An Estate Home that Exemplifies Architecturally Significant
Inspiring Cultural Consciousness
While generic homes tire me, significant homes inspire me. I have found one home that is truly profound – the Crespi / Hicks estate. When I visited this estate home on its winding approach and then upon entering the home, I felt an adrenaline surge as well as, simultaneously, a feeling of calm, much the same sensation as an athlete experiences in the “zone.” I see how it inspires others, too, in much the same way. I have watched men stand up straighter in the presence of such powerful architecture and women become softer, even lovelier, in the presence of perfect proportions and subtle refinement.
Crespi Hicks Estate Personifies Essential Characteristics of an Estate Home
When searching for the finest estate home, I have found there are essential characteristics of an estate home. For instance, there must be vast land cared for in an ecologically friendly way and the home needs to be close enough to a vibrant city center so as to enable a family to live in the home as a primary residence.
In addition, an estate home must be awe-inspiring and still have the gentle warmth and intimacy desired by a family. It should offer the finest environment and opportunities to explore all aspects of life, entertaining, working, playing, studying, enjoying family or retreating within oneself to reflect.
Also essential, a significant estate home must have a rich architectural pedigree: the genius of the original architect in creating perfect proportions; the brilliance of a renovation architect in furthering the completion of the home; the elegance of the era in which the home was built (an era when royalty, aristocrats, industrialists, titans and United States presidents would visit or stay for a season); the history – i.e., the stories the home has to tell; and, most important, the vision of the estate home owner, the architectural patron. It is this patron of the arts who has the eye, passion and respect for creating an estate home that transcends time – a home that is both aesthetic perfection as well as a truly livable home. A magnificent estate home is only possible when the owner successfully draws from the past and propels the original design forward in a subtle and graceful way into the 21st century.
Architecturally Significant Homes Define the Dialogue of Good Design
Architecturally significant homes, both modern and eclectic, add to the dialogue of good design. The proportions of the Crespi / Hicks estate are so pure that accomplished architects upon seeing the home for the first time think the ceilings are 11 feet or 12 feet high rather than the actual 14 foot ceiling heights of this home.
Even Modernists Love the Best Eclectic Design
Frank Welch, FAIA, one of the most accomplished Texas modern architects, said after seeing the home he said that it “has the grace and dignity of a beautiful lady.” His desire to return and spend more time in the home was to absorb the proportions, details and accomplishment of the home. The design of the Crespi / Hicks estate is eclectic but uncluttered. While mansions, castles and large estate homes are often associated with a labyrinth of rooms stacked together, the square footage of the Crespi / Hicks estate is separated by gardens.
Modern Dallas architect James Pratt, FAIA, former AIA chapter president, who created Dallas Visions and has a Master of Architecture from Harvard, stated, “this is the most significant home in Dallas and is on a magnificent site.”
Separate Structures Allow Each Room to Have More Sunlight
The architectural massing, materials and design create a great presence. A two-story guest house and three-story pool house complement the four-story main house. Separating the total square footage of the estate home into three separate structures allows each structure to have windows on two or three sides of virtually every room. Outdoor living spaces, verandas, balconies, porches and terraces become something other than decoration, they are meaningful spaces that extend the home and what it offers.
Why is the Crespi – Hicks Estate the Finest and Most Significant Estate Home?
“One would have to go to 17th century Belgium or 18th century France to find comparable craftsmanship.” - Bill Booziotis, FAIA, who earned a Master of Architecture from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is a former Dallas Chapter AIA president, and has designed many modern galleries and museums explains the significance of the Crespi / Hicks estate home.
This estate home is surrounded by manicured lawns and cultivated gardens, with a backdrop of rugged terrain, meadows and forest, unencumbered by views of other homes. There is the idyllic feeling of the country with its vegetable garden that provides fresh produce for the kitchen and cultivated gardens that provide fresh cuttings for the home, yet it is only six miles and a few minutes away from the heart of an economically vibrant city so as to enable a family to live in the home as a primary residence.
