French Eclectic Manor House

The standards for luxury home building in Dallas are quite simply the best in the nation. This French Eclectic manor house is an excellent example of what luxury buyers expect. Of course, it’s a Mark Molthan home.

Mark Molthan’s Platinum Series Homes , a Approved Builder, continually exceed luxury building standards. If you can snag a house from the company that has been voted a Dallas Best Custom Home Builder every single year since 2006, don’t think twice. Fortunately, Molthan has a beautifully remodeled French Eclectic manor house available at 3836 Centenary Avenue in University Park.

Don’t let the word remodeled fool you.

“Basically, it was gutted,” listing agent Katie Schortman said. “It was originally built in 1985, but every part of the house was touched.”

And this is a lot of house! With 6,511 square feet, three levels, five bedrooms, five bathrooms, and a powder bath, it’s the perfect size for a family.

“All the rooms are extremely large and comfortable, but they retain an air of intimacy,” Schortman said. “It’s such a bright and livable home, and it’s fabulous for hosting events.”


Mediterranean estate

Forget the coffee this morning. Mix up a pitcher of Sangria. Then sit down and have a long look at this gorgeous Modern Mediterranean estate in Preston Hollow, designed by architect Larry E. Boerder.

Although the Mediterranean architectural style has been popular since the 14th century, America only got around to fully embracing it in the 1920s. Better late than never.

The ‘20s were a time of luxury, travel, and leisure for the upper classes. Enterprising businessmen took advantage of the economic boom and created the first resorts for the rich and famous, building them in coastal climates like California and Florida. They turned to the Mediterranean style because it captured the exotic and laid back ambiance of Italy and Spain. The Breakers in Palm Beach and The Miami-Biltmore in Coral Gables are classic examples. Naturally, this commercial popularity led to prominent architects like Addison Mizner in Florida and Bertram Goodhue in California adapting the style for residences. Mizner was one of the first architects to create grand resort-style Mediterranean estates for wealthy individuals.

The Mediterranean style has been made even more desirable by magazines featuring Hollywood movie stars and their homes. From Jayne Mansfield, Marilyn Monroe, and Cary Grant, to Ellen Pompeo, Eddie Murphy, and Gloria Estefan, more stars than I can count have chosen to live in Mediterranean-style homes.

It’s not just the look to love, but this style is also extraordinarily practical for warm climates.


Highland Park Estate

Photos: Full Package Media

Luxury real estate in Dallas is like musical chairs. No one stays put for long, and if you don’t move fast, someone pulls that chair out from under you. Iconic Highland Park estates like 4412 Lakeside Drive are few and far between. You might think they linger on the market for years, but you’d be wrong. The fact that a property like this doesn’t come along often means if you are in the market, don’t assume it will stay around. (more…)

Mayflower Estates

Photos: Natalia Zinser

Mayflower Estates has some of the most beautiful architect designed homes you’ll find anywhere in Dallas. It’s where you’ll find Walnut Place, the 25 acre estate now owned by Andy Beal, which is also on the market, right down the street. The 16 acre Phillips estate is here. It’s also home to former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura. If you want privacy, exclusivity, and an extraordinary setting, you want Mayflower Estates.

And if you want a media room that would make George Lucas drool, read on:


In an area known for trying to impress with excess, it’s nice to see a property that’s comfortably glamorous.  Sure, when you drive by 6607 Desco Drive you wonder. Area homes are a mix of 1950s ranches and cliché McMansions. Like much of Preston Hollow, land values have tripled in the past 15 years as the neighborhood retreats upmarket with tear downs.

This home is “new” but no stereotype.

Between bold architectural shapes and a lack of roses and wisteria, you rubberneck as you slowly drive by (gone unfortunately are the prior owner’s neon bicycles).  With plenty of lawn, it’s not completely xeriscape, but it makes use of a lot of drought-resistant plants. For me the place has a bit of a Mexico City vibe.  When I got home and poked around, I found the original ranch home was gutted, added to, renovated, and most importantly owned by interior designer Ana Seyffert.  Buying a designer’s home lets you live in their world without the vacillations of a client to dilute the vision.  The work, begun in 2008, took two years and swept away the 1950s and brought this tropically urban home.

A home like this screams for press coverage.  When Seyffert first sold the home in 2014 to the current owner, Candy was there.

The home is listed with Erin Mathews of Allie Beth Allman for $2.599 million.  It has 5,589 square feet on a pinch over half an acre with four bedrooms and five full bathrooms.

The inside is cool, but let’s stay outside for a bit …


Guest blogger Andrew Chalk says he has to get his fix of Italy and all things Italian. Or else! But that long jet ride and the limitation of luggage makes Venice, Rome or even Florence tough to do in a weekend. Luckily for us, Andrew has found Florence, Williamson County, Texas!

