PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Houston March 2022

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A rchitect William "Bill" Curtis fell in love with the Central Texas c o u n t r y s i d e about the same time he fell in love with his wife, Jane, almost 28 years ago. They recently celebrated their 26th wedding anniversary, so the exact details might be a little hazy, but he remembers it fondly. "We were on the cusp of getting engaged and driving around the Round Top area talking about maybe getting a place out here," he says. The morning had been so romantic with talk of building a getaway house in the country that when they stopped for lunch at Royers Cafe, Jane was convinced he was going to pop the question. He didn't — and, to Jane's amusement, didn't for almost two more months. "It remained a joke between us," he says, laughing. Eventually they did marry and restart the hunt for property in Austin and Fayette Counties, near the bucolic towns of Round Top, Shelby, Winedale, and Fayetteville — on which to build a small house. By then, a second child was on the way, and his architecture practice was booming; he and architect Russell Windham had launched their firm, Curtis & Windham Architects, in Houston in 1991, which has since won numerous John Staub awards from the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, Texas Chapter. "We were so busy, I just didn't have the bandwidth to build a house of our own at that point," he says. Instead, he and Jane decided to find an existing house they could fix up. "We spent about six months looking at a lot of toads and going down a lot of rabbit holes," he says. "They either required too much work, or the fields weren't pretty, or there were no trees, or water, or whatever." The perfect place didn't seem to exist — until he got an urgent call one wintry January day from his realtor, Cathy Cole, insisting they meet her at a three-bedroom house located on a swath of land halfway between Round Top and Industry. The cold and foggy drive got even foggier as they reached the house, and it was impossible to tell what anything looked like, even from the front porch. "We opened the door, and it was just lovely inside," he remembers. "Jane and I looked at each other — we hadn't even really seen it yet — and we said, 'This is probably the one we need to buy.'" And they did. Built in 1890, the house had originally served as a stagecoach stop. "The story was that one of the little rooms in the front was called a Stranger's Room, where a bed would be so it could be accessed from the front porch if someone came in on the stagecoach late at night," he says. In front of the house, you can still see a circular depression in the ground, which is thought to have been made by horses and carts turning around after dropping off cargo and passengers. "We don't know whether that's actually true or not, but it it's a nice tale to think about," he says. The architecture was originally designed in the era's dogtrot style, with an open central hallway running through the middle, and over the years, previous owners made careful additions to the house. "Inside, the architectural language of the house is simple: It's just boards on the wall and exposed joists on the ceiling," Curtis says. Retired Houston designer Mollie Pettigrew helped the Curtises with their Houston house CHARM OF A COUNTRY RETREAT RUSTIC BY REBECCA SHERMAN. PHOTOGRAPHY PÄR BENGTSSON. ART DIRECTION MICHELLE AVIÑA. BILL AND JANE CURTIS' MELLOW 1890 FARMHOUSE IN AUSTIN COUNTY — ONCE A STAGECOACH STOP — IS THE FAMILY'S CHERISHED RETREAT AND WHERE BILL PAINTS MANY OF HIS PASTORAL WATERCOLORS. (Continued) The 91

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