Dr. Richard Brettell, former director of the Dallas Museum of Art who holds three degrees from Yale University including a Master of Arts in architecture and a Ph.D. in art history, has visited the great estate homes in the United States and abroad, and stated with confidence, ”This is the most important home of its era built anywhere in the country.”
Ecologically Friendly Conservation of Land Becomes an Emphasis for the 21st Century Estate Property
Wells, ponds, rain basins and drip irrigation sustain the lawns, trees, natural and cultivated gardens, and vegetable gardens.
An Estate Property Provides a Green Oasis in the Middle of a Large City
Summer breezes across streams, creeks, ponds and through groves of trees, dense forest and over natural meadows filter the hot air of August afternoons. The estate’s 25 acres dissipate the summer temperatures and heat retained by the concrete and rooftops of a large city and provide a cooling relief to the surrounding neighborhoods.
The Strongest Architectural Pedigree
The architectural provenance – the 20th century architect Maurice Fatio who established the design and the 21st century architect Peter Marino who furthered the design — make up the incredible architectural pedigree of this home.
Architect Maurice Fatio
At the pinnacle of his career Maurice Fatio designed the Crespi estate, the last estate home he completed before his death at age 45. His clients were Pio Crespi, the Italian Count sent to America by his wealthy family who dominated the cotton business in Italy, and his American wife Florence Crespi. Maurice Fatio was voted in the 1920s the Most Popular Architect in New York for the Long Island and other estate homes he designed, including those for the Vanderbilts, the Duchess of Marlborough, the Stotesburys, Edward F.Hutton, Otto Kahn and many other prominent families. In Palm Beach he followed Addison Mizner as society’s architect of choice for his more restrained and refined style. Even today Maurice Fatio is still revered in Palm Beach for his perfect proportions and elegant homes.
Peter Marino – Designer and Architect
Many consider Peter Marino the finest designer and architect of the 21st century. Peter Marino, like Maurice Fatio, has designed for ambassadors, philanthropists and influential titans of business. He is considered the darling of Architectural Digest, which has featured many of his projects, including apartments in New York, fabulous estate homes in California and renovations including the Owsley/Marcus estate.
International and regional artisans were commissioned in 1939 to carve the wood and stone, to paint, glaze and varnish the finishes, and again during the 21st century renovation. The Crespi / Hicks estate exemplifies restoration, but so unconsciously that the home could be from any period. Here is a home that resonates as architecturally significant in abundant ways.
European Design and Materials from the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th Century
One of the reasons this estate home is timeless is because it draws from 17th, 18th , 19th and 20th century design and materials. One sees flourishes of the 1930s from the series of light fixtures in the main hall and from the Art Deco bar that was preserved and anchors the home to the period in which it was originally built. One also finds elements subtly blended into the home that originated in the royal houses and estates of Europe.
The library is finished with the 19th century Italian carved walnut and burl from the library of a private Palazzo in Bologna, Italy. The white carved lion’s head mantelpiece from 1825 also came from Italy. The important painted and giltwood chimneypiece in the dining room is from the 18th century.
The kitchen incorporates 10th century Dutch Delft manganese tiles with 18th century picture tile. The adjacent family breakfast room has c. 1820 French oak and parcel ebonized parquet floor with star motif. Softly ascending the marble stairs, one sees a 19th century gilt bronze hexagonal lantern and in the master bedroom there is an 18th century French royal marble mantelpiece, and installed into the walls are four paintings by Louis Lagrenee,“The Elder”, Paris 1725-1805, and a 19th century French Brocatelle marble mantelpiece in the gentleman’s dressing room.
Awe-Inspiring Architecture That Creates a Warm and Comfortable Home
In this home, one experiences an awe-inspiring majesty along with a gentle warmth and intimacy. The formal rooms have accommodated throngs of guests and received United States Presidents and international dignitaries. They are equally inviting for a family member seeking moments of quiet retreat. The formal study functions as a vital part of a business empire and still retains an aesthetic allure for the family or guests.
