Seabrook couple enjoys panoramic waterfront views in Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired home
The first thing that catches your eye when you approach Capt. Gary and Merry Bell’s Seabrook home is the front door.
The leaded-glass design is a nod to Gary Bell’s 25-year Navy career. A bell, which represents the family’s name, is in the center of the glass, surrounded by an anchor, rope and swirling waves. Look a little closer, and you’ll see the Command at Sea insignia.
“The vertical blocks on each side of the door are inspirations I took from Frank Lloyd Wright,” Gary Bell said. “I included those due to the other Wright-inspired elements throughout the home, like the many multi-levels, abundance of glass, irregular shapes and large overhangs.”
Merry Bell, also a fan of Wright’s architectural style, likes that the sun shines through the floor-to-ceiling windows in the winter, but doesn’t blind the couple in the summer, she said.
“It’s a perfectly designed waterfront house,” she said. “Since the beach is part of our plat, it’s very private here and also offers a great view of wildlife.”
The house was built in 1972 and the Bells bought it in 2000.
“We’d been looking for over a year-and-a-half from Galveston Island to Chambers County,” Gary said. “We finally found what we were looking for.”
On 1.5 acres, the 4,800-square-foot house has a combined living/dining room, family room/kitchen area, two bedrooms, a sewing room, two full baths and two half baths downstairs. Upstairs, the home features two bedrooms, an office and one full bath. Each room in the house has a view of Galveston Bay.
When the Bells bought the house, the second story was basically an attic with a room functioning as an office. Gary added a new metal roof and opened the previously screened patio and porches. He then remodeled the upstairs office and added two bedrooms and a bath to make room for the couple’s children and grandchildren when they visit from out of town.
The second level has a U-shaped walkway that provides a spectacular view.
“I spent a lot of time on submarines, so it’s like being at the periscope stand and having a 360-degree view of the water,” said Bell, who is chairman of the Cavalla Historical Foundation, which oversees the World War II-era vessels — the submarine USS Cavalla and the destroyer escort USS Stewart — in Seawolf Park on Pelican Island in Galveston.
Downstairs, colors of sea and sand are subtle and inspired by the ocean. Mostly, everything is a palette of white, soft taupe and pale aqua.
An entry hall table and dining room table sit atop dolphin pedestals.
“Dolphins are a symbol of a naval officer qualified in submarines, so we have a few of them in the house,” Gary said.
The openness of the living/dining area flowing into the family room/kitchen add a spacious feel to the floor plan.
The sand and sea colors pop against the stark white walls in the living/dining room, which was formerly the open patio. A linear chandelier above the dining room table deflects the light of nine bulbs through numerous shapes and sizes of faceted crystals. Rainbow hues reflect from crystal candle holders and obelisk sculptures that adorn the tabletop.
The family room, with its brick fireplace, is homey, comfortable and mere steps away from the remodeled kitchen.
“We painted the fireplace and all the cedar walls white,” Merry said. “We also removed the kitchen cabinets obstructing our view of the water and added new oak cabinetry in the entire kitchen and other rooms in the house to accommodate storage.”
Outside improvements included installation of 1,000 square feet of synthetic wood to the upper and north breezeway decks.
A backyard swimming pool never needs chemicals or salt, thanks to copper and silver ionization from a mineral cartridge that fits inside the piping. The silver kills bacteria and copper kills algae. The Bells converted the pool to this system.
Looking upward from the beachfront, an unusual artifact on the upper deck comes into view. It’s called a yardarm, which is a horizontal mast on a major sailing ship.
“Jean Laffite was very active in this area,” Gary said. “One of his ships sunk out here and was buried in the sand. The prior owner pulled out the yardarm and saved it.”
Kayaks for morning bay jaunts, a fire pit made from the end of a tanker truck, and the sandy private beach are special amenities enjoyed by the Bells and family when they come to visit.
“It is said, ‘If you dip your grandchildren’s feet in Galveston Bay, they will always come back,’” Merry Bell said. “We did that right after they were born and it’s true.”