If, as you pore over the images complementing this story, you find yourself saying, “I’ve never seen a home quite like this,” you are correct. The Interlochen dwelling that belongs to Frank and Dorothy Gilstrap is unique – and has been since its conception.
‘It’s a one-of-a-kind original design by highly acclaimed Fort Worth architect Ken Schaumburg,” Frank says. “The house spreads across two lots and was built for auto magnate Don Davis, which explains the two carpeted garages with room for five cars.”
The house sits atop a full acre of land with almost 300 feet of waterfront on the deepest and widest part of the Interlochen canal network. The home is situated on the inside of a cul-de-sac, with the back of the house flaring open to extensive views of water, trees and wildlife. Those picturesque vistas drew the Gilstraps to the house in the first place. Likewise, the areas inside the house that provide the natural theater – and that provide ample space for entertainment, relaxation or simply living.
Frank is a lawyer. Dorothy has a Master’s degree in nutrition – “I mainly counsel the people close to me on what to eat … whether they want me to or not!” she says. Until son Chuck moved away to attend the University of Texas, the three of them called this house home. And each found the same something special about the dwelling: the fact that it faces south onto a beautiful waterway.
“Southern exposure may seem like a small thing, but it was a new world for me, especially in Texas,” Dorothy says. “You don’t have to battle the summer sun every afternoon because the windows don’t face west. But in winter, when the sun drops to the south all day, there’s plenty of wonderful daytime light pouring into all the south-facing windows in the main living areas.”
Frank notes that the house has two large master bedrooms downstairs, one facing a secluded pool area, the other opening onto canal views. “Because of the way Schaumburg designed the house,” he says, “numerous rooms have exquisite views both of the water and the hills rising above the far shore of the lake.”
Chuck loved the canals even before the Gilstraps bought the house and quickly converted “the view” into “the experience,” fishing and boating with a friend who lived next door. “After we moved in, I found out I loved kayaking,” Dorothy says. “Who knew? And it’s delightful to watch neighbors float by on their boats. But no gas engines are allowed, just electric, so there’s never any noise. It’s amazing to live on water that is so private – only you and your neighbors have access to the canals. That’s the other thing about Interlochen – the neighbors are so considerate, and we have a good neighborhood association that keeps things always looking beautiful.”
Inside the home, Dorothy loves her “get away” spots, such as the bright sunroom that is a favorite place for a cup of tea with a friend. “Frank and I also like to escape up to the upstairs deck that overlooks the trees and the central lake,” she says. “The gym is fun, too. We use the two-car garage as a gym because there aren’t five cars in this family anymore! Having a home gym makes it much easier to work some exercise into your daily routine. We also love sitting on the covered loggia and watching it rain. One of the most luxurious parts of the master suite is the simple but beautiful master bath that was remodeled and expanded last year. The dual shower with rain shower is wonderful, too.”
Frank says the family maintains an extensive library, and the home offers plenty of secluded places for reading and writing or contemplation. “At least it can be serene here,” he says, “once you turn off your phone!”
The Gilstraps enjoy entertaining friends, but they also host the occasional big event. “Our son and daughter-in-law, Chuck and Alyse Freeman, even married here!” Dorothy says. “The walled garden above the canal seated 140 guests very comfortably, all facing the altar and the canals below. After the ceremony the guests wandered down the stone pathway to tables that stretched along the edge of the canal.”
The home has been extensively remodeled over the years. Nearly everything has been replaced or rejuvenated, from the flagstone around the pool to the kitchen and most parts of the air conditioning systems and pool equipment. All the bathrooms have been remodeled, most notably the aforementioned master bath, which was refurbished in marble and quartz, and the walk-in rain shower was added.
In the kitchen, most appliances have been updated. “We didn’t scrimp – Viking double oven, Miele microwave, Gaggenau refrigerator,” Dorothy says. “And we picked a great KitchenAid dishwasher and downdraft Jenn-Air 5 burner gas cooktop. The cooktop is in the middle of the center island – I didn’t want to ruin the views with a big hood!”
The sum of a unique house design in the heart of a natural paradise plus the Gilstraps’ enhancements is a dream home – in every way imaginable. “For several years,” Dorothy says, “my mom enjoyed the second of the two downstairs master suites. And our granddaughter lived here during the last semester of high school when our daughter was offered an amazing job opportunity in Austin. Other loved ones have shared the joy of living here at different times, too. This house seems to open its arms to all who come. That’s what I love about it the most.”