PaperCity Magazine

July 2013 - Houston

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Page 20 of 36

Hand-built mortar and stone archway leading to the fantastical Animal Farm. A DIFFERENT ANIMAL THE MYTHICAL, MAGICAL TEXAS COMPOUND CALLED ANIMAL FARM The Hobbit-ish freeform Center at Animal Farm, handmade by the Vanwoerdens. F ollow a winding dirt road past a series of Antoni Gaudíinspired concrete-and-stone arches, orb-shaped structures and rib-like iron sculpture, bordered by Texas roses, wild berries and native trees, and a shimmering amoebashaped pool surrounded by thatched chairs and Asian deities, and you have arrived at Animal Farm in Cat Spring, Texas, just an hour from Houston. The organic farm, inspired by owners Gita and Cas Vanwoerden's many travels, references favorite destinations New Guinea, Bali, Nepal and Tibet. The result is an incredible mix of cultures — part Tropics, part Orientalist, part Catalan, with East Texas charm, set against a backdrop promulgating natural living and proximity to nature. The hallmarks of the 18th-century master architect Gaudí — organic stylings, twisted iron sculpture, undulating shapes and pops of colored glass and mosaics — are all here, made more extraordinary by the reclusive surround of native trees and plants. The story of Animal Farm began a little over 20 years ago, when the Vanwoerdens purchased 67 acres in Cat Spring, just south of Bellville. What began as a small garden for the kids turned into a dynamic organic farm that provides produce for some of Houston's and Austin's most progressive restaurants. It also became the seed to launch Urban Harvest's East Side Farmers Market in Houston, and the Vanwoerdens are founders of a continuing education program that promotes environmental stewardship. Gita Vanwoerden, who was born in Israel and grew up in South Africa, along with husband Cas, moved to Houston some 30 years ago and later purchased the Cat Spring property as a weekend getaway to enjoy nature and ride horses with their three children. They began plans to build a treehouse in 1991 with Pete Dickson, who helped design and construct the primary structure. The couple took over Dickson's responsibilities in 1993 and designed and hand-built a three-bedroom, 2,700-square-foot home made almost exclusively of recycled woods and locally sourced hardwoods and pine. This was followed by an indoor/outdoor kitchen and dining room-cum-Learning Center, guest cottage, pool and pool house, a second residence for workers, root cellar and an enlarged barn for washing and packing produce. The Vanwoerdens' residence at Animal Farm is open and spacious; large windows flood the living area with natural light in a conscious effort to connect the homeowners to the outdoors. The interior features unfinished woods, high BY STEVEN HEMPEL. PHOTOGRAPHY JACK THOMPSON. ART DIRECTION MICHELLE AVIÑA . JULY | PAGE 21 | 2013

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