A Black Stucco Home in Dallas Is Surrounded by Eye-Popping Greenery

A Texas interior designer expands her vision outdoors with a water-wise garden.

On a site adjacent to a greenbelt, architects Yen Ong and Paul Merrill of 5G Studio envisioned “a solid black mass within an enclosed garden,” says Ong. A geothermal heat pump, solar panels, and rainwater harvesting helped the project achieve LEED Platinum status.

The first thing that strikes you about interior designer Lynn Rush’s home is that it’s black. The second is that its dark plaster walls are slowly being enveloped by swaths of brilliant green ivy. Surrounded by peach stucco mansions, this LEED Platinum residence on the outskirts of Dallas is wholly different, but without sticking out like the proverbial sore thumb. Instead, its low profile seems to dissolve into a backdrop of native plantings.  

On a site adjacent to a greenbelt, architects Yen Ong and Paul Merrill of 5G Studio envisioned “a solid black mass within an enclosed garden,” says Ong. A geothermal heat pump, solar panels, and rainwater harvesting helped the project achieve LEED Platinum status.

On a site adjacent to a greenbelt, architects Yen Ong and Paul Merrill of 5G Studio envisioned “a solid black mass within an enclosed garden,” says Ong. A geothermal heat pump, solar panels, and rainwater harvesting helped the project achieve LEED Platinum status. 

Photo: Michael Friberg

For landscape architect David Hocker, creating that garden posed a challenge. His client wanted a lush, colorful yard full of texture, but her quest to achieve LEED’s highest residential rating meant he had to significantly limit the amount of water used. Hocker’s solution was to plant masses of native and drought-tolerant grasses, trees, and flowering shrubs, with a cistern to collect rainwater for re-use.  

Behind her is the greenhouse, where Lynn starts vegetables like lettuce, Swiss chard, and tomatoes. Landscape architect David Hocker defined the sunken fire pit area with Cor-Ten steel.

 Landscape architect David Hocker defined the sunken fire pit area with Cor-Ten steel.

Photo: Michael Friberg

Inland sea oats provide the framework for the landscape, starting at the property’s outer woodland edge and transitioning into hardy buffalo grass. Punctuated by flowering perennials, red yucca for evergreen, and redbud and Mexican plum trees for color, multiple layers and big sweeps of grasses create a pastoral scene in the front garden. “It gives this idea of a prairie even though it’s in a suburban neighborhood,” says Hocker.

A neighbor harvests bell peppers  in the garden.

A neighbor harvests bell peppers in the garden. Behind her is the greenhouse, where Lynn starts vegetables like lettuce, Swiss chard, and tomatoes.

Photo: Michael Friberg

“The house configuration was about making the landscape part of the interior experience, with views carefully terminating at all times in greenery.”          Yen Ong, Architect

Carved into the home’s mass are what Ong calls “exterior voids”: transition zones between the built and the natural that are painted white. The sectional and club chairs are from Kingsley Bate; the sliding glass door is by Western Window Systems.

Carved into the home’s mass are what Ong calls “exterior voids”: transition zones between the built and the natural that are painted white. The sectional and club chairs are from Kingsley Bate; the sliding glass door is by Western Window Systems.

Photo: Michael Friberg

The site’s proximity to a greenbelt conservation area across the street prompted the home’s architects, Yen Ong and Paul Merrill of 5G Studio, to “create an indoor condition that is very easily mistaken as the outdoors . . . a complete merging of exterior and interior climates,” says Ong. The concept they envisioned was a black pavilion in a garden. “Into this solid black mass, we carved voids to allow for this relationship from indoors to outdoors to take place,” Ong says. The “voids” are slices of white in the square black structure, giving the impression of a perfectly cut Gothic wedding cake.

The entrance to the house is marked by a triangular awning. “It’s just enough to protect the front door,” says Merrill, “and then  it sheds water into a small garden between the garage and the house.”

