmet chef status. Some luxury additions included a home gym, a wine/cigar room and a modern media room.

Prior to meeting with Cindy, Naveen and Vimi had spent hours pulling together ideas from magazines and Pinterest, and it was clear that a transitional, more hip version of the country French ideal was what they had in mind.

For Vimi, the priorities were the kitchen and family room. The spacious family room is now her favorite, “mainly,” she said, “because it’s where we spend a lot of our time as a family. I love the grey and soft blue undertones of the furniture and the rug. The large oversized coffee table from reclaimed wood is another one of my favorites and the fireplaces are exceptional.” From here, the view of the majestic pool in the stately backyard is one that can’t be beat.

To Naveen, one of the most important aspects of the renovation was the addition of the wine and cigar room, which is now his preferred space. He stores his favorite wine and Scotch and spends time here with close friends. The room is just the right size for a small sofa and two chairs, and the wood ceiling, floor and brick wall bring an innate coziness to the room.

The biggest design challenge the couple faced was blending the existing architectural elements of the house with the new ones to create a look that would be seamless, original and reflective of their vision. For example, in order to expand the kitchen and family room, they had to make a decision to eliminate a sun room and re-engineer the vertical load-bearing beams with horizontal load-bearing beams. The exposed beams were then stained with an antique finish to bring the French country look to the room. As well, at the project’s onset, there were random beams that broke up the otherwise large space, and a curved wall made some of the windows different sizes.

After more than three years of planning and reconstruction, the family is now living in their French chateau.

“Each room is unique, with special attention paid to different selections of tiles, flooring and lighting,” said Vimi. “Our home is infused with hand-picked Euro­pean antiques, and each room has a distinctive piece of art or furniture that is a central element of design for that room.”

Both Vimi and Naveen say they love the location of their home almost as much as the home itself — the canopy of trees lining the streets, the serene and secluded feel behind the gates of the subdivision, the proximity to the Sweetwater Country Club and golf course.

“Seeing it all come to fruition is even more fabulous than we envisioned,” said Naveen. “This indeed is our dream home — the one in which we can happily raise our kids and build our future.”

TOP IMAGE:An aerial view of the living room demonstrates the magnitude of the space. Fabrics by Pollack adorn chairs in the bay window. Other fabrics include Lee Jofa, Rogers and Goffigon, Scalamandre and Diane Von Furstenberg for Kravet. Bench and coffee table are from Mecox

 

Architect Robert Dame’s French chateau style was just what the Arora's had envisioned for their family home

Architect Robert Dame’s French chateau style was just what the Arora’s had envisioned for their family home

 

The formal living room was a challenge with soaring ceilings and formal moldings. Custom-made, hand-finished doors lead to a closet and the newly-added wine room. The antique Oushak rug was perfect; however the space called for larger rug so a custom-patterned jute rug was added to extend the cozy feel to the entire space.

The formal living room was a challenge with soaring ceilings and formal moldings. Custom-made, hand-finished doors lead to a closet and the newly-added wine room. The antique Oushak rug was perfect; however the space called for larger rug so a custom-patterned jute rug was added to extend the cozy feel to the entire space.

 

The formality of the columns and the marble floors are offset by the bespoke reclaimed wood table surrounded by slip-covered Parsons style dining chairs. Celerie Kemble patterned grasscloth lines the walls. Gold leaf framed nudes by Chris Lesikar and a Bergamo zebra pattern on the bench lend some glamour to the entry. Glass and crystal chandelier by Antica.

The formality of the columns and the marble floors are offset by the bespoke reclaimed wood table surrounded by slip-covered Parsons style dining chairs. Celerie Kemble patterned grasscloth lines the walls. Gold leaf framed nudes by Chris Lesikar and a Bergamo zebra pattern on the bench lend some glamour to the entry. Glass and crystal chandelier by Antica.

