Channeling Your Inner Architect Gets Connoisseur’s Attention
By Jawahar Malhotra
HOUSTON: Most of us remember the deluge on the 2016 Tax Day weekend when rains fell for 19 hours and dumped 5 to 12 inches of rain, depending on which part of town you lived in. Many areas suffered massive amounts of street flooding and whole areas of Richmond-Rosenberg and Wharton were inundated by the Brazos River that crested. Area bayous also overran their banks as they couldn’t keep up with the drainage from surrounding areas.
Though he lives nowhere near a bayou or a drainage channel, Atul Vir was shocked when he got a frantic call from his wife Aarti that their house on the westside north of I-10 was being flooded out. “She told me that there was 18 inches of water inside the entire house,” recalled Vir, who at that time was on a business trip to China. He immediately hurried back to discover that the damage was to most of the homes on the cul-de-sac he lives on. The area had almost 6 inches of water within an hour and the drains were backed up with no place for the water to go.
Vir’s family moved in with his mother-in-law who lives a few blocks away and he set to work to repair the home. But rather than rebuilt it as it was, he decided to take the opportunity to make major changes to the design and add elements that he had only just dreamed about before.
At the meeting of the first Connoisseurs Club of the year, in keeping with the club’s creed of sharing knowledge and experiences, Vir took the opportunity to give a tour of his finished house and expand on the inspiration behind it.
“I have had a long time fascination with the early 20th century architect Frank Lloyd Wright and his Usonian House designs,” said Vir as he went through a slide presentation on Wright’s favorite design features and showed how aspects of his own redesigned home incorporated these elements. This reporter even spoke about his own admiration for Wright and described his trips to see Wright’s iconic Fallingwater home in Mill Run, Pennsylvania built for the Kaufmann family in 1937 and earlier visits to Wright’s studio in Oak Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.
Vir took over 18 months and a general contractor, who was willing to work on his designs, to rebuild his home, adding not only more square footage but also a second floor. He even built his own wooden bannisters, curved stairway, balcony, Tudor style second floor, a high curved vaunted ceiling, a flat roof as an outdoor patio and even some wooden furniture. And in a nod to the outdoorsman in him, he placed a second-floor walkway through a giant oak tree in the backyard to connect his office which sits on top of the garage.
“I wanted to make sure that I was in harmony with nature,” said Vir. To do so, he reused all the limestone and rock to build a 20-foot tall cascading water wall and pond, complete with indoor plants and had several stained glass windows and light fixtures built in China and shipped back just for the new house. The results were truly channeling the inner Frank Lloyd Wright and fascinating to see.