Bachelor Pad El Paso becomes modern family resort – Robb Report
The problem with bachelor apartments is that their owners might not stay single indefinitely. A man in El Paso, for example, built his dream concrete house with architect Jon Anderson and quickly married a few years later. The couple went on to have two daughters and wanted to move quickly to a bigger space. The problem was that they lived in a housing estate in the Haute Vallée region, so there wasn’t much room to expand. “I tried several times to buy the house behind me to raze it and use it,” said the husband, a real estate developer who asked to remain anonymous. It took a bit of persuasion, but their neighbor eventually parted with the one-acre lot and the couple brought in Texan architecture firm Lake Flato to build a second, larger house on the property. The result is an airy complex that can easily accommodate the four family members, as well as the husband’s car collection.
Lake Flato’s approach was simple: to balance the existing concrete house with an additional residence that marries this cold material with glass and weathered Corten steel. The new structure is an entertainment space with a much larger living room and kitchen than the original property. The family rooms are in the Anderson House. Lake Flato has left this space largely untouched except for a few minor renovations. A large courtyard unites the two disparate buildings while connecting everything on the property to the very large garage, which is directly attached to the new house.
“This idea of having the cars in the house has always been an important piece of the puzzle from the start,” says founder Ted Flato. “We were intrigued by the very idea of making a pavilion out of it and letting the kids know that daddy changes the candles there and stuff like that.” This is a marked improvement over what came before. When construction began, the owner crammed five cars into a small garage via two elevators; the rest was hidden in an off-site warehouse. The new space can accommodate 10 cars and includes a lounge area with a few TVs and a bar for socializing. On a sunny day, the large door can be opened to better show off your collection.
And it’s worth seeing. He’s amassed a wide range of American muscle cars over the years – some original ones including a Chevrolet Corvette ’65, Dodge Challenger ’71 and Pontiac GTO ’66; other restomods, like a ’67 Mustang Shelby GT500 “Eleanor”, a Foose Design ’69 Chevy Camaro and a ’62 Chevy Impala. Cars weren’t the only hobby that got a major upgrade. The couple also needed more space for their burgeoning wine collection. “We were originally going underground, but because we are in the river valley there is a very high water table and we had some problems trying to figure out waterproofing,” says the owner. “I would be below the flood zone building this room.” They opted for an above-ground cellar, a bit of an oxymoron perhaps, which could hold 6,000 bottles.
As the house is located in the middle of a populated residential area, privacy was important. “This area of El Paso is in the apartments, so there is no benefit to building, because if you go up one floor you will look and see other houses,” says Flato. “If you stay low and then use walls, you can modify your neighbors and create courtyards and outdoor spaces that look like a modern hacienda separated from the street.” The alternative is to invite said neighbors for a drink, for which the house is also well equipped, with outdoor and indoor kitchens, an outdoor living room with a high ceiling and a small pool for lounging. And since there are now two houses on the property, cleaning is never a problem. “We just walk to our other house, where we sleep, and leave the mess for another day without worrying about it,” says the owner.
A few rooms were must-haves from the start, like a gym and spa for the woman, who is a seasoned triathlete. One of the bedrooms in the new house has also been converted into an office for her; it also has its own private outdoor area separate from the main lodge. A craft room for the two girls in the main house is used for both schoolwork and games.
Another key part of the design was that it had to work with the environment rather than against it. “In addition to architectural materials, the desert itself becomes this important building material,” says Evan Morris, a project architect in Lake Flato who worked on the residence. “It’s an important part of the home experience.” Rusty steel that echoes the color of the sand is one example, but the gabion walls – metal cages filled to the brim with stones – that separate aspects of the property add the strongest sense of place. The designers used igneous rocks often found in the desert, such as sandstone, so that they have a more interesting organic texture than smooth, solid concrete. Natural light was another environmental consideration – you get a lot of it in El Paso. Lake Flato designed the house so that it can be lit only by sunlight during the day. Another green decision was to install solar panels on the roof.
The problem with family homes, even one that is actually two, is that there is no guarantee that the family will not overtake it. That’s what happened here: the wine cellar is packed and the brand new garage is at full capacity. There is a backup plan in place, however. The couple bought a nearby property with much more land to resell. Eventually, they hope to convert it into a horse farm for their daughters, who both ride, and add more wine storage. Lake Flato already has sketches.