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The 7 Most Fire Modern To Rustic Houses You’ll See In Marfa, Texas

ARCHITECTURE  & INTERIOR DESIGN

The 7 Most Fire Houses In Marfa, Texas

When Donald Judd began his Marfa project in the early 1970s, he would never have predicted the near-mythic status it would end up achieving. The small town of 2,000 residents is 20 miles from the next town and nearly three hours from the nearest major airport, yet it features a contemporary art museum, the Chinati Foundation, and the highly instagrammable Prada Marfa, and attracts artists, celebrities, and urbanites looking for a simpler life—or the latest music festival—all year-round. Besides the austerely beautiful high-desert landscape, this creative enclave is also well known for is its minimalist interiors, architecture, and furniture. Last month, the Monacelli Press published Marfa Modern: Artistic Interiors of the West Texas High Desert, Helen Thompson’s look at 21 homes that illustrate the former water-stops sky, light, and unique sense of isolation. Here, a preview of seven of the homes featured inside.

The Coolest Pool

Trendsetting Austin hotelier Liz Lambert renovated Marfa’s 1950s-era Thunderbird Hotel into a boutique hotel, transformed a large plot of land into El Cosmico, a “nomadic hotel and campground”, and spiffed up an adobe bunkhouse that used to belong to her uncle for herself in the meantime. A water tank is a short jeep ride from the house—it’s her favorite spot for a quick swim and a breathtaking desert view.
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“Trendsetting Austin hotelier Liz Lambert renovated Marfa’s 1950s-era Thunderbird Hotel into a boutique hotel.”

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Pop Art in the Desert

Houston-based architectural designer Barbara Hill, a red-haired “Miss Texas, 1956”, prefers to remove decorative and architectural elements rather than add them. She spent a year and a half transforming this adobe building, which had been a private dance hall, grocery, and candy store in turn.
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The house is located downtown and passersby, curious to see what’s beyond the wall, often peer over the top for a look. Their curiosity is rewarded by a view of a fire pit that anchors the front yard, which was created by Houston and Marfa-based metal artist George Sacaris. Marfa resident and landscape architect Jim Martinez designed the garden.
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Hill used birth plywood on both the ceiling and the floor of her home, for visual continuity. White plaster walls add luminous glamour to the rough-and-ready décor. Deep-set windows throughout soften Marfa’s glaring midday light and suggest that the hefty structure is here to stay.
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In another 864-square-foot adobe house in Marfa, Hill removed acoustical-tile ceiling in the two front rooms to reveal three additional feet above. Hill installed pink neon light behind the seven-foot-tall Warhol that presides over the dining table and its black and white Bertoia chairs. The bar cart in the kitchen is from Kuhl-Linscomb in Houston.
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“Marfa, Texas Has Really Come Into Its Own As A Central Hub For A Flourishing Creative Art Scene.” – Asher Hardt

Earthy Meets Modern

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King and Lisa Grossman purchased this century-old adobe building from Barbara Hill; she used it as a weekend retreat but it was once a lawyer’s office and later, a beauty parlor. Two delicate-looking steel rods stretch across both edges of the room’s width—these necessary structural elements are much stronger than they look and give the adobe lateral support. The hay bale coffee table is by The Art Guys, and a pair of Charles and Ray Eames sofas flank the table.
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A long French work table, designed by Barbara Hill, now makes an inviting dining table. Blackened steel cabinets are a dramatic counterpoint to the luminous white plaster walls throughout.

2.0 Sliding Doors

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“The chairs at the dining table were made as part of a Works Progress Administration project in the 1930s,” says Helen. “The green hand-built chair belonged to Martinez’s great-grandmother.”

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The 80-degree angle floor plan of the home is a nod to Jim Martinez’s grandmother whose New Mexico home had the same east-facing floor plan.

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“The chairs at the dining table were made as part of a Works Progress Administration project in the 1930s,” says Helen. “The green hand-built chair belonged to Martinez’s great-grandmother.

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Color That Pops

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When Houston interior designer Marlys Tokerud made the decision to purchase a 1904 adobe house in 1999, she planned to tear down the 550-square-foot pink stucco frame house also on the lot. But Tokerud soon realized she could renovate the little house to live in while she remodeled the main house and soon found oak flooring and a perfectly preserved longleaf pine ceiling that had been the underside of the original roof. A horse trough serves as a tub in the master bath, where vintage blue bottles line a concrete shelf lit by a slit window in the plaster walls.
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In the main house, elements such as the 10-foot-high ceilings, 14-inch walls, and painted wood doors were kept intact. Longleaf pine floors were used elsewhere in the house. Not long after Tokerud and her partner, Rick Houser, finished renovating, however, another fire broke out in the kitchen. The repairs offered an opportunity for upgrades, such as plaster walls, discreetly recessed track lighting, and multiple coats of a glossy paint on the ceiling. Houser built a kitchen island out of half a bowling lane imported from El Paso and brought in industrial lighting form his Houston woodworking shop. In the living room, a Christian Liaigre chaise serves as an antidote to the circa 1904 house’s rustic underpinnings. Metal artist George Sacaris built the base for the pine dining table, which was formerly a Mexican door.

Gallery Living

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On the site of a former Volkswagen repair shop known as George’s Garage, Vilis Inde, a lawyer turned art collector and gallery owner, and his partner, Tom Jacobs, decided to build a gallery and residence. Pard Morrison’s fired-pigment-on-aluminum sculpture Schneewittchen, 2013, stands tall in a courtyard between the gallery side of the building and the residence. An orange chair by Donald Judd is just visible beyond, in the gallery. A grid pattern inlaid in the interior courtyard defines the space.
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This is a house built for living, but also for art. The all-white residence and gallery are designed to help it recede in an unobtrusive way—both from the perspective of the viewer in the street as well as from a visitor stepping inside. Box shapes play a dominant role in the gallery’s design, and squares appear as a recurring motif throughout the bedroom, as with the bookshelves and the chair.

Texture Play

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On a lot next to a gas station, on a highway a few blocks West of downtown, Jamey Garza, of Garza Marfa, built a 1200-square-foot cinder-block house covered in gray stucco for a Los Angeles-based couple looking to make a design connection in Marfa. Initially, the couple had wanted a roadhouse but decided on a private getaway after logistics and reality set in. Concrete floors, which were part of the original plan remained and exposed steel trusses and cypress ceilings cover the main room, which includes living, dining, sleeping, and cooking spaces. The casement windows wrap three sides of the room and were painted in a rich orange hue of auto body lacquer. White hard-plaster walls provide a luminous contrast to the velvety gray stucco on the facade. A screened porch on the Westside offers both protection from the sun and a destination for perfect breeze-catching.
This home was painstakingly remodeled over the course of eight years by Austin-based chef Terry Nowell. He added a bathroom and upstairs sleeping loft and modernized the kitchen. Nowell painted the portrait that hangs above the sofa and the red ladder he built that leads to a sleeping loft.
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A dried agave plant in a corner of the downstairs bedroom emphasizes the ceiling height (which Nowell raised from seven to ten feet). A “truth window” above the pairs of windows exposes the original adobe brick. Both inside and out, the adobe blocks are covered in cement. Nowell made the white pine bed, woodblock table, the desk, and the floor lamp. He also built the wood side table.
Witten by: LOUISE HART
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