It’s a 2¬Ω hour drive down I-35 from Dallas, even in the Friday evening rush hour. The Vineyard at Florence is a luxury home development 45 minutes from Austin that is gathering interest among second home buyers who want an escape to the Texas Hill Country with a tasty vintage twist. Yes, it has the standard gated entrance and rolling Hill Country vistas that are familiar, but instead of the pro forma golf course designed by a famous old golfer with hip problems, the centerpiece of The Vineyard at Florence is a 30-acre vineyard producing, as I have attested elsewhere, wine that already far exceeds the median for Texas. In fact, despite the vines being only five years old, the winery is already a member of the top tier of Texas winemakers.

We were guests of The Vineyard at Florence for a weekend during which they accommodated us at the Villa Botticelli. I have always envied Botticelli for the dress code of the women around him. Perhaps a weekend staying in a villa honoring his name was some kind of recompense. Upon our arrival, just after nightfall on Friday, we found an impeccably maintained accommodation with a dining room, lounge with flat-screen TV, single (master) bedroom with floor-to-ceiling windows, king-size bed and iPod player, and two showers. One was inside the villa, where we could discuss the meaning of ‘Florentine’ in the context of spinach, and the other outside, but accessed from the inside and surrounded by a 10 foot circular stone wall, where the discussion could be expanded to include at least 4 other people. There were two balconies, one off the lounge with an outside fireplace, and a more private one off the master bedroom. I liked the fact that the master had a fireplace and that the architect had asked himself ‘what would I like if I stayed here?’ For example, the wall from the lounge to the master bedroom did a gentle 90-degree turn, rather than a right-angled turn. Curved walls are more labor-intensive. Read: quality construction abounds, no short-cuts.

Villa Bottecelli Guest House

We woke on Saturday to the stunning view from the windows that consumed two full walls of our bedroom. I no longer envied Botticelli his sea shell. The Villa looked over the vines and up the lip at the edge of the vineyards to home sites along the ridge. We took a trip to one of these (601 Strada Luca), just 300 yards from Villa Botticelli, priced at $599,000. The architectural codes decree distinctive stone on the exterior. This one incorporated a mother-in-law flat for the luckiest mother-in-law on earth. The view looked down from altitude on the full expanse of the vineyard and beyond to the edge of the development. The home totaled 2882 sq. ft., what Candy tells me is the most sought-after size for a second home, and applied its square footage heavily to the kitchen/family room area. A balcony surrounded the property like a necklace (ideal for summer entertaining). The property is just 200 yards from the community infinity pool and workout room.

Kitchen in the model home

We toured a larger home at 4329 sq. ft., and as the floor plan indicates, every comparable  amenity to a luxury home in Dallas. So you can be away from home, but feel like home. As the pictures indicate, it also had a high level of finish-out. However, it is near the main entrance. While this makes it easier to dodge the deer that periodically dart across the interior road, I would spring for one of the plots with a higher elevation were I a buyer. Location, location, location.

Cozy den in the model home

The 600 acre development has 67 home sites varying in size from two to ten acres. Only seven lots have been built on thus far, unfortunately, like every other development in this country, the recession hit just as it came on stream. Lest you think you will “wine” away at your second home retreat, pack your spurs, but ditch the golf clubs. There is an equestrian center and polo field (horsey life is big here) but no golf course. (Three championship golf courses are handy in nearby Georgetown for those so inclined.) A large social hall named Villa Firenze offers a caf√©, meeting rooms, tasting room for The Vineyard at Florence and also rental space for weddings — 17 are scheduled between now and the end of August. Massages and facials are also offered at a building named The Tower where the guest can gaze out over the landscape while being pampered. Just over the roadway is the winery, where Inwood Estates Vineyards has a tasting room. The connection between the two wineries: Dan Gatlin, the highly regarded winemaker of Inwood Estates, is the winemaker for The Vineyard at Florence.

Florence winery tasting room

So where is Florence? Two and a half hours from Dallas and Houston. Less than an hour from Austin. This is the northeast corner of the Texas Hill Country. The landscape is hilly and quite ruggedly beautiful — check out Stillhouse Hollow Lake just to the north. Georgetown, a growing family community to the southeast, offers a reasonable selection of restaurants and shopping. Round Rock (world headquarters of Dell Computer) and Austin are a little further. I-35 is the artery that binds them together, although the Texas state roads that run through the Hill Country are of excellent quality for 60 mph driving and uncluttered by traffic.¬† (Just avoid all the unfortunate splattered critters). We ate at The Monument Caf√© in Georgetown, a poster child for farm-to-market eating housed in a funky diner type building actually erected in 2008. It was packed on Saturday evening (the wait was 30 minutes at 7pm) and from the food and pricing, it was not hard to see why. By way of proof of Georgetown‚Äôs family demographic, by the time we left at 8:30pm, there were empty tables. People eat early here and then take the kids home to put to bed.

Local producers get a shout-out

If you are looking for a second home in Texas, The Vineyard at Florence should definitely be on your checklist. Florence is two hours closer than Fredericksburg. Buyer interest has returned since the recession but prices, so far, remain stable. The best way to kick the tires: rent Villa Botticelli ($250/night) or Villa Da Vinci ($175/night) for a weekend, and try out the vineyard lifestyle.

Villa Firenze Houses Numerous Social Facilities