Architect and interior designer bring a little New England to their Kemah home
Whether choosing a spouse or building a house, Kemah Mayor Carl Joiner and his wife, Colene, seem to specialize in making visionary decisions that yield long-term benefits.
In addition to having professions that are dovetailed into a successful business partnership — he’s an architect and she’s an interior designer — the Joiners are reaping the advantages of farsighted features incorporated into the planning and construction of their “forever” home in Kemah.
“At the time we bought this land many years ago, we were living in Kingwood, but would come down on weekends and sit in plastic chairs on our empty lot just to discuss future possibilities and enjoy the bay-front view,” Colene Joiner said, explaining that they were very aware even then of how special the place was.
“Interestingly, we had to be interviewed to ensure we were ‘worthy’ before we were allowed to move forward with the purchase of this land,” she said.
The property had been part of an estate belonging to Albert Fay, a former U.S. Ambassador, who in 1938 with his brother, Ernest, founded the Seabrook Shipyard, which built submarine chasers and rescue boats during World War II, according to Texas historians.
The Joiners have taken great care of the property, hand-clearing the heavily wooded lot and replanting significant trees and bringing in enough fill dirt to add an extra 18 inches of elevation for the house.
The New England-style residence, in both form and function, is a tribute to the careful planning that went into the design. The house was built in 2001. Since then, however, an architectural evolution — including two addition and remodeling projects overseen by Terry Grier of League City-based HNI Services — has taken place to accommodate the couple’s changing lifestyle and tastes.
“We love making trips to the Northeast in the fall for fall foliage,” Colene Joiner said. “We designed our house to replicate Nantucket architecture.”
Positioned to allow living and bedroom areas to look out over multiple porches and decks facing the vast openness of Galveston Bay, individual rooms have over time been carefully repurposed to accommodate changing family dynamics.
“The bar area was initially the laundry room, the former master bedroom is now our office area, the family room was once a sun room, and the music alcove — initially known as the kitchen area — now centers around a grand piano instead of a sink,” Colene Joiner said as she led the way through the spacious main floor where wall-to-wall windows overlook the bay.
Decorative features throughout the main floor include a comfortable mix of traditional furnishings and accessories accented with seaside-friendly touches, a mélange that seamlessly incorporates many of the items the Joiners used in their former Kingwood home.
“Being an interior designer, I have had the wonderful privilege of collecting items that I really love, and I didn’t want to give these up when we decided to make Kemah our full-time home,” Colene Joiner said. “The solution was to merge the ‘young urban professional’ décor of our former full-time home with that of our more laid-back, coastal-themed house.”
Today, an 18th-century long-case clock from Wales is illuminated by Galveston Bay sunrises. Other traditional furnishings and accessories include family antiques, a collection of vintage trunks and figurines of English Staffordshire dogs. An assortment of equine-themed keepsakes recall Carl Joiner’s childhood activities, which included showing quarter horses, chickens and rabbits. More recently acquired awards, tributes and mementos reflect the Joiners’ many professional and civic recognitions, interests and travels to Europe, Africa and Asia.
An open-concept kitchen includes two work islands, a Jenn-Air cooktop, Sharp microwave and Whirlpool double ovens. Banks of furniture-grade cabinetry hide a suite of drawers, custom sized and designed to accommodate specific items. A nearby exercise and workout area links the main part of the home with garage and storage areas that house, among the family’s cars, a vintage red pickup truck, plus golf carts used for short-distance errands and participation in local holiday parades.
Also on the first floor, an 18-by-30-foot master bedroom area with an elegant tester bed includes a fireplace that separates the sleeping area from a bath and dressing suite featuring tile flooring set in the pattern of a compass.
Upstairs, in addition to five guest bedrooms that can comfortably accommodate the couple’s two children and nine grandchildren, a refreshment and recreational area includes a pool table and entertainment center, plus an eight-person theater furnished with luxurious leather seating.
Sheathed in cedar siding procured from Nantucket, the exterior is accented with two cupolas topped with a dolphin and a whale. A wooden quarter-board nameplate, reminiscent of that used on sailing ships, marks the front entrance.
Lobster traps from Maine continue the New England theme in the rear of the home, where a spacious back deck, hot tub and pool area includes a view of the Kemah Boardwalk from several seating and dining areas accessorized with three fountains and lush foliage.
The at-home highlight for Kemah’s mayor and first lady, however, is a special secluded and screened-in pavilion area that seems to magically merge indoor and outdoor living spaces.
“Colene and I spend most of our time out here,” said Carl Joiner as he slid open the stack-style doors that lead to a secluded, garden-like room tucked away just off the home’s main family area.
“Although we love the rest of the house, this is where we really live — we are outdoor people, and this room allows us to enjoy that special connection with nature that drew us to this area in the first place, only now we don’t have to fight the mosquitoes.”