Project Updates

March 19, 2018

Memorial Residence Takes Shape

Custom details like architectural millwork add the wow factor to high end residences. As or Architectural Digest says it, “ennobling refinements to the architectural details take things up a considerable stylistic notch.”

Mouldings, coffered ceilings, and distinctive fireplace mantels amplify the elegance of a high end residence, giving it distinctive character.

We got a special thrill last week, when we received photos of the nearly finished stone pieces, destined for the Memorial Residence (seen in progress, below.)

Fusch Architects of Dallas, who designed the Memorial residence describe their firm, “Our niche in the market has been a focus on classical design and authentic period detailing.”

Small wonder that architect Robbie Fusch of Fusch Architects has designed some of the most spectacular estate homes in Texas, focusing on classical architecture styles found in Europe.

Fusch’s work, dubbed “comfortable glamour,” has been featured in books and publications like Luxe, Veranda and Tuscan Style magazine.

Fusch reveals the source of his and his clients’ design inspiration in a 2017 interview in Luxe Magazine: “Relying on my travels for inspiration is always something I find to be valuable within the design process, but we have many clients who request to emulate architecture they have seen personally through their own travels.”

Wonder where the inspiration for these beautiful details came from?

But you don’t have to travel to Europe to enjoy a taste of Fusch’s work – feast your eyes on one of our previous collaborations, the Preston Hollow Residence, in Dallas. This architecturally significant home features an open air entertainment pavilion and carriage house.

In the News

March 12, 2018

Texas Estate in Forbes

If the picture below looks familiar, that’s because you’ve seen this Texas beauty in the news more than a few times. Known as the Crespi Estate, this gorgeous Dallas home was featured in a Forbes video (click the image below to get a virtual tour.)

Once featured in Time Magazine as America’s Most Expensive Home, Sebastian had the opportunity to partner with famed New York architect Peter Marino on the renovations of the Crespi Hicks estate. (He’s known as the go-to architect for the most exclusive fashion brands. Christian Dior, Bulgari, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Hublot, Zegna – Marino’s firm has designed boutiques for all of them.)

His residential architectural clients reportedly include billionaires as well as some of the most recognizable celebrities in the world, but Marino is the model of discretion and won’t discuss his private clients.

Sebastian Construction Group, together with Marino and London-based landscape architect, Arabella Lennox-Boyd, completed a 33-month renovation and expansion project, creating what Private Air Luxury Homes called ‘The Finest Estate Home in America.’

Commissioned in 1938 by Italian Count Pio Crespi, the estate was later purchased and renovated by Dallas businessman and sports enthusiast, Tom Hicks. The property is a rare find in the Dallas area – a 25 acre estate just minutes from downtown. It includes a 10 bedroom main house, guest house and pool house.

In 2016, Mr. and Mrs. Hicks sold this one-of-a-kind property to Texas banker and investor Andy Beal, who recently sold it.

Recent Stories

March 5, 2018

What High End Builders Do (and Don’t) Put in Their Homes

In a Wall Street Journal article, What Luxury Home Builders Consider Worth the Splurge, the subheadline reads, “In their own homes, construction-company bosses will spend money on the best materials and perks like seven ovens and a dog-grooming room. But some eschew complex home-automation systems.”

The Journal article goes on to say “What builders consider worthy of including—or excluding—from their personal homes can be revealing.”

Let’s take a closer look at what high end home builders put into their own homes and what they view as an unnecessary expense.

YES: High quality design, materials, finishes.

Luxury home builders profiled in the Wall Street Journal article invest in the best materials and craftsmanship for their homes. Sebastian Construction Group President John Sebastian agrees with those priorities, believing that quality trumps size or trendy amenities that don’t fit your lifestyle.

As he told DHome magazine in the January/February 2017 issue, “If budget is a concern, build smaller to maintain a high level of quality. You will never miss the space, but you will enjoy the craftsmanship for decades.”

NO: Additional square footage, especially bedrooms you’ll never use.

Rather than square footage, John Sebastian advises clients to invest in design. “Great construction quality and great architecture are smart investments. These qualities will increase the value of the house – not the square footage.”

There’s one more benefit to trading footage for higher quality – when it comes time to sell the house, it often commands a higher price.