 

A cozy corner provided a perfect sunny spot for this breakfast nook. The table is a French creation by Joyce Horn Antiques. A custom bench is curved to fit the contours of the wall, and the chandelier is Aiden Gray. Artwork by Chris Lesikar of Frametek.

A cozy corner provided a perfect sunny spot for this breakfast nook. The table is a French creation by Joyce Horn Antiques. A custom bench is curved to fit the contours of the wall, and the chandelier is Aiden Gray. Artwork by Chris Lesikar of Frametek.

 

Comfortable and durable fabrics were used in the family room. Kerry Joyce fabric on the custom chairs. Sofa fabrics by Cowtan & Tout and Holly Hunt. Custom curtains by Linda Falk and Schumacher. Light fixture from Lighting Inc. Ceiling plaster glows and is paired with old wood beams. Coffee table was a jewel of a find from Roundtop.

Comfortable and durable fabrics were used in the family room. Kerry Joyce fabric on the custom chairs. Sofa fabrics by Cowtan & Tout and Holly Hunt. Custom curtains by Linda Falk and Schumacher. Light fixture from Lighting Inc. Ceiling plaster glows and is paired with old wood beams. Coffee table was a jewel of a find from Roundtop.

 

A pair of arches separate the family room from the kitchen. Custom zinc and metal console table flanks the fireplace and mirrors are from Wisteria.

A pair of arches separate the family room from the kitchen. Custom zinc and metal console table flanks the fireplace and mirrors are from Wisteria.

 

A family kitchen is big enough for extended family to gather and cook, which often happens here. The hand-painted tiles are from ADR in Houston and the large pendant lights are Currey and Co. Custom bar stools by Renteria and Peck.

A family kitchen is big enough for extended family to gather and cook, which often happens here. The hand-painted tiles are from ADR in Houston and the large pendant lights are Currey and Co. Custom bar stools by Renteria and Peck.

 

This wine room, the husband’s favorite, was high on the priority list as an add-on to the existing structure. Wine-proof floor appears to be a warm wood but is actually tile. Reclaimed wood lines the ceiling. Light fixture by Solaria Lighting. Velvet sofa by Kravet. |

This wine room, the husband’s favorite, was high on the priority list as an add-on to the existing structure. Wine-proof floor appears to be a warm wood but is actually tile. Reclaimed wood lines the ceiling. Light fixture by Solaria Lighting. Velvet sofa by Kravet. |

 

The powder room is a moody blue with darker plaster walls and a custom-made door. The antique mirror by Frametek is a perfect backdrop for the crystal sconces from Antica and the custom travertine sink.

The powder room is a moody blue with darker plaster walls and a custom-made door. The antique mirror by Frametek is a perfect backdrop for the crystal sconces from Antica and the custom travertine sink.

 

Aleshia's room is fit for a princess. Mirrored bedside tables are from World's Away. The settee is another fun Roundtop find with a custom pillow covered in Schumacher fabric. Chandelier from Currey and Co.

Aleshia’s room is fit for a princess. Mirrored bedside tables are from World’s Away. The settee is another fun Roundtop find with a custom pillow covered in Schumacher fabric. Chandelier from Currey and Co.

 

Nikhil's bedroom reflect his love of aviation. Paint and curtains break at the same point creating a continuous "wainscot " around the room. Chandelier by Currey and Co. Curtains and bed skirt are Schumacher linen.

Nikhil’s bedroom reflect his love of aviation. Paint and curtains break at the same point creating a continuous “wainscot ” around the room. Chandelier by Currey and Co. Curtains and bed skirt are Schumacher linen.

 

The summer kitchen gets a lot of use. Sea grass travertine lines the countertops and reclaimed wood ceiling warms the space. The large chandelier is from Lighting, Inc.

The summer kitchen gets a lot of use. Sea grass travertine lines the countertops and reclaimed wood ceiling warms the space. The large chandelier is from Lighting, Inc.


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