Overview

Houston might be the best place to build your own home. Residents who don’t want to settle for a cookie-cutter version of their dream home or have to hire designers and builders separately have plenty of options, and they come with a lot less piggy-bank bashing than other cultural hotspots. Fewer regulations and wide-open spaces have helped Houston maintain its affordability amid a national housing price increase — the city was No. 1 on Forbes’ 2015 list of metro areas where your salary stretches farthest. From luxury architects and NBA stars in The Woodlands to designers with environmentally friendly home kits, there’s a structure to design-build for just about everyone in Houston. This list includes design-build firms who create unique spaces, win awards for their work, and are in demand from top clients.

Top Architects

10
Jay Baker Architects

Architects:
Jay Baker

Address:
3815 Montrose Boulevard, Suite 205, Houston, TX 77006

Contact:
713-520-5446
http://www.jaybakerarchitects.com/contact-with-form/

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About Jay Baker Architects

Jay Baker, shares a designation held by only three percent of American Institute of Architects members — he is in its prestigious College of Fellows, the highest honor awarded by the institute, which is often abbreviated FAIA. Baker believes that architectural work should express a sense of place. That’s the guiding philosophy behind his firm, Jay Baker Architects, founded in 1991. Most of the firm’s work is on private, residential homes. It provides services for new construction, renovations, additions, and long-term planning for ambitious house projects. Jay Baker received his Master of Architecture from Rice University, which he attended with a full merit scholarship, in 1980. Baker later taught architecture at Rice University and was on the board of the Hermann Park Conservancy. A home designed by Jay Baker Architects was included on architect James Evans’ list of his 10 favorite Houston homes compiled for Houstonia magazine. Another Jay Baker home was featured in the Rice Design Alliance’s 2016 spring showcase

Featured Projects

For the Arlington Residence, Jay Baker Architects connected two buildings on three lots, one for each building, with a pool filling the center lot. The rooms in the house were arranged enfilade — where each room opens to the next in an interconnected series — to provide better views and create a feeling of progression as a resident or guest passes through the property. The Arlington Residence was included on the 2011 and 2016 Rice Design Alliance home tours. In Broadacres, Jay Baker Architects received a request to build a house that would be “comfortable for two people as well as 200.” This was achieved by placing the largest portion of the estate in the center of the property, with more spare buildings toward the edge, which blends with the woodland feel of the planned subdivision

9
HarrisonKornberg Architects

Architects:
James Harrison and
ion-details”>Awards:
Houston Business Journal Landmark Award,
Associated Masonry Contractors Of Houston Golden Trowel Award

Address:
3800 Buffalo Speedway, Suite 550, Houston, TX 77098

Contact:
713-229-0688

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About HarrisonKornberg Architects

This medium-sized firm was founded in 2003. The name is a combination of its two principals, James Harrison and Daniel Kornberg. Harrison received his Bachelor of Architecture from Hampton University in 1991 and holds an NCARB (National Council of Architectural Registration Boards) Certificate. Kornberg attended Duke and the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned a Master of Architecture in 1990. He is an LEED Accredited Professional. The firm works on a variety of commercial, civic, and residential projects, with an emphasis on design that supports people, and architectural techniques that lower cost. A minority-owned business, HarrisonKornberg is registered with the state of Texas as a Historically Underutilized Business. The firm’s buildings received the Houston Business Journal’s Landmark Award and the Associated Masonry Contractors Of Houston Golden Trowel Award in 2017.

Featured Projects

In the historic Southampton neighborhood, the HarrisonKornberg-designed Albans Residence was made to blend into its neighborhood. The 4,800-square-foot space is built in the shape of a C, allowing for efficient use of space and maximum area for the swimming pool. HarrisonKornberg used unglazed clay tile, metal wall panels, and a metal roof to lower future maintenance needs, which shows the advantage of a design-build approach. At a house in Montrose, the firm helped lower construction costs by providing a simple frame for the TNT Residence. The 3,500-square-foot building has full living, dining, and kitchen areas; two bedrooms; a garage; and an art studio for the couple — both artists — who purchased it. With a rectangular footprint of 23 x 85 feet, the house is an example of efficient space usage.