A February 2017 article in the Wall Street Journal’s Mansion section noted that some luxury homeowners are following John’s edict to choose quality over footage by reducing the number of bedrooms in their luxury homes. (“Some Luxury Homeowners Scale Back on Extra Bedrooms.“)

Another area where builders of high end homes buck the conventional wisdom? “Green” features and the latest “smart” home systems.

YES: Features that reduce the overall maintenance and operating burden.

John Sebastian notes that while his clients value home features that reduce maintenance and save operating expenses over the years of ownership, most do not prioritize being “green” for the sake of achieving a certification or award.

NO: The latest all-in-one technology.

Sometimes a client’s negative experience serves as a deterrent for the builder who’s crafting his own high end home: “They are also able to use clients’ experiences to inform their choices. Mr. Karp knew to stay away from a complicated, multi-device, iPad-controlled “smart home” technology system because he has fielded so many complaints about them from customers.”

Jerry Nogalski, Sebastian Construction Group’s Client Care Manager echoes Karp’s experience. Nogalski’s department handles Sebastian’s clients’ post-move-in needs. His loyal following of clients rely on his department to schedule all of their warranty work, minor projects after move-in, maintenance work, or any other needs that may arise.

“People need to remember technology changes every day and their system can be out of date within a year of it being installed.”

Nogalski relates a few of the most common problems of all-in-one smart home systems:

“The biggest issue is when the home loses power.  A generator or battery backup may turn on, but some of these systems are so sensitive that it may cause other parts of the system to go down…which causes client frustrations.  The other is modules failing. These are the brains of the lighting system.”

Project Features

February 26, 2018

Featured: Michael G. Imber Architects

Michael Imber, founder of eponymous firm Michael G. Imber Architects, PLLC, describes it as a “modern classical design firm.” That polarity of design styles is summed up in a description of the firm as “known for historic sentiment, modern execution.

Imber is known for his ranch and country houses throughout Texas, but also for designing buildings from the Bahamas to California, Colorado and Costa Rica.

Utopia Texas Ranch built by Sebastian Construction Group[Above, Rancho Sabino Grande, a Michael Imber-designed project, built by Sebastian Construction Group. In progress.]

It was Imber’s deep love of the history of architecture, first in Texas and then the wider US, which led the native Texas to travel east to launch his early career in the Washington DC firm of classicist Allan Greenberg, honing his drawing and drafting skills.

He returned to Texas and founded his eponymous firm in San Antonio in 1992.

Imber is both a scholar and a practitioner (he’s an instructor for Harvard University Graduate School of Design’s Executive Education program.) His love of classical architecture led to his role as founding president of the Texas chapter of ICAA (Institute of Classical Architecture and Art.)

He’s known for matching traditional styles to local conditions, from a German Sunday House in Texas Hill Country to a Carpenter Gothic home in Galveston that withstood the landing of Hurricane Ike, shortly after completion.

A 2013 article on the website commemorates the publication of his coffee table book titled “Michael G. Imber: Ranches, Villas and Houses.” In the article, Imber outlines his three goals when designing a home:

  • Meet the client’s needs (which involves a lot of conversation).
  • Marry the building with the landscape (which requires a lot of contemplation and sketching skill).
  • Create an architecture that is meaningful to the client and the culture (which means research of the region where the project is located).

Another profile in San Antonio Express-News highlights the deep thought that goes into Imber’s process: “He begins his designs by considering the land through watercolors and then develops his ideas in relation to climate and local historical references,” writes Elizabeth Dowling, professor emerita of architecture at the Georgia Institute of Technology and author of “Ranches, Villas and Houses.”

Imber’s work has been featured in many local and national publications such as Coastal Living, New Old House, Texas Architect, Western Interiors, Southern Accents and Period Homes. He’s also racked up dozens of prestigious local and national design awards, starting with a Texas American Institute of Architects award in 1997. He later earned the 2007 Arthur Ross Award for commitment to the Classical tradition in residential architecture, the highest honor of the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art, along with three Palladio awards and the Texas Society of Architect’s William W. Caudill, FAIA Award.

Collaborating on Rancho Sabino Grande

The project known as Rancho Sabino Grande is Sebastian’s collaboration with Michael Imber. It’s underway in the Hill Country, west of San Antonio. Imber’s website features drawings of the project, along with  photos of the architect sketching the landscape.

Above: Sebastian Construction Group President John Sebastian and Michael Imber, FAIA, outside the Rancho Sabino Grande project