Text: Tiffany Adams
Photos: Julie Soefer
When golfer Ben Crenshaw and his wife, Julie, were ready to build a new home in the Texas Hill Country, they found inspiration in a West Coast destination: Hollywood. More specifically, they were taken with the style of Paul R. Williams. Known during the mid-twentieth century as the “architect to the stars,” Williams melded classic design with popular features of the period.
The couple turned to Ryan Street of Ryan Street Architects and interior designer Nancy Bulhon of Bulhon Design Associates, both of whom they had worked with previously, to help achieve a balance between Williams’ Hollywood Regency style, their own personal tastes, and current aesthetics. “The Crenshaws really fell in love with Williams’ style,” Street says. “He [Williams] had a Hollywood version of a Colonial house with an Art Nouveau style, and I thought, ‘I can relate to that; that’s what we do— take a style and modernize it.’ I really tapped into that for this project.” Street notes this mix is also reflective of the Crenshaws as a couple with Julie having grown up in California and Crenshaw being a native Austinite.
Drawing from this well of inspiration, the architect leaned into a traditional floor plan featuring a series of rooms, each with its own personality, rather than the all-encompassing open floor plan that many opt for today. However, to make the design feel current, Street introduced modern elements, including steel doors, large, cased openings, and terraces, all of which are tied together with a soft, understated color palette. “Essentially, this design is about editing out the extraneous,” he says. “For example, the front porch is done in a Classical style, but rather than using three layers of molding, it’s simplified with one. We wanted to dial it down and really celebrate those features. It’s not fussy; it’s not your grandmother’s classic.”
Aside from the Hollywood Regency influence, the Crenshaws had one other directive when drawing up plans: a round kitchen. “Julie had a friend who has a round kitchen, and she loved this idea,” Street says. Access to the living, dining, and morning rooms all radiate from the space’s grounding central island. Much like the exterior, the kitchen has a limited palette, allowing the focus to be on the shape and form of the space as well as standout features, such as the La Cornue range and the view beyond the expanse of windows over the sink.
When it came to the furnishings, Bulhon followed the same philosophy, mixing classic with contemporary. “We used many of their own antiques as the basis in the rooms but weaved these in with modern upholstery and, of course, their great collections, paintings, and memorabilia from Crenshaw’s golfing career,” the designer says. “I interpret people’s styles and try to give them that look while using their personal collections and bringing their individuality to the project.” Case in point, in the dining room, Bulhon paired a custom de Gournay wallpaper with the couple’s existing Art Deco dining furniture to speak back to the architecture. In the bar area, she designed a geometric shelving unit that conveys this same balance of timeless and current while also being a functional storage space.
Aside from the aesthetics, both Bulhon and Street prioritized experiences that were important to the Crenshaws. At the front of the home in Crenshaw’s office, special shelving was constructed to house memorabilia from his 19 PGA Tour wins. “His study is a celebration of his life and his career—and historically this is a place where he spends a lot of time—so it was important to get that right,” Street says of the construct. Similarly, the round bay window in the morning room is the result of a conversation between the architect and client. “Ben could picture himself there early in the day looking out at the water,” Street recalls of vision prompting the design.
“It’s always important to us that we listen to the client. It is their home and a reflection of their personality,” Street says. “Our job is to realize their vision—and ultimately help them realize their dream. This house is a really good example of that. It was a collaborative effort from the start.”