The entrance to the house is marked by a triangular awning. “It’s just enough to protect the front door,” says Merrill, “and then it sheds water into a small garden between the garage and the house.” 

Photo:Michael Friberg

These openings—the largest of which is 28 by 14 feet—let in streams of sunlight through oversize windows and allow the landscape to “paint” itself onto the white plaster walls. The atmosphere changes with the seasons. “There’s one room that turns a beautiful blue-green, another amber, from all the trees,” says Merrill.  

A table and chairs from Classic Home in the Dallas Market furnish the dining area. The chairs were upholstered by Berkeley Fabrics & Upholstery. Lynn created the fixture overhead with hardware from Tech Lighting. “I never turn  on the lights during the day,” she says. “Even if it’s cloudy outside, there’s plenty of light in here.”

A table and chairs from Classic Home in the Dallas Market furnish the dining area. The chairs were upholstered by Berkeley Fabrics & Upholstery. Lynn created the fixture overhead with hardware from Tech Lighting. “I never turn on the lights during the day,” she says. “Even if it’s cloudy outside, there’s plenty of light in here.” 

Photo: Michael Friberg

 There’s enough natural light that Lynn never uses her recessed LED lighting during the day. The low demand for energy means the 4,600-square-foot home, which is powered by a rooftop photovoltaic solar array and a geothermal heat pump, could eventually be net-positive. 

A sitting area off the main living space features chairs upholstered by Berkeley Fabrics & Upholstery and a light fixture from Lights Fantastic.

 A sitting area off the main living space features chairs upholstered by Berkeley Fabrics & Upholstery and a light fixture from Lights Fantastic.

Photo: Michael Friberg

Lynn, who designed the interiors herself, spends much of her free time outdoors. Beyond the west patio, a zoysia grass lawn offers a place to stroll, and a lowered fire pit area creates an intimate spot for gathering. Three cattle troughs enjoy new life as raised fruit and vegetable beds, home to the seedlings that get their start each spring and fall in the neighboring greenhouse. 

Succulents spill out of planters from Wayfair on an outer wall. “The idea was to imitate birds flying up to the sky,” Lynn says.

Succulents spill out of planters from Wayfair on an outer wall. “The idea was to imitate birds flying up to the sky,” Lynn says. 

Photo: Michael Friberg

Everything is watered by drip irrigation or by water-efficient sprayers, using a rainwater-harvesting system that collects 90 percent of the roof-area rainwater into a 6,000-gallon underground tank. “The goal is that, after a three-year establishment period, she can shut off the irrigation and just use it for supplementary watering,” says Hocker. 

The east patio overlooks a line of yaupon holly trees

The east patio overlooks a line of yaupon holly trees. 

Photo: Michael Friberg

“We challenged the idea that Texas is so hot you cannot have anything other than light-colored stucco.” Yen Ong

Lynn

Lynn

Photo: Michael Friberg

While Lynn didn’t initially plan on a “green” home, she is pleased to have been led down the path of sustainability. “I wanted something that not everyone else has,” she says. “I never like to do what anyone else is doing, I like to step out and do something different.”

The skylight along with the large opening to the west patio allow the interior of the home to filled with natural light.

The skylight along with the large opening to the west patio allow the interior of the home to filled with natural light.

Photo: Michael Friberg

The east patio overlooks to the yaupon holly trees.

The east patio overlooks to the yaupon holly trees.

Photo: Micael Friberg

The west patio opens up to a grass area that can be enjoyed by many.

The west patio opens up to a grass area that can be enjoyed by many.

Photo:Michael Friberg

The west patio

The west patio

Photo: Michael Friberg

Greenery at the entrance of the home.

Greenery at the entrance of the home.

Photo: Michael Friberg

An expansive view of the home.

An expansive view of the home.

Photo: Michael Friberg

Illustration: Lohnes + Wright

Source: Dwell

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