8
Frankel Building Group

Architects:
Jim Frankel

Awards:
National Association of Builders Best in Green Award

Address:
5701 Woodway Drive, Suite 200, Houston, TX 77057

Contact:
713-623-4646
https://www.frankelbuildinggroup.com/

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About Frankel Building Group

The Frankel Building Group is a true family affair. The firm, often called FBG, was founded by Jim Frankel, who now runs it with his sons Kevin and Scott. Jim Frankel has more than 30 years’ experience in design and homebuilding. He was president of the Greater Houston Builders Association and a founding member of the Custom Builders Council. FBG strives to build in an environmentally sustainable way and was the first firm to adopt the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Homes program. After Hurricane Harvey, Jim Frankel reported that his properties survived the storm. He admitted that this would bring attention to his firm, but he still lamented the city’s loss. “It’s no way to get business,” Frankel told the Houston Chronicle. FBG has received numerous awards, including the National Association of Builders Best in Green award.

Featured Projects

All 55 of the BFG homes in the Woodlands Preserve survived Hurricane Harvey, thanks to an architectural technique called pier-and-beam foundation. The foundation allowed water to flow underneath the home, which saved the structures. “It was like I was in the middle of a river. I was super impressed with how the home was engineered,” homeowner Armando Saenz told the Houston Business Journal about the BFG-built home. “It was amazing.” Pier-and-beam can add an additional $10-$50k to building costs, but FBG co-President Scott Frankel expects it to be used more often. A focus on green building doesn’t mean the houses have to be dull. At BFG’s Palladian Estate, a vast, checker-patterned courtyard surrounds a fountain in a plaza with palm trees. Complex banisters, chandeliers, and artwork adorn the interior throughout.

7
Lake|Flato

Architects:
Ted Flato
David Lake

Awards:
Global Award for Sustainable Architecture,
AIA Firm of the Year,
American Institute of Steel Construction Merit Award

Address:
311 Third Street, San Antonio, TX 78205

Contact:
210-227-3335
marketing@lakeflato.com

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About Lake|Flato

Ted Flato and David Lake, the founding partners of Lake|Flato, are both members of the AIA’s prestigious College of Fellows. Lake is an urban development enthusiast and Austin native. He supervised the opening of the firm’s Austin office. Flato is an active member of the AIA Committee on the Environment. He focuses on sustainable design. The firm has won over 270 architecture and design awards, including the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture and the AIA Firm of the Year award. It was named among Fast Company’s list of the 10 most innovative architectural firms in the world. Lake|Flato is based in San Antonio but offers services in Houston. The firm was founded in 1984 and now has an 89-person staff that includes 31 registered architects and 42 LEED Accredited Professionals.

Featured Projects

Lake|Flato’s Bayou Residence received the Merit Award from the American Institute of Steel Construction, and it was Architecture Magazine’s Home of the Year. The steel structure has expansive glass windows that allow natural lighting to fill the space, which is separated into three parts by rolling panels. This lets the residents reconfigure the space as desired — into smaller, intimate rooms or larger sections for entertaining. Mild browns on the exterior walls help the building blend in with the neighborhood’s many trees. Lake|Flato used exterior light- and dark-brown tones with white ceilings, domed lamps and black, metal beams inside at its Bellaire Residence. A narrow pool behind the house helped maximize space. Extended, covered sidewalks and wall-length greenery added a touch of luxury on the outside.

6
GSMA

Architects:
Carrie G. Shoemake
Ernesto L. Maldonado

Awards:
AIA Houston Design Awards,
AIA Houston Firm of the Year,
Preservation Houston Good Brick Award

Address:
5305 Jackson Street, Houston, TX 77004

Contact:
713-521-3353
info@gsmarchitects.net

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About GSMA

The staff at GSMA see themselves as character architects. The firm was founded in 1996 — as Glassman Shoemake Maldonado Architects, Inc. It works on civic, commercial, and residential projects. Founding partner Carrie G. Shoemake, FAIA, is a LEED Accredited Professional and Houston native who attended the University of Texas at Austin. She was the president of the Rice Design Alliance and active with the Houston Design Sub-Committee and Museum of Fine Arts. GSMA partner Ernesto L. Maldonado is a longtime advocate for Houston’s homeless population. GSMA has received 10 AIA Houston Design Awards and was AIA Houston’s firm of the year in 2013.

Featured Projects

GSMA received a Preservation Houston Good Brick Award in 2017 for its work on the Hobby House. The house was first built in 1929 and served as the residence for the newspaper publisher and Texas Governor William P. Hobby. The house fell into disrepair, and GSMA was tapped to restore the home, while respecting its historic design. The firm rebuilt a previous addition, added extra kitchen space, and restored the garden. The Bluegate House, constructed and designed by the firm, was the second LEED Platinum residential house in Houston. The design was based on the owner’s childhood home. The environmental elements were secured through efficient construction, with LED lighting, tankless water heaters, and yard elements that don’t require constant watering. The Bluegate Street home was included on the City of Houston Green Building Tour in 2013.

