Native Texans James and Gwen Stewart found their way home to Cordillera Ranch after spending years traveling all over the United States. Their Authentic Custom Home is simple, yet elegant, allowing the Stewarts to enjoy an upscale lifestyle without the upkeep that comes along with a larger home. Striking masonry work, tranquil Hill Country views and a back porch that welcomes both relaxation and a good conversation all make for the perfect spot to spend a fruitful retirement.
James and Gwen Stewart love Cordillera Ranch so much, that they have built two homes here! After partnering with Authentic Custom Homes on their first Cordillera Ranch custom home several years ago, they were so impressed with Israel Peña and his team, that there was no doubt who would build their next home when the Stewarts decided to downsize.
“We didn’t even have to think about it,” Gwen says. “There wasn’t even a question about who we would get to design this house. We wanted a smaller space, something that would be less difficult to maintain. Our other house was considerably larger and had a beautiful swimming pool, but it was too much to keep up with and way too much house for just the two of us. When we began seriously considering making a move, we called Israel and he went to work.”
According to James, when the couple originally thought of building from the ground up, they had no idea where to begin. It was the first time in their lives they ever had a custom home built and it seemed like a mammoth undertaking.
Married 28 years, the Stewarts met at the University of Houston while pursuing a second round of education. Both native Texans, James and Gwen have lived all over the United States, often sustaining a bi-coastal relationship so each could pursue a career with Shell. For years, Gwen kept a place in Los Angeles while James resided in Houston. “We made it work. We traveled to see each other and talked on the phone, but we always looked forward to the day when we could build our dream home together in the Texas Hill Country,” said James, who was a project engineer with the company for many years. Gwen managed Shell refineries. “He built ‘em, I ran ‘em,” Gwen laughed.
They are starting to settle into their new home after moving there in April and are once again living the good life at Cordillera Ranch.
When they decided to retire, the Stewarts first set their sights on Kerrville. They passed through the Hill Country in search of somewhere to begin a new chapter in their lives and felt Boerne was a better fit. “When we drove through the gate of Cordillera Ranch, we knew this was the place for us. This area just has more of what we want,” the Stewarts agree. “It is close enough to drive into the city of San Antonio, yet we get the rustic feel of the wide open Texas countryside out here.”
In trying to decide how to choose a homebuilder, James said the couple just began driving around, looking at houses and took note of the builders who demonstrated the design they were seeking. The Stewarts wanted to go with a motif that best reflected the area’s Hill Country charm while still providing a functional home they could enjoy for the duration of their retirement years.
“We interviewed builders and just felt a real connection to Authentic Homes. The deciding factor was that the particular style of house we were interested in just happened to be Israel’s forte. Gwen provided pictures of what we wanted. A few weeks later, we got a rendering from Authentic and they nailed it. They put together what we described with such ease and accuracy, it was amazing. The second time around, same thing.”
Adrianne Peña Carnes, Director of Operations at Authentic Homes, explains why Israel and his team are so effective in creating beautiful homes. “We can handle the entire process from start to finish. We are a full-service custom home builder who provides everything from decorating services to financing. We want to make the process as convenient for our clients as possible. Israel has been designing homes for more than 30 years, which is what distinguishes him from other builders.” He’s a Certified Green Professional through the National Association of Homebuilders in Washington, D.C. and Authentic has been a Preferred Builder in Cordillera Ranch for more than 10 years. Israel’s reputation speaks for itself and it is important to us to deliver what our clients want and need in their new home.”
Admittedly, the Stewarts entered their first home building process with apprehension. They visited the home site almost daily, feeling as if they had to monitor progress, but they quickly realized how responsive Peña was. “We came to rely on his team’s ability to manage the work and soon learned to trust the process. When we built this house, we already knew in the end we were going to have a good finished product and didn’t feel the need to check up on them. It was a breeze.”
