Surfers build Kemah house their way
After 17 years of city life in Houston, Mike Tindall and Jennifer Stevenson decided it was time to return to the water. At least it was for Tindall, who spent his youth around Galveston Bay, where his family owned homes in and around Bacliff. Stevenson, a Texas transplant, was eager to make the transition, too. Like Tindall, she’s an expert surfer.
Finding the right lot in Kemah was the easy part. As builders, they had a stockpile of materials to pull from and would be doing most of the labor themselves. But construction would be time consuming, with only weekends to spare. Tindall and Stevenson knew exactly what they wanted in a house, but more importantly, they knew what they didn’t want.
Tindall grew up in the construction business, and Stevenson is the owner of Barefoot Builders. Both were adamant about not using square pilings, usually the norm for a pole house. Instead, they wanted “old school” round pilings, even after naysayers advised against it. They found them at American Pole & Timber in Houston, cut to size, and sank them 8 feet into the ground, raising the house another 8 feet in the air. They bought other new and hard-to-find building materials at Kemah Hardware.
The finished product — a 720-square-foot loft/pole house with one bedroom and bath — is built entirely out of natural wood and treated lumber. Several casement windows and four Pella sliding glass doors allow for natural light and bay breezes. The outer deck surrounds the entire perimeter of the house, which the couple moved into about a year ago.
A few of the clever design elements include: the main beam — rough-hewed driftwood with exposed rusty bolts — retrieved from Galveston Bay and pressure washed; wooden shutters that open and close with ropes and pulleys; and bamboo poles used for stair rails.
Tongue and groove whitewashed pine floors make a perfect canvas for the neutral tones and soft whites that dominate the interior. A coffee table and hanging, caged ship’s light are items that were used by Tindall’s parents in their bay house. Two matching slipped sofas, kitchen appliances, dinnerware, bar stools and duvet cover in the bedroom loft are pure white. Shelves suspended by rope hold dishes and stemware; the kitchen is void of cabinets.
Bookshelves, overflowing with classic literature, are a testament to Tindall’s passion for prose.
Family heirlooms, including five handmade fishing poles made by both of Tindall’s grandfathers, are on display. Tindall’s father’s drafting table is now a corner desk. His great-great-great grandfather’s old violin sits atop a school desk that belonged to Tindall’s mother. Two vintage surfboards — a green 1967 Midget Farrelly Stringerless and a red Hobie — rest above the rafters.
Down below, hammocks slung between pilings offer places for relaxing afternoon naps. Crab traps hang on walls, a bamboo pole substitutes as a clothesline. An outdoor shower comes in handy after a day on the bay.
Three surf boards that get regular use are stacked in the separate utility room where a half bath is partially hidden behind a car door from a 1967 Volkswagen Bug.
“It’s a real conservation piece,” Tindall said.
A fire pit in the front yard made of mossy boulders and flagstone is ablaze most weekends when the catch of the day is thrown on the grill.
“Our house is just what we wanted and provides us with a place to fish, surf, cook and enjoy the view,” Stevenson said.