5
Brett Zamore Design

Architects:
Brett Zamore

Awards:
Ben Brewer Young Architect Award

Address:
1501 Laird Street, Houston, TX 77008

Contact:
713-623-1926
office@brettzamoredesign.com

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About Brett Zamore Design

Brett Zamore Designs is best known in Houston for its environmentally friendly, affordable kit home designs. The firm offers seven different kits that borrow from traditional Southern architecture and can be customized by the home builder. The sizes range from 330 to 2,200 square feet. A common style is the “shot-trot,” which combines elements of a shotgun home with a dog trot to improve airflow, lower the temperature — crucial in the Houston summer — and decrease utility cost. Brett Zamore was inspired by his home kit designs while studying at Rice University, where he earned a master’s degree in architecture. Brett Zamore Designs was founded in 2007. The LEED-accredited firm also works on a variety of commercial and residential projects. Brett Zamore was given the Ben Brewer Young Architect Award in 2016.

Featured Projects

Brett Zamore Designs renovated the Dezevallos Hangar at the West Houston airport for a family of four — and their collection of airplanes. The 3,500-square-foot space maintains the open-spaced feel expected of an airport hangar but divides living quarters to provide the privacy of a residence. A red steel box with the master bedroom and hallway float above the main bay, with large windows to view the planes. At Brett Zamore Designs’ Gite House in Houston’s 3rd Ward, the narrow stairways and walls emphasize the impressive African art collection of gallery owner Lloyd Gite. An outdoor alcove creates a 15-foot outdoor section between two areas of the house, leading to a porch-and-living room feel upstairs. The firm built and designed the 2,850-square-foot Gite House in 2014. The Houston Chronicle called it “out of this world,” and it was included on the Rice Design Alliance’s spring architecture tour in 2015.

4
On Point Custom Homes

Architects:
John Leggett

Awards:
Texas Association of Builders Custom Home Builder of the Year

Address:
3939 Essex Lane, Suite 100, Houston, TX 77027

Contact:
713-600-2422
info@onpointcustomhomes.com

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About On Point Custom Homes

On Point Custom Homes was the Texas Association of Builders 2017 Custom Home Builder of the Year. It was also a finalist on the Houston Business Journal’s 2017 list of the best places to work in Houston. On Point’s founder and CEO John Leggett got his first taste of building watching his father run a construction business. As a young man, Leggett wanted to do anything but construction, so he studied accounting and business at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. But Leggett came back to his family roots by starting a home-building business in 2005. Since then, he’s been called the “boy wonder of Houston real estate” and built the firm into a local institution.

Featured Projects

An on-the-market On Point Custom Home in Briargrove shows the firm’s commitment to excellence. The 5,006-square-foot house sits on a lot that is 8,377 square feet. The two-story house has beige and brown brick, with a front section set back by the door to allow for evenings on its porch. The house has five bedrooms, four bathrooms, and a two-car garage. Interiors follow a white, blue, and gray theme, with marbled-floors and a long glass-encased shower in the bathroom. Another On Point Custom Homes property shows its commitment to Houston in a light-hearted way. The firm donated a custom-made playhouse to the Ronald McDonald House in July 2017. The playhouse was made in partnership with the Remodelers Council of the Greater Houston Builders Association. It was ADA-compliant and wheelchair accessible.

3
MC2 Architects

Architects:
Chuong Nguyen
Chung Nguyen

Awards:
PaperCity Design Awards First Place,
AIA Houston Design Awards

Address:
5600 Rose Street, Houston, TX 77007

Contact:
713-802-2305
studio@mc2architects.com

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About MC2 Architects

The brothers behind MC2 Architects planned a true design-build firm. Chuong and Chung Nguyen both worked in construction before starting MC2 Architects. They came to see design and the physical work behind it as inseparable and prefer to be involved in every aspect of a project — from idea to completed building. The Nguyen brothers see this as a more efficient, holistic approach to creating a home. In 2016, MC2 Architects won first place in the PaperCity Design Awards, and they received two design awards from the Houston AIA. A spa designed by MC2 Architects was profiled recently in Texas Architect magazine. The MC2 name came from an old family nickname — Chuong and Chung’s sister used to call them “C squared,” because their names are so similar.