Gwen says two home features were especially important to her when she and James built their second home in Cordillera Ranch. “I wanted a one-story with a nice great room at the center of the home.” James wanted a place where he could tinker with a hobby of his –reloading shotgun shells. He is a skilled sporting clay marksman. “It’s like golf with a shotgun. I love it,” he says.
The Stewarts chose a simple design for their new home –a floor plan that placed all the rooms of the house in a straight line with the master bedroom on one end and the den and guest bedrooms on the other. Upon entering the driveway, the couple’s 3,600 sq. ft. home looks like quite the spread. “It not only looks like more house than it is, it lives a lot bigger too,” says James.
This three bedroom, three-and-a-half bath Texas Hill Country home has all the luxury amenities the Stewarts have come to expect from Authentic, while staying aligned with the Stewarts’ vision for a smaller home that is easier to maintain.
The master bedroom is modestly decorated with colorful artwork and simple, but elegant décor. The enormous master bath at the far end of the bedroom is to die for. Complete with spa-style tub and a huge shower area, hand-picked mosaic tiles accent the tiled room, complete with built-in with teak dressers and vanities. “I wanted the master bath to be just a little bit fancy. I really like our walk-in shower. It has no door, but it feels so private when you are in there,” Gwen said.
Alderwood custom bookcases are built into the walls of the several rooms in the house –the dining room, great room and den, which compliment the overall Hill Country feel of the house. “Storage space was very important to me when building this house. I am happy to say I have more storage than I know what to do with. I have so many bare cabinets –I love it! I also love the way this wood looks in this house, it is just such a great accent that sort of brings everything together.”
Gwen is especially proud of the wall unit on the far right wall of her great room, which hides the big-screen television. The bookcase, in combination with the reclaimed wooden beams that line the vaulted ceiling, give Gwen’s great room the open and airy feel she was looking for. A gorgeous floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace stands prominently in the center of the room with a massive stone wall just across from it, separating the great room from the formal dining area. Tall, commanding wood framed windows also accent the great room, bringing in the perfect glow of natural light. An informal dining area is centered in the open space that connects the great room to the kitchen, which is complete with striking stone masonry, stylish cabinets and an island.
Just off the kitchen is the Stewarts’ den, which is finished with a lighter wood to bring a Southwestern energy to the room. “This is where we come and lounge,” Gwen says. “We watch TV in here and especially like this room for our guests. They can close the door to the den and we can’t even hear them on the other end of the house. We also made our guest rooms smaller and without televisions. We thought this would encourage family and friends to stay here in the common area and hang out with us, rather than retreat to their rooms when they come to visit.”
Off the den is a massive laundry room, one Gwen says she specially designed to double as a hobby room. “When James is out in his shop, I spend time here putting together floral arrangements, a pastime I enjoy.” In mentioning the shop, a small space in the back that houses James’ shotgun shell reloading equipment, Gwen pointed out a special sink built under the awning that connects the house and garage.
“I wanted James to be able to wash his hands before he comes in the house and he didn’t want it taking up his counter space. This is just perfect here and it goes to show how forward thinking Israel is. He has always been able to find a way to create what we need in a way that is appealing and practical.”
One of the Stewarts’ favorite features of the house is the back porch, complete with a wood-burning fireplace and water feature that creates the relaxing sound of a babbling brook. “We come out here every morning to enjoy our coffee together and visit. I love that we have next-door neighbors, but we don’t know they are there. Israel designed this just right so it feels like we are out here alone,” said Gwen.
“One of the things I want to mention is that there was only one tree that had to be removed to build our house. That says a lot about Authentic,” James said. “I can not say enough about how exceptional the entire design process was with Israel and his people. We felt we were listened to every step of the way and our requests were carried out with the utmost of efficiency and professionalism. Their expertise translated the information we gave them into a very great design. We love our house.”
The Stewarts plan to enjoy every moment of their retirement together and look toward the future with excitement. “We are so fortunate to be afforded the opportunity to live here in Cordillera Ranch. Truly, we couldn’t be happier.”