The bedrooms on the third floor, with dormer windows and pitched ceilings that follow the roof line, offer the simple, quiet charm of a New England cottage.
A Harmonious Hierarchy of Spaces
So many homes, no matter how small, try to make every space grand. Here, there is an architectural hierarchy. A sweeping staircase with a gentle rise of wide marble steps gently shaped by time is a joy to ascend. Narrow informal stairs leading to an intimate landing offer a delightful shortcut. A long winding drive leads to a formal motor court in front of terraced stops and an elegant front door. One approach leads to an informal motor court and garage bays enjoyed by family members and still another to inconspicuous parking for workers and staff.
The Stories An Estate Home Can Tell
An estate home without history is a home without character. What better room to restore and allow to tell a story than the Art Deco bar of this estate home. One can just imagine the number of influential people from around the world who have had a drink in this bar or how this expressive space fueled conga lines dancing through the home in the 1940s and 1950s. Important guests continue to cram into this space just to feel a sense of historic greatness or the enchantment of an earlier era.
An Estate Home is the Perfect Place to Have Fun
The recreational spaces, outdoor activities, lawns for frolicking, meditative gardens and hidden paths for walks in silence all come to mind when one thinks of an estate property. All of these opportunities are discovered as one explores the property.
From a path through the formal garden a family member or guest is able to reach the pool house, an environment that is luxurious, elegant and casual. The pool house veranda is a place to watch athletic pursuits around the country club size pool, badminton on the lawn, horseshoes and volleyball. A family tennis court and 1920s secondary guest house are hidden another part of the property. Sports continue inside the game room with table tennis, billiards, shuffle board, darts, a large screen television and the sophisticated comfort of a timeless lodge by the lake. A catering kitchen supplements the outdoor kitchen.
The theater has a floor to itself, with technology so one may watch vintage film reel movies or recent film clips from sporting events.
The Formal Guest House of an Estate Home
A guest house and pool house are sited to make the architectural massing far more grand than the same amount of square footage. The formal guest house is graciously placed on the property for overnight guests who have a path to the kitchen of the main house for breakfast in the morning. It is as elegant as the main house while providing even greater intimacy with the garden.
A kitchen and conference room accommodates business guests and meetings.
Exploring the Estate Property
Extended paths allow one to discover rose gardens, vegetable gardens, greenhouses, tree houses or even the 1920s home and tennis court that serves as a family tennis center and secondary guest house for the extended stay of guests.
The Transcendent Characteristics of a Significant Estate Home
The transcendent characteristic of a significant estate home is the enlightened vision of the home owner, who not only lives in the home, but serves as its architectural patron. It is this architectural patron who orchestrates the integrated design of the home and the property, partly through exquisite personal taste, but also by focusing on the attributes of the original architecture and the land on which the home sits. It is this singular vision and empathy that draws from the original architect and materials and inspires the renovation architect. An estate home that completely captures one’s imagination blends authentic materials and advanced technology into the simplicity and elegance of the original estate home.
The Crespi Hicks Estate Captures All the Characteristics of an Estate Home
The Finest Estate Home in America
The Crespi / Hicks estate clearly has all the aesthetic, physical and pragmatic components of the finest estate home, only five minutes from downtown. A winding private drive descends to the home beautifully placed in front of a creek flowing across the 25-acre estate property. It is majestic, dignified and graceful. The home is also warm and fun. The design exudes elegance and the architecture, a subtle power. The architectural massing of the main house, guest house and pool house convey a home that is grand yet serves primarily as a place for a family to live. The sensibility for the past is blended skillfully with the technology and resources of the present, presenting visual continuity. The estate owners honored the original family, architecture and history of the home with an inspired approach – one that creates the impression that the home has not been renovated or expanded, but truly and magnificently completed.
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