Featured Projects

The Nguyen brothers partnered with an oil industry family on Memorial Drive to fulfill their vision of a unique home with Mediterranean flair. On the 5,700-square-foot King Residence, MC2 used a technique that’s more common in commercial building, called tilt-wall construction, which uses concrete instead of wood to make the structure feel more permanent. The final design included a long, rectangular pool, wide panes of glass placed on the west side of the building to avoid the sun, and a pond with koi fish. At its more modest Three Square House, MC2 built a house centered around a large, live oak tree. The 2,000-square-foot structure features three distinct sections that are rotated 10 degrees around the tree. The smaller squares are closer to the street and hold the house’s secondary areas, while the master bedroom and main living quarters are in the larger, farther square.

2
Luis Jauregui Houston

Architects:
Luis Jauregui, FAIA

Awards:
2017 College of Fellows – American Institute of Architects,
2016 Texas Custom Builder of the Year,
2017 National Builder of the Year NAHB,
‘Outstanding Alumni 2017’ of the College of Architecture at Texas A&M

Address:
25317 Interstate 45 North, The Woodlands, TX 77380

Contact:
512-328-7706
susan@jaureguiarchitect.com

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About Luis Jauregui Houston

This Austin-based firm was the National Association of Home Builders 2016 Custom Builder of the Year. The Jauregui architecture firm has worked on custom building and design services for over 30 years. Its team is fully committed to the design-build process. The firm only does design for build clients, and only builds spaces it designed. In Austin, the firm’s president, Luis Jauregui, FAIA, is something of a local hero. He was presented with an official proclamation from the mayor in 2017. Jauregui has thrived in Houston as well as Austin, with a strong following in The Woodlands since 2001. Luis is a leading champion of design-build among architects and builders, speaking regularly at national, state and local AIA and NAHB conferences. He is 2018 Past President of AIA Austin and a founding member of the Custom Residential Architects Network within AIA national. Luis earned a Master of Architecture from Texas A&M University and was honored as Outstanding Alumni by the College of Architecture in 2017.

Featured Projects

For the Johnson Residence, Luis Jauregui built a mansion in the Woodlands that was a lesson in luxury, with a spiral staircase, elaborate columns in its master bedroom, a circular spa resting under a Venetian chandelier, and a game room with a pool table, bar, and flat-screen TV. The client was NBA coach Avery Johnson, who wanted to collaborate with his wife, Cassandra, on a home that would mix Italian, French, and Mediterranean architecture. CultureMap Houston called it “one amazing mansion.” Jauregui built another house in the Woodlands he called Texas Chic. The 7,200-square-foot house has a more modest design, with brick walls, wide gardens, and fountains that recall the open space of rural Texas. A wing-sized covered section near the pool provides an indoor-outdoor effect.

1
StudioMET Architects

Architects:
Yoonchul You
Stephen Andrews
Shawn Gottschalk

Awards:
AIA Houston Firm of the Year,
HGTV Faces of Design Award,
Decorative Center Houston Stars of Design Award

Address:
2000 Edwards Street, Studio 309, Houston, TX 77007

Contact:
713-255-0008
http://studiomet.com/contact.php

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About StudioMET Architects

This 2007-founded design-build firm is dedicated to its Texas location. The company provides an architectural scholarship to students at the University of Houston, The University of Texas at Arlington, and Texas A&M University. The firm has three principals: Yoonchul You, Stephen Andrews, and Shawn Gottschalk. Yoonchul You has two Master of Architecture degrees, one from the University of Houston and another from Konkuk University in Seoul, Korea. He was the senior project designer at Korean Architects Collaborative International for six years. Andrews received his master’s from the University of Houston, and Gottschalk earned his at the University of Texas at Arlington. StudioMET was AIA Houston’s 2016 firm of the year, and it received the Decorative Center Houston Stars of Design Award for Architecture in April 2017.

Featured Projects

StudioMET Architects’ Wharton Home was included on the 2017 Houston Modern Home Tour. The tour is held annually by Houston’s Modern Architecture + Design Society and focuses on that one house “you always drive by and wonder what it must be like to visit it, design it, or even live in it.” The Wharton House sits on a 5,000-square-foot lot in the Energy Corridor. It uses wood and earth colors for a modern, natural look. StudioMET’s 5,500-square-foot Underwood Home mixed black, yellow, and brown color schemes with gray, inset gabion wall, a two-island kitchen, and a small pool for a relaxed, suburban experience. The Underwood Home was included on the AIA Houston Home Tour, featured in Modern Luxury Interiors Texas, and a semi-finalist for HGTV’s Faces of Design Award, in 2016.

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