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Architecture: Think big. Build small

By Debbie AndersonApril 23, 2019April 25th, 2019No Comments

By Meda Kessler
Photos by Brian McWeeney

Architect Brandon Allen
Interior design Anissa Allen Allen Architecture,
Builder Matt Awbrey, Matt Awbrey Construction,

It was an architect-client relationship that was meant to be.

When Brandon and Anissa Allen ­— he an architect, she an interior designer — put their Ryan Place home up for sale, it immediately caught the eye of Emily and Christopher Smith. The young couple was looking for a small but stylish home, and the Allens’ remodeled 1948 house fit the bill.

A featured project on the 2013 AIA Fort Worth Homes Tour, the house featured a clean and modern interior with a period exterior characteristic of the neighborhood. The Smiths were outbid, but a friendship began.

Cut to last year when things came together for the Smiths. The couple found a lot in Ryan Place that they liked, and the Allens created a clever infill design for a home just right for the space.

Budget-minded but wanting something modern with clean lines, the homeowners got everything they wanted thanks to the Allens’ vision and practical experience with small spaces.

The result is a 1,850-square-foot home with three bedrooms, 2½ baths, a two-car garage and loads of style, and it was built in six months.

“The established street is a mix of older homes, some of which have been remodeled. We knew the Smiths’ house was going to be the only two-story on the block and, in order to respect the context of the neighborhood, we took special measures to minimize scale,” says Brandon.

He came up with what he calls a “budget box design” using simple materials for most of the house and splurging on important details such as windows whenever possible. Smooth cement-board siding, durable and rot-resistant, eliminates the need for constant scraping and painting that comes with wood. The classic gabled house is punctuated by a trio of windows, including one that wraps around a corner.

An interesting entryway is the result of a “notch” cut into a corner, which creates a small covered porch. The cement-board siding and plywood for the entry ceiling extend into the small foyer, creating a seamless visual from exterior to interior.

Inside, waxed concrete floors on the first floor provide a neutral canvas for the couple’s simple but stylish furnishings. The open kitchen features a large window centered over the sink, and white subway tile used vertically adds visual impact. Custom cabinets and luxe-looking hardware pair well with Ikea’s butcher block topping the kitchen island. Near the back door, Brandon carved out a small mudroom plus a stylish powder room with dramatic black tile.

Climb the stairs to the second floor — follow the light provided by windows in the stairwell — and pause on the spacious landing that the Smiths use as a reading area. The guest bedrooms are in the front of the house, along with a laundry room and a guest bath. The master suite is in the back, where lounging in bed allows one to stare out the window at the sky and surrounding trees. A row of beams, painted the same color as the walls, stretches across the bedroom ceiling and helps give the room a sense of scale. A skylight brightens the master bath, which holds a spacious walk-in closet.

In fact, it’s the light that draws you in no matter where you are in the home.


Details Cost-efficient engineered hardwoods on the second floor look like the real thing. An Ikea butcher block countertop on the custom-built island is another budget-saving solution that looks great. Plywood, rather than cedar, for ceilings in the entryway and foyer provide a welcoming warmth in an attractive and creative use of lower-priced materials.

Design Windows judiciously placed throughout the house visually expand spaces such as the stairwell and powder bath. A foyer creates an inviting entryway in a small home. The covered patio on the side of the house features a working gas fireplace; the chimney adds an architectural element to the back of the home.